One year ago nearly to the date I was preparing for our fourth child's birth. I was over a week past my due date — per my usual — and I was sitting on idle, waiting for the “start” button to be pushed. But at the same time, my three other children were downstairs in their sick confinement, fighting a nasty battle with the flu. Forty-two weeks were lingering over my belly bump in which I knew our addition would come soon, to be born during this germ war. And thus, my husband would be needing to be with our sick children, and not with me as I pushed our new child into this world. I sit here now a year later reading over the words poured into my personal blog of which I wrote in angst, not understanding how this would play out for a good experience. But you know what? It was my most favorite birth out of my five.
Here's what I learned.
Birth and life can be unpredictable.
This birth experience taught me that even though I had done this many times before and typically in a predictable way, life can have other plans. They say “expect the unexpected” in birth, and though I prepped my heart for unexpected birthing adventures, like being transferred to a hospital from our home birth, I never thought to prepare for the “what if” of my husband not being there. In our past births he was my rock. As my soul mate, he understands me on levels no one else can. What was I going to do without him?
You may grieve a little.
Though eventually I found peace in accepting that he wasn't going to be there to let go of our “perfect” plan, I still had to process the change of plans. I remember vividly of a moment during labor, swaying in the water with my eyes closed and going further within during a contraction all while at the same time thinking, “He's missing this. He is missing the birth of our child,” as a tear threatened to fall into the water below. It was somewhat sad. But once I acknowledged that loss of the “ideal birth” based on what I had known before, I was able to readjust to receive the gift of what this birth had to offer.
Make the best of it.
Embrace it for the journey that it is and be open to accepting the gift of what this adventure may bring you out if it. I chose to see this birth as a new kind of challenge, one where I would dig deeper into my birthing goddess within and to learn to depend on others besides him alone. I also saw it for what it was: a big ol' ladies party! My birthing team this time was a tad different than my previous births, but it turned out to be reminiscent of times past where it was only women who attended births. My midwife called this our “Red Tent” birth, after the book by Anita Diamant, which talks of the red tent during Biblical times where women would go while on their monthly cycle, to pass down women traditions, and to give birth amongst one another. The atmosphere of our daughter Sadie's birthing room was sheer woman power. I drew strength from my friends and midwives, knowing they had been in my place before. I treasured the gentle touch of their back massages and running their fingers lightly over my head to relax me through the intensity of my body's work. The peace was tangible and unexplainable. That was the gift I discovered within this birth, the raw power and love of women and the support we can give one another.
Extra support is a must!
I cannot reiterate this enough: hire a doula! Especially if your partner can't be there. There is so much value in someone who is trained to know how to help you relax and be your advocate. In my case, I had a doula and a close friend so it felt like I had two doulas attentive to my only needs, plus two midwives.
If possible, take advantage of modern technology to keep your partner in the loop. We tried to get Facetime working on phones but it didn't work for us. Instead, we kept him updated through texting. I have a picture of me lying in bed with my phone in hand, texting him the update with where we were in the process, knowing our daughter would be coming very soon. It was strange, but comforting.
Take lots of pictures and videos!
A sweet friend had offered to take photos of Sadie's delivery beforehand, but once we discovered my husband couldn't be there, the pictures and videos became even more treasured for us. He was able to re-live the moment without having to be there, which brings me to my next point.
He's honestly probably relieved.
My husband has said this was his favorite birth too. Why? Because birth is super stressful for him! Watching me — the woman he loves and the mother of his children — moaning in pain and bleeding scares him. This time he was able to sit back, play some Xbox, and await a phone call when his child was born. It helped me to know that he was okay with it for his own reasons and I honestly think not having him there helped me to relax more. Since we feed off each other's emotions and tension in our everyday life, how could I not pick it up during previous births as well? It ended up being a win-win.
Regardless if you know your partner will not be in the delivery room well in advance or by an unfortunate last minute decision, I suggest having a plan in place just in case!