Labouring Away…

So we were talking about the imminent arrival of baby number two in six-ish weeks time, when my OH sighed dramatically: ‘I’m absolutely dreading the labour,’ he said.

My first thought? ‘You cheeky bugger! What the heck have YOU got to worry about?’

Then, when I thought about it more, I conceded that, although they still have the MUCH easier end of the bargain, it can’t be pleasant for the partners either – in a completely different way, of course.

Don’t even get me started on the actual pregnancy, when the OH gets to do exactly what they’ve always done – including get drunk, munch on prawns, blue cheese, and coffee til it comes out their ears, and tie their own shoelaces – while we look on enviously (and a little bitterly) for 9-10 months.

But once the big day arrives, I can see that it must be hard for them to see us in such pain and distress, to know they’re partly responsible for getting us in this situation in the first place, yet not be able to do a damn thing to help. Because, once things get going, they’re pretty bloody useless really, aren’t they?

I wouldn’t have wanted him NOT to be there, but after a certain point in proceedings, I was so oblivious to anything other than pain, that if he’d nipped down the road for a pint and a curry, I’d neither have know, nor cared.

Bless him, he tried his best to help, but in reality he just kind’ve made things worse. Our situation was slightly strange because I was kept in the pre-labour ward for much longer than normal while waiting for a bed to come free, and for my labour to ‘progress’ sufficiently (which it never actually ended up doing, resulting in an emergency c-section).

At one point, very aware of the much-less-pregnant women either side of me who’d just come in for overnight observation, and were probably freaking out at the sounds coming from my cubicle, he suggested I perhaps keep the noise down just a touch. ‘Don’t f****ing tell me to shush!’ I remember screaming.

Another time, about 30 hours in, the contractions were on top of each other and I was hunched over the side of the bed when – without warning – a soaking wet flannel was suddenly slapped across the back of my neck. Again, a nice thought in principal, but I wasn’t expecting it. Not only did it scare shit out of me, but rivers of freezing cold water began pouring down my back. ‘Get it OFF!’ I yelled, hurling it to the floor.

But there were times when he was invaluable. When I was in a fog of pain and exhaustion, and ready to throw myself out the nearest window (literally!) he was the one demanding a bed in the labour ward for me, and assuring the midwives I wasn’t just being a wimp – that I really was having proper contractions. ‘Oh yes,’ they finally acknowledged when they strapped the monitor-thingy on me. ‘They’re actually quite strong, aren’t they?’

As the labour continued, and nothing happened the way it was supposed to, it must’ve be really scary for him to hear the docs talking about emergency surgeries, and haemorrhaging, and blood transfusions. I was in cloud-Cuckoo land by then, and too exhausted to even register what they were saying.

So, on careful reflection, I’ve decided that he does have a small right to be nervous about labour too. But he’d better make the most of my concession now, because once those contractions begin any empathy for him will go straight out the window – and so will he, if he tries that wet flannel trick again!


  1. Anne Galivan - August 17, 2010

    Call me callous but I can sustain no sympathy for my husband after going through: four pregnancies (only one was what I would call easy, and I spent a good part of the last two in bed I was so ill), four deliveries (the first of which was an unplanned C-section, the other three where long and difficult VBAC’s and I only had an epidural with the last), then there was the problems with hemorraghing after the last two which put me back in bed. Not to mention sore and cracked nipples from breast-feeding…

    Did he have a little worry to contend with? Maybe. But relative to what I went through? You gotta be kidding me. I still remember the terror I felt entering the hospital for the last two deliveries, and that was years ago. I guarantee you, watching me go through labor could not even touch what I went through, sometimes screaming, other times crying uncontrollably…

    Granted he’ll never know the joy I had feeling my baby move inside of me, or the years of joy I had nursing my babies. But that is the pay-off for what amounted to three years of my life being pregnant with the illness, heartburn, weight gain, etc. that goes along with that. Not to mention what amounts to several days total of contractions and excrutiating pain that went into delivering those sweet bundles.

    No, I just can’t be that sympathetic. But maybe you’re just a bigger person than I am! 🙂

  2. Liz Christopher - August 18, 2010

    I had a fairly traumatic birth with my first that ended up with a rushing down the corridor emergency c-section. I lost a lot of blood, and this is what hubby remembers the most.

    He was quite traumatised by it to the extent that it took a few years to persuade him to try for another,

    Watching a loved one go through pain and feeling totally helpless is a horrible experience, yet this is what we ask of our men.

    I don’t know if I would go as far as to say they have it harder, but presuming you have a man that is trying, they deserve at least some consideration.

