Dear Father Hood: my wife’s due to give birth next week – got any tips that’ll help us out during the labour process?
I’ll be honest and admit the whole birthing process was a bit of a blur for me – partly due to the adrenaline cascading around my body, and partly due to the fact I was jacked up on gummy sweets and Lucozade. The bits I do remember ranged from horrific to hilarious via highly emotional. They were also personal, which is as good a place to start as any.
Every medical professional you see in the run-up to delivery day bangs on about no two labours being the same, and they are right. The fact my baby had to be delivered via an emergency caesarean section doesn’t mean yours will. The fact a water birth proved pain-free for my mate’s wife doesn’t mean it won’t be agony for you or your partner. And the fact your pal managed to shove out a human being without any pain relief doesn’t mean you or your lady friend are going to be able to do the same. As a result, you should take every labour story you hear with a pinch of salt.
Got that? Good. Now, without further ado, here are nine things I can remember from my wife’s labour. Read them, enjoy them, wince at some and laugh at others. But when you’re done make sure that none of them play too big a role in your pre-birth decision-making processes.
It went on for ages
I can’t remember whether it took 12, 16, 24, 32 or 43 hours for Baby Hood to force his way into the world, but I can recall thinking that I could have flown to some pretty exotic destinations in the same amount of time. I also remember that airing this musing did not go down particularly well.
In the early stages of labour a hot bath seemed to help
For a short while, anyway. Although in my wife’s case this rest and relaxation was abruptly shattered by some bozo mistakenly blasting her in the face with a forceful shower. I was said bozo. And while very impressed by our water pressure, I was also extremely apologetic.
One poor couple thought they were quite far into labour…
…but were sent home and told to come back when the lady was in a similar position to my wife. Namely: on her hands and knees, begging for pain relief and attempting not to pass out.
Epidurals are total and utter game-changers
I appreciate the idea of having an epidural doesn’t sit well with everyone. But if you or your partner are up for a bit of anaesthetic action this is the motherload. Within the space of a couple of minutes, my wife went from quivering wreck who could barely sit up or form a sentence to bubbly conversationalist who wanted to know all about our midwife’s social life.
The sleeping facilities for new or soon-to-be dads are average at best
I know. I know. My wife went through the pain delivered a living, breathing human being, and here I am complaining about having to sleep upright on an uncomfortable chair. It’s disgusting, selfish, thoughtless, the whole shebang. But that doesn’t meant it’s not true. It took ages for the crick in my neck to heal.
People in hospital listen to their pagers
For the vast majority of the period you are in the labour ward, it’ll just be you, your partner, your midwife and the dolphin sound playlist someone told you was a good idea. At times, the lack of staff is a little disconcerting. But the moment your midwife pushes the button to alert the bigwigs that something very good (e.g. it’s go-time) or very bad (e.g. baby’s heart rate is dropping) is happening the doors swing swing open and numerous people in scrubs charge in and begin looking at printouts. Did I have any idea what they were talking about? No. Did I nod intermittently in an attempt to pretend that I did? Yes.
Babies often poop in the womb
This is bad news for a couple of reasons. First, if they inhale some it could block their airwaves. Second, it’ll put you off green pesto for life.
I said “push” a lot less than they do on telly
Forget everything you’ve seen in the movies. “Breathe in” and “breathe out” were my most-used expressions of the day. Other smile-inducing soundbites included: “you’re doing really well” and “this contraction is almost over”. Conversely, “slight problem, the anaesthetist has been called into theatre” and “whoa, this is going to be a big one” were not received warmly.
Cutting the cord was easier than I thought it would be
In the run-up to the birth, I had a recurring nightmare involving a helpless baby, a ticking clock and some blunt scissors. But when the time came, the implement was sharp, my hands were steady and the cut was swift. “Like Edward Scissorhands,” I boasted to the doctor, who looked at me like I was a new dad who should really shut up and get back to his wife’s side.