Over the years my view of church has become more and more jaded and I often find myself quoting my wife who has said, “They love the potential, not the person.” There really does seem to be a behavioral expectation placed on anyone wanting to enter the church doors. But I digress, because in reality, this is more of a societal problem then simply something I can leave steaming in a paper bag outside of some religious building. In fact, this idea of behavioral expectations popped up as early as my wife’s first pregnancy.
Although we were reading and learning about pregnancy, nothing really can prepare one for the journey. I emphasis reading because I found it amusing from my perspective – as it was hell, I am assuming, from my wife’s perspective – when women would suddenly pop up into our lives to provide us with volumes and volumes of both pregnancy advice and child-rearing advice. The funniest to me was the amount of advice that came from women who were neither pregnant or a parent, and this group constituted at least half.
This advice kept coming for every pregnancy and every new child that joined our family. It stopped coming from my parents when we had our third child and it stopped coming from my wife’s parents when we had our fourth child – a coincidence perhaps, but in both cases we had one more child then they did. When we had six children running around, most of the advice stopped altogether, with it shifting instead to whispers on the sidelines and strange looks in our direction about that crazy family.
But I digress again.
Back with our first pregnancy we were brand new to this whole wonderful and crazy journey of parenthood and the changes that would follow. So when my wife experienced morning sickness at any other time then the first few weeks we (I) was concerned about her health. When she would have an uncomfortable time sleeping or getting comfortable I would fret over her well-being. None of this was normal to me. I had no idea what to expect with each week that passed by.
When the pregnancy was coming to an end, there were the ‘false labour’ – or braxton hicks to contend with, which drove me bonkers thinking that we were constantly going into labour. From my wife’s perspective, those ‘false labour’ pains were a misleading title – as there was nothing ‘false’ about the pain she was experiencing.
The final stretch of the pregnancy had her go into painful labour pains that lasted for about 36 hours, ending up in an emergency C-section at 1am in the morning.
No, nothing can compare you to the journey of pregnancy and parenthood.
When we went to the hospital for that final stretch, my wife and I were thankful to be in a private room, a preparatory room, where the woman and her partner were able to have privacy while everyone waited for the pregnancy to progress to childbirth. However, instead of privacy, each time a painful contraction came about, my wife would um, express her pain, and this very natural process of childbirth – at least for some women, is a painful process. But, when the nurses kept coming into our room to tell us – my wife – to keep it down, to be quiet because she was scaring the rest of the women on the floor – well, we weren’t sure what we were supposed to be doing.
Finally, the nurses had enough, or perhaps they were motivated by compassion – it was really hard to tell in that dim-lit room, but they informed us that they had called an anesthesiologist to come and give her an epidural. This would shut her up – I mean, provide her with some pain relief while they continued to wait for childbirth to come.
After a few minutes the anesthesiologist came into the room carrying a large metal case. As he prepared his equipment, my wife was instructed to sit up and on the edge of the bed with her back slightly curved. To help her with this pose that she needed to remain perfectly still for or else run the risk of being paralyzed – all the while having to deal with the painful contractions that were a few minutes apart – I was instructed to kneel on the floor in front of her.
She would place her arms on my shoulders and we would gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes. I was expected to remain just as perfectly still as my wife, which when I would see her wince in incredible pain, was a very difficult thing to do. All the while, there was this strange person fiddling with many different instruments behind my wife, getting ready to do a procedure that could potentially paralyze her if administered incorrectly. I couldn’t help myself but to divert my gaze from my love’s eyes to peer over her shoulder and check up on what was going on behind her back.
To my horror I looked around behind my wife to see the anesthesiologist reach into his metal case and with two hands raise up an incredibly large needle – it needed two hands to hold it. It was too much. I shouldn’t have looked. But – I did. And I fainted.
The procedure stopped, the nurses turning their ‘care’ to me, and unceremoniously I was removed from the room.
They continued to work on my wife, preparing her for childbirth. Time continued on and just after midnight the doctor made the determination that my wife was not birthing correctly, that our child was turned incorrectly and that they would have to do an emergency C-section. I stood out in the hallway as they pulled up a stretcher to transport my wife to surgery. My wife, now in a lot more pain, mixed with pain medication grabbed my hand briefly as they were wheeling her away. Her parting words were, “If I die, know that I loved you.”
I was banned from the delivery room due to my inexcusable fainting earlier in the evening, so with my wife’s words still hanging in the air, I found a dark corner of a deserted waiting room and bawled for the next hour or so.
Sometime later, a nurse suddenly appeared. Fortunately the room was still dark as my eyes were bloodshot and puffy. She informed me that my wife was okay, and that we had a girl. They were prepping her and would bring my daughter to me in a few minutes.
Sure enough, after a few minutes a nurse walked in and handed me my tightly wrapped newborn daughter. I was informed that I was to wait until my wife came out of recovery and then we could be reunited.
For the next three hours I held my daughter in the crook of my arm. She was so beautiful that I cried some more.
I did not move a muscle when I held her for fear that I would end up doing something wrong once again, desperately trying to meet someone else’s behavioral expectations.
I was a dad.