A question for all the birthing partners out there; what’s your lasting memory of your time on the labour ward? Was it watching your baby magically enter into the world? Or the moment your midwife handed you a swaddled newborn to hold? Perhaps it was the feeling of tiny bones crushing as your partner grasped your hand when another painful contraction seared through her body?
Well, a week on from us leaving the hospital, the image that’s seared into my mind is not that of the operating theatre or holding my lovely baby daughter Scarlett in my arms for the first time; it’s that of my wife Emily, high on morphine in her hospital bed, newborn baby suckling at her teat, tapping away on her laptop as she researched outfits for her clients to wear to the BAFTAs.
Now that’s what I call multitasking. Not to mention courage, strength, determination, single-mindedness, and altruism. If men could get pregnant, birth control would be handed out in schools and outside train stations; we just wouldn’t be able to face the pain and the explosion of emotion. That’s why I wanted to tell you about my remarkable wife, and how anybody who hasn’t given birth needs to think twice when complaining about flu or stubbing their toe; you don’t know shit about pain or sacrifice.
Two Caesarians in 15 months
C-sections have come a long way. Until the turn of the 20th century, the op was largely a salvage mission, to attempt to rescue a child from a mother who had died – or was close to dying – during childbirth. Nowadays, you can watch it happening to you; as the anaesthetist chats glibly in your ear about baby names and where you went to school. However, it’s still a major operation, and were it not for the fact a baby is produced at the end of it, any similar procedure that cuts through muscle like it does would require a stay of up to two weeks in hospital. So having to go through that trauma twice in less than two years is pretty unthinkable. But that’s what Emily did. And although it means I can’t really moan about anything ever again, it means my admiration and respect for her knows no bounds.
Business woman and mother
Life is all about timing. If life gives you lemons, you should try and make some R White’s. It just so happens that late last year the stars were sufficiently aligned to allow my wife to break out on her own into the crazy world of PR (recently voted 6th most stressful job in a list of 200 professions). Leaving a good job that would have guaranteed her maternity leave and stat mat pay, she went freelance and jumped straight into a hectic schedule of breakfast meetings, photoshoots and media interviews. She even went up to Manchester to film at the BBC a week before she was due. How is that even possible? A combination of parental help, me using up holiday days to babysit, plus expensive childcare, has meant we’ve just about managed it logistically, but physically and emotionally, how my wife has managed to start a business while heavily pregnant is beyond me; naturally her clients love her and are in awe.
It’s painful, very difficult to master and there’s a lot of pressure to do it (as the actress said to the bishop), yet my wife has been up every 40 minutes or so throughout the last seven nights making sure our daughter gets the optimum nutrients. A bottle would be far easier, especially with so many meetings in the diary, but she steadfastly refuses to give up. I’m sometimes awoken by her yelping in pain as Scarlett fails to latch on. I lay awake in solidarity, not because I can help but because sleeping feels like cheating.
This is no time for schmaltz (I’m well over 600 words now) but my wife is my hero. Why she’s with a loser like me defies explanation.
Emily, I’m just not worthy…