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Childbirth Really Was Harder On My Husband

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It bugs the crap out of me when anyone refers to men who’ve impregnated a woman as somehow earning any kind of pregnancy stripes themselves.

My kind of ladies are the ones who won’t ever say “We’re expecting!”  or even worse “We’re pregnant!” Nope. It’s all you, moms who have been pregnant. You endured the two-week wait, the sore boobs, the morning sickness, the cramping, the heartburn, the waddling, the sneezing and peeing. Finally, it was you alone who bore the pain of childbirth.

Sure, the baby daddy might be supportive. He might be the kind of partner who cracks open a bottle of sparkling cider to tearfully celebrate that long-anticipated second red line on a pregnancy test with you. Maybe he rubs your sore feet and runs to the store at midnight to indulge your pregnancy cravings. But he still ain’t pregnant. Let’s call a duck a duck.

Despite all of this, I recently came to a realization harder to swallow than a horse pill prenatal: Childbirth really was harder on my husband.

Let me clarify: we have two kids. a 7-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl. I labored with my son for 36 hours before he was born. First at home in the early stages, and then at the hospital with an epidural. There were a few painful hours at the hospital before my water broke and I had the sweet relief of a needle in my spine, but the epidural did its job and numbed the pain. My husband passed out on the floor next to my hospital bed for a few hours using his leather jacket as a pillow. Yes, he slept while I was in labor. But it was on the floor. Final verdict? Childbirth that round was definitely harder on me. Duh.

Four years later while pregnant with my daughter, I moved through two days of mild contractions like a ballet dancer doing pirouettes. The pain was that mild.

The pain was mild, that is, until the Fourth of July fireworks of summer 2015 hit. The noise of the fireworks seemed to get things going, and I plunged into sudden, excruciatingly active labor with my daughter a few days before her due date.

By the time we reached the hospital just a mile from our house, I could barely walk across the emergency room to the elevator because the pain was that crippling. Admission felt like it took 100 years. When we were finally in the delivery room, the nurse struggled to find my vein to start an IV so I could start the process of thinking about getting an epidural.  Spoilers: the epidural didn’t happen.

My body was wracked with pain that didn’t let up even for a second. Like a full-body leg cramp. I got on all fours. I peed and pooped on the table. I bleated like a goat. The nurses checked me, and I was dilated to an eight. There was no time for an epidural.

My regular OB didn’t make it to the hospital in time, and the on-call doctor had to deliver my daughter.

I pushed with strength I didn’t know I had, supported on all sides by nurses and my husband. Out came my baby, and oh, the immediate relief. My girl was perfect, and I felt fantastic.

After the birth of my son I was unable to move for quite some time because of the epidural. But after my daughter was born, I popped right up and walked to the restroom. Then, I accompanied her bassinet to the recovery room in my hospital gown on my own two feet.

My daughter stopped crying as soon as I held her, and we snuggled calmly in the happiest haze. This happy haze has apparently worked miracles, because I really can’t recall the pain of birthing her.  Just the afterglow lit by the soft hospital lighting. Blame the oxytocin if you want. But I don’t hold a grudge about the situation, despite being hard set on getting an epidural that never came in the hour and a half between arriving at the hospital and giving birth.

My husband, though, is a different story.

Recently, I asked him to recall a time he felt sorry for me. He said the birth of our daughter.

Without the benefit of happy birthing bonding hormones, he recalls every damn thing. The bleating like a goat. The pooping (He humors me by saying it wasn’t much).

Mostly, he recalls feeling so helpless as he watched the person he loves writhe in indescribable pain she was planning to avoid. My husband feels bad that I kept asking about an epidural and it never came.

So no, my husband was never pregnant. He never gave birth. But I’ll be damned if childbirth wasn’t harder on him.

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