I love Channel 4′s One Born Every Minute so felt very privileged when they asked me – along with many other parent bloggers – to share my own experience of childbirth – from a man’s point of view. Obviously!
The show returns to the telly on Wednesday January 4 – on the theme of Dads – and the producers have teamed up with Netmums to ask parents to link-up their stories. I thought New Year’s Day would be a perfect occasion to share my account of the day my first son, Tom, was born seven and a bit years ago…
My first son was due on September 11 2004. Now, 9/11 (as the American vernacular goes) ain’t a great day to have your birthday so something inside me believed he’d avoid it, even when, at 5pm my wife started to have cramps.
‘Is this it? Is he coming?’ I asked.
She sucked in her cheeks, puffed and panted a little, then shook her head.
‘Not today,’ she said. ‘You go to the pub.’
YOU GO TO THE PUB! Yes, that’s exactly what she said. ON HER DUE DATE!
My wife is a stoic, calm, unflappable person. Nothing fazes her. Even childbirth. Especially childbirth.
‘Better out than in,’ she’d reply, when I asked if she was worried about her second pending arrival (she already had a daughter from her previous marriage).
When she was pregnant, we actively avoided childbirth classes.
‘Waste of time,’ she’d say. ‘What are they going to teach us. Childbirth is the most natural thing in the world. Millions of women do it every year. I push, you rub my lower back, I scream. Hey Presto! There’s a baby.’
And so, on the night my first child was due to be born, I went to the pub and got rather pissed. I woke up the next day, rather worse for wear, and feeling a tad irresponsible, if truth be told. I looked at the packed bag of bits and bobs by the door and thought: ‘What if she HAD gone into labour last night?’
But she hadn’t. And didn’t – not for a few more hours, anyway.
My stepdaughter was staying with her dad, so my wife and I spent the day (a Sunday) watching TV and waiting. The time edged past 5pm. There would be a televised match on down at the local so I decided to chance my arm.
‘Pub again?’ I inquired.
But this time, instead of serentiy on her face, she was a mask of urgency.
‘Something’s happening,’ she panted. ‘He’s…he’s coming.’
I grabbed her maternity bag, supported her into the car, and drove the two miles or so to our local hospital. There was a queue for the car park, but my wife couldn’t wait. She heaved herself out of the car and waddled into the hospital reception area, leaving me to find a parking space.
When I arrived in the birthing suite a good 15 minutes later, she was already on all fours with a midwife by her side.
I rooted in the bag. ‘What music do you want on?’ I asked.
I’d packed everything from Mozart to Foo Fighters for whatever mood might take her.
‘NO…**** OFF WITH OUR ****ING STUPID QUESTIONS,’ she yelled, in a torrent the like of which I’d never heard spouted from her lovely lips before.
The midwife beckoned me over, told me to kneel by my wife’s side. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Perhaps those birthing classes might not have been such a bad idea after all.
‘Just stroke her back,’ the midwife advised.
‘Like this?’ I asked, as I rubbed my wife’s lower lumbar with the same movements I used to wash the car.
Somehow, though, whatever I was doing was providing some kind of relief to my wife’s discomfort. She seemed to go into some kind of trance-like state, moaning and groaning like a High Priest at a sacrifice.
I looked at the midwife. She smiled back.
‘Do you think my car will be alright in the car park?’ I asked. ‘I didn’t have time to pay the meter.’
For some strange reason, this had the effect of snapping my wife out of her zombie state and suddenty we were off again.
‘**** THE ****ING CAR AND **** YOU. STOP ASKING SUCH ****ING STUPID QUESTIONS,’ she snapped.
Dearie me, the language on the woman! I hoped our soon-to-arrive son hadn’t heard what a foul-mouthed family he was being born into.
‘Perhaps she needs some drugs?’ I asked the midwife, who was now at the back of my wife, hands placed like a rugby scrum-half about to catch a ball.
‘I DON’T NEED DRUGS,’ my wife yelled.
By now, I was face to face with my wife, looking straight into her eyes. I felt a connection between us as strong as an umbilical cord.
‘Gas and air?’I suggested.
‘I DON’T NEED ANYTHING. I…JUST…NEED…THIS…BABY…OUTOFMEEEEEEEEEE……!!!!!!!!!’
I looked at the midwife with an ‘Any News?’ raise of my eyebrows. She shook her head. What was going on back there? I was tempted to look, but then I remembered the words of my friends who were fathers: ‘Never go near the business end. You’ll never have sex again.’
But regardless of whether that was true or false, I never actually got the chance to find out. Because a few seconds later, my wife let out a scream that would have frightened the horses in Vienna. And the next sound I heard was ‘WAAAAAAAAAH!’
My son, my flesh and blood, my first-born child, my purpose, my Tom, was revealed in all his purple glory in the hands of the lovely midwife, who handed him across my wife’s back and into my arms.
My wife and I looked at each other as I showed ther he baby she had been carrying inside her body for nine long months, and we both burst into tears. We cried like our baby son for what felt like minutes, and then those sobs turned into hysterical, wonderful, life-affirming laughter.
I was a dad.
• One Born Every Minute is on Wednesday nights from 4th Jan, 9pm, Channel 4 and available online at www.channel4.com/lifebeings.