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men at work

How a childbirth class taught one expectant dad what to do on “D Day.”

It was two days before her due date, yet we had to go right to the hospital. All day Sunday we waited, and still no labor. Two things we knew: First, we had no objection to using drugs of any kind. In fact, when I heard blood-curdling screams in the hospital halls, I assumed they were coming from women not using drugs and I was all the more reassured that drugs were just fine. Second, we wanted to avoid a cesarean section if possible. So by Sunday night, when the labor-inducing drug Pitocin had still not produced sufficient progress, doctors suggested an additional drug, a new vaginal gel, and Kelly readily agreed. Yet we weren’t prepared for the violent reaction. Almost immediately Kelly went into hard, painful contractions—mocking the notion that they could be countered with special breathing.

    Then came the epidural, or spine-administered pain relief. When at last, early Tuesday morning, Kelly’s cervix was sufficiently dilated (effacement achieved!), the doctor backed off the epidural so that she could push with feeling. We were both relieved and happy not to need a cesarean.

    Once in the delivery room, an older nurse somehow superseded me as head coach because, well, she could yell louder than I could. “OK, honey, push!” she shouted. “You can do it! You can do it!” I had no choice but to join in. After each full-out, red-faced push from Kelly, I shouted, “That was good! That was good!” I wiped Kelly’s brow, fed her ice chips and listened to her curse. We’d run 10k races together, so I’d seen her physically exhausted, but this was different. I’d never seen her in so much pain. Yet, because Rochelle had prepared me for this stage of the process, I wasn’t afraid.

    I did see a lot of blood, but I must have been in some heightened state by this time because it didn’t bother me, even after going for 42 hours without sleep. I attribute this to the once-in-a-lifetime, unforgettable sight of our son, Devin, bald and squawking, as he slipped from Kelly’s womb out into the world. I wasn’t going to miss that, but class probably helped. More than anything, it made us think of ourselves as a team that would have to perform under pressure when the time came. And when the time and the pressure came, we did.

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