Labour is a wonderful thing to be part of because you get to see a new human come into this world. But at times it can scare the absolute sh*t out of you. This is the pain & joys of labour as experienced by me!
When I first found out that I was going to be a dad I was over the moon. I thought I would be an awesome dad… mainly because I can be a bit cocky about myself. Then there were the thoughts of doubt; what if I would be an awful dad? What if the baby doesn’t like me?? I didn’t share a lot of these doubts with my wife because I wanted to seem all cool & hard-core and I wanted to be able to reassure her that everything would be wonderful & easy.
During the pregnancy, I was very much hands on, attending most of the prenatal appointments and reading-up on the different developmental stages of the baby. I was also very hands on the belly. At one stage, I thought I was an actual midwife… sometimes I still do. I’m not sure how happy people would be with me strutting into the delivery suite, saying “hi my name is Darren! My wonderful beard & I will be your midwife for today! Now… let’s see where this baby is!” One of my favourite games I played when Mrs B was pregnant was to poke her belly so I could get a reaction back from the bump. I usually did this at bedtime, which annoyed the hell out of Mrs B cause the bump would kick for hours. I would usually pay for this later.
Then came the delivery day! That’s when I realised that I wasn’t this super midwife after all. They decided to book us in for an induction because baby decided to stop growing & dropped a centile. We went in at 8 am one Tuesday morning to get started, hoping we would have baby before the end of the day! Not a lot happened at the start, just a lot of waiting & walking. As it was the summer, we decided to have a walk around the grounds of the hospital and then have a sit in our car for a change of scenery. While sitting in a car, a wasp flew in the window & landed on Mrs B’s arm. I thought I could kill it so I tried to slap it as hard as I could, only for it to fly off. The slap hit her arm full force, leaving a nice big red hand print on the top of her arm… even this didn’t shift the baby!
It got to about 10 pm & I was told to go home. I gave the midwife my best “I don’t think so” face, only for her to say, “don’t you look at me like that, go home!” I had flashbacks to being at school and getting told off… I was out the door like the road runner – beep beep! I decided sleep in the car as I didn’t want to be too far away in case anything happened. Which it didn’t. We were supposed to go to delivery suite the next morning, but it kept getting put back due to other emergencies. When we finally got to the suite & the action finally started it was 10 pm. Everything was going great then the sh*t hit the fan. Baby was facing the wrong way, with his hand up & couldn’t be turned. The contraction-inducing drip was up through the roof & Mrs B wasn’t getting a break between contractions. This is when they decided she needed to be taken to theatre. One midwife said she would be back for me in a minute and they whisked Mrs B off down the corridor. That minute took 20. The longest 20 mins of my life. I was thinking “what if something happens to Mrs B?!” I couldn’t look after a baby without adult supervision. Or “what if something happens the baby?” I was pulling my hair out & pacing the delivery room. I had no control & no idea what was happening. It scared the crap out of me. Eventually I was taken round to theatre & after all the drama, out popped Ethan, all 6 lb 15 oz of him! I cried (just a wee bit cause I’m a man). I was so happy but at the same time I was relived it was all over & everyone was safe & well. I was proud of Mrs B for the amazing job she had done. Then when Ethan decided to poo on her arm, I knew he was definitely my son.
The 2nd birth was a completely different experience altogether. I did all the same things I had done with the 1st pregnancy; I was hands on, I was annoying & was the world’s best bearded midwife again.
On the day of birth, we were so unsure about when to phone or go to the hospital because we’d had multiple false alarms. But it seemed different this day. We decided to phone & say that baby’s movement had slowed down so we were told to come in for an examination. By the time we had got there the contractions were steady and strong. We spoke to the midwife, who said that Mrs B couldn’t be in labour as she wasn’t in enough pain. She left me in charge of timing the contractions for the next 20 minutes… finally a chance for the bearded midwife to shine! By the time the 20 minutes were up, the contractions were every 3 minutes or so & Mrs B was lying on the examination room floor, saying the baby was coming! I got the midwife, who was still saying Mrs B wasn’t in labour. That was until she examined her & her waters burst all over the midwife & into Mrs B’s converse. She was put on a trolley & rushed up to the delivery suite. She was just in the door when out popped Luke, all 7 lbs of him. Mrs B amazed me for the 2nd birth in a row (this time she only had co-codamol as pain relief!) I was in a daze. What had actually happened?! The last labour took 40 hours and this one lasted 55 minutes.
Again, my midwife skills were non-existent… kinda like the midwife in assessment unit! However, we had learned a few lessons from our first experience of labour. Mrs B said that during the labour with Ethan she thought I wasn’t there (though she was so delirious she thought she wasn’t there either!) So the second time round, she asked me to keep talking to her & to make sure that the midwives were listening to her. I was able to put this into action when Luke was being born. During his delivery, a midwife told Mrs B to put her hand down & feel his head. She didn’t want to but they didn’t listen to her & kept telling her to do it. So I stepped in & told the midwife that she said no and didn’t
want to feel his head…I think I snapped at the midwife for not listening. Mrs B told me afterwards that was one of the things she remembers from the birth & was exactly what she needed me to do.
During my sons’ births, I discovered why men don’t give birth… because we couldn’t do it! Women who give birth are unreal. They carry around this parasite for 9 months & then get to go through all sorts of pain to get them out. That is unconditional love at its best.
What I have learned from these 2 experiences is that dads have no control or clue what is about to happen, even if they have had experience before, because every labour is different. A lot of the time I was there, I felt like I was in the way because the important people in the room are mummy & baby. But what I discovered is that although I was feeling out of place in the labour ward, it was the exact place I needed to be. I needed to be the protector, hugger, comforter and the person to be shouted at. I needed to be mum’s voice, making sure that everyone was listening to what she wanted, because if that is what helps mummy & baby be safe, then that is what I was there for… to look out for my family. I do feel that dads need to be included more in the whole pregnancy & labour. Maybe if more guidance was offered on topics like, what they can do during labour, adjusting to a new role as a dad, right through to practical advice of having and raising a baby, then dads would feel like their role is important and that their concerns are being listened to.
The ‘Dad Role’ is often seen as a supportive role but we dads need supported too.
Bearded with boys.