The Top 5 Challenges of Childbirth for a Freedom-Loving Dad

A few weeks ago, my family welcomed our third child into the world. Witnessing this miracle of life left me breathless. There’s nothing like a baby’s first cry. It distills humanity into a moment of wonder and joy, pain and hope. It brings tears to a dad’s eyes.

But the best things in life don’t come easy. When it comes to childbirth, moms know this, because they feel it. It comes a lot easier for dads. It’s no cakewalk, though, especially for dads who are used to being in control.

So, dads, arm yourself with knowledge. Here are challenges a freedom-loving dad can expect in those precious first days of a newborn’s life.

1. This is not your domain.

Most births take place under the bright lights of a hospital room. It doesn’t take long in a hospital to realize you have almost no control. You’re tagged with a wristband. You can’t go anywhere without it. The tag proclaims you, the dad, as “companion.” That’s your role in this medical domain. The tag will help you remember it.

The doctor is the king (or queen). Like a good royal, the doctor will be wise and caring, but will rarely deign to appear in person. The nurses are the doctor’s emissaries. They tell you what to do next, and you obey. They come in the middle of the night and put your infant to the test, poking and prodding to make sure the dear little one is meeting expectations.

You also have to deal with nurses’ warm spirits and their insistence that you take another pillow and a blanket. The nerve! After a sleepless night, a new, smiling nurse shows up with the next rotation. Others will bring you food, then they’ll come back for your tray.

Remember, this is not your domain. You have to smile back, because most residents of the doctor’s kingdom are really very nice.

2. Forms must be filled out.

All three of my kids have been born in the District of Columbia, and I’m pretty sure the birth certificate form has doubled in length over the past five years.

What do they need to know? The baby’s name, the parents’ names, and a few other facts — that makes sense. But now they also want to know your race, your sexual leanings, your drug usage, and the date of mom’s last menstrual cycle. On top of that, there’s a penalty of perjury if you get something wrong.

It makes me wonder: if a baby were born in a state of nature, could it survive without the forms being filled out? The cavemen had it hard.

3. You can’t leave.

In protest against the forms, I considered bundling up my son and attempting escape. I’d try it in the dark of night. I’d put him in a Baby Bjorn and wrap up in a big coat. We’d charge out the double doors and make a run for the car.

I decided against it. The lights would be on. The nurses would be watching, and the double doors don’t open unless they push a button. We’d never make it. So I followed the rules. I finished the forms. We stayed until they said we could leave. My wife had to ride in a wheelchair. My son had to ride on her lap, buckled into a carseat.

Our exit was less glorious than my plan, but at least we made it out.

4. You’re the sidekick to the star.

Who has been missing from this picture so far? Only the undisputed champion of childbirth: Mom. She was the one who carried the baby. She was the one who labored in pain and brought the baby into the world. She is the star of the show, and at best, you can be a good sidekick.

This does not bode well for freedom. The star gets the praise. The sidekick must support the star. You get ice whenever the star asks for it. You offer your hand for the star to squeeze, and maybe break, during labor. Consider this a good time to start practicing sacrifice. With a new baby around, you’ll need to get used to it.

(Note: my wife is not just a star, she’s a supernova. She chose to birth our kids naturally, with no painkillers. I’m lucky to be a sidekick to star that bright.)

5. Your love must grow.

I didn’t have a choice. Each new little bundle of joy ensnared my heart. Now I’m less free to do whatever I want, whenever I want. Those little rascals make me love them. How dare they!

Trust me, dads, you’re probably not going to have a choice. The birth of a child is going to steal some freedom. It’s going to make you love more.

And you’re in it for life.

The best way to handle all this is to remember that freedom is not the greatest virtue. Love is.