If you're preparing for the arrival of your second child, it's worth reminding yourself how things went down in the delivery room the first time around.
I’m expecting a second child to emerge from my wife in five months or so. I learned a few lessons during the last labour. This is them.
1. Labour is like war. Be ready
Not the sort of war Hollywood used to depict: all action, never a dull moment, full-tilt death-or-glory action. It’s more like war in Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead: flashes of chaos spaced out by much longer periods of boredom.
I tried to stay energised, and busy, fussing over her, asking if she wanted a sip of water, and shelling out shiny peas of TV show encouragement: “You can do this!” “You’ve got this!” “You’re killing it!” “I believe in you!” I almost felt American.
“Okay. OKAY,” she finally told me. “Just be ready if I need you. Don’t go anywhere. And shut up.”
Your partner may be different. Warnie liked to be egged on from behind the pegs; Stuart McGill wanted his ’keeper to shut up. Relationship dynamics are not one size fits all. But don’t start cheerleading while she’s gritting her teeth in the delivery suite if that’s not your style. Try to read her signs.
2. You’ll misread her signs. Don’t take her abuse to heart
See, I thought I was reading her signs. Birthing classes and thick pre-birth advice books told me she’d be reassured by my incessant, encouraging verbiage. But, no. I’ll admit, I was a little offended when she told me to shut it. And again, perhaps, the first time she swore at me. I got over it.
3. Is she a grabber? Yeah? Have her cut her nails
Chances are she’ll grab your hand tightly during contractions, which go for like 45 seconds, and this is a long time to have an adrenalised woman’s talons slicing bloody half moons into your mitt. After 14 hours of labour, the thick pad of my right palm looked like I’d been playing Whac-A-Mole with echidnas.
4. Pillows. And spare pillows
Hospital pillows are to normal pillows what a turd in a jar is to a chocolate sundae. Have a spare of whichever your partner’s favourite brand pillow is in the car, and put one in for yourself, too. Then put in one of those neck pillows you take on long-haul and red-eye flights as well, because that pillow you had for you is going to be purloined by your partner, whether she does it before or after the birth.
5. Pack snacks (not Cheetos)
Hospital food is the worst, and it’s never at hand when you want it. Pack muesli bars, fruit, water, cordial and a shitload of snakes or gummy bears — stuff that won’t leave sticky residue on your fingers. Not Cheetos. At several points during our 17-hour labour, I’d have killed just to be able to get something from the vending machine down the hall, but if I’d left I’d have been murdered with a bed pan.
6. Keep towels in the car
Fun fact: by the time an expectant mother’s water breaks, that water is mostly baby urine. There’s like 2-3 cups of it in there. (It doesn’t smell.) My partner’s water-breaking episode went like this:
“I really need to go to the toilet.”
“Too late, I’ve wet myself.”
But it wasn’t water, it was a good old Hollywood-style dam burst. We weren’t at home, she was 13 days overdue, and we’d long been carrying the hospital bags in the car. None of those bags contained a towel. None of my car seats had been Scotchguarded.
7. Take the f*cking epidural
Look, there are many reasonable medical arguments for and against taking an epidural. There are no good arguments for you trying to tell the mother-to-be what she should do. This is no time for mansplaining.
The first time around, my partner wanted to give birth naturally, despite many, many hours of pain and the kid getting stuck. The eventual epidural (and later, caesarean) was a godsend. When she asked me what we should do this time, I said, “It is up to you. I will go with the flow with whatever you choose. I love you very much. You are an angelic portal to the miracle of creation. But if you don’t go for an epidural I think you are a f*cking crazy person.”
8. Go straight for the caesarean too
Again, my partner happily reminded me that I had no say in the matter. You don’t necessarily need to have a caesarean if you had one last time, although our obstetrician reckoned there was a 30% chance she’d end up having one anyway. This time, she’s opted — unless the kid has other plans — for an elective caesar. “That is also good,” I said. “Pain is for chumps.” I’ll happily wear any slings and arrows from the you’re-too-posh-to-push abuse crowd.
9. Take the gas (you too)
I know a man — a fellow writer for this website — who shall remain nameless, and who has two children, and whose name is Stephen Corby. During both long, long labours, he admits to sucking down the laughing gas whenever he got a chance.
I didn’t do this, for fear of appearing flippant to my wife, or missing something, or worse, forgetting something. Meanwhile, my beloved was hoovering away at the hose like a teenage petrol thief. If given the chance this time, I’ll take the odd toke. Labour is long and boring, like war. That’s why soldiers like drugs. Or some of them, anyway.
- 6 things to do now in case the baby rocks up early
- How I (really) felt watching my wife give birth
- Hilarious things people yell out in the delivery room