All childbirth is a trauma to some degree. I can't imagine it's ever "easy," but maybe some could be described as comparatively easy.
When I drove my wife to the hospital for the birth of our first, I was in a pretty chill mood. Our friends already had kids, and there was no reason to think it would be a problem for us. I was having a bit of a laugh with the midwives when we got there. I was excited. My wife was in a bit of discomfort but nothing terrible. Well, the night went on, and the pain got worse for my wife who never shows any pain if she feels it. I saw her face when the first real contractions came, and I knew she was in some real agony. Still, we expected this and I thought I was dutifully supportive and sympathetic. My wife asked eventually for an epidural at about 3 AM (we'd been in since 10 PM), and they performed it simply. I went off for a brew, came back, and my wife was looking blissed out and chill. "Well, this is just cool," I thought.
We even got some sleep.
At about 7 AM I woke in the (hard) chair in the delivery suite to the midwife saying it was time to start pushing. We were on the home stretch. Well, the pushing started; I held one of my wife's legs up because she couldn't feel or move it herself. The pushing commenced and went on, and on, and on. At this point, I'm starting to realize that this is pretty hard for my wife.
You don't see people on a hard workout put in such an effort, even in the gym!
Three hours later and still no baby. It just wouldn't make the last "u-bend," so they called in the surgeons for a cesarean. I was just about to don my scrubs when somebody said, "I think we can do this here with forceps." This idea was agreeable for me. I was incredibly naïve. So the bed lost its last third, and my wife had her legs in stirrups, and I'm thinking, "Wow, this is quite involved. It's not like what you see on TV."
More pushing. Some serious work is going on between my wife's legs. This petite French surgeon has the forceps around the baby's head, and she is pulling with all her strength, her arms showing the muscle as she leans back. Eventually, a baby's head appeared, and I felt that rush of bewilderment. It was finally real, and amazing. I kept telling my wife, "You've done it." I announced the gender when the baby came entirely out, except I got it wrong and said boy. My wife corrected me and said girl. We all laughed. That was the last laugh for awhile. The staff was asking if I wanted to cut the cord. Of course I did! Wouldn't any doting and proud father want to as well?
I went to the doctor at the "business end" of my wife, and I snipped that rubbery bacon rind-like cord, and as it dropped from my view, my eyes fell on my wife's private parts.
Something had made a cut, and blood was literally gushing from her.
It reminded me of an overflowing bath. Suddenly, all joy was gone. I went to my newborn daughter, who was lying on my wife's chest, and I tried to talk, but my heart had started pumping ice around my body. I told everyone I was going to pass out and just as they sat me on the chair, I did exactly that.
You know when you wake in the morning, and you don't know what day it is, you don't know if it's Saturday or Monday? "Do I have to go to work?" This confusion was the exact feeling I had as they shook me awake in that chair; for one moment everything was fine, then I was back in a nightmare. There were twice as many staff now in the room. They were rushing quietly and professionally around my wife who I noticed was milk pale, her hand gripping the sheet, a mask on her face. A surgeon was working between her legs, and a midwife was massaging her stomach. They couldn't stop the bleeding. There was a poker face to most of them, but one of the student nurses looked visibly shaken. I was terrified. The head nurse knelt in front of me and told me they were trying to stop the bleeding, asked if I wanted to hold my daughter. I held her, she hadn't yet cried, and she just looked up at me with her deep, dark, and beautiful newborn eyes. She never made a sound. I told her it was going to be okay, I kept telling her, but I was telling myself as I'd never been so scared, and the actual truth was I just didn't know.
Okay, I've gone on enough. Sorry. Thank you for making it to the end if you did. Yes, births can be incredibly dramatic. My wife lost almost three liters of blood. About half of her entire blood supply. Lose that at the roadside in an accident, and you will die. She lost most of it in ten minutes. She was mostly unaware of the severity of the situation as it was happening. It only dawned on her after the doctors told her. I could smell blood for a week after. I couldn't talk to anyone about it for months without crying. I have tears in my eyes now as I write. We have a happy ending, of course, and I realize this and I'm so thankful for it. It's possible I have a mild PTSD due to it all.
This question originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions: