(Unless you want your wife to be SUPER-annoyed with you.)
Even though this is my fifth child, still, when I feel my first labor contraction while grocery shopping in the early afternoon, my initial response is excitement mixed with panic and fear. It takes a long prayer, combined with deep breathing in the middle of the bread and jelly aisle, before I feel semi-calm.
I drive home, continuing to breathe deeply and softly talking to my baby, letting him know that I am ready for him. Feeling calmer, I dial my husband: "Honey, I think…"
He stops me, almost screaming: "I am coming, don't do anything!!!"
"Believe me, I am not going anywhere," I reassure him, turning into our street.
Fifteen minutes later, changing awkwardly in the bedroom, I hear some crazy driver racing up the hill and I have a strong feeling I know who it is — my precious, and beyond-nervous husband. I smile, hearing the slamming of the door and him galloping up the stairs. It’s cute.
One second later, he’s next to me, staring as if expecting a bomb (his extremely pregnant wife) to explode right before his eyes. "Let's go!” he yells, then, "Wait! I am hungry. I must eat first!"
It’s been awhile since I’ve heard his voice so high-pitched, and I begin to laugh. Well, not for long; contractions are getting stronger now.
"We need to go now," I re-focus my freaked-out hubby, pointing to the ready-to-go hospital bag in the corner.
I kiss my kids (my teenagers will watch the younger ones until my mom arrives) and get into the car.
The hospital is twenty minutes away, right off the freeway. Before I know it, we are at the entrance. By now, my husband seems calmer; his eyes are full of love and compassion. For a split second, in the middle of the hospital hallway, our eyes connect.
"You are my hero," he says.
"And you are mine," I whisper back, smiling weakly.
I don’t know why, but in this moment, looking at my husband’s pale face, I flash on the fears he may be facing: "Will my wife be okay? Will the baby be healthy? Will it replace me the second it gets born? Will I be a good dad to this one? Can I provide for my growing family?"
Suddenly, I am overcome by a deep sense of appreciation and tenderness for my 'partner in crime.' There are so many things I’ve never realized…
Poor guy. Time after time, as his wife monopolizes the spotlight, his own feelings, fears and concerns are completely neglected, and he’s been left all alone to stare into an opening void of the unknown. No wonder he still does the things during our marriage that, while I’m in labor, drive me up the wall.
This time is no different, yet cloaked in the deep sense of appreciation I’m feeling, I take notice but ignore them.
But now, weeks later, with a bundle of joy at my breast, I am reflecting. If I could turn back time, I’d ask him NOT to do the following things again:
1. Chat about sports or politics with the nurses and doctors.
2. Rock yourself to sleep in the chair next to the bed designed for birthing mothers.
3. Catch up on business calls or play games on your phone.
4. Disappear into the hospital cafeteria or a bathroom for a two-hour break.
5. Tell your wife (me), "I know how you feel."
Here’s what I’d tell him…
"I love you, honey, and I think I now have a deeper insight into why you do these things, which are minor but annoying. I get it. It’s hard to be a guy; you’re raised to be tough and not express your emotions. So instead, you fall asleep, talk too much, play games on your phone — or even leave the room.
Trapped in your insecurities, you’re detaching… checking out. And yet, this is the time when I’m most vulnerable and in a fragile, hormone-induced emotional state, and what I crave most from my partner is connection."
And then I’d add: "I know that guys are human, too, which qualifies them to have emotions and reach out for help and support. But just do that before I go into labor, okay? That way, when I really, really need you, all of you will be available."
Next, I’d sit him down by the crackling fireplace, and looking deep into his apprehensive eyes, I’d say, "Honey, next time, just talk to me. Please share your fears before the very last minute, so we can address them before the baby arrives and find creative solutions together.
When you talk about a problem, it opens the door for a solution. And if you have to consult with someone else — a positive, empowering friend, your uncle Steve, our rabbi, or even a mental health professional — that’s fine, too. Hey, why not? It takes courage to ask for help; vulnerability is a sign of power."
And then I’d softly kiss the birthmark on his neck, rubbing my cheek against his, falling in love all over again with this man — my man — who’s granted me the best gift ever: my baby.
And I’d let him know that he has my deep appreciation for enduring all my mood swings and eccentric demands, and for his valor, patience and commitment to sharing this profound experience with me.
For as we both face our fears and overcome them, it brings us closer together. And what better gift can we give to our brand new child?
Katherine Agranovich, Ph.D., is a Medical Hypnotherapist and Holistic Consultant. She is the author of Tales of My Large, Loud, Spiritual Family. Call her for an office or phone consultation to attain mental-emotional alignment and close the gap between where you are and where you want to be. Visit www.achievehealthcenter.com.