I was lying on my back, feet in stirrups and about to give birth, when the midwife asked me a question. "We have a student here named Matthew", she said. "And as he has never felt a fully dilated cervix, he was wondering if he could feel yours".
Through the haze of morphine and gas and air I saw a nicely turned out young man standing expectantly at my 'business end' with a surgical glove on. "Sure, why not", I gasped. And then I saw my husband's face. He was shooting poor Matthew a murderous glance. "HE'S NOT MAKING A PASS AT ME", I bellowed, much to the astonishment of the assembled medical team.
You see, when it comes to childbirth, sometimes men just don't get it. Which is why I think the delivery room isn't always the right place for them. Or a lot of the whole 'being pregnant and giving birth' thing, really.
It starts early on, this lack of understanding. They think weeing on a stick is funny. Or sexy. Or weird. It's none of these things. It's just something we have to do. And is not in any way similar to that thing that his mate Alan did on Dave's stag night as a dare.
Then comes nine long months of confusion. He doesn't get why you are weeping at Grand Designs. He doesn't understand that your need for a Magnum at 11pm is not to do with hunger. And he doesn't appreciate that when your ankles have inflated to cartoon-like proportions and your boobs ache like boils, you are not 'up for it'.
And so, as the big day approaches, why aren't we all left wondering if this bloke in our house who keeps shooting puzzled glances in our direction is really the one we want with us while we push an 8lb baby out of our vuvuzela?
Candice Lattimore wondered - and was proved right. So much so, she decided to become a doula and give other women the chance to have someone useful present at this crucial time.
Her husband had, after all, chuckled heartily when the monitor showed strong contractions, eaten a burger in the delivery room and repeatedly said "I bet that hurt". You really couldn't make it up.
It seems that some men are also fairly ineffectual even when they are in their own homes. Rebecca Schiller had her hopes pinned on a water birth in the living room. As it was, her husband was tasked with filling the pool – and did so with freezing cold water. She dipped in a toe, realised that hypothermia was probably not conducive to a fulfilling birth experience and had her baby on the floor. No wonder these women chose to redress the balance by becoming birth companions themselves.
My husband, apart from the Matthew incident, was actually pretty good. There were no takeaways in the room, no naps, no ill-timed comments about his hand hurting when I gripped it (although I could definitely see the nail marks). And with number two, his technique was even better. Fruit Mentos were handed over at the correct intervals and he's never mentioned the mooing since. Well, not much.
They don't all improve though, and certainly not in the case of Sarah Ockwell-Smith, founder of BabyCalm and ToddlerCalm, and mum of four: "With number one, I woke him at 1am in labour, he panicked, got up with no glasses on, walked into TV on bracket and knocked himself out.
"With number two, he crunched his way through family packs of Minstrels and Werther's Originals, then fell asleep – the midwife had to wake him as the baby was crowning. With three and four I kept him busy doing made-up errands. If I ever have another I think I might just 'forget' to wake him up..."
These days, having our partners present has become the norm. Let's start a backlash, I say. A return to the old days, where the men paced the corridors with cigars and the women did all this birth stuff together in private.
That would be much better. But wait, hold on – if they don't see what we have to got through, how do we use it against them in arguments for the rest of our married lives? Darn it...
Did you have your partner with you when you gave birth? Share your stories below...
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