First of all, thanks to everyone for the great responses. It is nice to have a forum in which to talk about these things. I will kind of respond all at once here, since my time is limited. My wife and I do talk about this and that has certainly helped. I would definitely say that our relationship has gotten stronger through it all. I have had to put my feelings on hold while she dealt with hers (still ongoing but the ball is rolling). Also, jumping back into work, fathering, etc. as I am sure everyone here knows, means putting some things on the back burner. Writing it down definitely helps, something I have been meaning to do but haven't gotten around to. I appreciate having such good listeners out there. This definitely seems like to the right place to do this.
The problem I saw with the sleeping is that my wife definitely could not sleep at all. She was having regular strong contractions that had been increasing in intensity and were getting closer together. So we spent several hours in bed with her falling asleep for a few minutes only to wake up moaning in pain. When she finally got up, took a shower and walked a bit she felt much better. If she had actually slept it would have been great, but it didn't happen. Still, it is good to know that this is a common procedure and perhaps not the cause of further problems.
There were definitely other problems with the midwives. We had doubts about ours as she seemed a bit inexperienced but decided we could trust her. But there were some things they did which were not right. My wife was getting to be several weeks past her supposed due date and our midwife's mother did some cervical stimulation to induce labor. But neither midwife ever announced that they were going to do this - she just did it. It felt very invasive to my wife. Then our midwife said some things during the labor that were not good. When we arrived at the birthhouse she chastised my wife for making so much noise; basically a "suck it up" kind of attitude. We did not expect this from our midwife. I think she is basically a good person but emotionally immature. It is also a "German thing", we've noticed - basically a cultural difference. Many folks here can be stiff and stern.
I don't want to rant but this is one of my favorite topics to rant about. This stupid attitude has done tremendous damage to our culture and is the primary way men are oppressed. This is how we are socialized to be oppressors - by denying parts of our humanity, 'sucking it up', being 'men', cutting ourselves off from our feelings, etc. I guess the women here get a dose of that, too. I find it very sad. In the end it caused my wife more trouble than the physical pain. To have her experience invalidated on that level, at such a vulnerable time, was very, very difficult. And there were several more instances of that kind of behavior (being told not to cry, etc.). I sometimes feel guilty about not stopping it, but at the time I had blinders on, focusing fully on my wife and also not wanting to create more friction with the midwives. It was a little late to find new ones. I know I did the right thing in the end, but these insults stuck with my wife more than anything else. And I don't think I had the presence of mind to do more anyway. I, too had been awake through that time, encouraging her, etc. trying to keep her focused and above all grounded.
Anyway, in the end we feel that it was really a midwife-centered birth and not a mother-centered birth. This was contrary to what we were told all along, that it would be the latter. I know that birth is difficult and unpredictable and perhaps we would feel differently if the midwives attitude was different, if they had explained things better and not pulled the tough guy routine. My wife struggled so hard, so valiantly, so long. She had to endure that time on her back or on her side, sometimes bouncing on her side to try to move the baby. A few days later she asked me about the blood that she saw dripping from the ceiling and then realized it was an halucination. It really was a rollercoaster, with the labor stalling and then picking up, full dialation finally coming after many hours and then part of the cervix being lodged between the baby's head and her pelvic bones. Then stalling again and picking back up. Our dd's head was in the birth canal for quite a while, but amazingly she came through it all unscathed except for some bruising.
Sweetiemommy, I can only imagine how scary that last part must have been. I hadn't heard of midwives having to push so hard on the abdomen before. I guess it works. But to have a violent ending to such a process is tough. For us the last bit was pretty gruesome and then when our dd was out and on my wife's chest I don't think we knew what to feel. My poor wife was so traumatised at that point. Fortunately I was able to attend to dd during that time, cutting the cord and dressing her, holding her. The upshot to all of this is that we bonded very strongly in those moments. We still have that bond. Not every father gets to experience this.
Get this - two hours after the birth, the cutting, the stitching, etc. my wife and I walk out of the hospital and go back to the birthhouse. It was a very good decision; we did not want to stay there. I think she is a superwoman. I can't imagine how she did it but she did. When I took a shower back at the birthhouse I could not control my "flashbacks" to witnessing the episiotomies. I would cringe and shudder uncontrollably, having to close my eyes hard and get through it. This is a symptom of post traumatic stress disorder, I later found out. This lasted for some time and still occasionally comes on in a milder way. In the shower I thought I was speaking my wife's name but she tells me that I was practically wailing. She didn't know what was wrong and I wasn't aware that I was even doing it. That night I had to stay up with dd as my wife was so exhausted she just passed out and I couldn't rouse her. I got my first on-the-spot lesson in parenting. I walked with dd while she slept but I couldn't keep those thoughts from haunting me. The next day we went home and were happy to be in our own space again. My wife recoverd extremely fast. Fortunately Germans believe in giving paternal leave as well as lots of time for the mother (she wasn't working outside of the home anyway). I was able to attend to her fully for two whole weeks. I now know that most people don't know how hard that time can be for some women.
On a happier note, dd is wonderful and has been such an easy baby. She slept 6 or more hours at a stretch the first few months. Having a fussy or high needs baby at that time would have been extremely hard, and I feel for all of you who have had that experience. Especially the women who have had trauma, are suddenly mothers full-time and must really be there fully. I don't know how you do it and it is a testament to the real (unrecognized) strength of women, though not the only one. It is tough for the dads, too, and we don't have many places to go with this either. People rarely ask how the fathers are. Of course, the mother is the one who did the really hard work and endured it all and should be primary in people's thoughts. But dads, I feel for you, too.
Okay, I think this is long enough for now. Thanks again for all of you who have replied. This has really been helpful already.
take care all