Kurt's Story: Four Births & One Poem
Having been to four births of our own, I can tell you that each one is different. Quite honestly, what ever plan you might have for the birth is just that - a plan. It's not a script. The actual birth will likely end up making its own plan as things go along. This is not to say that you shouldn't have a plan going in - you should - just try to be flexible as things progress. Use your birth plan as a guide to help make decisions as unexpected events arise.
In terms of my feelings before our first birth, I recall just waiting for it to happen. And then waiting some more. We weren't way past the due date, but much of the impatience was fed off my wife's own impatience at the time. She was a lot more miserable, especially physically, than I ever was before our daughter was born. I knew that she really wanted to get things started - she wanted to hold the baby in her arms, and she didn't want to be pregnant anymore. There was nothing (or close to nothing) that I could do to help alleviate any of that, except wait for the birth to start. Before you have kids, you have a lot of control over your personal schedule. Starting with the pregnancy, and building up to the birth, you start to lose some of that control. Certainly, once the baby is born, your schedule goes crazy.
For the births themselves, I would say that they were the most amazing things I've ever been a part of. We were lucky (in a sense) that all our births happened pretty fast. In fact, the third one was only 100 minutes total from waking up in the middle of the night with the first contraction until our second son was born. The fourth was almost as quick as that. The first two were a little longer, each lasting a few hours. My wife experienced tremendous pain due to back labor in all four of the births. We were somewhat ready for it starting with the second birth, but it was quite a surprise the first time. It certainly wasn't something we were expecting, and wasn't anywhere in "the plan". About the only thing I could do to help was to apply counter-pressure with my hands/fists to her lower back, while she gripped my arms and squeezed as hard as she could. I didn't mind what little discomfort I was going through because it was very clear that she was experiencing an awful lot more pain than that! But she was determined to make it through each time unmedicated, and that was one part of the plan that she really didn't want to compromise on.
When each of our children were actually born, it was quite a moment; after waiting so many months, I finally got to see them, and hold them. And while I would never want to have to actually give birth to a 7 or 8 pound baby, when you hold one, they sure are small. I think that's one of the things that's so amazing, and fleeting - just how small they are at first. You can easily hold them in a single hand. Soon enough, the tiny newborn that used to fit comfortably and peacefully up on your shoulder while you rock them so sleep, turns into an infant that squirms and dances and flings his head about in delight, despite the fact that it's 3:00am.
When we were discharged from the hospital late in the evening after our first birth, the feeling of actually walking out of the front doors of the hospital with our daughter seemed almost like we were breaking the law. Where were the authorities to stop us? Were we actually able to just take this baby home?? Without a license or something? We had received some perfunctory instructions on how to change, bathe, and dress our daughter, and the little baby Lo-Jack had been cut from her ankle, but it still seemed like they were forgetting to tell us something. We went through the Burger King drive-through on our way home. After getting through the front door, we set our daughter down in her car seat on the kitchen table (restrain your gasps - she was 24 hours old, and wasn't going to flip out of anything). Sitting there, enjoying the fine cuisine of our Whoppers, we looked at each other and wondered aloud, "What do we do now?" To be honest, thirteen years later, that same feeling is pretty prevalent most of the time. You just get used to it after awhile.
In the immediate postpartum period, as I said, your schedule goes all crazy. The baby might be up for extended periods of the night, which means that you likely are too (whether you are the father/partner or the mother). For anyone who thinks you're going to be able to work at home with a newborn (or infant, or toddler, or etc.) - I'm sorry, but don't count on it. You might get some work done, but more likely, if the baby is sleeping, you'll be sleeping too (at first). If you're not sleeping, then you'll be cleaning the house, doing laundry, or trying to figure out what's for dinner that night. Having a plan to work is a lot like the birth plan: it's just a plan; don't be surprised if you have to make compromises (frequently) as you go along. I would also say that, especially for the dad's who have other extracurricular activities, don't be surprised (or reluctant) if you have to adjust those as well, at least for awhile. Don't expect to go back to your normal full schedule of golf or softball (or bike racing, in my case) right away. You're going to be needed at home until things settle down. Which they will. Eventually. The surprising thing is if you have a second baby, all of a sudden you realize just how much free time you actually did have when you only had one child.
Our daughter was almost three years old just before we had our second child (my first son). By that time, I had developed quite a relationship with her, and I was really enjoying being her father. I began to wonder how I would ever find any room within myself to love my new son as much, once he was born. Those concerns were totally unfounded, of course. The moment he as born, and once again I held a tiny new life in my hands, I knew that I could indeed love both of them, and later their younger brother and sister, completely and equally. Fatherhood is great. It's not always easy, and the challenges are sometimes very difficult, but it's all worth it when your kids want their "Daddy!"
A Birth Poem: Born on Thanksgiving morning, November 25th, 1999. ‘Twas the night before Thanksgiving
When all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The hospital bag was packed with care,
In hopes that the new baby soon would be there.
Anna and Patrick were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of M&M’s danced in their heads.
And Stephanie in her T-shirt and I counting sheep
Had just settled down for our last full night’s sleep.
When at 2:30AM there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the bathroom I flew as quick as can be,
Stood at the door, and there was Stephanie.
It took less than a second, not even a fraction,
To see that she was having a real strong contraction.
“What do you think, should we call your Mother?”
I asked, but my answer came when she had another.
By 3:30 AM Stephanie was asking “Kurt, where are they?”
“They’ll be here,” I assured here, but was beginning to pray.
The contractions, you see, were only 1 minute apart,
Stephanie wanted to push, she was ready to start.
At 3:50 AM Stephanie’s parents arrived,
I told Susan that Mark needed to drive.
More rapid than eagles in his car we did fly,
Steph labored, and shouted, and let out a cry.
Red lights were run, around corners we raced,
Mark wasted no time, he drove in great haste.
Quickly we reached St. Joe’s Hospital,
Steph got in a wheelchair, and we ran down the hall.
“I want to push” Stephanie said at the elevator door,
“No,” said the ER doc, “You don’t want to have this baby on the floor!”
Into the delivery room we arrived and I cheered,
And as if by magic eight nurses appeared.
They were trying to ready the room, it was crammed,
When in rushed a doctor and did a quick exam.
“You can push if you want,” she said, “You are ready.”
So with one push came the head, and the second the body.
“It’s a boy!” came a cry, “Gosh that was fast.
When did she start, how long did that last?”
I looked at the clock, it was only four ten.
“100 minutes,” I said, “from start to end.”
There’s nothing more magical than the birth of a child,
Especially our third, wow that was wild.
We had much to give thanks for, because in my hand,
I held my new son, Joseph Alexander Schaldenbrand.