Why men suck at childbirth

There’s a documentary series running on Channel 4 that I’m slowly becoming obsessed with.

The makers of One Born Every Minute stuck a bunch of cameras in a maternity ward in England, and sat back to let the good times roll.

I watched the first episode two weeks ago, when my husband was away on a ten-day trip to the US. It was the longest we’d ever been apart since we met seven years ago. I blame that for my weepiness when I watched the program.

Unlike A Baby Story on Lifetime TV in the US, this documentary is gritty and real. Things go wrong. Teenagers get pregnant when they have no jobs, and no qualifications to get jobs. Babies are born with their intestines growing outside their tummies and have to be rushed for emergency surgery.

But most of all, men suck at childbirth.

Without exception, the four dads featured so far were completely useless during labor. The clearest example of this was in the first episode, where one 40-something dad thought it would be funny to blow up a rubber glove and poke his wife with it.

While she was having a contraction.

When her contractions were two minutes apart, she took the opportunity to rush to the bathroom to pee during a lull. Her husband tried to figure out a way to jam the door closed while she was in there.

The whole time, he was exchanging “aren’t-I-clever” looks with his 18-year-old son, who was in the room during the whole labor. (Side note: I was initially horrified by this but then realized there’s no better way to make sure your son keeps his thing sheathed).

What was truly surprising – other than the fact that any 18-year-old boy would agree to be part of his brother’s birth – was the mom’s reaction to her husband’s pranks. She laughed.

Even when she was in tremendous pain and sucking down gas and air, she laughed. Not at him, as I would’ve done, but with him.

Clearly this is a very special woman, and an incredibly lucky man.

It’s just one more example of how conflict doesn’t have to be contrived. The tension and bittersweet pain of everyday life is fertile enough ground for writers.

And in the midst of a person’s most painful, vulnerable moments, she can still express the intense bond she shares with her partner. This is the stuff of love. It’s what happens when romance novels end.*

Episode #3 is on tonight. I’ll be planted on my sofa, next to Hubby who shall be taking notes on How Not To Be Useless in Childbirth because we are getting to the stage where we can discuss the possibility of spawning without shuddering in terror.

*Of course, there are also those fantastic moments where the mothers glare at their pacing husbands and snap, “Would you stop moving? It’s giving me a headache!”

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