Click here to read Part 1, here to read Part 2, and here to read Part 3.
The midwife was in our bedroom, the night was tightly enclosing our little house, and Danielle was ready to give birth naturally.
Scratch that. No one has ever been ready to give birth naturally. That’s not even a thing.
But Danielle was as ready to squeeze an oddly-shaped, 8-pound, top-heavy, unpredictably writhing creature out of an orifice the size of a walnut as a sentient person with a basic grasp of geometrical proportion could possibly be.
See, here’s what you need to know: Danielle is a special breed. While every willing mom is automatically a superhero in my book, and instantly worthy to be nominated for sainthood, my wife is in a class of her own. Let me tell you why.
First, Danielle is physically tenacious.
She eschews painkillers, Midol, Tylenol, even baby aspirin. I think she’s taken more pre-flight motion sickness pills in our 7 years together than all other pills combined.
She maintained her full-time medical office job, solely by her own choice, all the way up until the day before her labor began. She said she would rather stay active than to sit around waiting for the baby to arrive.
And for over a decade, she has devised grueling workouts for herself nearly every day. You know that guy at the gym who does one set of bicep curls every four minutes and sits on the weight bench playing with his iPhone the rest of the time? Well, Danielle is the sweat-soaked girl next to that guy who barely pauses to catch her breath between lengthy, punishing sets of brow-furrowing exertions.
Second, when it comes to all things maternal, Danielle knows her stuff.
Ever since she learned she was pregnant in October 2015, Danielle commenced a rigorous process of researching all aspects of pregnancy, labor, fetal development, and breastfeeding. She was easily the most studious, well-prepared member of our 12-week natural birth class; in fact, she could teach a class herself if she felt so inclined. (And as a former fitness instructor, she already has ample experience exhorting other women how to embrace physical pain for the greater good!)
On numerous occasions during midwife appointments, birth classes, and conversations with friends and family, my husbandly pride swelled as my wife, in her typically understated fashion, exhibited her command of the subject matter. She easily held her own as a relative equal while going back and forth about pregnancy minutiae (and “majortiae”) with our midwife. At one point while my mom and I were discussing Danielle’s early contractions, my mom said, “When I was pregnant with you I didn’t even know what a contraction was supposed to feel like!” The implication being that she was duly impressed by the way Danielle had her birth plan all mapped out and was going into the labor experience with her eyes wide open. I couldn’t agree more.
Third and most important, Danielle instinctively embraced every emotional aspect of the pregnancy experience without a trace of hesitation.
I won’t presume to have a statistical read on how many women approach their own pregnancies with something resembling eagerness or mental clarity. Perhaps a majority do, and one is simply more likely to hear about those who struggle and toil (quite understandably) under the myriad physical and emotional burdens inherent in the perilous act of carrying a life inside one’s body.
But it seems to me that the bracing clarity of purpose I saw in Danielle throughout every chapter of her pregnancy represented some kind of preternatural triumph of maternal desire.
For Danielle, and perhaps for all women who had to endure years (4 in our case) of waiting and anguished worrying that their child-bearing dream might never come true, the exhausting and often overwhelming pain built into the pregnancy process was simply evidence that it was all actually happening. That this child inside her was real. And because she could imagine nothing more joy-inducing than that reality, the pain of pregnancy somehow evoked in her a tranquil aura of destiny. Her eyes were clearer than they ever had been before.
Danielle was ready to deliver, with extraordinary grit and grace, a son.
Our grace son.