*Metrodad is on hiatus for the week. I, Poppa Large (big dad on the West Coast), am filling in for the time being. Don't say I didn't warn you.
I can't really speak for my partner Samantha (but I will anyways) about what pregnancy must be like, but based on what I observed, there seemed to be some distinct phases to her experience.
Typical comments: "How the hell did this happen?" "Oh wait, maybe this has to do with me going off the pill last month." "Did I forget to tell you that?" "Oops."
Typical comments: "This is so crazy." "Are we really ready to do this?" "What do you mean I can't eat soft cheese/sushi/raw shellfish or drink wine?"
Typical comments: "Wow, I have a baby inside of me." "I hope people don't think I'm getting fat." "By the way, your mom called, she wants to know when we're getting married."
Typical comments: "This is really amazing." "She's kicking so hard - she's doing her little fan dance today." "By the way, your dad called, he wants to know when we're getting married."
Typical Comments: "I hate wearing jeans with an elastic band - I'm not ready to wear 'mom' jeans!" "This was fun while it lasted but it better be over soon."
...and then comes the dreaded...
Typical Comments: "How come she won't come out?" "Am I going to be pregnant forever?" "I'm giving her one more day than I'm yanking her out myself."
Sam was actually quite well-mannered through most of the pregnancy - until the 36th week. Then, she started to be convinced that L was no longer merely kicking, but had apparently smuggled a small shank into the womb and was now stabbing Sam in the cervix with it.
We went to our midwife but he seemed convinced that L would be out any day now and that there was no reason to induce contractions through artificial means. Then he gave us the advice I knew was likely to come: "have you two tried sex?"
For those who didn't know (or who never watched the penultimate season of Friends(1), there's some kind of hormone inside semen that can help initiate contractions. However, like getting pregnant itself, it helps to be able to...um...deliver as much of the hormone as possible, which, in our case, meant trying to have sex three times a day.
Don't get me wrong. I love sex with Sam (that's what got us into this situation to begin with). Moreover, I found Sam to be incredibly beautiful throughout the pregnancy, even when she had body issues with her transforming figure. However, sex during the last trimester introduced certain - shall we say - challenges that conflicted with my normal enjoyment of lovemaking.
I won't get into all the details but part of it was that sex was now more physically awkward for obvious reasons. Certain positions just didn't work at all and more to the point, Sam was more sensitive (in a bad way) and the fear of potential pain doesn't do much to spice up the mood.
There's also the issue of the baby and the fact that I'm hyper-aware of the fact that L is basically, you know, RIGHT DOWN THERE. It didn't help that prior to suggesting we rut like rabbit, our midwife also told us, "your baby has already dropped into the pelvic region. In fact, if you stick a finger inside, you can feel her head." What I translated that to mean was: "When making love to Sam, I'll practically be poking our daughter in her head with my penis."
It just seemed so...disrespectful. However, Sam couldn't have been happier since she had been craving sex for weeks. The fact that sex could now be tasked with getting labor going only made it even more desirable. She was practically demanding "injections" as much as possible.
Now...like most men, I've had my bouts of performance anxiety in the sack but suddenly, sex on demand, three times a day, with a 9-month old pregnant woman, was like psychological anti-Viagra for me. I was anxious, frustrated, and resentful, none of which are particularly helpful in encouraging climax. It got to the point where it was easier for me to "self-negotiate" and only insert to "complete." Believe me, this did not rank among my fonder masturbatory moments but much to my surprise, Sam was very appreciative of my willingness to make the effort, regardless of what it took.
The problem was - all this effort was seemingly for naught. Labor still seemed like a far away fantasy despite our best efforts otherwise. That's when the salad came in.
Sam's sister had heard of this "labor-inducing salad" sold at Caioti Pizza Cafe in Los Angeles. It's not so much the salad that is purported to work the magic but rather, the salad dressing, a basil vinaigrette. As urban lore goes, women who eat a salad with this dressing will go into labor within a couple of days. Sam's sis sent us a bottle of this stuff. Did it work?
Let's put this way: on the sixth day after our original delivery date, we saw our midwife again. This time, he decided to help the process along by detaching a slight patch of the birth sac from the uterus. That tear also encourages the production of prostaglandin, the same hormone found in sperm to help induce contractions.
Then we went home and I provided my own prostaglandin donation (taking one for the team) and then Sam ate the labor salad. Within six hours, she went into early labor and by the next day, L was here.
Was it the sex? The salad? The midwife? Just L's time to arrive? Ah, the unanswerable mysteries of life.
(1) I never liked Friends much but I would watch it on occasion, including the episode where Rachel, pregnant with Ross' love child, is tired of carrying the baby around and tries to seduce Ross into sleeping with her as a way to induce labor. I cannot express the shock I felt when the OB gave us similar advice since it now meant I actually had something in my actual life that related to an episode of Friends. Oh, the horror. The horror.
Metrodad Poppa Large Mailbag...
"out of curiosity, and as 1/2 of a couple who is considering having children, what would you say is the hardest part?" - Kristin
In all seriousness, the hardest part is the emotional adjustment to realizing that you are now completely responsible for the life of this small creature who depends on you for their very existence and survival. Maybe it's because I never grew up with pets (Chinese moms ain't feeling anything that might lower property value) but this was an utterly new thing to adjust to.
I remember, in the first week after L was born, I was away from home for the afternoon and with the distance to be able to look at parenthood while not being smack in the middle of it, I suddenly understood why some men leave their families. No joke - that feeling of responsibility can be suffocating at times and while I adore my daughter and I would never, ever abandon her, I understood the *impulse* to want to be freed of that responsibility.
Intimately related to that is just the stress in trying to take care of this person who can only communicate with you by crying and screaming. To a newborn parent, this translates into an unending lament of "you're not doing it right! Wah! Wah!" As any mom or dad will tell you, you may be able to tune out other baby's wails, but your own baby's cries are like plunging knives into your heart. You feel so inadequate, especially when they don't stop crying despite your best efforts.
But after a few weeks, you realize, you know, it's hard, but you'll love it. ;)