Giving birth is not as romantic as it seems

There’s nothing like having your first child. That being said, modern pop culture would have you believe that birth is a magical passage full of sunshine and rainbows, but everything I was told about giving birth did absolutely nothing to prepare me for its realities.

My fiancée Michelle was late, and we started the long process of inducing labor on a Sunday afternoon. The first night was pretty easy – room service, relaxing and watching movies – whatever kills time in a hospital room. Every so often, a nurse came in to give Michelle doses of a magical cervix-softening pill to get things going.

Early Monday morning they administered the heavy stuff  – Pitocin – an intravenous drug designed to kick in real-deal labor contractions. No one ever told me about this stuff. At least her water never broke like it does in the movies – you know, all dramatic and splashing all over the floor, which was a relief.

I can’t even describe the look on Michelle’s face each time a contraction would hit. Her body would tense up in anticipation of the pain as if she could see them coming. It looked like she was watching an invisible bull charge at her from across the room, with no ability to get out of the way before it crashed into her with all of its force. It was like watching your best friend get mauled by a bear, and there’s nothing you can do.

Once Michelle’s cervix was dilated and her pain threshold was maxed out, it was time to administer the epidural – a large needle inserted directly into her spine.

Her goal of natural childbirth was shattered, but she was tired and couldn’t take it anymore. I was proud of her for hanging in there as long as she did. Within minutes, her pain was completely gone.  

The RN woke me Tuesday at 4 a.m. to bright fluorescent lights to tell me it was time to start pushing.

With each contraction the RN would yell, “PUSH!” count to ten, and breathe in, three times in a row, then repeat. Michelle was pulled, shoved, stretched and flipped for three hours straight. This was not the romantic and beautiful event depicted in the movies.

The next thing I knew, I was handed scrubs and escorted into a stark-white operating room full of rubber gloves and eyes peering at me through surgical masks. Michelle was on the operating table. It was nothing less than organized chaos. I felt dizzy and like I might pass out – but I didn’t.

“Whatever you do, don’t touch anything blue,” one surgical mask said. “If it’s blue it means it’s sterile, OK?”

I witnessed the doctor shove what looked like a sharp, oversized pair of medieval salad tongs into Michelle’s vagina a few times. I could see the head, but the kid wouldn’t budge. They told us they had to perform an emergency C-section. I started to freak out.

Suddenly I was escorted to a short stool next to Michelle’s head. A curtain was raised to block the view below her waist. No one tells you how intense the smell of blood and intestines is, and no one prepares you for the experience of watching people cut open your spouse. I tried to remain calm.

That’s when I heard him. All of a sudden, there was a baby crying somewhere on the other side of the room. He had arrived.

“Would you like to meet him?” a surgical mask asked.

Pop culture doesn’t prepare you for how ugly, beat up and slimy newborn babies are when they first come out. Movies make it seem like there’s a few minutes of intense pain, then poof – here’s your beautiful new baby. It’s not like that at all. He was screaming with his arms outstretched as if he were reaching out and longing to be put back into the utopia from which he had been recently snatched. His head was cone-shaped, his face was bruised from the forceps and he had a giant blister on the back of his head. He was pissed.

Michelle and I spent a week in the hospital recovering. It was the most intense experience I’ve ever had – and I wasn’t even the one who tried to push a small human from a tiny opening in my body for three hours.

Baby James is doing great and we love him more than words can express. He is the most beautiful and wonderful thing that’s ever happened to me, and seeing his little smiling face has given me a whole new purpose, but I never want to go through that again. Ever.

Chris DeJohn holds his son James at UCSF Mission Bay Children's Hospital, Thursday, Feb. 4. (Photo courtesy of Chris DeJohn)

Chris DeJohn holds his son James at UCSF Mission Bay Children’s Hospital, Thursday, Feb. 4. (Photo courtesy of Chris DeJohn)

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