I always imagined childbirth would be iconic and beautiful. I'd feel powerful, my partner would hold my hand, and the experience would bring us closer together. Instead, I felt like I was dying, my partner was bored, and we were distant. But when I asked for an epidural after 18 hours of labor, and all he could say was, "Are you sure?" I realized what I needed to do. Because I was sure... sure he needed to GTFO. So, yes, I actually kicked my partner out of the delivery room, and I'm not at all sorry. Not even a little bit.
Before you think assume I'm a horrible person who deprived her partner the joy of seeing his child enter the world, hear me out. Labor is hard. I mean they call it "labor" for a reason. I had to be induced early for preeclampsia, too, so I was seriously scared. Worse, I couldn't sleep in the hospital, I had horrible contractions, relentless anxiety, and the nurses kept coming in to monitor my climbing blood pressure. My partner didn't have any trouble sleeping, though, and was snoring so loudly any chance I had of resting was shot.
By the next morning, I was exhausted and grumpy. I had back labor, so my back felt like it was being torn in half straight down the middle like a molten hot zipper. The labor and delivery nurse tried to instruct my partner on massage techniques to relieve my pain, but I swear I could hear my aching spine and pelvis laugh at his half-hearted attempts to provide counter pressure.
Worse, I was in so much pain I couldn’t exactly think clearly about what I said or did. I knew if he didn’t leave me alone, I would say something I regretted. Now, don’t misunderstand, I didn't yell at him in some stereotypical "hormonal" pregnant woman fashion. It wasn't like that. I simply suggested that he go for a walk, get some food, and give both of us some much-needed alone time.
At first my partner didn’t want to go. He was worried that something might happen to me or that I would have the baby while he was out of the room. The on-call midwife checked my progress and told me I wasn’t going to have my baby anytime soon, and the amazing anesthesiologist came to give me my magical epidural. After my pain finally subsided, all I really wanted was sleep. I didn't need "bonding time" with my partner. I didn't need to wax nostalgic about the pregnancy. I needed to rest. So, I told him to leave. I mean, I couldn't go anywhere, so he needed to.
He was starting to grate on my last nerve, and I needed some peace and quiet.
I don't blame him entirely for his behavior. Have you ever been in a hospital room for 15 hours with someone? It’s boring. So boring. I mean, hell, I was bored, and I had back labor. But when he started doing the things you do when you're bored — like tapping your fingers against the table, making awkward conversation with the nurses, and asking to watch the football game on television — I knew it was time for him to go. He was starting to grate on my last nerve, and I needed some peace and quiet.
Once I kicked my partner out, my time in the delivery room was instantly better. I finally had the chance to take a nap, and I was also able to call my sister and mom without him sitting next to me. Time apart made me feel so much calmer and more confident.
If you don't ask for what you need, especially when you're in a vulnerable position, things will be worse than they need to do.
When he came back, I told him he could only stay if he shared the cinnamon roll he brought back with him and left me the hell alone. I meant it, too. I mean, you try not eating for 16 hours and then have your partner eat in front of you during labor. Not cool.
In retrospect, I realize that I might have been a little rude, but here’s the thing: I was in the process of pushing a human being out of my vagina. If he was not being helpful, he needed to go. Period. If you don't ask for what you need, especially when you're in a vulnerable position, things will be worse than they need to do.
Yes, it's nice to care about your partner's feelings, and believe it or not, I did care. Just, you know, to a point. Because you can care about someone and not want them to be in the same space with you for 24-hours straight. And as the laboring person, you get to call the shots. Having the right kind of labor support makes a huge difference, and you get to decide what that support looks like. And if you thought that support would look one way, and it ended up looking another way, you can absolutely change your mind and usher in a new support system... or usher the old one out.
Laboring moms are people and patients at the hospital or birth center, not just moms-to-be or baby vessels.
Some people may say that he had a right to be there, because it was his baby being born, too. I disagree. Laboring moms are people and patients at the hospital or birth center, not just moms-to-be or baby vessels. Their needs matter, and their health is on the line. So, the only person who actually needs to be in the room with you while you labor and birth your baby is a qualified medical professional. Anyone else is an accessory.
I had my third baby last year, with a different partner who was amazingly supportive during labor and delivery. And you know what? I ended up needing a break from him, too. After a few hours of boredom and HGTV. I gave him permission to take a nap and shift his focus off of me for a while. It was just what we both needed to make it through childbirth.
Now, I am not saying that everyone needs the same kind of support in the delivery room. You might want your partner to be there the whole time. But if, for any reason, you don't, you shouldn't be afraid to ask for what you need, even if what you need is for your partner to leave.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.