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Denise Punger MD FAAFP IBCLC
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Now it is my turn. I dont know what my wife, Denise, tells all you ladies at your "Breasters Meetings,"(A.K.A. any birth/lactation/mothers meeting), but now I am going to tell you my story and a few secrets that I know she hasnt told anyone.

First of all, she tricked me into pregnancy. She told me she didnt want to have kids. She just wanted to travel. Be free. I agreedLets save our money and retire early. Next thing I know we are out of town, visiting relatives. Its December 25th. "Oh John, I forgot to pack something and it is day fourteen." I knew better, but she was so old (30ish) and never pregnant, I thought all her eggs were dried up by now. Two and a half weeks later she tells me she is pregnant. "Yeah right! Do another test and dont tell anyone until we are sure its not a tumor." She did another test. It was still positive. But I really believed it when all the nausea and her complaining started at 6 weeks. I was going to be a father! So much for trips, buying cars and jet skis for now.

Most women will automatically call a geographically desirable obstetric practice to confirm their pregnancy. Without considering other choices they will stick with the first OB they see. She asked me briefly what I thought about her getting a tour of the birth house and meeting the midwives. "No way," I demanded, "You are a physician and you are going to have an obstetrician deliver this baby." She has learned a lot about midwifery since and would never let me get away with this attitude now. Being honest, us dads ought not to second-guess their instincts as much as we do.

As physicians, we study the condition of pregnancy. The midwives learn the bio-psycho-social model of birth. Denise had the worse pregnancy I ever thought possible. She cried all the time--All the time. (She needed someone who could deal with the psychosocial part a little better than her OB or me. She did say he jokingly admitted he wasnt a shrink, but he could empathize.) She didnt think she could raise a child. (Why? because she hates cooking. "How will I ever feed a kid?" was her reasoning.). She stressed me out. I NEVER wanted to live through another one of her pregnancies. As her husband, everything I did was wrong. Her sister, Carrie in Seattle, just had a baby; they were on the phone all the time commiserating. The phone bills were high.

To top off her pregnancy, she had a partial placenta previa. Her doctor took her out of work around her 33rd week. Now she was just moping around the house, milking this pregnancy for all it was worth. We were worried for a few weeks she would need a c-section if the placenta did not migrate up. She knew she wanted a natural labor. But the placenta did move, finally. What relief! I easily see how so many couples get talked into induction (and are blind to all its risks at this point) after a long burdensome, emotionally draining pregnancy.

Her pregnancy ended with a 22 hour mortifying labor. I could not meet her emotional needs as she dealt with each contraction. We were worried once again she would have a c-section because she was tired, exhausted and could not push. All I know about father-coached-labor is that it is not for me. I was caught in the middle of our two mothers. Mine passive and meek, and hers controlling. I felt like a servant who couldnt do anything right. "Do this, do that." Isnt that what the hospital nurses are for. Or her mother.

I was hoping our mothers could stay after the birth. I had to go back to work. Denise was recovering physically. There was no one to help her during the day. Denise dwelled on this birth experience. If there is a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for labor, she had it. She had recurrent thoughts about what happened and what should have been. She wasnt that interested in breastfeeding. Two things contributed to her getting breastfeeding right. Her sister, was breastfeeding and she couldnt have her younger sister have a life experience without sharing in on it. Also, I told her from the beginning of pregnancy she was going to breastfeed. I told her that there was evidence suggesting it may increase intelligence. I wanted a smart boy! (And we could save money by not buying formula). When the boys were older Denise found out that the boys were often satisfied on breastmilk alone and she could get out of an occasional meal preparation. Breastfeeding turned out to be healing for Denise, too. Although she still grieved for the birth experience she desired, she was reassured that her body did not fail her in breastfeeding.

I never thought we would have another wonderful son. Who could live through another pregnancy? We never discussed it much. Then one week she tells me, "If you want another baby, this is the weekend" Thats all it took to get pregnant again. During the next long 40 weeks she got into reading "birth books." She was determined to have a better experience. Now she has all her favorite books listed on-line at She told me she was going to find a doula. "A do-what?" She explained she was going to get someone that can help her, have a better birth experience. Thats when we met Bernadette Clark. It took me two seconds to agree after we met her, " I want Denise to have a doula." Let me tell you dads-to-be, I am frugal, but a doula was worth every penny. Denises mind really was at ease about this and so was mine. Dads, some of you may have the ability to be everything that your partner needs in labor (eight arms, physical strength of a mule, no, endurance and patience), all the power to you. I am glad we let her duola be all that. A doulas job doesnt stop with helping the mother-to-be, but she helps teach the dad how he can best meet his partners needs.

The night Denise went into labor, I was already asleep and she was quiet about it. She tells me she wanted me to be rested. I know she just didnt want me making her self conscious. When I awake a few hours later Denise, Bernadette, and her sister Carrie are all in the kitchen. Denise says, "Get the shower stall readythis baby is coming out now." Her doula says, "John get the car ready, it is time to go to the hospital." Knowing what Denise knows now she would have had a planned homebirth, but we all agreed it was better to go according to the plans. I was getting nervous. She was having some serious pain, but Bernadette knew what to do for Denise and I knew how to drive. We could all do something we were good at. I was panicking that it was going to be a few more hours at the hospital with her in so much pain or worseshe would deliver in my brand new SUV. I was surprised that on arrival to the hospital she gave birth immediately. He was a little blue, too. "See, Denise, I told you, you couldnt have this baby at home." Later she explained he was probably blue because she held him in during the drive." Anyway, I am glad this delivery was over.

Whatever her doula did to help her stay focused and relaxed worked. I wasnt even too tired to enjoy our new son. And go get food. (Something else I am good at being married to someone who doesnt cook.) Denise has had the birth experience she hoped for: A labor in which she was in control and her feelings were validated. Now that she has hooked up with the doulas, I wonder if she will trick me into another pregnancy...

David Stuart's Prenatal Care

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Denise Punger MD FAAFP IBCLC
4640 S. 25th Street
Ft. Pierce, Florida, 34981
Copyright 2005