Friday, March 03, 2006

Just the three of us

A DEBATE is raging in among women the length and breadth of the country at the moment about whether or not a man really has a place in the labour ward supporting his partner through the 'joys' of childbirth.

It's all been kicked off by the announcement by cricket player Andrew Flintoff that he is going to stick it out at some wee poncy cricket game or other rather than fly home to support his long suffering wife through the imminent delivery of their baby.
There are a couple of schools of thought on this one. The first is that a woman will generally be more comfortable giving birth surrounded by other women- given that they will generally have some level of understanding of the hell on earth she is going through.
Certainly this was my initial view point when I was with child. You see my husband, love him and all as I do, is a bit useless when it comes to dealing with people in pain. He either a) goes into a litany of his own ills or b)tries to jolly the situation along with some ill timed humour more often seen as an insult when you are going through the agonies.
So when I was expecting I wanted what every self respecting woman in her late 20s wants when faced with a challenge- I wanted my mammy.
I figured my mother still held certain magical properties last seen during my childhood- most notably the power to reduce all aches and pains with a spoonful of pink medicine and a bottle of Lucozade.
Once, after talking to the sister my mother did accompany into the labour ward, I ascertained this wasn't the case I moved my sights to himself.
Which brings me the second school of thought on the whole men in the labour ward debate; and that is that any man who does not wish to see his child- the fruit of his loins- delivered into this world in the great big miracle of life is a big fat wuss and deserving of nothing but scorn from the fairer sex.
Himself was understandably nervous about the whole thing. He wasn't well versed in the biological process of birthing but he knew it would involve a fair amount of blood, gore and screaming. He also knew it would involve a visit to the hospital and himself holds hospitals in much the same disregard as I hold dark chocolate. (Chocolate shouldn't taste bitter- it should taste sweet, it is a SWEETIE. Point made).

So now we move onto the third school of thought on the whole issue which is that if a woman has to actually experience the physical and emotional trauma of child birth, the very least a man can do is be there so that his partner can make him feel horrendously guilty about it all.
You see I had spoken to my friends who had children and each had regaled me with stories of how they had fallen in love with their ickle tiny babies the moment they set eyes on them.
Digging deeper into the whole experience however I found a much darker undercurrent of swearing, biting and general abuse. One friend calmly told her husband, in a voice which made the midwife believe she was possessed, that he was never, and I repeat never going to touch her ever again.
Another left an impressive set of dental imprints on her husband's hand and a third starting plotting her divorce while sucking on the gas an air.
In all cases the husbands forgave the outrageous behaviour and, get this, even bought their wives flowers and/ or jewellery afterwards to thank them for their efforts.
It all seemed like a pretty good deal to me- I mean a get out of jail free card for marital abuse and the promise of presents at the end of it all!
Joking aside though, I did actually want my husband to be there when our son was born. I didn't necessarily want him down the business end, but I wanted the first sight our little man saw to be his mammy and daddy. I wanted to be the first to hold him (I figured it was my right as the one with the torn perineum), but I wanted the second person to hold him to be his daddy.
I had a stupid mental image of himself doing the whole "This time next year we'll be millionaires" speech with the wee man while I had my post-natal needs tended to.
And when I was in labour, I wanted someone there who would stand up for what I wanted. I wanted someone there who had the same interest in this child being born that I did and in my books the only people who truly get how important the birth of any baby is are that baby's parents.
For me the birth experience was the start of our life together as a family. While I'd had nine months to get very closely acquainted with my son, himself only felt the occasional kick and saw me turn into a larger than life emotional timebomb.
i was very conscious of the fact that from the first time we heard our son squeak (he squeaked rather than cried- an occurrence he has more than made up for since), we would be the Allans- a family unit- just the three of us.
So when asked if I think Andrew Flintoff was right to put cricket and country before his family, my answer is no- because no victory on the field can ever be as rewarding as meeting your child for the first time.

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