I emerged from our second antenatal class a weakened and queasened man. These medical preparations should come with health warnings.
This week was the Big One: labour and birth, in infinite detail. My eyes were certainly opened and then watered. So naïve was I prior to the class that I thought the standard delivery method was lying on the back, legs akimbo but chastely covered in a pale green plastic sheet, pushing. Not a bit of it. That’s just in the movies, apparently. No, these days the lady is expected to squeeze out the sprog whilst wallowing walrus-like in a paddling pool, or bouncing about on a gym ball (toning the abs at the same time). Or possibly riding a horse and using her mobile to broadcast the latest developments via Twitter.
Alternatively she can stand and embrace her Birthing Partner in the Last Dance of the Disco method, rotating slowly about the room and timing her contractions to the romantic rhythms of Lady in Red. Yes, it’s a brave new world wot Brit Jnr will enter, and no mistake.
Odd business, being a Birthing Partner. The seven men in the class are all clearly Dads. Dads are encouraged to go to these things and to take as much part as possible, in this brave new world. But when we Dads get to the classes, we find that the midwife has been told to unDadify us. We are Birthing Partners, because of course we might be lesbians or colleagues or something and thus take offence at being referred to as 'fathers'. And then the Mums are advised that Dads are often pretty crap at being Birthing Partners anyway because we can't hack it when our ladies are in pain and we start fights with doctors and what have you, so it's generally advisable to hand over the role to Grandma. But we are invited to drive the car to the hospital, provide snacks, pay the child's university fees etc.
Thus the NHS simultaneously pulls us in and pushes us away. Fortunately, we Dads are used to that sort of thing. If we couldn't deal with self-conflicting instructions and irrational mixed messages we'd never have managed to attain Dad status in the first place...