I had an epiphany tonight.
I was talking with my parents about my husband’s vasectomy, which happened 5 years ago. It’s OK, he talks about it openly and is a big advocate for vasectomies.
But what was interesting is that as I was telling the story, or my version/part of it, my husband got rankled. “You make it sound like you orchestrated the whole thing.” Now, I admit, in my version I did make a lot of suggestions – such as “I don’t care how they do it as long as it’s irreversible and cannot ever in any way heal itself because I AM NOT GOING TO BE PREGNANT AGAIN IN THIS LIFETIME.”
The rest really didn’t matter to me.
But my husband’s reaction to my telling of the story, and my taking any credit for what happened to his “junk” made me realize that I have been dealing with a very similar rankling for the last several years, every time I try to tell the birth story of my children when my husband is in the room. All of a sudden, it’s not my birthing story, or my daughter’s birth story, it’s “OUR” birth story.
And it rankles me.
Sure, he was there, and he was a very active observer, but in the end – he was still an observer.
He was supportive, he was caring, he was helpful, but… he wasn’t the one panting, pushing, making the awful decision to go to the hospital for an emergency c-section “knowing” that he was going to die in the hospital, but just grateful that at least I’d have a kid. (I didn’t die and he’s now stuck with both me AND the kid for the rest of his life…)
He was there when I made that decision, and he supported it, and me, and drove me to the hospital while I screamed against my body’s urge to push and cried against my baby’s decision not to come out “that way”. But still, he was just an observer. The decision wasn’t his, the pain wasn’t his, the fear wasn’t his, the hope wasn’t his. Though I am sure he had his own of all of those emotions, they weren’t the same as mine, they weren’t hinged on the same issues, realities, thoughts or focuses. He didn’t think I was going to die at the hospital, I did. He knew he was going to get a healthy kid and mom from them, I just hoped the kid would make it out OK. So when he jumps in to my telling of the birth stories with “our” story, I get rankled. Somehow it feels as if my experience has just been diminished, as if my choices, my emotions, my reality has just taken a back seat to this imaginary joint experience that never happened.
The same is true for the second birth, our youngest daughter. What I went through, fighting with my midwife, kicking her out of the room so I could give birth, kicking her out again so I could deliver the placenta, wishing she would stop fussing over me so I could get to know my new child, those were my experiences, that is my birthing story. I’m sure my husband has his own, he was there through all of it. But it’s not “our” story. He was an observer, a wonderful, helpful, supportive, active observer – but still, an observer.
Just as I was only an observer when he got his vasectomy. I have my story there, but it is not his story, and it is not our story. Ultimately the how, why, when and whats of his surgery were HIS choices, HIS experiences, HIS emotions. I was just the observer. Helpful, supportive, active, but still – just an observer.
I realized tonight that so much of life is divided in this way, we want for it to be more, we wish for these shared experiences to truly be “ours”, but when you look at it closely you realize that we are all individuals and we all see and experience things differently, and we all take ownership of those experiences differently. We can still be brought together by a shared experience, but we can’t take credit, or share the glory. I gave birth to two wonderful girls. I had an amazing partner who helped and supported me through two pregnancies and two births – but when push came to shove, I was the one who had to do the pushing and shoving.
My husband had a vasectomy. He had a supportive, encouraging, helpful partner, but when nip came to tuck, he was the one who had to make the decisions and experience the results.
Sure we’ll always have that clinic in Eugene, but the vasectomy, that’s all his.