Wednesday 20 November 2019

Garreth Murphy: 'Labour for men is like being the Barcelona 'keeper - nobody's paid to see you and you're not contributing very much'

Garreth and his son James
Garreth and his son James

“You’ll feel like running from the delivery room into the nearest pub, but keep it together.

"She’ll need you at some stage – if only to give you a slap across the head and curse you to hell.”

Thus spoke a friend who is father to a small army of children in advance of my wife giving birth to our first baby earlier this year.

He was right. But not according to the experts.

New research has revealed that women may be better off without their partners in the delivery room. University College London studied 39 women in labour who were each given a pinprick laser pulse on their finger when their boyfriend or husband was in the room. The women were asked to rate their pain as researchers analysed the electrical activity in their brain.

In many cases, the presence of a partner made the pain feel worse. And for the women who avoided emotional closeness in their relationships, it was worse.

My missus will probably disagree but I don’t think that’s ever been an issue in our relationship.

But truth be told, men probably would be better off outside the delivery suite – but not for the reasons, you might expect.

Labour, for men, is a crushingly boring process. Think of it as like being the Barcelona goalkeeper in their glory days. You're there, but nobody's come to see you and you're not contributing very much.

Of course, it's not all boring. There’s the initial rush when after nine months of being an unpaid (but smiling) slave for your partner, the end is almost in sight. The warm welcoming bosom of emancipation beckons.

Then, there’s the buzz when you’re actually driving to hospital – deliberately speeding in the bus lanes, desperately hoping that the guards will spot you so you’ll get an escort. "Yes, guard I know I was driving fast - my wife is having a baby!"

But after that, very little happens for a long, long time, especially if it’s first baby.

And that time is a bit boring, really.

Don’t get me wrong – as a man, watching your baby come into the world is one of the most life-changing events you can experience. You are in awe at both your wife and the tiny helpless baby she has just delivered.

I was hardly a bystander in the build-up. I was there for the ante-natal classes, read the books (well, I looked at the pictures before I started feeling a bit queasy) and nodded sagely when colours were being discussed for the nursery.

But that didn’t prepare me for the hours and hours of tedium in the suite. And seeing as my wife was not in a position to eat and was incredibly uncomfortable, I thought complaining about being hungry or wondering what was on the menu in the cafe might have been a little insensitive.

After the baby was born, my wife told me she was glad I was there - even if my help consisted of whispered words of encouragement and hand holding.

Not sure I could have FaceTimed that in from the boozer.


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