Everything was going perfectly at a birth I attended recently.
The nursing staff was amazing, the doctors and residents were communicating wonderfully with my client and her partner to put them at ease and make them feel respected and heard, and the labour was progressing well. I sat behind my client, Sarah (names changed to protect the sleepless) and rubbed her back gently. As each contraction started I applied counter pressure to her hips to help with the pain. Her partner James took a moment to run down to the cafe for a quick break.
When he returned something seemed different about him. His happy and relaxed demeanor had left and his face seemed tighter and he had a slight frown. I gave him a questioning look, but he just shrugged a bit and busied himself getting something from their bag.
Later on that evening, after their beautiful baby had been born, he decided to share something with us.
"Something happened in the elevator." he said "I saw another man. He was coming back up to the same floor as me. He asked if we had already had the baby, I said no. He said they had their baby yesterday and he was just coming back from picking stuff up from home and was getting ready to come home. When he got out of the elevator he said, good luck -- maybe I'll see you on the other side. "
The Other Side.
What this man meant was the postpartum unit, which for most hospitals is the separate area where mom and baby recover from the birth from a few hours after they give birth until about 24-36 hours later when they're ready to go home.
But for this soon-to-be dad, it meant so much more.
Crossing over into parenthood is a milestone, a true transformation in the life of a new parent. People spend a lot of time talking about how the birth impacts the person experiencing it and the person who gives life to a new baby, but we don't often focus on the birth partner, the person who witnesses the birth while undergoing their own transformation at the same time. Both partners are affected and moved by the arrival of this new creature.
When your baby is born everything changes. EVERYTHING CHANGES.
I remember reading a blog by one of my favourite bloggers about this exact topic, before I had children and I didn't get it. I couldn't get it. You can't GET IT until you're there. I honestly remember thinking -- she is full of shit. She makes it sound like everything is so much more exciting, more stressful, more....everything!
The truth is, the birth of your baby will most likely be THE most transformative and life-changing experience you will ever go through.
You will enter this experience living in one dimension and you will exit feeling truly like you are on The Other Side of your life.
Let me tell you, things ARE different over here.
First off, there's less time. There's also less sleep, but that can actually improve, so it's temporary. There's more joy. There's more wine. There's WAY more laughter. You'll start feeling everything, I mean REALLY feeling it. The highs, the lows. Everything feels a little bit heavier, a bit more important. You'll question yourself and your choices. You'll face your mortality in ways you never imagined. There's a weightiness to parenthood that is hard to explain to those who haven't arrived yet.
I'm often asked what it is that I enjoy about being a doula. One of those things is this: I get to watch this happen. I get to watch people walk through that door and find themselves on the other side. I get to help them, advise them, observe them, and then simply be there for them while it happens. And then, when I see that look in their eye, the one that tells me that they understand where they are now, all I can say is...