Kimberly's eyes were closed tightly, her hair matted across her face, her body trembling with fatigue. I had no idea what was going on inside her head but as the minutes ticked by I could tell that her confidence was starting to fade. I wanted to tell her how strong she was and how everything was going to be ok, but the words seemed hollow somehow, and so they remained frozen in my throat as her struggle continued.
My mind raced to find ways to relate to what she was going through while still honoring the singular experience of childbirth as uniquely female. It is not an easy task for a man, and for those of us who have dedicated our lives to protecting the innocent, it is excruciating to be so powerless when your wife is hurting. In the end I simply squeezed her hand, kissed her on the shoulder, and told her I loved her.
If life were a movie Kimberly would have gazed into my eyes and shared a perfect moment with me in the eye of the storm, but in reality just after I kissed her shoulder she was slammed with the biggest contraction of the night. Her head snapped back, her eyes clamped shut, and she let out a scream of pain and fear that gripped my soul and flooded my eyes with tears. I bowed my head and whispered a silent prayer that God would give her the strength to carry on. His answer was immediate.
"Reach down Kimberly, you can touch your baby." The midwife whispered. Kimberly looked confused, but she reached down anyway, her fingers touching the top of her baby girl's head for the first time, and instantly the most incredible transformation swept across my wife's face. Kimberly's eyes cleared, her face relaxed, her breathing slowed, and a powerful feeling of calm pervaded her body that I could feel through my own skin as it pressed against hers. The next time it came to pushing the pain was still there, but it had been replaced with a sense of purpose so powerful that fear and doubt were banished forever...and within three minutes our baby girl took her first breath of earthly air.
Epilogue: I sit here now, looking down at perfectly innocent eyes as they blink up at me. I curse my inability to adequately express the emotion that threatens to burst from my chest like a fountain. A singular thought bounces around my head: I finally understand the meaning of unconditional love.