I’m now a dad.
I’m not really one for big announcements when real life stuff happens to me (it’s different when it’s work), but largely I keep myself to myself. But I thought I’d share this – sometimes you have a life event so huge that, for me, it feels like writing about it helps me process what’s happened. So here it is: me and my partner have a baby boy called Harris. He is beautiful, I have cried multiple times so far, felt anxiety, insecurity and worry land like an extra weight, but also I’ve found there are things I can do that I never expected – I’m great with nappies and seem to have a calming voice when singing Muse covers at 3am in the kitchen.
The birth however…
My partner was astonishing – brave and taking each contraction in her stride with dignity and grace. I on the other hand was possibly the worst choice as a birthing partner. Let me give you some key stats: I faint at the sight of blood, I go dizzy if injections are mentioned, I frequently internalise panic and repurpose it as inaction, and, as if those three aren’t solid enough, I don’t like hospitals.
With that in mind here’s five thoughts I’ve had in the clear(ish) light of day a week later:
Pain relief is something that is talked about lots in NCT classes but I’m not sure anything quite prepared me for watching someone have an epidural. You have to keep totally still while a needle is inserted into your back, in your spinal column, and then anaesthetic is dripped in. Now imagine your loved one, in lots of pain from big contractions, writhing from waves of pain, having to stay totally still and you, you muppet, are powerless other than to say “it’ll be okay”.
Then he started commentating on what he was doing. “So the needle’s going in”, “and deeper we go”, “Needle coming out” and “More needle I think” on repeat. I feel my head start to feel light. The midwife looks over, “do you want to wait outside for 10 mins” she asks. So out I go, and have to sit on the floor listening to what now sounds like a horrifying audiobook as a man repeating my trigger word “needle” jabs my partner in the back.
Cut The Cord
The baby comes out with a scream and a grunt and a surgeon gripping forceps like she’s gone fishing for salmon. He’s purple and blue and writhing around and it’s the first time I’ve seen him. The process of a forceps birth is bloody – I am keeping my distance, continually repeating to myself that “they do this all the time”. Then the call, aimed at me, sat, desperately trying to avoid falling. “Would daddy like to cut the cord” a smiling midwife asks. She is holding what looks like Fisher Price safety scissors, they have a half moon on the blades – they look like they would fail to cut paper, or butter, or air. “I’m okay” I reply, “you go for it”. It is a fascinating moment, where the responsibility for chopping a living cord, a cable that has connected mother and son for months should be entrusted to an amateur. An amateur who has nearly fainted twice.
Apparently lots of dads enjoy this. I suspect these dad’s may have problems.
It’s a Big Placenta
I’d never seen a placenta before. I hope I never do again.
The placenta came out and was whisked away to a table to be inspected. It’s huge. Like a bright red flatfish, its tail dripping a trail in its wake. I stand over my newborn son next to my partner and one of the doctors calls to me, “it’s a good placenta” she says, holding it up like a work of art. “Do you want any?” she asks. Apparently people keep and eat them, have them dried into tablets, or added to smoothies, or maybe lightly grilled on a slice of homemade foccacia with a side of rocket. “I’m fine thanks” I reply, holding back the instinct to wretch.
Midwives and “simplicity”
Midwives are amazing.
They are such brilliant readers of people – they are the Alex Ferguson of healthcare. One minute they have their arm round your shoulder, telling you you’ll be great, telling you that it’ll all be okay, just another 45 mins, stick to the wing and close down their winger. The next minute they’re unleashing discipline – you’re not drinking enough water, stop wandering out of position, play the simple one two.
And they demonstrate.
They dress a baby in 30 seconds, change a nappy in an instance and burp a baby with one pat on the back. And you watch in wonder, you watch wondering if they could come live with you for a month. They make everything look so simple but also make you feel like you can do this. Watch them, copy them, learn from them as much as possible.
Never being prepared enough
We thought we were prepared for when we got home but we underestimated everything. You need more bottles, nappies, vests and baby grows than you think you’ll ever need. Within one change Harris has gone through 3 nappies, 2 vest and one baby grow. He’d also managed to piss on a wall 5ft away from a standing start as I yelped “oh fuck” at the unexpected yellow fountain in front of me. Nine days in we’ve just reached a point where we just, just feel like we’re getting there.
What mother’s deserve
New mothers should get a year of maternity fully paid at a minimum. It’s such a big deal, being a mother, bringing new life into the world. These children will pay the pensions of current generations, they will hopefully find solutions to the climate disaster of today, they will wipe our arses when we’re old and grey. Their mothers sacrifice their careers, their bodies, their sleep levels and so much more. We should be doing far, far more to support them both.