Let me start with a confession. In my previous column, about our first ante-natal class, I may have given you the impression that while my wife struggled with her emotions, I remained manfully stoic throughout; that she trembled like a leaf and I was a rock; a resolute source of comfort in times of uncertainty and graphic childbirth videos.
Did I give you that impression? I was certainly hoping to. I neglected to mention the part where I almost passed out during a chat about spinal injections because, frankly, I didn’t think it was interesting. My wife doesn’t share this opinion but if she wants to make fun of me in a public forum then she can go and get her own column.
Having said that, I am becoming increasingly nervous about my ability to keep it together on the big day. I don’t exactly have a reputation for fainting – but I don’t have a reputation for staying conscious during childbirth yet either, so we’re entering uncharted waters here. The truth is, I am a very squeamish person. It’s not so much the sight of blood which bothers me. It’s the thought of it. I prefer to think of my innards as a series of mechanical cogs and levers, all cold and clean. When it’s brought to my attention that they are, in fact, all soft and squidgy and pink and slippery it makes me go a bit light headed.
Needless to say, our ante-natal classes have provided me with a rich supply of dizzy spells. Every week is filled with colourful medical illustrations and nauseating word combinations, like mucus plug, membrane sac and dilated cervix. (It took me three attempts and two cups of tea to even write that last sentence.) This random assortment of damp organs and glutinous matter seems like a shoddy way to run a person. It really ought to go wrong at any given moment. Show me a diagram of a pregnant woman and I can’t help but envisage complications. Not in my wife, or even in my baby, you understand – in me. Every twinge becomes a burst artery. Every ache a ruptured spleen. And if, for example, someone was to wave a needle around while discussing the logistics of injecting fluid into the spine, well then I might just like to close my eyes and rest my head on the floor, if that’s ok with you.
"Life would have been so much simpler in the 50s when all a husband had to do was wait down the pub with a whiskey in his hand and a cigar in his pocket."
I am aware this isn’t the most empathetic of reactions. It’s not my spine they’re talking about, after all. The chances of me having an epidural while my wife gives birth are relatively slim, however I’d still rather not be in the same room as the actual needle. I’d rather not be in the same building if I’m perfectly honest. Life would have been so much simpler in the 50s when all a husband had to do was wait down the pub with a whiskey in his hand and a cigar in his pocket.
Alas, it is 2011 and I shall be very much in the room (in body at least, if not in mind), doing my job as a modern man. Although perhaps not as modern as Martin Carr and his partner Mary Wycherley, who ‘liveblogged’ their child’s birth on Twitter last week. Is that really necessary? I realise writing a column about my wife’s pregnancy is only a few steps removed, but I reckon they might have crossed a line there. At some point you have to stop documenting the great experiences in your life and just, y’know, experience them. Especially if it means I never need to read the phrase “Oh man, I’ve knackered the couch with amniotic fluid” ever again.
Which brings me to an outdated concept called romance. At our most recent ante-natal class the midwife suggested the best way for a husband to help support his wife during labour was to create an amorous atmosphere in the delivery room. Apparently the hormones required for childbirth are the same ones created by a spot of old fashioned courtship. I can’t see us having a problem there. I mean, what could be more romantic than plastic sheets, adjustable beds and amniotic fluid? On second thoughts maybe I need to push the boat out a touch further. A little mood lighting, a few velvet scatter cushions and The Best of Barry White and we’ll be good to go. And if I start to feel faint at any point I can always crack open a nice bottle of red.