By: Nelson Phillips
One morning the ceiling fan was spinning relentlessly causing the lace window curtain to gently wave to and fro, the white noise and chirping birds soothing my mind; a consistent artificial breeze interwoven with the soundtrack of a crisp spring morn. I was leisurely drifting in and out of sleep, relishing the quiet.
My kid was going through a bout of nightmares and the only way to get her to sleep soundly enough to benefit from a REM cycle or two was to have her sleep in between my wife and I when she routinely came tugging at the duvet.
They don’t tell you in the baby books that toddlers actually sleep like intoxicated teenagers, sprawled out like DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man. You inevitably grow tired of waking to a heel in your mouth or a punch to the eye, so I let her take my spot and had crept to my daughter’s room to pass out below the watchful eyes of Peppa Pig and her cronies. That’s when my wife, 6-months pregnant herself, bursts through the door…
“I have to go to a birth right now,” she says, all bright-eyed and bushy tailed. “She just went into labour.”
I’m immediately filled with energy and exuberance; for whatever reason today is now all about some woman and her partner that I’ve never met. Summoning all of my miscalculated morning strength I spring out of the owl and butterfly sheets in my boxers half asleep, ready to jump in there and catch this baby myself.
“Shit – do you need me to cancel my appointment? How is she? How are you? Can you make it in time? Is everything OK?”
When your wife is a doula, birth becomes a huge part of your life. You talk about it at dinner. You move prenatal yoga books to make room for your coffee mug on the living room table every morning, and you form strange, non-existent bonds with people you don’t even know – people who trust your better half enough to attend the birth of their child.
I can’t begin to articulate how powerful that feeling is; knowing your partner has such a profound impact on people – all while you’re pumping gas or replying to an email at work. It means stepping up and filling the gaps when they’re gone, and not always knowing when they’ll be back. It means being left without a car. It also means cheering and applauding these strangers and their new bundle of joy when you hear the news from afar. You become a pseudo birth cheerleader and weirdly stoked on how happy they must be.
Most people have their kids and move on to the next stage of life; birth and pregnancy only comprise a small snippet of time – not at my house. It’s an ongoing occurrence that’s all about the overarching journey of having kids and welcoming tiny people to the world every few weeks or so. It’s a really beautiful way to live, filled with excitement, joy, fear and sometimes even loss. It shows you how lucky you are every day, and it reminds you that life is a pretty incredible gift that should be celebrated as often as possible; it reminds you how much people really need each other.
To whomever those people were that morning: you should know that I was thinking about you all day without knowing your names or your story. I was happy to miss breakfast for you and I was happy to miss an appointment for you. I’m thankful for the energy and joy you gave my wife that day. I’ll probably never meet you, but know that I cheered when I heard your good news. I’ll be cheering on the next group of strangers, too. For some reason, it’s easy to put them first.