The day before my son’s birthday, I make a point of doing some of the things I did the day I went into labor with him, and we reminisce about his birth story. Labor was a really special experience for me, not only because I learned just how strong I really am, but also because of the ways labor brought me closer to my partner. It's an anniversary of a very personal victory for me as a woman and a mother, but it also feels like an anniversary of one of the most significant moments in our life as a couple.
I’m lucky to have had so many things go in my favor — a healthy body and pregnancy, the ability to choose where and with whom I'd give birth, and more — in order to have such a positive birth experience. (Some of these things, especially choices in childbirth, shouldn't be a matter of luck, but right. But that's a topic for another piece.) But a huge part of why it's such a great memory is because of how amazing my partner was throughout the experience. He's a fantastic, supportive partner in general, but before and during my pregnancy, he also learned how to be an amazing birth partner. Seeing that, and feeling his love and strength all through labor, made me feel even closer to him than I had before.
To be clear: I never wanted or expected labor to be a touchstone in my relationship with my partner. That's not its purpose. The goal, first and foremost, was to get our baby out of my body as safely as possible for all involved. Going into labor is not guaranteed to be a positive experience for anyone, nor should anyone go into it hoping to prove or fix anything about their relationship. (“That's not how any of this works!”) But it was a profound and transformative experience for me personally, and it also ended up clarifying and magnifying the best parts of our specific relationship, in the following ways.
It Was Intense…
Giving birth was hands down the most physically and emotionally intense experience of my life. Sharing that with each other was incredible; on some of our hardest days when I feel myself wanting to lash out and be mean, I consciously make an effort to remember how he looked while holding me as I labored, and the look on his face when he first saw our son. It really helps.
...And He Stood With Me The Whole Time
After more than 20 hours of labor, my midwives had to practically push him down the stairs to get himself something to eat. He refused to leave me for any longer than he absolutely had to, because even when I didn't want him to do anything in particular, he wanted to see for himself that I was OK and to let me know that he was there for me.
He Showed Me (Once Again) That I Could Depend On Him
Obviously, I already had a pretty solid idea that I could count on him, or else I wouldn't have been friends with him, or said yes to marrying him, or decided to have a baby with him. But it's easy to assume a person will be dependable during easy times. When a person shows up as their best self to be your rock during an intense experience like birth, that's much more solid proof. It renewed my commitment to be there for him in the same way, whenever he needs it.
He Held Space For Me…
Holding space for another person can be really hard, especially for cis men, who are traditionally taught to take charge of situations and fix things, rather than being supportive, following someone else's lead, and letting things unfold as they will. Seeing him do that deepened my trust in him in a big way.
...And Showed That He Respects Me And My Body
By holding space and being there for what I needed, he affirmed that he knows I'm strong, capable, and that I know what's best for myself and my body. In that moment I knew, without a doubt, that he's willing to do whatever I need him to. Another giant boost to the trust in our relationship.
We Were Totally In The Moment
Like most folks these days, we spend a lot of time trying to balance work and family, and being drawn into what's going on in the rest of the world via our phones. It's hard to find time to be completely, intensely focused just on each other, and what's happening to us in the present moment. Labor ended up being a long opportunity to do exactly that, and it was a fantastic way to see each other in a way we don't typically get a chance to, a chance to see what each other are really made of.
It Was Surprisingly Romantic At Times
Labor felt like a wild ride at times, but there were other times when, in the glow of candlelight, swaying and dancing and being affectionate to keep comfortable during contractions, I was more focused on how we felt about each other than the fact that I was about to push out a baby.
He Was So Encouraging...
Even when I momentarily got discouraged (22 hours is a long time!), he was always there reassuring me that I was doing this thing, and that he believed in me.
...And I Realized How Completely I Trust Him
There are a lot of people whom I'd trust to reliably help run our household. But there aren't many I'd trust when the stakes are super high, and I'm at my most vulnerable. In other relationships, I had constant doubts about whether I could trust my partner in an intense situation like labor. When I got pregnant, there were a lot of things I was worried about, but I never doubted him for a second. His steadfast support during labor proved that I was right.
We Got To Enjoy A Powerful Experience Together
I can't adequately convey how meaningful it felt to be held by my favorite person in the world while I brought our son, a glorious mix of both of us, into the world. I'd always imagined that that would be a special moment, but my fantasy of it didn't even come close to just how profound it was. Kissing and hugging while holding our brand new baby was the most raw, amazing thing, and deepened my sense that I'm so lucky to have found someone who makes me feel so safe, and so loved.