There’s a helplessness that comes with being a father or birth partner to a woman in labour. Just like the cliché, my duties were relegated to holding her hand, mopping the sweat from her brow and offering encouragement. This before the tears upon first seeing my baby daughter emerge and barely able to cut the cord with shaking hands.
It struck me after the fact that what I had felt had some bearing in the Star Wars saga – specifically Revenge of the Sith. When Padmé goes into labour, likely exasperated by her last encounter with Anakin, she’s attended to by medical droids, a concerned looking Obi-Wan Kenobi while a downcast Yoda and Bail Organa watch from an observation window.
For all their collective political power, wisdom and insight, all any are able to offer are looks of pity and concern. Obi-Wan holds each of the newly born twins in his arms, so that Padmé may at least lay eyes on her children before passing. And aside from confirming the sex of the twins, or placing a hand on her brow, there’s little else he can offer. But the medical droid is perhaps the worst of all.
Through expert editing and sound design, the birth of Luke and Leia is interspersed with another – that of Anakin into Darth Vader. Paying attention to the subtleties here provides compelling evidence that the newly self-appointed Emperor is siphoning Padmé’s life force to breath new life into Anakin’s burnt body. But this all is an abstraction through the precise computations that govern a droid’s mind. And so we get that infamous, fairy-tail line “For reasons we can’t explain, we’re losing her”. Obi-Wan and co take the droid at its word. It is the apparent expert in the room, after all.
This sense of having no control over the birth or its outcome become painfully aware to me during the delivery of my first child. I stood dutifully by my partner’s side, trembling or picking at my fingers during her increasingly painful contractions. Following the thankfully issue-free birth, I confessed to my partner how useless I felt throughout the whole labour. But hearing her say how much having me there helped, staved off those inadequacies.
After that, I couldn’t help but imagine Anakin, free from the Emperor’s shackles, standing by Padmé’s side, holding her hand, mopping her brow and nervously awaiting the arrival of his children – like me.