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Friday 19 September 2014

Sinead Ryan: Listen up dads – leave childbirth to mums

Published 13/03/2014 | 16:12

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Daithi O Se and Rita Talty.  Photo: Gerry Mooney.
Daithi O Se and Rita Talty. Photo: Gerry Mooney.

“No uterus, no opinion!” yelled Rachel memorably to Ross in that episode of Friends when he tried to explain to the mother-to-be how real contractions felt.

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Well, it seems she has an unlikely ally in our Daithi O Se whose wife, Rita Talty, is expected to deliver their first baby any day now.

Like most couples, I imagine Daithi and Rita have tried to plan what's going to happen on the big day: considered birthing pools, packed a bag and discussed things like pain-relief and breast-feeding.

The sensible about-to-become dads leave it right there. If they pipe up with anything other than “Whatever you want is fine with me, dear”, they should be firmly consigned to the waiting room.

The normally verbose Kerryman has zipped it for now and suggested that if Rita wants all the drugs available to her when she gets to the labour ward, then she should jolly well have them.

It's the first coherent thing I've heard out of him for years.

In my experience, first-time dads fall into two categories. On the one hand we have the ones who practically believe they're giving birth themselves – the warning sign is the spirited “We're pregnant!” announcement to friends.

And then there’s the “Please don't make me go in there, I have no idea what's going on” type, who very often turn out to be the greater support for women pushing out the equivalent of a rugby ball.

Because that, gentlemen, and Ross, is what contractions actually feel like.

The dads who devour the foetal development books, chide their partners for munching a packet of crave-driven Hobnobs at midnight and condescendingly instruct the midwives to ignore all screaming demands for pethidine, epidurals or gas and air “because it's not part of our birth plan” are the ones who would run yelping from the labour ward if they even had an inkling of what it felt like.

Childbirth, despite our happy-clappy modern insistence on male “birth partners” is still about women, for women, by women.

COMFORTING

Although many of us appreciate our partners being there – and they can be a wonderfully comforting, soothing presence – your best friend on the day, and the person without whom you wouldn't get through it, is your midwife.

I wonder – if it were deemed politically correct – how many women would actually prefer their mother or sister present, as was the case for millennia, instead of their husband?

It's not that we don't want our man there, but if he's a terrified, quivering wreck, is it fair? There's no point in having two patients. Childbirth is a singularly bracing affair and not for the faint-hearted.

Even ante-natal classes can be off-putting – all that focused breathing, the exploration of your intimate innards and the talking up of organic, vegan food when all you want is a massive Toblerone and the whole thing to be over.

Mind you, having done it once, most dads are absolutely fantastic second time around. They know which bit is up and are already dreading the sleepless nights. The romanticism is gone, replaced by a hardened reality of stinky nappies, screaming demands and endless re-runs of Barney at 3am.

And despite it all, they'll have a renewed sense of sheer awe at the process.

Daithi will remember his baby's birth as the best day of his life. Whatever his wife decides, or doesn't decide, she needs or wants for the hardest day of hers is nobody’s business but hers.

Irish Independent

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