My client is in labor.
I’m sitting at the breakfast table, getting all my ducks in a row for the rest of the day—and maybe the night. I’m showered, check. Boys fed and their clothes clean, check. Chicken roasting for dinner, check. Babysitting and back-up babysitting both in place, check. Birth bag packed and contains a change of clothes, check. My breast pump is not ready—that’s the next step. My fingernails are too long for acupressure and massage comfort—gotta take care of that. I still need to make the chickpea blueberry muffins for this week, since the chickpeas are already pureed—did I mention DoulaBoy has an aversion to most meat and I have to sneak vegetarian proteins into almost everything I make? NinjaBoy’s asthma is acting up—it’s ragweed season—so he will need his nebulizer packed for the babysitters. The kitchen is still a mess, but at least the dishwasher is unloaded; if he gets too frustrated with the state of the counters, BirthLifeHusband can just load it himself.
We have gone through this before. BLH loves my job; he has supported me through three births, two of them unmedicated. Along with my two business partners, he is one of my front-line birth-processing buddies. But my disappearing for hours or days on end is hard on him and the kids. There have been times when it was no issue, when he sent me off to a 28- or 32-hour labor with a kiss and a wave, and when I got home to find the house a disaster area but everyone fed and asleep (in our bed), if not clean. There have been other times when he sent me frantic texts in the middle of a labor: “NinjaBoy has a fever of 104, where’s the Tylenol?!” or, worst of all, “I got paged to work, who can take FearlessToddler?” (Thus was born the babysitter, and the back-up babysitter).
Once he left work early to sit with me while I grieved a client’s stillbirth.
Once he didn’t speak to me for three days because he was too angry to trust his words after I left him to care for kids alone over a weekend when we had plans.
It is a mixed bag for him, just as it is for me. When my phone rings, whether at midnight or at ten a.m., he has to be ready to deal with whatever comes, just as I do. When I get home from a birth, he doesn’t know what I will need, just as I don’t know what he will be able to give. It is an intricate dance, this work of labor and birth support, and it takes the commitment of a community, not just a person.
I could say a lot more about that, but my phone just rang.
I have to go now.