You don’t know how strong your wife is until you see her go through childbirthArturo Malave
Ever since we were kids, we’ve been told things like “that’s so girly”, “you run like a girl”, “you hit like a girl”, “don’t cry – you’re not a little girl”. When you grow up and you see a woman go through pregnancy, childbirth and raise a child, you realize that “doing something like a woman” isn’t an insult but rather a compliment. You don’t know how many men would be able to do the same thing and still have the strength to smile at the end of the day.
After a few years of being in a relationship (or maybe even months, who knows?), the moment when you decide to become parents arrives. In that very moment your wife starts thinking about the future baby more than she thinks about herself: she starts taking folic acid, she starts practicing yoga and changes her routine and diet because she read there are certain things that make getting pregnant easier. You see her cry after a few months of trying without success, thinking that it’s her fault. In fact, she’s sure she has done something wrong, and all you can do is hug her and keep telling her that it’ll happen.
All of a sudden, one day she breaks the news to you that she’s pregnant, and this means so much more than what you’re able to take in. For you, the future dad, the reality of having a baby doesn’t start until 9 months later: you’ll go with her to the gynecologist, you’ll see your baby on each ultrasound, you’ll get excited and you’ll want it so badly, yes, but you won’t be 100% aware of everything that’s going to happen. In the meantime, your wife is going through millions of changes: her body gets wider, it starts growing, and it starts filling up with love. She can feel when your baby moves, gets the hiccups and even how strong its legs and arms are (She can! She can feel it in her ribs!)
Your wife starts feeling dizzy and nauseous, and now she’s unable to sleep well at night. She’s short of breath, exhausted, she feels contractions every now and then and she’s started with a series of exercises so that the childbirth goes as smoothly as possible. And this is mainly for your baby, not just for her. Oh, and she also stopped eating that sushi that she absolutely loves, she stopped drinking that tea she used to have every morning, she no longer drinks wine on the weekends, and she doesn’t do many of the other things she used to do because all she cares about is ensuring the safety of your future baby.
At this point you already ask her if she feels more like a woman, more like a mom, a better woman or a better mom than the others. She probably wonders why you’d ask her something like that and she replies with “of course not”. For her it’s a completely natural process that she has to go through, and that’s it. Now you start looking at her with new eyes.
The countdown has begun. She’s now in labor and her head starts filling up with thousands of doubts. Is everything going to be ok? Will she need oxytocin? Will it be a natural birth? Epidural, yes or no? C-section? Oh, she doesn’t even want to hear the word “C-section” come up. The contractions start every 30 minutes, then every 20, 15, 10, until you get so impatient that you already want to go to the hospital! You see her in such agonizing pain and unable to find a comfortable position from back pain, but she still sneaks in a smile every now and then. The moment has arrived. You rush to the hospital and there are still a few hours left until that crucial moment. Time is going by so slowly for you because you see your wife in so much pain, pushing, sweating and yelling. While they’re giving her the epidural, you think to yourself: “Don’t move, honey. They’re sticking a needle into your spine.” It’s almost over. She never gives up, she struggles, pushes, breathes, she regains her strength, and then it happens. You hear the sound of your baby crying. Tears start filling your eyes, blurring your vision. You start to “cry like a girl” but you’re so proud!
The following days are full of constant changes in your new family. The house is unorganized, your wife’s hair is a mess, and she can hardly get off of the couch because she’s breastfeeding the baby all the time. However, there are times when you almost have to make her to take a break. You have to disinfect her wounds. She doesn’t even complain about barely being able to move or because of the cracks that are appearing on her breasts from feeding your baby. You see the pain in her face but you don’t even think about bringing up the option of bottle feeding the baby because you know the answer is going to be a categorical “no”. Breastfeeding is very important for her.
I’ve only been telling you about the beginning, but the following weeks, months and years will all have similar moments: the long walks carrying your child before discovering baby carriers, sleepless weeks because your child had a fever, nights of having your baby practically stuck to her breast the whole time and all the moments that I haven’t seen, that I’ve missed or that I don’t even remember anymore. Everything that I find so unbelievable seems perfectly normal to her.
That’s why when I see women carrying their babies while getting things done around the house, rocking their baby while standing and breastfeeding them so that they’d fall asleep, when they don’t mind waking up all hours of the night, I can’t help but get a bit emotional, because I see such amazing mothers and such great women.
Those are the women who are often seen with circles under their eyes, missing out on hours of sleep and suffering from wrist, back and neck pain. They have physical and psychological scars as well as thousands of doubts about whether they are doing it well or not, and you can only love them more because you know they are doing the greatest thing there is: bringing a new life into the world.
Women think about their babies all day and night, then about us and finally about themselves, if that’s in any way possible. And on top of everything else, many of them try to convince us that they’re fine and that they don’t need anything else, not even a little bit of help.
It took me quite some time to realize it, but now I know how strong and admirable it is to be a woman.