Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My Husband's Job

Eight days ago, I gave birth to Elise Marguerite. She was 6 lbs 3 oz and about 20 inches long. She's lovely and healthy and content, and we are enjoying her in the extreme.

To say that I gave birth to her feels a bit like short-changing my husband. He left only once early in the process, before it became unbearable, to get himself and our older daughter something to eat, but he was present and working hard with me for every moment of active labor. Several people offered him breaks, including myself. I think I was the only one in the room who realized, after having offered the break, that he really, truly didn't want one. He was tired, but so was I, and I didn't have the option of a break. He stayed right beside me as I labored in the pool, let me squeeze the hell out of his hand while reading Dandelion Wine to me between, and sometimes during, contractions. When I had to get out of the pool for them to monitor the baby again, he lifted me out of the tub as I cried that I was afraid to stand up. He applied counter-pressure to my back for what seemed like hours (probably was minutes) while I endured transition. He never allowed the doula even to take *that* job so that he could sit down and just hold my hand for a while.

When it came down to pushing, he sat beside me, held both my hands, [turned off his hearing aid, I'm sure], and let me moan and scream in his face. There's no more intense moment with him in my memory than staring into his face, aware only of the pain and the color of his eyes, between the last few contractions. How frightening that must have been for him. I think it's probably normal for a woman to have thoughts of death in those moments, wondering if she can live through that pain. I know I said to him once that I felt as if the contractions would kill me. Did he believe me? Did he fear the same? If he did, he only let it come through in his voice once or twice. The rest of the time he was calm, reassuring, adoring, gentle. I have no idea how he maintained such a demeanor in the midst of so much of my emotional chaos, but I think that, in light of the experience, he will always be my hero.

So now we have this amazing little girl at home with us, often lying between us on the bed because at 3 AM, I really don't have the energy to get up off the floor (we don't have a bed frame) and put her back in her bassinet. I feared during the pregnancy that her presence might cause tension or resentment for one or both of us. We both liked our life very much the way it was. Contrarily, I think we're both experiencing that she belongs here, and her existence is just a natural extension of our love for each other.

Everything is changing. Everything is already different. But it's not a change to mourn--not entirely. There's an aspect for each of us of having lost something--I, my independence (I simply cannot do for myself in the aftermath of the delivery), Richard, his freedom, and both of us our spontaneity. But there's something here to replace those things, and eventually to exist right alongside them, that is so very precious and beautiful and sweet that I'm really not sure what we were doing before. I loved my husband. He was already my best friend. But now the ideas of Protector and Provider mean so much more than they did before as I am forced to rely on him for fulfillment of some very basic needs. As difficult as it can be to need him to fill those roles, he does so graciously and without resentment, even lovingly and, dare I say, joyfully. This is his contribution to the process of her birth. Mine was nourishing her for 9 (well, ok, 8) months, and then going through the pain of labor and delivery, and now healing from that process as I continue to make small sacrifices to provide her nourishment.

It seems my husband never forgets those things. I wish very much that I could be as relationally, psychologically, and emotionally constant as he is. Unfortunately, I'm tossed about rather violently by the biological realities of pregnancy and of the post-partum period. Who am I kidding? My emotional stability is questionable on the best of days, pregnant or not. I suppose that's why there are two of us, and why we're wired so differently. I'm certain my mode of existence serves us in some way. Apparent to me, however, is the fact that it does not provide stability. I guess that's my husband's job.

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George MacDonald

"Home is ever so far away in the palm of your hand, and how to get there it is of no use to tell you. But you will get there; you must get there; you have to get there. Everybody who is not at home, has to go home."

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