What It’s Like to Deliver Your Wife’s Baby

A harrowing experience turns into one very special delivery.

Photo: Tamara Reynolds“About three weeks before her due date, my wife, Melanie, suddenly doubled over in pain and started having intense contractions. One minute she was fine, the next minute she was moaning, all the agony of childbirth hitting her in a single wave. She managed to squeeze out a sentence: ‘Call an ambulance.’

“I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t think, Oh my God, I’m about to deliver my baby. It wasn’t until the 911 operator started giving me instructions on how to catch the baby’s head that I realized what was about to happen.

“I felt a hard-charging rush of adrenaline and extreme focus. There was no time to think or consider options. Whatever emotions were there—nervousness, confusion, fear—were crushed under the weight of doing the right thing in a situation with life-or-death stakes for my own baby. Obviously, I was overwhelmed. But I knew in that moment that I had this responsibility whether I wanted it or not, and I was going to do everything I could to bring my baby into this world, to help my wife, and to keep in mind my older child, then three, who was standing on the other side of the room. (Doctors told me later that letting him stay in the room, but at a distance, was the right call.) So while I was on the phone with 911 and focusing on the delivery, I kept saying to him things like ‘Don’t worry, buddy. Everything’s fine. This just happens.’

“My wife was doing all the hard work, but I could see that she was OK. Even though she couldn’t talk, I saw that she was breathing and following my instructions, in pain but not in danger. Then I saw the very top of the baby’s head emerge—a shock even though I knew it was coming—then a tiny scrunched-up face, and then the umbilical cord wrapped around the neck. All the way up, like a turtleneck. The baby’s eyes were shut, and it was not moving. My adrenaline went from overdrive to supersonic.

“After the baby was all the way out, the 911 operator told me to sever the umbilical cord. But I remembered a story about friends of ours whose baby was born blue and lifeless. It turned out he was still getting oxygen from the umbilical cord. He didn’t breathe for about two minutes, but he was fine. I was not going to tie off the umbilical cord with a shoelace, as 911 instructed, until I saw my child breathe.

“The baby was so fragile, a small, purplish-reddish body covered in blood and goo. I was holding not only the baby but also some of what had given it life. I started to unravel the umbilical cord. One, two, three, four, five times to remove it from the baby’s neck.

“Then I followed the operator’s instructions to lay the baby down on the floor. I didn’t stop to check the gender. Its eyes were closed; there was no sign of any kind of movement. I didn’t know if I was witnessing life or death.

“I stroked the baby gently a couple of times, and I could hear the 911 operator telling me she could give me CPR instructions. But then miraculously, the baby’s eyes popped open. It appeared to be breathing. That moment—the eyes opening—was not about joy or a celestial choir suddenly singing from the heavens. It was hope. I had hope that my baby would live.

“That’s when the paramedics arrived. My son and I raced downstairs to let them in, and by the time we charged up the stairs again, they had checked my wife and the baby. I said, ‘Just tell me the baby’s breathing, and they’re both OK.’

“‘You did great, Dad,’ one of them said. That’s when I took a breath. My wife said, ‘It’s a boy.’

“I am in awe of my wife and women everywhere who go through childbirth. The day I helped deliver my son, I felt a sense of connection to my family that will never fade. Forever it will have been just the four of us in that room, each of us doing our best for one another. So while I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone, and we would never choose to repeat it, I’m grateful that it happened to me.

“Professionally, it’s easy to get lost in my ambition. But in that moment of delivering my son, the game of life that we call ‘success’ didn’t exist. Having a child isn’t part of that game. It’s real, immediate, and primal, the very stuff of what actually matters: love. And that’s another thing I will never forget.”

Levs, an anchor for CNN, lives with his family in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest