This is the second post in the #fathersdaymonth series from a fine gentleman called Tom Briggs. I love this post because it rightly positions the woman in labour as a superhero, but describes how the man can also feel like he has taken on heightened senses and awareness during the process. Check out Tom on Twitter @tombriggs79 and go check out his website www.diaryofthedad.co.uk
If you believe what you see in films and television – which, unless you’re watching something like One Born Every Minute, probably isn’t the best way of preparing for a life-changing arrival in the first place – you’re in for a bit of a surprise when your first child is born.
These productions would have you believe that the mum-to-be has to push for about 20 seconds – barely breaking a sweat – before their bundle of joy emerges gracefully to the sound of uplifting music.
This is normally preceded by a comic dash to the hospital during which the feckless expectant dad demonstrates a ‘hilarious’ level of incompetence while trying to juggle driving, joining in with breathing exercises and panicking.
Now I can only go from my own experience here – so I’m sorry to anyone who has had a Hollywood-style birth and also to any hopeless but nonetheless loveable dads who may exist and be reading this – but it’s not quite like that.
For their part, my boys both arrived in an unceremonious fashion and the whole experience on each occasion was surreal to say the least.
Dylan faceplanted his way into the world following an agonising three-day labour, while Xander showed up a lot more abruptly and with such force that he saved me the trouble of cutting the cord. They know how to make an entrance, those two.
So, anyway, here are my perceptions on childbirth…
It’s going to be different for everyone, but it’s fair to say that the process – or at least the business end of it, let’s say – is a tad gory.
This isn’t something that bothered me at all; I think I’m so jaded by the borderline unhealthy number of visceral horror films I have in my DVD collection and, I suppose, considering the fact that the midwife didn’t look alarmed by it, that I was surprisingly quite detached from it all.
That’s not to say I was absent in any way; I remember every minute of both births.
I recall reminding my wife, Kate, that every push was bringing us closer to meeting our sons and telling her how well she was doing and she insists that I was very supportive. It’s just that I seemed to be a completely different me.
Normally, I can be relied upon to lose it over little things. In the delivery room, however, I suddenly adopted a zen-like demeanour and put the emotions firmly to one side until my sons were born. It was the same both times.
There’s no logical reason I should have been calm either; with both pregnancies we hadn’t had any useful antenatal classes.
With Dylan, there was a two-hour class during which the midwife spent most of the time talking about baby poo and its resemblance to a well-known yeast extract product.
Apart from confirming my theories about what’s in that divisive jar of spread, the session was a complete waste of time.
We weren’t taught anything about breathing exercises, when to call the hospital or anything.
We had also just moved home and our ‘old’ hospital had lost our records.Twice.
In fact, until I made a grovelling phone call to the hospital near where we had moved – during which I was told that my wife ‘probably wasn’t that far along’ and that we’d most likely be sent home again – it looked like we’d be having an unplanned homebirth. Yet I was horribly chilled out about it all.
Seeing Kate in pain was naturally distressing but I somehow knew everything was going to be okay. Even when Dylan came out with the cord around his neck, I could tell that he was going to be fine too.
I’m no medical expert, but I think I must have picked up on the lack of concerned body language from the professionals in the room.
It’s as if I temporarily had a heightened sense of awareness of everything in my vicinity. I’d be interested to find out if any other dads have had similar experiences – Spidey senses, if you will.
It was only once the boys had been born that it hit me. With Dylan, this was after I had basically been kicked out of the hospital when he and Kate were moved to the ward as he’d been born outside visiting hours.
I’d held him and spoken to him while Kate had a bath and done a bit of skin-to-skin bonding by giving him a shirt-free cuddle as soon as he was born, of course, but it was only when I was trudging down an empty road like the main protagonist at the start of 28 Days Later that it struck me that I was a dad.
Then the emotions hit me.
With Xander, I suppose I had the benefit of experience and allowed myself a happy tear or two as soon as he was safely in Kate’s arms.
So having intimated that there’s no such thing as a movie-style birth and then looking back at what I’ve written here, maybe I’m wrong. I seem to have unwittingly compared the process to a superhero film – albeit one with an 18 certificate.
An unusual way of looking at a happy ending, I grant you, but one I’m proud to call mine.