I arrived home last night and asked N whether he’d seen my new blog post. He said that he had and remarked, rather huffily, that he felt he warranted more than a brief mention at the end. I said that he would be the subject of the next post. I don’t think he believed me, so here I am, proving him wrong.
It must be a peculiar thing, being the partner of a pregnant woman. You’re part of the pregnancy, and yet you’re not. From the moment that I knew that I was pregnant, I felt both mentally and physically different. It was impossible not to. And yet for N, life continued much as normal. He said to me that the turning point was our first scan. I thought that it would take several minutes for the sonographer to find the baby, but she put the wand on my stomach and bang, there she was. A grainy but distinct face on the screen. N grabbed my hand. He said that was the moment when it all became real.
Our little monkey, however, wasn’t interested in inviting her Daddy to the party. As time went on she began to move around and kick. I would point to the strange lumps and bumps she made, and they’d instantly disappear. I’d grab his hand to place it where she was kicking, and she’d become perfectly still. She was not prepared to perform for anyone. We laughed about it but I wished that he could have been able to join in a bit more.
That said, he did have a free chauffeur for nine months.
It was when we went to our series of ante-natal classes (we did hospital ones as well as NCT ones) that it became clear just how vital a role he could play in the late stages of the pregnancy, the labour and the birth itself. Not for him the ‘sit in the pub and have a cigar when it’s all over’ scenario of our own fathers and grandfathers. I think it’s a credit to both the NHS and the NCT that they were both so keen to inform and involve the partners. He was the one busily taking notes about contraction timings, hospital bags, pain relief options and potential complications, because he knew that he’d be the person best placed to deal with all of those things as and when the time came. I was both amused and delighted when he came home one day with several copies of our birth plan, illustrated and laminated, for us to take to the hospital with us (I didn’t want to think too hard about why the lamination might be necessary, to be honest!).
When it came to the crunch, he swung into action like a trooper. The bags were packed, the car was full of petrol and he orchestrated the to-ing and fro-ing from the hospital without a hitch (he also paid the eye-watering parking charges at the hospital, but that’s another story). He knew what our preferences were, he knew what options should be available to me and, importantly, he kept my head high and a smile on my face when our carefully constructed plans took a 180 degree turn. I think that, secretly, he was a little disappointed that everyone in the hospital was so fabulously accommodating because he’d wanted to play the role of Superhero Husband a little more, but I could be wrong.
He bought lots of food for me, only to discover that I wasn’t allowed to eat any of it. Undeterred, he stocked up on jelly babies and tactfully ate his own lunch in a corner when I wasn’t looking. He breathed with me. He held me steady while they put needles into my spine. He cracked jokes. He lifted me into the bathroom when I couldn’t walk any more. He spurred me on with encouraging words when I was at the absolute end of my tether. He got closer to a lot more gore than he really wanted to. He told me that he loved me when M was finally born.
And, of course, he got to do all of that wonderful father-y stuff. He cut the cord (tougher than he thought it would be, apparently) and, while I was busily dispensing of the placenta, he took off his t-shirt and hugged his little baby girl to his chest. I’d been a bit worried about how he’d bond with the baby (having been told how one of his friends had really struggled to do so) but knew in that moment that he was smitten.
I’m also obliged to say that as soon as the midwife was out of the room he was begging to have a go on the gas and air. Which, of course, he did.
In the blissful calm after the birth, while I munched on a warm scotch egg (don’t ask … I was ravenous) and contemplated a nice hot shower, I felt immensely proud of him. I genuinely couldn’t have done it without him, and for that I am eternally grateful.