Diary of a Dad: Week 1 - Birthby Adam Riches
I’m not sure what I thought about birth before I was a dad. I vaguely remember realising I knew absolutely nothing about 4 weeks before our first little boy was born. It wasn’t ideal, but now, after our second has just been born, I realise that birth is incredible...but not always perfect.
We were sat at NCT as doe-eyed, young, energetic parents to be (who knew what a full night of sleep felt like) and it was all rainbows and butterflies until the lady running it aptly reminded us that the baby needs to actually come out. It was at that moment that the reality of childbirth began to dawn on me.
As a dad, you sort of feel a part of the whole pregnancy thing for a while. You’re along on the journey, but as the birth draws closer, you begin to realise that you’re just a spectator in this particular game. You can be supportive before and after birth and do all of the amazing things that you can do...but you can’t actually give birth (if by chance you can, I’d love to be your manager.)
There is a child inside your partner’s body, and it’s got to come out. You couldn’t make it up. Something so natural is also something, that as modern people, we have become a bit detached from. Instagram shows the beautifully cleaned down newborn pictures and it’s easy to forget that the birthing process involves a lot of other things coming out than just a baby…
After experiencing it twice, I’m in total awe of any mother. Natural birth, C-section, drugs, no drugs, you are all frigging amazing. What the human body is capable of going through is not celebrated enough. I’m not saying this to scare anyone, but there is so much fluff out there about birth.
The whole process is much like Alien really - you know the one with Ridley Scott where she and the cat are the only ones who realise what’s happening on the spaceship? There is less of the parasitic scorpion-like attacks, but the concept is the same...sort of. As a dad, it’s easy to feel powerless during birth, especially with your partner having to shoulder all of the physical, emotional and hormonal burdens.
I thought it’d be easier going through it for a second time, but as they (and by they I mean everyone who thinks they know everything about babies) say, no two births are the same. The reality is that you can prepare yourself for every eventuality, but there is always the chance that it might not go how you anticipated or hoped. As it transpires, you have very little say in what the baby decides to do. They are in the driver’s seat (a shocking analogy I know) and you can make informed choices, but that yet to be born little milk monster is the one who calls the shots, and from the outset, some of them test us.
Birth takes a phenomenal toll on mums and dads. There is sometimes a perceived pressure to seem like all is well. Ignore it. Although the births of both of our children didn’t go to plan or how we envisaged, one thing we both learnt was that it’s ok to say it was tough. Reinforcing the ‘dream birth” stereotype is damaging and it cons parents to be (like we once were) that birth is all rainbows and butterflies.
As this first week of being a dad (again) draws to a close, I can’t stop thinking how incredible birth is, not because it’s a perfect process, but because it reminds you how incredible you are as parents even before your work has begun.