For all the whining I’ve done about being up the duff, I’ve barely given any column inches to the other person involved. No, not the baby (still four-ish more glorious child-free weeks to go!) – rather my husband, my baby daddy.
With just weeks to go before I leave work and then give birth (supposedly on Friday 13th, luckily I'm not superstitious) I’m noticing more and more how differently we’re both approaching the birth of our firstborn.
For starters: I’ve made endless lists with titles like “baby s**t” – where I’ve meticulously colour-coded what we have and haven’t yet bought. I’m the one who has ordered the baby wipes and nappies from Sainsbury’s; I’ve ordered what looks like most of Milton Keynes’ Amazon depot and skimmed the Gina Ford book about sleep routines. (To my husband’s defence, he has put up the cot and the Babyzen Yoyo pram… when I asked him to.) Oh, and I’ve arranged various dates for grandparents to look after our new-born son when we’re off getting trolleyed at friends’ weddings this summer.
By contrast, my husband gets an encouraging pat on the back when he simply volunteers that, “labour can last a long time” at a NCT class; all he got from me was an eyeroll.
Maybe we’re approaching the impending life change differently, or maybe it’s just that women are conditioned to carry the emotional weight of the pregnancy and birth without making a fuss. It struck me on a recent visit to the labour ward – more bleeding, more panic from midwives, more jabs of anti-D to stop my negative blood mixing with the baby’s positive blood – that I’d spent hours, even days, of my life in this waiting room whereas he’s still never seen the inside of the hospital where we’ll welcome our baby son. That isn’t his fault, necessarily; it’s just an observation.
We’re also a mixed-race couple with differing religious views. As a result, we’re also coming up against some of life’s Big Issues that we have ignored until now – despite getting married nearly four years ago. The first one: do we christen our child? We can’t agree. He (Christian) isn’t keen because he thinks I’ll be uncomfortable swearing to bring up our child according to God's word; I (agnostic) don’t really mind because it feels like a good celebration and an excuse to get everybody together. We’ve come to a compromise for now: my husband will take the baby to church every now and again – I’ve agreed purely so I can be left to read the Sunday papers in peace – and the kid can decide when he’s old enough which religion, if any, he wants to join.
Then there’s the name. We’re sorted for his first name – we’ve gone for a classic biblical one as it happens – but the middle name, which is allowed to be a bit wackier, is harder. I want something that fuses our respective heritages (so, India and...Essex), while my husband, the cryptocurrency nerd, is leaning towards Satoshi, as in Nakamoto, creator of bitcoin. Er, no?
And how to bring up the thing? Do we get into a draconian feeding and sleeping routine from birth, sacrificing our health and happiness in the process; or go down the suck-it-and-see route, ditching the pram outside the nearest pub and forcing the kid to toughen up while we get on with our lives? We’re somewhere in between. I don’t think we’ll ever have all the answers.
While I’m still not excited about the Sisyphean task of having a baby in a mere few weeks, at quitting work and travel for 10 (10!) months, at the idea of everything Down Below getting stretched like carpaccio of beef, my husband is (about the former, at least). In my happy child-free heart I’ll admit there is something nice about seeing your partner excited about something you’re doing together.
There is at least one detail about the birth we can agree on. I've jettisoned any formal birth plan while at the hospital (I just want the baby out in the easiest, quickest and most pain-free way – which will likely involve a lot of drugs). We do have one plan of sorts though: we plan to stop for a pint at the pub opposite the hospital I’m booked at. Because if you can’t justify a trip to the local when in labour – when can you?