Dads. There are lots of nice advice pieces out there to help guide you through childbirth. This is NOT one of them. Because labour is tough and not the easy, natural process that you might think it is. If you’re already the perfect birthing partner, give yourself a pat on the back. But if you suspect you’re not or have committed any of the crimes below, read on… (Girls – share with your men folk).
Idiot Birthing Partners (IBPs).
At 39 weeks pregnant, there are things I feel I’m qualified to say about the last few weeks of pregnancy, about the imminency of childbirth and about mens’ roles as birthing partners.
Because I’m in it, right now. I’m facing it any day. For the third time with Daddy Pig, who we shall hereon in ‘affectionately’ refer to as Idiot Birthing Partner (IBP).
And judging by the response to my last post, ‘Do you have a birth plan?‘ I’m not the only one with an IBP.
‘No. It’s actually all about ME.’
Once you become a mother, there are not many occasions when the above statement is true. But if there is ONE time in a woman’s life when it should be all about her, it’s during pregnancy and childbirth. End of. The End. Fini. How many ways can I say this?
We spend nine months giving up wine. Brie. And gorgonzola. But beyond those tragedies is an even bigger one. Giving up the right to our own bodies. We experience an array of unpleasant symptoms. Nausea. Constipation. Piles. Muscular pain. Headaches. Weight gain. Constant bladder pressure. Lack of sleep. Lack of sanity. Mood swings.
It’s quite a list isn’t it?
Mostly, we suffer silently. So when you say you have a headache or are feeling shattered, we want to hit you over the head with a mallet. Just a little bit.
Probably best you keep that to yourself.
The weeks immediately before childbirth.
The last few weeks before childbirth are odd. Emotional. Uncertain.
The hormones are changing. Our bodies are getting ready for what’s about to happen. It can make us feel our most vulnerable.
Whether we are giving birth ‘naturally’ or by c-section there are risks involved. Fear. Self-doubt in our ability. We try not to think about it but it’s hard not to. Especially when we’re lying awake at 3.00 AM (again) wondering if that twinge is the beginning of something. Wondering how we’ll cope.
So when we say we didn’t sleep very well last night, please don’t say, ‘Well, you looked pretty asleep every time I looked over and saw you snoring.’
I mean, how likely is that really? Do we need to remind you who always sleeps through when our kids wake in the night?
Now is NOT the time to do any of the following.
1. Go against your word. Whatever you’ve promised. Whether this be to get home at a certain time. To make dinner. Or to watch Miss Congeniality instead of the football. In the words of Nike, ‘Just do it!’ NOT doing what you’ve said you’ll do makes us feel even more vulnerable and completely unsupported. We need to be able to trust you. Because when the s*@% hits the fan we’re going to be counting on YOU. Don’t make us regret that decision. Please.
2. Go out and get drunk. I cannot emphasise this one enough. Yes, it’s pretty obvious in black and white but you’d be surprised just how many men do it. Ahem. Contrary to what you may think, you do NOT know when the baby is going to come. Only 5% arrive on their due date. They decide, not you. And there are a huge amount of babies who like to appear quickly at around 2.00 AM. So it’s not very helpful to us if at this time, you’re stranded at a railway station, eating a kebab with a dead phone battery because you’ve missed the last train home.
3. Make inappropriate comments. Correcting us. Picking us up on the many things we’ve forgotten. Reminding us of your headache. It’s not the time, is it? Give us a break. A BIG one. We’ve got bigger babies to fry.
4. Be selfish or thoughtless. You might think we’re being really high maintenance right now. You might have had nine months of hell. You might just about be ready to tell us. I’m not saying pregnant women are easy to live with. But we’re also doing this for you. So, please try and remember that when we’re not quite ourselves. Cut us some slack. Forget about scoring points. Put yourself to one side for the time being. And make us a cup of tea. Empty the dishwasher without being asked. Better still, just give us a hug and tell us you love us. That we’re awesome and you simply couldn’t do what we are doing. Preferably whilst not drinking a beer and eating a chunk of brie.
5. Trivialise childbirth. Until you get to do it, you don’t get to have an opinion. Make no mistake. You have NO idea what it feels like so comments like, ‘It will be fine, stop worrying,’ ‘Women in Africa do it standing on their head,’ and ‘But you’re SO good at it,’ are likely to have us reaching for that mallet. Again. Zip it and practice smiling and nodding instead. If it looks like smiling and nodding is an appropriate response.
6. Provide a birth commentary. When we’re in the throes of labour, we aren’t particularly interested in how YOU think it’s going. Encouragement is one thing. But comments like, ‘Come on, man up!’ and ‘Well, that went well,’ are strictly off limits. Push a melon out of your bottom or have your tummy opened up and then we’ll talk about how ‘well’ you think it went.
7. Mention you need a quick nap when labour starts. Because and I quote, ‘I’ll be no use to anyone if I don’t get some sleep.’ You’ll also be no use to anyone if you’re dead, which is how you might find yourself if this phrase tumbles out of your mouth.
You possibly think you’d never be dumb enough to do any of the above but these are all real examples so some of you have… if in any doubt whatsoever, print this post out and keep it as a checklist in your pocket. Better safe than sorry, right?
Once we’re safely out the other side with our beautiful baby in our arms, you will hear these words. Thank you. Because we aren’t so self-involved that we don’t realise we couldn’t have produced this miracle on our own.
That’s assuming, of course, that you haven’t a) passed out b) fallen asleep or c) gone to get yourself breakfast because you’re starving.
Then again, you’d never be foolish enough to do any of those, would you?
Not without at least asking US what WE want for breakfast first.
Mums, if I’ve missed anything please feel free to add below. Dads, ditto. And if you can take the tough love approach, come and visit us at Surviving Life and Motherhood. We’re pussy cats really…