    Good luck, fingers crossed for an easier birth. (I had a planned c-section with no2 and it was such a different experience – beautiful, amazing and no blood transfusion required)

  3. Mummy's Little Monkey - August 18, 2010

    Anne: It may be unpleasant for them, but they’ll never really have the slightest inkling of what we endure, will they? Mind you, I’m glad it was me going through it rather than him, as he would NEVER have agreed to number 2 otherwise! In fact I suspect the entire world would be full of 1-kid families if men were the ones to give birth!!!

    Liz: Traumatised is the word my OH used for months afterwards! Whereas, as soon as the birth was over, I was talking about how I’d do it all again tomorrow, to have that baby in my arms. He couldn’t believe what I was saying! I guess us women are just made of sterner stuff 😉

  4. Marylin - August 18, 2010

    My ex was so traumatised he ended up having an asthma attack the day we came home from the hospital!
    I totally get your point of view, and I do sympathise, it’s horrid seeing someone you love going through something you can’t help with, but at the same time, he’s not the one who carried my 2nd for TEN months. I kid you not… TEN. Got pg first week in jan and Max was born oct 11th… that was NOT fun!

  5. Mummy's Little Monkey - August 18, 2010

    Marylin: I had to laugh just a tiny bit when I read about the asthma attack – it’s like the new Dads who pass out in the delivery room! I empathise about the super-long pregnancy. My first went way overdue and even then she didn’t want to come out! That reminds me of the interview Jackie Chan did with Jonathan Ross the other week – apparently his mum was pregnant with him for 12 MONTHS!!!!! Can you imagine????

  6. Weebeastie - August 18, 2010

    I’m due in December with my 1st baby, (I still smile and talk of labour with excitement, totally oblivious to all the horrors to come), and my OH told me he doesn’t really want to be there at the pushing stage. Having read this post I guess I can understand and hopefully won’t even care if he’s there or not by that stage!
    It aint half scary wondering what’s to come…women I know always get a bit ‘snarly’ when talking about the labour!!

  7. PlayPennies - August 18, 2010

    Nice post – it brought my labour back to me, even though it was only 3 months ago!

    “The OH gets to do exactly what they’ve always done – including get drunk, munch on prawns, blue cheese, and coffee til it comes out their ears, and tie their own shoelaces “

    Oh I laughed at that! I really missed prawns and all sorts of seafood!

    Emma 🙂

  8. Mummy's Little Monkey - August 18, 2010

    Weebeastie: Labour is definitely not the most pleasant experience, but it’s 1-2 days out of your life, and the rewards FAR outweigh the negatives. Plus there is something strangely satisfying about knowing you’ve successfully made it through childbirth – even when it doesn’t go exactly to plan. That’s how I felt, anyway. In a strange way I’m looking forward to my next delivery, because I’m hoping this time it will be a bit more straightforward, and I can’t wait to have that baby in my arms! And I bet your partner changes his mind by the time the big day arrives. The pushing part is the best in a way – at least you know you’re near the end!!!

    Play Pennies – Isn’t it annoying how you always want something even more when you can’t have it? I’m dying to eat paté again too!!!

  9. 'Cross the Pond - August 18, 2010

    Ack! Thank God I never have to do it again!!! Best of luck to you though. It’s all just awful in the delivery but once the little one is here it’s so worth it. And isn’t it true how quickly you forget the awfulness?!

  10. Mummy's Little Monkey - August 18, 2010

    ‘Cross the Pond: Isn’t it crazy?? Memory is a funny thing. I had such a horrendous pregnancy this time around, but now I’m nearly at the end I’m already thinking ‘Well… maybe it wasn’t THAT bad…’ (Note to self: don’t fool yourself – it really WAS that bad!!!)

  11. Liz@Violet Posy - August 18, 2010

    I remember thinking the same thing 🙂 But I ended up having an awful labour and bless him he felt so helpless not being able to help me. When it all went very horribily wrong about hour 28 he was asked to choose which one of us to save – what a horrific thing to have to do. I was pretty oblivious at that point so don’t remember a lot. So from that point of view they do have it bad x

  12. Julie - Kailexness - August 18, 2010

    My husband and I sat and watched our babies heart beat disappear from the monitor over and over for 3 hours and then he watched me being rushed off to surgery… What could he do? Nothing – I can not imagine the sort of feelings these men feel when the woman they hold most dear in the world is in agony, undergoing surgery and they have to stand by and just do nothing – purgatory for most men, more so for my control freak husband. Then he was handed our daughter in a corridor and left for an hour whilst they stitched me up, well out of his comfort zone.

