For the men out there that are bracing themselves for the day your partner goes into labour, then know this: It will be the worst thing you will ever watch your partner go through. Not just because it’s utterly ridiculous how painful it looks, and dare say actually is, but there is nothing you can really do about it. And for a lot of the time, you won’t even feel like you’re wanted or needed there.
When it comes to the birth, you really don’t know what’s going to happen. Everything could be going as well as you could hope for. But anything can happen at any time to throw everything off. For us, that was something call cord prolapse. And that one thing led us to have quite a traumatic birth.
Cord Prolapse: Having a Traumatic Birth
Watching your partner go through that much pain is genuinely horrific. For us, right at the latter stages of the pushing stage, Isabelle brought the cord down first. It’s something called cord prolapse. It was something that we had no idea was actually a dangerous thing.
Within seconds I was pushing the emergency button and we were suddenly being rushed down to theatre with urgency. I had no idea what was going on. I merely trailed behind wondering what to do as I was dragged along by one of the midwives, and rammed into the elevator to make our way down to theatre. The next thing I know my partner is being surrounded by doctors, midwives, and god knows who else as I sat off to the side feeling like I shouldn’t even be there. A million things rushed through my head, and I really, really just wanted to get out. I don’t deal with a lot of things very well, and in this moment, I wanted to be swallowed up by the world and transported anywhere else.
Watching a Traumatic Birth
But I had no choice. My wife needed me more than I needed to be alone. I stood there holding her hand, and trying desperately to hold back tears. The staff kept telling me that things were ok, clearly seeing my concern, but they just really needed to get the baby out.
What came next will always stick with me. Due to the urgency, there was little thought given to pain relief. Yes, they injected my wife with a local anaesthetic ready for the episiotomy, but there was no time for it to take effect. Instead, I simply watched, or rather listened, as they cut my wife and tried to get her to push.Eventually, they resorted to the ventouse (not going to lie, I looked that up as I was going to use the term “suction cup thing”) and finally they managed to get the baby to come out.
After that moment, my wife’s face changed in a matter of seconds from agony to extreme relief. Just like that, there was no more pain, no more screams, at least not from her, all of it was replaced with happiness. And maybe some soreness, I imagine things were still a little tender.
Why This Birth so Traumatic for Me
Look, I know this doesn’t exactly sound like the most traumatic birth story you’ll ever read. I’ve read others. There are people who had babies in intensive care, people who had days of labour and of course plenty of things worse. But for me, and I hadn’t realised this until Isabelle was almost a one year old, it affected me deeper than I ever thought it had at the time.
I don’t deal with serious things very well. It all stems from my friend being hit by a car on a night out when I was 17. He died that night, and I still hold a lot of the guilt with me. When we were rushed down to theatre, and I had no clue what was happening, I was taken back to that moment. Right as my daughter was being born, what should be the happiest moment of my life, I was inside my head, thinking back to when my friend died. The worst moment of my life took over the best moment.
I could talk a lot about this, but I have done a video. So if you’re interested in hearing more, then feel free to watch this:
It’s not all about the birth, but I do talk about how this traumatic birth affected me and possibly kick started my postnatal depression.
Knowing Your Role as a Dad During the Birth
But all you can really do throughout the labour is be there. You’ll have to be her punch bag, for both physical and verbal abuse. You’ll be her therapist, her feeder, her fetcher of cold drinks, her comforter, and her masseuse. Lots and lots of being a masseuse. My wrists were dead by the time I’d finished with all the back rubs, but did I complain? Not once. I played the hero and kept going. I didn’t even think about stopping.
Be What Your Partner Needs
You just have to be whatever your partner needs you to be. And leave your ego at the door. You will probably get abused, but you’ll take it. She’ll smack your hand away when suddenly she doesn’t want a back rub anymore. Despite the fact she abused you for not doing it. But you’ll have to take it. Whatever happens to you, they are going through so much worse. But once the dust has settled, and you have your baby, they’ll thank you for doing all that you could.
Talking to Someone About What Happened
But after the birth, make sure you talk about it if it plays on your mind. It can be traumatic, and many people can be negatively affected both by giving birth or by simply watching it. I know now that I was. If you feel like it has affected you then please talk to someone about it. Tell your partner about the birth and keep going through it, talking about what emotions you felt as they surfaced. It might be hard for the two of you to relive some of what happened, but it needs to be done. This birth affected me for a long time and I didn’t even realise it.
In all fairness to the NHS, we could have been debriefed and talked to someone about the birth. I’m not exactly sure what this would entail, but I dare say they would just clear up what they were doing and address any feelings we had. This is something we should have done. Just when you have a newborn, going and talking about the birth isn’t on the forefront of your thoughts.
I really do wonder how differently things might have played out had it not been for the cord prolapse and the traumatic birth. Would I have still had postnatal depression? Quite possibly. But I don’t think I would’ve been quite so bad. Fortunately my wife hasn’t really had any negative long lasting affects from the trauma. I think that will resurface when she’s pregnant again. But I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.