No matter how ‘gender fluid’ we become, there is one undertaking that only a woman can experience: that of giving birth. In my naivety, I confess, prior to my first-born landing on planet earth, I was of the mindset that it ‘can’t be all that bad’ and that childbirth was wrongly used as a pain barometer stick for women to beat their men about with. All fathers will have heard, after their latest DIY mishap, with blood flowing and protestations about the pain, the immortal line, ‘you should try childbirth!’ Having now taken a first-row seat twice during the event, I hang my head in shame as to how wrong I was in my initial summation. In less than grandiose terms, it reminded me of trying to push a watermelon through a drainpipe.

No matter what colour you paint the spare room or the tonnes of needless appendage you are fooled into buying as a prospective parent, nothing can truly prepare you for the addition of a real-life mini human to the household. We tried to be prepared by attending antenatal classes as my wife, being a bit of an earth mother, quite fancied a water birth. We went to one session only before she banned my future attendance. When presented with a net used to ‘extrapolate faeces’ from the surface of the pool, I jokingly asked if I could borrow it next time I cleaned the goldfish out and discovered that childbirth centres are not stand-up venues. I also, after watching the birth video, asked if we had to have the video soundtrack of Robbie Williams' Angels playing during the birthing process (apparently not), prior to capping it off by asking a midwife sitting near us when she was due? A further 30 minutes was spent ‘bonding’ with a fellow prospective father when the conversation kept reverting back to his areas of expertise: mung beans and the digestive system. After that episode we decided to step over the tumbleweed on the way out and to ‘wing it’ without mung beans or fishing nets.

I spent many hours attempting to suss out how to use the ‘nappy wrapper’ and baby sling, while my wife went calmly about her business, only moaning sporadically about the morning sickness. Financial concerns were the norm, as she ate her body weight in Cadbury's Dairy Milk during the latter months of the pregnancy. Upon the due date I had been at work all day and baby decided to commence her arrival at around midnight, eventually being born at 5am. It is not often I am speechless, but seeing the absolute carnage was an eye opener, which was just what I needed after the sleep deprivation. Johnny Mathis, in his seminal hit, When a Child is Born, wrote ‘a silent wish sails the seven seas, the winds of change whisper in the trees’. All I can say is that Mr Mathis has never sat in on a childbirth. The sounds were those of groans followed by desperate cries for more drugs and it was as if my wife had suddenly turned into Zammo. Epidurals, gas and other such medicinal goodies were not administered for pleasure, but necessity, as my wife gripped my hand and dug her fingernails into my palms, although this was not taken as a token of her affection.

The longed-for baby finally arrived and I couldn’t help thinking that, if that was a guy giving new life, they would have passed out through the pain. It looked agonising and the recovery time was astounding: she held Isabel within a minute of the birth and then found the strength to walk unaided to the car later that night and commence the breast feeding. She even found time to scold me for falling asleep in her hospital bed while she had a bath, before being evicted by a maternity nurse wearing nothing but Flintstone boxers (me, not her).

Yes girls, it looks bloody painful and I don’t believe a bloke could handle that level of discomfort: for that you have my ultimate respect. Just one request though: Giving birth does not give you carte blanche to watch every episode of One Born Every Minute without protestation, especially when the Merseyside derby is on Sky Sports. Still it’s a small price to pay I guess, despite women being seemingly obsessed with watching others relive their ultimate moment of pain, yet finest life-defining victory.

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher who lives in London Colney