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Becoming a Dad: Expectation vs. Reality

They say ignorance is bliss but we beg to differ when it comes to dads-to-be. Mothers have all the work in the delivery room but it’s important for fathers to be prepared. After all, fathers have to be the best support system in the delivery room. Matt Coyne, author of MAN VS. BABY, shares what to expect when it comes to the labor ward.

There are two types of parent-to-be. There are those who want to be informed, to be made fully aware of the brutal realities of labor. And then there are the rest of us, who spend nine months in denial, preferring to remain blissfully ignorant about the truth of what is to come. It’s easy to tell which sort of expectant parent you are because these two groups neatly divide, along the same lines, into those who choose to watch the TV show One Born Every Minute and those who deliberately avoid watching the TV show One Born Every Minute. I was in the latter group. I did try to watch one episode, but twenty seconds was all I could manage. I was left with one image carved into my brain: it was of a woman who looked like she was boiling, bent double and straining so hard that her forehead resembled a Klingon’s ball-sack. I flipped the channel and watched Beachfront Bargain Hunt.

Apart from the occasional reality TV show, the vast majority of screen depictions of childbirth are complete bullshit, and as a consequence we all wander into the labor ward with a hopelessly skewed view of what the whole thing will be like.

Take something as simple as the position in which women give birth: every film and sitcom I have ever seen has the woman lying on her back throughout labor, legs akimbo, as if she plans to fire the baby out of her primed vagina-cannon. But, apparently, it is much more comfortable to be in different positions.

So, labor suites aren’t how they are depicted either: they don’t just consist of a hospital bed and beeping machines. More often, they have beanbags and yoga balls, sometimes even a small pool and ropes hanging from the ceiling. They resemble less a hospital room and more an obstacle course, or one of those wacky warehouse play-areas attached to family pubs in the UK for the offspring of piss-heads.

Far from the simple clinical environments we’re used to seeing, the modern delivery room has dimmed lighting, a CD player, colorful pictures, a shower, and a place to make tea. If you include the screaming next door and crappy Wi-Fi, it’s pretty much the same as staying in a Travelodge. The only difference is that there’s no minibar and the previous guest hasn’t wiped his ass on the towels.

Even screen depictions of how a woman goes into labor are a continent adrift from reality: in film and TV, a woman’s waters break with no warning. A torrent is unleashed with enough ferocity to wash away bystanders and nearby cars and bridges, and babies are often born during the race to the hospital. In truth, waters don’t always break, and labor usually takes ages. You might be tempted to call for a police escort or to speed to the hospital like you’re in Cannonball Run, but unless you can see a head or a foot, the chances are you will be parked in the hospital for at least a day before anything really starts to happen. While a second or third child tends to come quite quickly, the first feels like it’s going to take so long he’s going to come out walking and keen to crack on with his SATs.

Here’s what your should squeeze in before the birth of your baby!

Excerpted from Man vs. Baby by Matt Coyne. Copyright © 2018 by Matt Coyne. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

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