Monthly Archives: March 2013

Your mum…or your man?

maternity ward

One thing I’ve discovered about parenting is that it’s awash with code words, hidden meanings and seemingly endless medical jargon.  If you thought learning Mandarin was hard, try deciphering some of the maternity-speak that frequently gets bandied around.  From NCT to VBAC, via the epidural and the ever-so-delightful ‘sweep’ (if you don’t know, don’t ask), becoming a dad involves having to learn a whole new lingo.  There are the hidden questions too, my favourite being when the midwife asks: “And who will be your birth partner?” – roughly translated as “Will HE be in there with you, or will you be bringing your mum instead?”

The whole “birth partner” issue kicked off online this week, thanks to an article on the Telegraph’s Wonder Women blog (I follow them on Twitter.  Don’t judge me, alright?).  Basically, the whole question was whether or not women should allow the father of their soon-to-be-born child to be present with them on the labour ward.  Now admittedly, as has been highlighted in these quarters before, I don’t exactly have an unblemished record in this area when it comes to the birth of my own children.  Moments after my son was born, I got mistaken for a doctor and merrily went along with it for a moment, directing a couple of patients to some ward or other (I was in medical scrubs at the time, and a little delirious).  It probably wasn’t the most responsible thing to do, but I do remember it felt quite daring and Mr Bean-esque.  And then at the birth of my first daughter, I did what every birth partner is surely prone to do, accidentally walking in on the wrong woman in labour.  My excuse?  It was very early in the morning, I’d been up for hours, and I just got a little bit confused about which room my wife was in after I’d popped out to the loo.  But by the time child number three arrived, I like to think I was a model example in the role – which surely qualifies me to now speak as an authority on the subject.

A quick disclaimer here, before the inevitable whinges: yes, I realise that it’s the woman giving birth, and yes, of course it should ultimately be her choice as to who’s in the room with her, and YES, I wholeheartedly agree that a midwife saying “now then, sweetheart, I’m just going to stitch you up – there’s a bit of a tear down there” isn’t what any man wants to hear being said to his wife.  But still, the idea of excluding dads from such a fundamental, exciting and, yes, raw experience is something that shouldn’t be done lightly.

You see, the world around us would have us believe that having a baby is all soft-focus and sugar-coated.  The adverts are full of grinning parents cooing over a (probably) airbrushed baby, breastfeeding mothers whose breasts are unfeasibly pert, and fathers with perfect teeth and jumpers with no bobbles on them.  No one’s got any baby sick on their shoulder, there’s not a knackered face in sight, and when it comes to the delivery room, with the exception of the brilliant One Born Every Minute there’s very little reality on show.  Dads need that dose of reality, too: it helps us understand just a little of what new mums are going through, and how extreme and exhausting the whole process of being in labour has been.

Being present at the birth of my three children has deepened my relationship with my wife.  It’s given me an even greater respect for her (there’s nothing like witnessing someone pushing a baby out to make you reconsider your definition of extreme pain), it’s helped us both to realise that we truly can tackle things together as a team, and it’s also reminded me that there are certain times in your life when your really do need to stop taking a look at other people’s photos on Facebook and instead focus on the task in hand (to be clear: it was me on Facebook, not her.  That really would have been impressive multi-tasking).

If I’d relinquished my birth partner role, I’d never be able to tell my son about the moment when, just after he’d been born, the German anaesthetist got confused over the conversion rate between pounds and kilograms, consequently telling me that the boy I was holding probably weighed “about 13 pounds”.  I’d be robbed of explaining to my first daughter about the time she was born, when Daddy witnessed two ladies giving birth – one of whom, at least, was definitely her mum.  And I’d never be able to regale my youngest with the tale of how the dodgy wheelchair with a mind of its own seriously risked her being born in the hospital canteen if I hadn’t managed to get it under control and transport my wife up the correct corridor to the maternity unit.

So, mums-to-be – us dads realise that when it comes to talking about how dilated you are in labour, or exactly where you’d packed the breast pads in the hospital bag, or how painful your perineum feels after that episiotomy, many of you would instinctively turn to your mum rather than us (to be fair, in the case of the final example we’d definitely rather you did so, too).  And yes, as modern, 21st-century dads who know how to cook a risotto and might even admit to having shed a little tear when we watched Love Actually, we fully embrace the notion of an empowered woman’s right to choose who’s in that room with her when she’s in the throws of giving birth.  But please: think carefully before you pick your mum over your man.  Although you might reckon it best to leave us out of the equation, in years to come you’ll look back and laugh with us at how utterly ridiculous, amazing, terrifying and bizarre the whole process of having a baby is.  And your baby, who by that point may well be taller than you both, will probably thank you for it.

(That original Telegraph article I mentioned is a good read.  You’ll find it here:

A new Aston Martin – for just £2000…

Silver Cross pram

I have a confession to make: occasionally, I find newborn babies to be quite boring.  I realise this is a terrible thing to say, as someone who is currently in possession of one myself.  But let’s face it: all babies really do is eat and poo.  They don’t even sleep much.  And whatever their parents proclaim, most babies look exactly the same.  That’s not to say I’m not over the moon to be a dad to little ones, or that I don’t love them (I cried like a baby, appropriately enough, when each of my three children was born).  Let’s be honest, though: kids only really start getting interesting from around a year onwards.  Before that point, it’s a pretty hard slog.  Yes, you love them like crazy; yes, you feel so unbelievably blessed to have these precious people in your life; but it’s still exhausting and, often, unrewarding.

One thing all babies have in their favour, though, is that their needs are very simple.  A bit of food, the occasional nappy change and a roof over their heads is all that’s required.  Despite this, the marketeers would have you believe that you’re at risk of being arrested for child neglect if you don’t spend your hard-earned cash on a whole load of baby-related tat.  And this week, the idea of must-haves for newborns reached a new nadir with the announcement that Aston Martin have teamed up with Silver Cross to create “the most exclusive pram in the world.”

The Silver Cross Surf (Aston Martin edition) will only be available in Harrods – obviously – and will have all sorts of luxury features including “air-ride suspension” (eh?) and a certificate of authenticity, something that will obviously be of great use when trying to lug the thing into the boot of the car or cart it onto the bus.  Further design details included to tempt the cash-rich clowns who’ll buy this product are its suede-lined seat pad (how do you clean the vomit off that one?) and its fully reclining seat – factors which, according to a Silver Cross spokesman, means “this really is a must-have for the most fast-paced lifestyle.”

Must have?  MUST HAVE?  I’ll tell you, Mr Silver Cross Spokesman, what a must-have is: breast milk.  Honestly, have a word with yourself.

It’s an extreme, obviously – but this kind of nonsense is one of the things that just makes me look forward to my little ones getting past the baby stage.  A couple of months ago, on the day I went to collect my wife and Child Number 3 from the hospital, I nearly got a parking ticket because someone had turned up on the ward, camera in hand, to try to flog us a ‘photo memory pack’ there and then.  Dazed and knackered, we ended up just letting the woman take a load of photos, benignly agreeing that yes, it would indeed be lovely to get a photo of our wedding rings entwined around our newborn’s face – and of course, you’re absolutely right, eighty quid is such a small price to pay for such a precious memory.

So, although most of us won’t have the spare cash to waste a couple of grand on a pram, it’s still easy to end up frittering away your hard-earned money on a whole load of other nonsense that, let’s be honest, most little ones won’t even notice.  What’s more, just as all babies are strikingly similar, the one thing you’ll discover about all prams is that no matter how much they cost, you’ll still never, ever be able to get the sodding thing to steer in the right direction when you’re running horrendously late.