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Love Brewed in Labor Room

Reading books or attending seminars and lectures could never teach me as much about loving my wife as I learned in a few hours in the labor room in July of 1996.

The practice of men being in the labor room at the birth a child was inconceivable in the Kamba culture of my youth. In some African cultures, husbands left homesteads as midwives were arriving, only to return a few days after the child was born. In other cultures, men didn?t have to leave for days, but couldn?t be in the house where birthing was in process.

We learned about the practice of husbands being in the labor room after we arrived in Laramie, Wyoming in 1986. This was hard to fathom. Some of my friends opted to leave the USA just before their baby was born rather than go through the process.

For my wife and me, it wasn?t a major decision when we were expecting our second child, who was the first child to be born in America. We both knew our culture and held to it. This was not different when our next child was born. Besides, I had moved to Boise, Idaho and left my wife in Wyoming to complete her undergraduate program.

By the time we were expecting our fourth child, my wife had converted to the American way. After her first doctor?s visit, she came home and said I was supposed to be with her in the labor room. I asked if I could talk to the doctor, but my request was adamantly declined.

The birthing classes were my window for what awaited me. The instructor, a female nurse, couldn?t be more explicit. The detailed information, even about how to breathe and her manner of presentation, humbled me. During the second class, the instructor assured me that I would probably pass out. However, my wife was more sympathetic, and she told me I could stay home if I didn?t have the nerve to go through the real experience. Playing tough, I affirmed to my wife that I wasn?t turning back.

I am eternally glad I toughed it out. For ten hours, I stroked my wife?s hand, gave her ice cubes or called the nurse during the arduous birthing of our son, Kithetheesyo. That single morning I learned more about my wife?s inner strength and resolve. I learned that nature is tailored to teach me to love.

From that day, my wife is not just the mother of my children and not just a casual friend whom I gave a shoulder to lean on. Those hours taught me that she is a part of me that I see when I look at our children. She is a special person with whom we toughed nature?s combatant together at the moment she needed me most. That same moment, I learned that caring for someone is different from caring about someone.

I regret now that I wasn?t there when my other three children were born. Being there to welcome your child into this world, witness that child?s first cry and help cover that child with something warm is a passage rite. You can never be the same again.

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