The Labour Party: A father’s guide to surviving labour

With our second baby due any day now, Jeremy Corbyn, Mr Cameron’s tax affairs or Brexit are of little interest to me. Don’t worry, this isn’t a political diatribe, rather my thoughts on a different kind of labour, that of child birth.

Labour is really not much of a party in my experience. Plenty of guests yes (I wondered why some of them had bothered turning up), and depending on your hospital, a playlist, but it’s unbelievably tough on the hosts – both of them. Can I just stick my hand up on behalf of fathers out there and say it’s hard for us too?

Just before you scroll down to the bottom of this article to lambast me with irate comments, I’m not suggesting that fathers have it nearly as tough as mothers.

I know that we have the easier ride. Following the birth of our first child, Nancy, almost two years ago, the already very high levels of love, admiration, respect and (on more than one occasion) fear I had for my wife increased dramatically.

It was no walk in the park for me either, though.

Oliver Chadwyck-Healey
Oliver and new baby, Nancy

Pregnancy was hard enough. My wife works very hard both at work and at home and this can result in a short temper from time to time.

What she is not very good at is one of the fundamentals of being pregnant, certainly in the latter stages, and that is resting. Doing nothing. I on the other hand, am a consummate professional at procrastinating, watching mindless television or reading every last inch of the newspaper.

I tried to make her realise that this was her big chance to put her feet up. A nap in the middle of the day? If husbands do it we’re lazy, if expectant mothers do it they’re helping the baby.

I explained that professional footballers actually get paid to go home after training and rest to let their bodies recover but she couldn’t be persuaded. Clearly she does not aspire to be a professional footballer as much as I do.

My wife had a full ‘hospital bag’ filled with necessities (and luxuries) but my preparation went as far as taking the Sunday Times.

Even in the final stages of pregnancy she seemed genuinely to enjoy going out to parties whilst I, knowing a late night / early morning hospital trip could be around the corner, lost my mojo entirely.

Then, when labour itself arrived, I couldn’t have been less well equipped. My wife had a full ‘hospital bag’ filled with necessities (and luxuries) but my preparation went as far as taking the Sunday Times.

I knew my brief, though: to make her laugh to take her mind off the pain, and pass the Hungarian facial spray when required (seriously).

I excelled at this for the first 12 hours but by midnight, as I tried to get some sleep in a very upright armchair, I began to experience what felt like terrible jet lag. There were seven beds around me that I was not allowed to lie on in case the ward suddenly filled up and not even a spare pillow to brave lying on the floor.

I remember nipping home the next morning for a quick shower and a change of clothes and gazing fondly at my bed. It was a serious test of will power as I knew a ten minute nap could easily have turned in to three hours.

There were other forgettable moments: getting electrocuted by the Tens machine as I helped her take it off (a bit like wrestling an octopus); being chastised for not tying her hair up very well (get practising guys). I was disconcerted by the number of people who arrived to have a good look at, how do I put this, my wife in a way that I certainly hadn’t looked at her at in while? That is what got us in to this mess in the first place.

Perhaps the lowest point was watching my wife throw up on a midwife.

Perhaps the lowest point was watching my wife throw up on a midwife.

Second time around, I am taking a yoga mat (hers, not mine clearly) and my own pillow – I advise you do the same. I’m also taking a notepad: a little extra effort to remember the staffs’ names goes a long way.

I’ll be taking rations to the hospital. I didn’t eat or drink nearly enough through labour. I think I survived the final twelve hours on an oatcake and a sip of Lucozade. I recently heard of a mutual friend who nipped out for something to eat just before the ‘serious pushing’ started and came back with a tray of sushi.

He sat in front of his wife carefully applying pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce before tucking in. Good on him I say. Never mind that he then stood up and put his back out to the amusement of the assembled doctors and the embarrassment of his wife.

Seriously, though. Don’t be the one who faints in the hospital or has to be wheeled out for some fresh air. Sneak a Snickers in to the ‘hospital bag’, drink plenty of water and a little bit of coffee (though you do not want your child’s first memory of you to be coffee breath, so best pack a mint too).

Don’t forget a phone charger, a good book and, as weird as it sounds, some hand cream! You won’t wash and sanitise your hands this much in your whole life probably and a decent hand cream for men is well worth remembering. Nutrogena is great.

Lastly, some advice for the mothers: I know you have a lot on your plates, but look after your husbands, please.

Perhaps we would like a spritz of Hungarian facial spray every now and then too?

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