My husband, Matthew, is on the blog! Because parenthood is far from what we imagined it would be, we thought it’d be a great idea if he shared his personal experience, feelings and learnings from these past few months! So here’s the first post of a series of articles on the things he learned about becoming and being a dad.
Being there for labour and childbirth was nothing like I what I’d expected
Whenever I thought of what it would be like when my wife was having a baby, I always used to remember watching the Flintstones on TV when I was young. Wilma was in one room giving birth to Pebbles while Fred was worrying in the waiting room, pacing back and forth so much that he was wearing a trench in the floor. I knew I was going to be more involved than that, and thanks to television, films and NCT classes, I began to picture myself in the middle fast-paced high-octane scene that looked like a cross between One Born Every Minute and Apocalypse Now in HD. What I imagined was a bloody hour of panic and screaming followed by a baby.
Well, I was right about the screaming, but apart from that, I couldn’t have been more wrong. It turns out that labour is (or at least it was in Marion’s case) a marathon not a sprint. Rather than than the hour of constant screaming I expected, it was a fairly calm calm day punctuated by a single moan or scream every five minutes. Sadly, even though that may sound better than what I expected, it was actually far worse for Marion. Imagine you’ve just experienced the most excruciating pain you can imagine for a minute and that it’s passed. Now imagine that the same pain keeps coming back, a little bit worse and a little bit longer, again and again for up to 24 hours, maybe even more. That’s what a woman in labour goes through – God knows how they do it, I think I’d rather be waterboarded.
From an almost-dad’s perspective, it’s really difficult to know what to do. The stakes are so high, the pain looks and sounds so intense, I wasn’t even sure where to stand, let alone what to say or do. To begin with I just fell back to the British standard of making cups of tea. I’m not sure how much it helped Marion, but it kept me steady. I just tried to help as best I could which mainly amounted to a few words of encouragement and ordering a pizza. On reflection I realise there isn’t a ready made to-do list of ways to help a partner through labour, you just do what you need to get her through it – I never imagined I’d need to ring for a pizza, but that’s what I did about 10 hours in.
I thought I was getting into the swing of things, giving a bit of coaching and encouragement and making cups of tea, until we got to the hospital and the midwives took over. Nothing makes you feel more amateur than watching a professional at work. At first my pride took a bit of a knock as these strange women who had never met Marion all seemed to know her better than I did. They knew what to say, where to sit, how to rub. To begin with it was a bit like I’d been playing a match in the world cup only to get put on the bench because they’d brought the super star players on to win the game. After watching them work for a while I worked out roughly what was needed and I think I managed to up my game.
Once we all had a bit of rhythm, things seemed to move a bit more quickly. Those last few hours were quicker for me but they must have been the longest for Marion. The pain gets more intense and more frequent as time goes on. I assumed Marion would be zoned out on happy gas, but that’s another thing I was wrong about; she took one puff and told the midwife to take it away because it was ‘distracting’ her – what a warrior!
So, what about the birth? Well, I had always said that I wasn’t interested in seeing anything at the business end of things. I’d always thought I’d point my gaze in a sensible direction and wait to be presented with my nice clean baby son while magical surgeon fairies patched up my wife with no requirement for me to see even a drop of blood. As it turns out, I was just as wrong about myself as I was about anything else. After the hours that had passed, there was no way I was going to miss the boy’s grand entrance. I didn’t even blink, nothing could have made me look away. I had wondered how I’d respond, whether I’d cry, whether I’d grin. What I actually felt was nothing I’d ever experienced before. I didn’t laugh or cry or smile, I actually lost my breath. It’s very hard to describe, but the closest I can come is to say it was like being punched in the stomach by wonder and amazement. It was the single most powerful burst of emotion I’ve ever felt, for my wife and my son… I could never have imagined it so how could I have ever expected it?