I learned seven important lessons on our Labor Day earlier this year.
Lesson #1 – Talk to your doctor when you have ANY inkling of something unusual.
My wife woke up in the middle of the night with some light contractions, so we called the doctor, who told us to come on in, despite the fact that this was ten days before our due date and the doctor had just told us the day before that the baby would be at least a week late.
We loaded up the car and went to the hospital, expecting a long day ahead.
The doctor sent us home an hour later, since they weren’t sure the contractions were real (not Braxton-Hicks) and even if they were, it was way too early for us to be there.
They gave us the magic formula of when to come back: When the contractions last for a full minute and are five minutes apart for at least one hour. It was a Friday…the guessed they would see us again on Sunday at the earliest.
Lesson #2 – Trust your doctor and your judgment, but know that every pregnancy is different.
The contractions increased and intensified throughout the day, but hadn’t hit the target, so we went shopping.
My wife had a 30-second contraction in every aisle of the store! We got the dirtiest looks ever, but walking eased the pain, so we kept going until the pain was too severe.
We returned home and my wife took a bath to ease the tension. She felt a “pop” and then went WAAAAAAAY past the magic formula!
Her water had broken and contractions were now lasting a full minute and spread just two minutes apart! YIKES!!!
Lesson #3 – Dads, be present, calm and supportive.
I expected to panic, but instead I felt a rush of calmness as we returned to the hospital. “Game time. Focus. Drive. Just drive. And breathe. Don’t forget that.”
You know how when you watch a movie or a TV show, there are seemingly a dozen people buzzing around the labor and delivery room, right?
Lesson #4 – Don’t believe everything you see on TV.
After my wife was checked in and well-medicated, we had about 30 minutes to freak out alone, since we still hadn’t processed that our little girl was coming so early.
Then one nurse and one resident walked in and said “let’s get to pushing!” Uhh…just two people?
The next line caught me completely off-guard. “Dad, grab a leg!”
Me? Grab a leg? This was not something we had discussed in any class before! What if I held her leg wrong and it hurt the baby? What if I passed out? Or threw up?
Lesson #5 – Don’t throw up.
Everything moved so fast, so I just paid attention and did what I was told. Grab a foot, push the leg back, don’t pass out. Check, check and check. And I didn’t throw up, either.
Just 45 minutes later (a near record-fast pushing time for a first-time mom!), Hava was in our arms.
Much like the “rush of calmness” earlier, paternal instincts kicked in and I followed Hava to an antechamber where nurses performed a battery tests on her.
Lesson #6 – Always, always, always stay with your baby at all times. These are some of the greatest moments of your life.
“Hava, it’s your Daddy, everything will be OK,” I said gently.
Her tiny little hand reached out towards my voice and grabbed my index finger.
That’s the moment I fell in love with my daughter.
I choked back tears and my exhausted wife smiled from her nearby bed.
Lesson #7 – Everything does change in an instant.