why yes, i happen to speak fluent parturition.

June 16, 2013

I was invited to contribute a guest post 
for a father’s day collaboration that a Dad blog in the U.K. was doing;
specifically, concerning childbirth from a Dad’s perspective.
I enjoyed writing the piece and thank the blog author and his readers
for their generosity in allowing me to share their space.
The following is what I wrote as first published on The_Secret_Father:

as i was tucking in the Easy Bee (3yrs old – our 2nd of 3);
making absolutely certain that no rough part of the blanket
was touching her face in any way, at all, she says:
Dad, your hands are cold… and they’re warm.
my First Born (6yrs) feeling it necessary to contend this paradox
interjects with a voice muffled by her deep nest of covers:
…that doesn’t make any sense.
weellll… EZB continues in a single breath:
they’re middle… they’re medi… uhhh… meti…
meady… ummmmmmmm…  meaty…

meat. we eat meat. we eat fish. mosquitoes itch us. right Dad?


my strange and beautiful children.
where did you come from?

oh right, i remember …
(eyes glaze dreamily, hand strokes scruffy chin):

… the muscles of my wife’s lower back rippled
(i didn’t even know we had muscles like that there)
she was turning a deep red with the effort
and still the midwife was demanding: push!
i thought: NO! she’ll burst! no one can do this. STOP!
but then… i was called around to the front
and there was the top of our little one’s head
i teared up and i repeated: push.
in a moment the child rushed out into my hands
and i picked her up and put her on her mother’s chest
our daughter –
born under the water of an inflatable kiddie pool in my kitchen
……………….…where you would sit, in fact, if you came for dinner.

i was no stoic hero (in this case or the subsequent two births)
i was trying to maintain focus on my wife
trying to take care of the little logistical problems
of having a swimming pool in the kitchen
(in which a baby is about to be born)
trying to be as helpful as a man can be
(when he’s long ago completed his required contribution
to this somatic/biological process)

trying to get the back rubs and breathing and moral support just right
trying to be completely present in this horribly beautiful adventure
but also, i was trying to keep how terrified i was from showing
and adding drama where extra drama was definitely not needed –
hoping i wouldn’t freak out and run screaming from the room
with my arms flailing above my head.
inside i felt like one of those tiny excitable dogs
dancing around pointlessly with their little nails
clicking on the linoleum floor;
all nerves – no steel.
my wife? well, she was amazing, powerful…
at one point amidst the pain
she looked up at me clear-eyed and said quietly:
“this hurts more than I thought it would.”
i knew she was strong, but i was in awe.

the first birth was swaddled in novelty:
attending the birthing classes with all of their predictable hilarity
acquiring all the specialized terminology; the jargon of birth
learning that an umbilical cord is gigantic!
(worth going to class for that information alone – i was pretty ignorant).
entering into the culture and convictions attendant to home birth
(i felt like a spy from normal-land infiltrating a strange realm where
people very seriously consider consuming parts of their own body)

the whole time i’m thinking: well, sure, but this is just one day –
then what do we do?!
well, no one can really answer that question.
and this one day?
nothing could have prepared me for this reality of flesh and bone…
our lives are normally so sheltered, avoiding pain wherever possible
but this was raw – visceral – utterly exposed
and no matter how hard i tried or what i did
i couldn’t save her from that
– nor would she want me to –
and i was afraid.
the most dramatic culmination of our being one
and we would be so dramatically separate.
together, intimate but deep within ourselves;
our experiences so different.
i was there for support, a hand holding hers, a body to lean against
but ultimately all i could do was stand by and watch her bear it,
which she did with determination and grace
and it was hard and it was raw and it was miraculous.

and then i fell in love.
i was overjoyed with all my tiny new babies,
they were unspeakably beautiful to me
and i swear i didn’t mean to think this:
but, wow, they were also funny looking.
being born is hard work and it showed…
the first debuted like a cross between Yoda and Gollum
i just kept thinking: which of those parts came from me?
EZB (our 2nd) was a little garden gnome;
bright red and fuzzy – a little girl version of the biblical Esau.
and the boy (8 months now), poor kid,
he looked like Roger Ebert after his jaw was removed
(i thought of even worse stuff but my wife said not to write it here.)
but then their tough elastic little bodies
recover from the pressures and trauma of the birth
and they slowly unfold into all of their exquisite oddness;
the wondrous strange combination of things which they inherit from us
and are stuck with for the duration of their lives
(whether they like it or not)
and the things that are their own:
the unique otherness which they begin to foster and protect
whether we like it or not.
from the beginning until now and on till then
they are all so very beautiful.

…as i knelt beside my wife and this other brand new person
my heart was still dancing its irregular jig
and i choked out: is she breathing?
that child picked her head up off her Mama’s chest
opened her eyes wide and looked directly at me –
calm down, Dad.


4 Responses to “why yes, i happen to speak fluent parturition.”

  1. Jimmy Says:

    This is a beautiful work of art and words. So befitting of your lovely children – my grandchildren. Thank you for making Fathers Day so special by crafting this memory so vividly and warmly.

  2. Rachel Says:

    Wow Shawn. How exciting to be a guest blogger :). And this, like all your writing about the kiddos, is lovely. I will have the retread this one several times because there is a lot to absorb and enjoy.

  3. Lindsey Says:

    The very end is my favorite part. You boiled that vivid anecdote down into the essential number of words, no more. Nice work, Writer.

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