A First-Time Father’s Recollection of Childbirth
I love how women are so open with each other about childbirth. Well, they seem to be so open with each other about everything. It’s a great way to be. I wish at least one of my friends had been more open with me about childbirth. They weren't.
We men - big, burly, manly men - could learn a thing or two from our female counterparts, for sure. But men are definitely a far different breed. It's probably largely because of this whole bravado about being manly.
“You’ll be fine!”
I get that it’s the macho thing to do when you’re chatting away in the pub - “Ah, nah mate. You’ll be fine. You don’t really have to do anything apart from be there for your missus.”
Parts of this statement, by the way, are very true. Our poor wives/girlfriends/partners have to go through unspeakable - absolutely unspeakable - things that you’ll soon learn about further down this page (because I’m ironically going to speak about said unspeakable things). Us fellas? We just have to be there.
What your mates in the pub won’t tell you though, because they’re big and macho, is just how horrific childbirth actually is. I’m not one of your mates in the pub. You deserve the truth.
Now, before I’m chastised by mothers, let me point out that I am absolutely not claiming that men draw the short straw when it comes to childbirth. Far from it. What you ladies have to go through is nothing short of traumatic.
I mean, it genuinely makes my bones chill thinking about what I saw my wife go through in the early hours of 24th May 2016.
After three or so hours of constant, constant pushing, chugging on gas and air, my wife gave birth to our beautiful little boy, Joshua. But, it didn't end there...
Placenta in My Face
Now, I was squeamish about childbirth before my wife even gave birth, because we’d watched One Born Every Minute “in preparation” pretty much since the day we found out she was pregnant.
I’m relatively squeamish when it comes to blood and guts in general. I can’t really watch any documentaries showing surgeries or anything like that. It just knocks me for six.
So you can imagine my shock when, just after my wife had given birth, the midwife in the room held my wife’s Placenta aloft with both hands - like a Christie's auctioneer holding up an 17th Century rawhide from a prized cow to a crowd of antique collectors - right in front of my face.
Did she really just wave my wife’s fresh placenta in my face? Yeah, she absolutely did. Not only that, she held it aloft proudly above her head, just like Mufasa did with Simba in The Lion King, or as if she was first on the podium in the Grand Prix. I half expected her to whip out a bottle of bubbly, shake it and spray us with it.
She didn’t, thankfully. She asked us if we wanted to keep it (for placenta encapsulation and all that) and when we said we didn't, she bagged it up for it to be disposed of.
But, still. I was already close to passing out because, well, the whole experience of seeing my wife go through unspeakable things/becoming a dad/lots of blood/totally overwhelmed with emotion, and she’s genuinely waving this massive organ in my face?
What's Up, Doc?
Now, please be warned, I’m probably going to go into more detail than you imagined. My wife, my bloody poor wife, who’s already been through unspeakable things, now has to have stitches. I won’t say where (but it wasn’t in her head).
I love our NHS. I’m a self-confessed leftie. But, the way my wife was handled after giving birth was nothing short of disgusting.
She waited for stitches for a good 45-minutes, with legs in stirrups and no additional pain relief. Shaking uncontrollably in an immense amount of pain. Yet, we waited. And waited. Finally, the only doctor on duty in the maternity ward finally arrived.
Some midwives can give stitches, by the way. The one assigned to my wife that day refused to because she’d been on shift for 14 hours and felt there was too much margin for error. I was appalled at the time. But on reflection, I applaud her for: a) Working a 14-hour shift, b) Helping to deliver my son safely, c) Having the nous, experience and conviction to admit there was too much margin for error given how tired she was.
Fellas: I didn’t write this to scare you. I didn’t write this to put you off. I just wanted someone to be frank with you.
My sister-in-law had her first little one 45-minutes after her waters broke. The little mite popped out after a couple of pushes. It's largely luck of the draw.
Regardless, be there for your missus (as I'm sure you will!) and remember what they’re going through. Oh, and I hope you don't get a Placenta waved in your face. It's not ideal.