Grace Son, Part 3

Click here to read Part 1, and here to read Part 2.

Midnight was rapidly approaching, and four souls were wide awake in our quiet rural home.

Two of the four were contorting their bodies (one regular-sized; one tiny) in the noble, protracted, and anguished pursuit (one conscious; one hazily grasped) of a long-envisioned outcome. The third was a trained professional who had seen it all before and seemingly harbored no fear about what lay ahead. And the fourth was yours truly, a husband and soon-to-be father who had seen none of it before — save for a handful of YouTube videos in pregnancy class — and was busy quietly harboring quite a bit of fear about what lay ahead.

I am someone who traffics in worst-case scenarios. While I am under duress, or even just while I am daydreaming on an ordinary day, I can envision chilling developments in such graphic detail that shivers run up my spine. I picture catastrophic outcomes so vividly that I get choked up and momentarily feel devastated.

It’s as if I can live through an event without experiencing it. Have you ever tried to live vicariously through the colorful adventures of a friend who’s traveling the world? This is the flip side of that. I live vicariously through the hypothetical traumas of real and fictitious people (some of whom are myself) in the diorama of my own mind.

I am hypersensitive, and I have a hypervivid imagination. This is not an ideal combination for a husband who is meant to calmly coach his wife through a natural birth journey.

Danielle, on the other hand, has a preternatural ability to educate herself about various possibilities but then choose to remain only in the moment. Not to get ahead of herself for no good reason. Not to furrow her brow over dramas that will likely never transpire. Not to assume that the worst outcome is somehow the most likely, but to act as if it is in fact that least likely. I have long admired my wife for this brand of mental composure that renders her grounded and focused under pressure. It is one of the many areas in which we are virtual opposites and thus complement each other with utter precision.

So try to envision the central cast of characters.

∗ Jeremy, the excited and increasingly nervous father, has educated himself to a respectable but limited degree about childbirth. He has almost zero physical ability to affect the impending course of events, combined with a fairly boundless mental inclination to picture how things might go horribly wrong.

∗ Danielle, the expectant and increasingly impatient mother, on the other hand, has educated herself to a jaw-dropping degree about childbirth. She has a fairly boundless physical ability — and one might add, a biological mandate — to affect the impending course of events, combined with almost zero mental inclination to picture how things might go horribly wrong.

You could chart all of these coordinates on a graph and it would look comical (at least to someone like me for whom comedy can be derived from math). Allow me to use a little math jargon. In the equation of this labor scene:

Education about possible negative outcomes
is inversely proportional to
Restraint in envisioning said possible negative outcomes.


Degree of actual physical control exerted during childbirth
is inversely proportional to
Degree of artificial mental control exerted during childbirth.

As you can see, the expectant couple in this scene has a strangely inverted dynamic. Jeremy is doing most of the worrying leg work, which is decidedly inessential. And Danielle is doing all of the actual leg work (and back work, and abdomen work), which is decidedly, um, essential.

I’ve wondered at times why the biology of mammalian reproduction doesn’t allow childbirth to be a more physically collaborative event. But in our case, I’d say that’s for the best.

Clearly, Danielle is infinitely more qualified for the job.



One thought on “Grace Son, Part 3

  1. Pingback: Grace Son, Part 4: A Tribute to My Grace-Full Wife | life of papa

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