Labour Lessons: Four Ladies, Four Men, Two Midwives and a Cheese Board

The week before last, we three ladies spent an evening with a cheese board, a knitted boob, and a pair of forceps. Not exactly the ingredients for an orthodox Monday evening.

I should probably provide a little context. The three of us are totally blessed in that Fats’ mum is a retired midwife. I say retired loosely, because having us three to contend with is pretty much a full-time job for her again. Sorry Carol. I’ve known Carol as my BFF’s mum for the past eighteen years and she’s as fabulous as they come. Fab-u-lous. Carol has always been a huge blessing in my life, but never more than she is now, as a constant source of support and advice.

One of Carol’s closest friends, Marie, is still a practising midwife, and the two of them kindly offered to spend an evening talking us three ladies and the three dads-to-be through the three (yes, three, because apparently one isn’t enough) stages of labour.

The three men, looking unsurprisingly chirpy during labour lessons

The three men, looking unsurprisingly chirpy during labour lessons

We were joined by two others who absolutely deserve an introduction to the blog. Fats’ dad, Chris, who is – along with my dad, of course –the best dad in the world. Chris is interested in everyone and everything, and labour is no exception – he sat right at the front of the ‘class’, asking questions and getting involved.

Our other ‘guest’ was Jen. Now, this blog could just as easily be called, ‘four ladies and three babies’ because Jen is – and will be – involved every step of the way. Without Jen, we’re like Take That without Robbie, or the Spice Girls without Geri. Jen is Scouse’s sister, and my sister-in-law (whilst she’s not actually married to my brother, Samuel, they’ve been together for eleven years and she is as much a Dallaway as I am), and an absolute diamond. Her and Samuel will become Aunty Jen and Uncle Sam twice in the space of six weeks, and she’s already talking about investing in a travel cot for her flat. Not quite enamoured by the lure of a labour lesson, the promise of a cheese board was enough bait to get Jen hook, line and sinker. Give Jen a brie, and she’ll do anything you ask.

The first thing we did was split into boy and girl teams for a game where we had to group various stages of labour into three different categories: Stay at home, call a midwife, go to hospital. As predicted, Fats got mega competitive, but perhaps less predictable was Philpott’s exceptional performance. Whilst the rest of us didn’t think twice about putting ‘The baby’s head is starting to come out’ in the ‘Go to Hospital’ category, Philpott was the only one who correctly reasoned that in that situation, it would be too late for the hospital journey and that it would be better to stay home and call for help. Perhaps it’s his emergency services training, or perhaps he’d done his homework, but either way, he gained major points for this.

Key learnings from this game:

  • You should stay at home as long as you possibly can once contractions have started.
  • You can drive in the bus lane if you’re in labour
  • There are three stages of labour: Contractions; pushing baby out; delivering the placenta
  • The ‘mucus plug’ is perhaps the most disturbing thing, like, ever
  • Tearing you-know-where is almost inevitable for first-time mums. Great.
  • Despite what we all learnt from Rachel in Friends, the average woman dilates at approximately 1cm per hour
  • Labour will not, I repeat, will not, be fun

The second part of the evening was all about props. This was a lot less fun, and a lot more alarming, than it sounds. With the exception of a knitted boob, the rest of the props were certainly more sinister. As Marie pulled more and more labour ‘tools’ out, the three of us turned paler and paler.

Stel is petrified of giving birth. Seriously petrified. Her interest in tools goes no further than how quickly she can be given an epidural. And as Marie produced forceps, ventouse (renamed, by us, as the Von Trapp family) and various other torturous devices, an epidural started to sound pretty damn good to me, too. I was just about holding it together. That is, until the scissors were produced.

I could just about cope with the scissors under the false and naive illusion that their purpose was to cut the cord. But when Marie revealed their actual purpose, I lost the power of speech. If the baby’s head is literally too big, the aforementioned scissors would be used to cut you. Cut you, as in butcher. The boys affectionately named the scissors ‘vagi-snip’. Remember those points that Philpott got earlier in the night, well he lost those again with the vagi-snip gag.

At some point during the props session, Fats went into what can only be described as a state of shock. “Adam, how are we going to pay for parking when I’m in labour?” she asked. “What if we don’t have enough change?”. This is what the sight of forceps and vagi-snip can do to a girl…Drive her to a panic that transcends all reasonable concerns and lands transfixed on the mundane issue of NHS parking charges. “It will be OK Fats,” I said, “we can start collecting loose change.”

Next up was pain relief. Stel definitely perked up for this section of the evening. I took a very well-timed toilet break when an alternative method of pain relief was discussed. Fats and Stel deemed that I “wasn’t ready” to hear about it, and I remain in the dark. Although from the look on their faces when I returned, it wasn’t pretty.

The final section of the evening was all about the cheese board. Jen, who had started the evening by making cheeky jokes, and had quickly evolved into stunned silence as the class got going, came into her own with the arrival of the cheese board. The mature cheddar just about managed to recover my appetite after it had gone temporarily MIA somewhere between the Van Trapp family and the scissors.

Despite the horrifying props and facts presented during the evening, there was a lot of laughter and a lot of learning.  Marie and Carol delivered the realities of labour in a candid yet humorous way, and whilst 90% of me was left with nightmares about the scissors, the remaining 10% of me bubbled with excitement. If women endure all of that and still go on to do it all again, the reward at the end of labour must be really something special. Little Tiny Treacle, Little Baby Bean and Baby Stel Pot will undoubtedly be that something special.

The next day, Jen sent us all a photo of herself in the family planning clinic picking up some more pills. “Save yourself Jen, it’s too late for us, but not for you” we’d said the night before. And she was doing just that. That’s the power of the vagi-snip; the very best contraception there is.

Jen, saving herself.

Jen, saving herself.

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