Even if it's only a few hours out of your (hopefully) long and full life, labor and delivery unsurprisingly looms large in the minds and memories of any married couple who goes through it. I don't think I'm out of line in saying that birth is a big deal, so it makes sense that your relationship would be affected by your labor and delivery story. In fact, there are things you can only learn about your marriage after labor and delivery, for better and for worse. OMG, you guys, it's just like the marriage vows said!
Of course, there's no one labor and delivery story so everyone is going to go through childbirth in their own way. And since every couple is different, how they handle labor and delivery is obviously going to vary, too. But this milestone will provide a unique set of circumstances, challenges, and opportunities that will reveal a lot about any romantic relationship. In a best case scenario, childbirth will deepen the bond you share with your partner. In a worst case scenario (with a silver lining) it will show you the areas in your relationship you are going to have to keep working on.
It's not every day you push a human being out of your body and in the presence of the person you made that human being with. And this unique experience can offer a sort of microcosm into how you move through your relationship day to day. So with that in mind, here's what childbirth can teach you about your marriage:
How Patient You Are
Thanks to TV and movies, a lot of people see labor and delivery as a frantic and immediate sprint from your water breaking to just making it to the hospital as you're crowning. The truth of the matter is, more often than not, there's quite a bit of waiting in this process.
For example, with my first child I was in labor for 18 and a half hours, 12 of which were spent at home. My second labor was a little over nine hours, which is considerably shorter... but is still nine hours. That's long enough to watch the entire Lord of the Rings series. Stuff is happening in that time, sure, but it's a lot of waiting for both of you (though, admittedly, a different kind of waiting for the person having the contractions as opposed to the person sitting there watching their partner have contractions). Navigating those two different kinds of waiting as a couple is something you've probably never had to do before, and it's tough.
How Fast You Can Haul Ass As A Couple
On the other hand, sometimes labor comes fast and furious. Everyone knows at least one story of a friend or a friend of a friend who gave birth in a taxi, right? In those cases, nothing will teach you precisely how fast two people can get to a destination like labor and delivery.
How Well You Follow A Plan
So, ideally, you've worked together toward a common goal before this point in your relationship. But, again, birth is a big deal, and so the stakes are rarely this high. Hopefully you've discussed basically how you want this experience to go ahead of time, so now labor and delivery presents you with the opportunity to see how well you can work together within the confines of a predetermined course of action.
How Well You Support Each Other In Moments Of Improvisation
So, once again, there's no one kind of labor and delivery. If you're lucky, you'll mostly be able to stick to your plan. But things happen that will make that impossible. Or, 13 hours into powerful contractions, you'll decide, "No, actually, I would like an epidural." An empowered labor and delivery is a delicate balance between sticking to your researched and well-thought out plans and knowing when that's just not the best idea anymore. Most of those decisions will rest with the partner actually going through the labor and delivery, but the non-gestational partner has an important role to play here, too, one of back-up and support. It's good to see how you'll stick to a plan as a couple, but there's also nothing quite like birth to see how you can move through the unknown together.
How Annoying Your Partner Can Be
I'm pretty sure that, after hours and hours of loud groaning noises, even the most supportive partner (like mine) gets mildly annoyed. And I know from experience that after hours and hours of pain and waiting, literally everybody and everything gets really annoying, including a beloved partner who's doing everything right. I'm telling you, dudes, labor and delivery is not for the faint of heart and it does something to your body and brain. I found myself at points thinking totally unwarranted, uncharitable things, like how coldblooded and cruel it was that my husband had the audacity to breathe in my presence.
How Physical Pain Affects Your Dynamic
The pain of labor is different for every laboring person, but I've known very few people who claim they didn't experienced any pain at all. Childbirth doesn't tickle, people. Being in that much pain in front of your partner, and your partner witnessing you in that much pain, will tell you something about your marriage you couldn't have known without this experience.
How Soothing Your Partner Can Be
This isn't a guarantee, but in the best of situations your partner can be comforting in such important, powerful ways that you've never experienced before because your need has never been quite so acute.
How To Communicate In "Crisis"
Sometimes it's hard to communicate in a labor and delivery situation, due in no small part, in some instances, to the fact that you're interrupted every minute or two by painful contractions and can't think let alone express yourself. But you'll somehow manage to figure it out, if only through meaningful looks and animal noises.
(Or you'll learn that, in moments of such heightened intensity, you just kind of leave each other alone and let it be. Sometimes the most effective communication is just not communicating for a little bit, ya know?)
How Cool You Are In The Spotlight
To say that you, non-gestational partner, will play second-fiddle during labor and delivery would be overstating your role, both in how much you'll be involved, how much attention you're going to get and, ultimately, how much say you will have in a non-emergency situation. Now, if you're the partner who tends to shun the spotlight anyway, this probably won't be a big deal. But if you tend to be the more outgoing one, you're going to have to learn to dial it back.
And gestational partner? You are (or should be) at the very center of everything. If you're like me, this is in your wheelhouse, and maybe the dynamic you have with your partner will facilitate this need. But if you're more of a shrinking violet you're going to have to get comfortable with being front and center in everyone's plans. Your partner can help by supporting you and amplifying your voice.
A Fear You've Never Known As A Couple
Even in a best case scenario, there's always a little bit of fear around birth, right? Because it can be dangerous. Don't get me wrong: the vast majority go off without a hitch, but any time your body is working this hard you're at a bit of a risk. Add to that the fact that there's a lot of adrenaline going and you're coping with a unique brand of fear, together.
A Love You've Never Known As A Couple
Call me a hopeless romantic or a sap, but I believe this sort of thing serves to deepen the bond two people share. Of course childbirth isn't the only thing that can do that, and it's not that you didn't love each other before, but this is a profound, deeply personal, life-changing experience. Realizing, with the birth of a child, that you and your partner are embarking on a lifelong commitment with one another is bound to inform what you mean to one another.