    Birth 2, I go into labour and he was awesome and supportive but he HATED watching me like that and was thrilled I demanded an epidural. When my son’s heart beat started to flicker too his sense of panic was tangible…

    So they feel no pain and get to still be boys through out but I don’t underestimate the roll my husband played during birth…

    He was totally hopeless with them as babies though – that I will moan about!!!

  13. Anonymous - August 18, 2010

    For me personally I think labour was probably worse for the observer than for me. I was moaning and groaning a bit but actually felt ok – a bit out of it on gas and air. It was painful but I felt in control and as if I was separate from the pain if that makes sense. For the lady who is expecting her first. Get as much info as you can so you are prepared but don’t be scared. Fear def makes pain worse. Try and relax as much as you can and let your body get on with it. It is a really exciting time too focus on the end result.

  14. Michelle - August 18, 2010

    ahh poor dh. I think it is often as bad being the observer as the one who is going through the pain. I know my first birth really traumatised my dh as he thought I would die. I was out of it and had no idea! Good luck for a nice labour this time. Mich x

  15. Mummy's Little Monkey - August 19, 2010

    Liz: What a horrifying question for your OH to be asked! Thank goodness you were both OK. I was totally oblivious when my surgeon started talking about the fact I was haemorrhaging, but my partner still shudders when he thinks about it.

    Julie: He must have been going mad with worry. Was he not allowed in the operating room with you? I think there is definitely some benefit to be so out of it that you don’t actually realise what’s going on!!

    Anon: Good advice – worrying about labour is sure to make it a more stressful experience. Just see it as a means to an ends to have that lovely baby in your arms!

    Michelle: That helpless feeling really must be awful. I was much more out of it than I realised – what I thought was about 24 hours, turned out to actually be nearly 50!!! I was so shocked when OH told me that later!!!

  16. Pumpkin and Piglet - August 19, 2010

    My husband found my labour really hard and I can understand why. At first it was fine and he was brilliant. He found it hard to see me in so much pain but being unable to do anything about it but he did what I asked and was great. It changed for him when I was rushed down for an emergency c-section and then he was left alone with a screaming baby knowing that I was haemorrhaging in the next room.

    I think though they don’t (and never will) understand what labour is like for a woman, they can find it a traumatic experience themselves. And like any bad experience you will be nervous of it happening again.

  17. Tracy B - August 19, 2010

    Of course all partners are different, but for me I think it was bloody terrifying for my OH. He said he felt so helpless and had to watch me at my worst – in pain and unable to help me. Don’t get me wrong, if I could, I’d have swapped places in an instant (lol!) but I’d hate to be watching all of that and having no control…. the thought actually makes me shudder.

  18. Hayley - August 20, 2010

    Oh bless him. No wonder hes worried. I know when I fell pregnant last Jan (and then miscarried) when we were discussing the birth my Mum was in complete freak out mode following her part in my birth drama that was. I’ve always said it was 100x worse for her as she remembers it all and saw it all, I only remember bits, have flashbacks of other bits and knowledge from her. She has the first hand memories. Our birth partners can certainly feel the pain as much as we do, im sure in a more emotional way!
    Good luck with this one 😀 x

  19. growingmyfamilytree - August 22, 2010

    My hubby absolutely dreaded labour both times too. He had anxiety dreams in the run up to it, even though I didn’t! I think, for us, we feel we have at least some control over what is going to happen, for them, they are helpless watching you in pain. My first labour resulted in an emergency c-section after baby got distressed. We went to the NCT meet up post birth and the teacher came up to me and said: “i’ve just been talking to your husband about the birth… ‘harrowing’ was the word he used…”!!
    Luckily, this time was a lot less traumatic, and he was even brave enough to look “down there” as she came out, and cut the cord.
    And to be fair, he was a great help, letting me squeeze his hand during contractions and pleading my case with the midwives for an epidural!
    Good luck for your birth by the way. I’m sure you – and your hubby – will be just fine! x

  20. Mummy's Little Monkey - August 26, 2010

    Pumpkin & Piglet: How awful that he was left outside, not knowing what was going on! My partner only just revealed a few days ago that he actually saw blood gushing everywhere after I had my c-section. No wonder he was freaked out!

    Tracy B: I know what you mean – in some ways I’d rather go through it myself, as I still think I coped better than my partner would have. Us women are pretty tough when it comes down to it!! 🙂

    Hayley: So sorry to hear about the miscarriage 🙁 I feel for your poor mother too – there’s definitely some benefits to having big chunks of my memory erased from those few days!!!

    Growing my Family: My OH is a bit of a control freak, so I know he absolutely HATED having no input in to what was going on. Let’s hope 2nd time around is a bit easier for us too!!! (I guess it can’t be worse…)

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