Bryson City Seasons — Labor Pains (Part 1)

This is from the twenty-eightth chapter from my best-selling book, Bryson City Seasons, which is the sequel to Bryson City TalesI hope that you’ll enjoy going back to Bryson City with me each week and that if you do, you’ll be sure to invite your friends and family to join us.


Delivering babies is an art. Of course, there are the technical aspects I learned in my training. But I primarily learned the art of maternity care from “Professor Time,” the teaching of maternity care nurses, and the mentoring of experienced physicians and midwives. However, the observations of the midwives and nurses turned out to be among the most helpful to me.

One spring evening I was sitting at the nurses’ station with Peggy Ashley. She was knitting, and I was cross-stitching. I had picked up cross-stitching during my long hours on the labor and delivery deck during training—and continued it during my early practice years while attending a labor.

“Doc, have you ever noticed how uncomfortable most husbands are during labor?” Peggy asked.

I laughed. “Peggy, it seems to me the wife is the more uncomfortable of the two!”

She smiled. “That’s not what I meant. It just seems that most husbands just don’t like being in the labor room. Yet if the mom has a female with her, the female seems much more helpful.”

I stopped cross-stitching to look at her. “Never noticed.”

“Since my early years in labor and delivery, I’ve noticed that the father of the baby is not nearly as dedicated or helpful to the woman in labor as other women are—such as the mother’s mother or sister or pastor’s wife. And that’s especially true if the woman who’s assisting the woman in labor has had a baby herself.”

“Why do you think that is?” I asked.

“Not sure,” Peggy answered, still knitting. “It’s almost like the men find it difficult to maintain confidence and perspective in an environment that’s so strange to them. It’s like men feel helpless during labor—and I think it’s because they’re unable to control the process or the outcome. And I’ve also noticed that as the birth process intensifies, most men seem to become more uncomfortable and pull away from, not toward, their partner. I’ve come to believe it’s because the man is distressed by having to witness his wife’s pain and discomfort.”

I remembered back to Barb’s labor with Kate and the discomfort I felt during the process. Maybe Peggy’s on to something, I thought.

She continued. “So, early on, I concluded that having a man involved in the birth process is better than nothing. But not much.” She laughed, almost to herself. “No offense, Dr. Larimore, but most husbands aren’t nearly as helpful and effective to a laboring woman as another female. When a laboring woman’s discomfort increases, the supporting women would actually move closer to the laboring woman, while the husband would move back or even leave the birthing suite.”

As I thought back on my experiences in labor and delivery, I wondered if I hadn’t seen the same thing but just hadn’t consciously recognized the phenomenon.

Peggy put down her knitting. “Here’s what I’ve come up with. Over the years, I’ve observed that the man who attends his wife’s delivery generally falls into one of three categories. He is either a coach—one who actively assists his wife and stays very close to her; or he’s a teammate—one who takes his lead from others and is there to help when asked; or he’s a fan—one who’s there just to observe labor and to witness the birth but not help in the process.”

I thought to myself, This does sound accurate. In fact, most of our dads here in Bryson City are just fans.

Peggy went on. “I used to try to make the men become coaches but usually failed. ’Bout the best I can do is move a fan to a teammate. But what’s easier yet is to encourage women to bring women with them to the labor.”

“Does that cause problems with the dad?” I asked.

“Nope, not really. The role of a female partner with the laboring woman and the role of the father actually complement each other. In fact, I’ve noticed that having another woman present seems to take significant pressure off the father—kinda allows him to participate at his own comfort level, leaving him free to come and go as he desires.”

Now, a woman being present with a woman in labor was an age-old practice, but it was new to Rick and me—and to the other doctors on staff. Some, we were to learn later, were resistant to this approach. Perhaps it was this refusal to accept what they saw as a “new” approach that would lead to another crisis among the medical staff.


By Valentine’s Day, Kate was out of her cast but still in her wheelchair. Her wounds had healed very nicely, and Dr. Fitch couldn’t have been happier with the results. He called her his “best patient,” which made her incredibly proud of herself.

Once out of the cast, Kate needed to begin therapy. So Barb brought her to Swain County General Hospital for daily physical therapy. After only a couple of weeks, Kate had begun to walk with assistance. By early March, she was walking without assistance.

Barb and I were grateful that the prediction given us when her first CT scan showed so little brain—that she’d probably never walk or talk, and she’d never know the Lord—had been proven wrong on all three counts.

But while Kate was improving, there was good news and bad news at Swain County General Hospital. The good news was that Rick and I were doing more and more deliveries. We both really enjoyed the privilege of attending birth—with each delivery a reminder of the hope that new life brings to a family and a community. The bad news was to appear shortly in our nursery.


  1. The Murder (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  2. The Arrival (Part 1)(Part 2)
  3. The Hemlock Inn (Part 1)(Part 2)
  4. The Grand Tour (Part 1)(Part 2)
  5. The Interview (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  6. Settling In (Part 1)(Part 2)
  7. First-Day Jitters (Part 1)(Part 2)
  8. Emergency (Part 1)(Part 2)
  9. The Delivery (Part 1)(Part 2)
  10. The “Expert” (Part 1)(Part 2)
  11. The Trial (Part 1)(Part 2)
  12. Shiitake Sam (Part 1)(Part 2)
  13. Wet Behind the Ears (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  14. Lessons in Daily Practice (Part 1) — Anal Angina(Part 2)(Part 3)(Part 4)
  15. White Lies
  16. The Epiphany (Part 1)(Part 2)
  17. Becoming Part of the Team (Part 1)(Part 2)
  18. Monuments (Part 1)(Part 2)
  19. My First Home Victory (Part 1)(Part 2)
  20. Fisher of Men (Part 1)(Part 2)
  21. Fly-Fishing (Part 1); (Part 2)
  22. Something Fishy (Part 1)(Part 2)
  23. A Good Day at the Office
  24. An Evening to Remember
  25. Another New Doc Comes to Town
  26. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (Part 1)(Part 2)
  27. A Surprising Gift
  28. The New Year (Part 1)(Part 2)
  29. The Home Birth (Part1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  30. The Showdown (Part1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  31. The Initiation (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  32. Home at Last (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2017. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.

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