This post is also featured on Mamamia.
Inspired by the incomparable Robbie Williams – and his hilarious labour suite antics during the birth of his child – here is a list of seven things you probably shouldn’t do while a woman is in labour.
1. Don’t compare your discomfort with hers
Don’t complain about being tired. Or hungry. Or bored. If you think that your day sucks I can guarantee you it’s got nothing on hers. Don’t whine that you’re missing the grand final, or that you have a headache or that your tennis elbow is flaring up because you don’t have any Nurofen. Don’t tell her that this is harder for you than it is for her. In fact, don’t complain about anything short of a severed limb or a failed personal attempt to save the head-of-state from assassination. If you are tempted to complain that your hand hurts from massaging her back, try to imagine what it would feel like to be kicked in the gonads every three minutes for 24 hours, and that while all of this is happening you will also be expected to squeeze a mini-watermelon out of your butt. That hand of yours? Doesn’t seem so bad right now, does it?
2. Don’t appear disinterested
Don’t tell her you are bored. Don’t tell her to hurry up. Don’t tell her that she needs to wrap this up before 5pm so you can go home and catch the second half of the footy. Don’t fall asleep. If you fall asleep, make it a quick REM cycle and try not to snore. If you have to play Candy Crush on your phone, the least you can do is switch off your game notifications, because if you don’t you’ll never see rage like that again in your life. Feel free to slink into the corner and watch TV, but don’t enthuse about that elegant Michael Clarke cover-drive and expect her to show her appreciation. She won’t care. She wouldn’t care if Don Bradman himself rose from the dead, strode into the maternity suite and smacked a few balls around the room before delivering the baby himself.
3. Don’t publicise her private struggle
Do not tweet your way through her labour. Do not post pictures of the baby crowning, using the hashtag #downatthebusinessend. She doesn’t need you cracking jokes about her involuntary bowel movement on Facebook or posting images of the gleaming afterbirth on Instagram. She doesn’t need to star in her own series of YouTube videos, with separate tutorials dedicated to episiotomies, internal examinations and third-degree tears. She just needs to get this baby out without the rest of the world hearing about her nether-regions, and no amount of social media “likes” will help get her over the line.
4. Don’t mess with her pain relief
Don’t belittle her pain. Don’t steal the gas for a quick huff on the happy stuff yourself. Don’t tell her she doesn’t need an epidural if she is begging for one. Don’t conspire with the nurses to withhold pain relief. Don’t suggest she try the TENS machine again. Stick your bloody TENS machine up your ass. And don’t chime in with helpful reminders like “That wasn’t in our birth plan”. There is no “our” when it comes to birth plans. When you are pushing a small human the size of a full-grown possum out of your butt, then you can have a say about pain relief.
5. Don’t be an insensitive dick
Don’t make jokes about her physical appearance, or the waterfall of amniotic fluid cascading down her legs or the fact that she bellows like a wounded buffalo through every one of those late-stage contractions. Don’t make wisecracks about knitting needles if the midwives need to break her waters with the hook. Don’t disappear to the cafeteria for 45 minutes and come back with a mountain of food she can’t eat. Don’t duck out for a quick cigarette when the baby’s head starts to descend. Don’t wink at the obstetrician and ask him to throw a few extra stitches in to “tighten things up”, because the joke is on you: it makes people think you have a small dick.
6. Don’t take anything she says or does personally
She might let fly with a string of ferocious expletives that would make a wharfie look as demure as a minister’s wife. She might claw at your hands and your arms and your face because she is desperately trying to make her pain go away. Or because she hates you with the force of a thousand suns, because you are the person to blame for ALL of this. She might curse at you or scream at you or insist you are Satan himself. This is all perfectly normal. At times, there is little to distinguish an episode of labour from an exorcism, apart from the distinct lack of crucifixes and the fact that there are midwives in attendance instead of priests. Whatever she says, whatever she does. Don’t take it personally.
7. Just. Don’t.
There will often come a time in labour when shit starts to get real. Her pain will become unbearable and she will exist in her own private universe of incomparable agony. Nothing exists but pain. Relentless, never-ending pain. Do something. Do nothing. Do whatever. None of it matters. Everything you do will be WRONG. Massage her. Don’t touch me! Offer positive encouragement. Don’t talk to me! Give her space. Don’t ignore me! Mop her brow with a wet facecloth. Don’t smother me! Look into her eyes and breathe through contractions together. Don’t look at me! Don’t make a sound! Don’t. Even. Breathe! There is nothing much you can do at this stage but to keep your head down, try to stay out of trouble and console yourself with the thought that after all your hard work is done you finally get to the easy part: taking a newborn home. Good luck!
Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT.