1. Two weeks away from your due date you are on high alert. You have checked the main road, air and sea routes to the hospital. This could happen at any moment.
2. As in, ANY moment.
This is especially difficult if you are for whatever reason separated from your partner: “WHAT IF SHE’S HAVING A BABY IN A LIFT SOMEWHERE SHIT SHIT SHIT…”
3. Your several bags are constantly packed to leave at a moment’s notice. In them are snacks (that you won’t eat), a birth plan (which you won’t read) and, weirdly, baby clothes that you will need.
4. In reality of course, nothing dramatic happens. Instead there’s a whole bunch of waiting and waiting.
Only five percent of babies arrive on their due date. Many first babies are fashionably late. All of them are unpredictable.
5. And to make it harder, when something does finally happen, no one tells you when to go to the hospital.
Having a contraction doesn’t mean you’re in labour. Waters breaking? Nope, still not in labour. If you go to the hospital at this point, they will send you right back out the door. Lots of strong contractions (three in 10 minutes that last at least 60 seconds), then, yes, get yourself to hospital unless you want to deliver a baby on your kitchen floor.
6. And if you want to get geeky about timing contractions, there is an app for that. In fact there are several.
Keeping an eye on contraction times is one of the few useful things men can actually do to elevate themselves from pointless male appendages.
7. You have to be very careful while driving a woman in labour to hospital.
8. So we’re at hospital, we’re having a baby right? WRONG. Welcome to many more hours of waiting, contracting, sitting, standing, swaying, moaning, groaning, vomiting and screaming.
9. But before long you are forced to watch the woman you love in the most excruciating pain. Which isn’t very enjoyable to say the least.
Contractions start as little, manageable bursts but then get longer and stronger. And, it would seem, somewhat less manageable.
10. Your partner will be making noises by this point that neither you or her thought possible.
You may never look at her the same way. In a good way.
11. It turns out hand-holding and gentle encouragement at this stage is actually quite helpful. Thankfully, you have a job to do and are not just a redundant male bystander.
Brow mopping is handy too.
12. Your baby’s heartrate - and mum’s - is monitored the whole time, so that’s reassuring.
13. But the heart rate sometimes goes down, which makes you panic slightly and press the big red panic button, only for a busy midwife to come in and turn the alarm and tell you to stop stressing.
14. You may or may not, amid the chaos, remark that the gas and air your partner uses to help with the pain lowers her voice, making her sound not unlike Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters II.
15. After a few hours of this, you’re both tired beyond exhaustion (OK, her maybe a little bit more so).
16. Things can progress very quickly. When’s it time to meet your baby you have to enter The Birthing Room. Your first thought: “What the HELL are all those machines for?”
Also, in the case of some kind of medical intervention: “WTF are all these people doing in here?!”
17. THE BABY IS COMING! DON’T FAINT DON’T FAINT DON’T FAINT DON’T FAINT DON’T FAINT DON’T FAINT DON’T FAINT DON’T FAINT DON’T FAINT DON’T FAINT.
But don’t worry, if you do faint (hardly anyone does), the midwives will just put a pillow on the floor for you and get on with the job in hand.
18. Your baby arrives. You are in floods of tears blubbering at the sheer weight of what just happened.
You also have no idea what happens now. Can you pick him up? What if you break him, he’s so small.
19. Can’t. Stop. Crying.
20. Then they weigh her / him and your reaction is either OMG IT’S A WHOPPER or OMG IT’S TINY WHAT WENT WRONG?!
21. At this point, your partner is being stitched up - quite literally - by doctors. When we said recently “don’t Google episiotomy” if you’re squeamish or you’re not fully prepared to have kids, we really meant it.
You don’t have to watch this bit. You can look after the baby.