My husband lay sleeping, his head resting on a fluffy, down-stuffed pillow in our hotel room. His bag was packed neatly, ESPN was playing quietly in the background, and he had unopened snacks at his disposal on the end table. Our hotel phone rang, and my husband groggily answered, ”Yes? Oh, sorry. Yeah, we’ll keep it down. Sorry.”
He hung up and found me miserable and shaky in the shower, the thin shower curtain clinging to my legs.
“Steph, we got a noise complaint. You have to keep it down!” he whispered.
This is not how I expected labor to go.
About four hours earlier, we had made the decision that my contractions were close enough and consistent enough to head to the hospital, which was about an hour away. The contraction timer app had indicated it was time to go to the hospital, and we dutifully listened. I was both thrilled and terrified. Once we arrived at the hospital and I was strapped up to the machines, the nurses echoed what I already knew—these contractions were real and I was in labor.
There was one little problem (one centimeter to be exact). I was only dilated to three centimeters, and the hospital required laboring women to be four centimeters dilated before admitting patients. After weighing our options of driving the hour home or getting a hotel room, we decided to check in at a local hotel.
Almost immediately upon checking in, the intensity ramped up, along with my nerves. I found myself shaking uncontrollably, running to the bathroom to get sick, and feeling completely overwhelmed. I was groaning through the pain, which prompted my husband to give me the never-ending reminders to keep it down. It was close to midnight and my husband decided the best thing for him was to be well-rested for when my labor really ramped up. No one told him the level of dilation isn’t always proportionate to the level of support needed.
I thought we had been fully prepared for the upcoming birth.
We did all the things we were supposed to. We took the hospital tour, attended childbirth classes, and read countless books.
I panicked realizing one major area we missed: how I wanted my birth partner to support me.
Eventually, by the time we made it back to the hospital, my husband took some cues from the nurses and was able to offer some support. I had an uncomplicated birth and delivered a beautiful and healthy baby boy. I forgave my deer-in-the-headlights husband, and we later laughed about how terribly he handled the important role of birth partner.
When I became pregnant with our second child, I realized we needed to have a detailed conversation about what I needed from him this time around. Emotional care is just as important as medical care during labor, and I needed him to be 100% present. We talked about everything from early labor to postpartum.
He knew the small details such as what should be in our hospital bag and who he should call or text as labor progressed as well as the big details like what should happen in case of an emergency and what would happen if I were to need a C-section.
My husband knew all of my birth preferences as well as medical preferences for our baby.
We discussed various comfort measures, counter pressure, words of affirmation, and different laboring positions he could help me with.
The day our daughter was born, he was the gatekeeper of my emotional well-being, and I felt a calming presence that was starkly absent from my first labor. I progressed through each contraction with a birth partner who knew what I needed, without me having to say anything.
Both births resulted in a healthy baby and healthy mom, but the feelings I have looking back on each experience are polar opposites. Having the right kind of support in one of life’s most meaningful moments led me to feel more connected to my husband than ever before.