Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Immaculate Conception

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Immaculate Conception

Article excerpt

This is probably my final column as a non-dad. Any day now, my wife will give birth to our first child. Her waters will break in a dramatic fashion, most likely as she's walking around the supermarket. Events will then proceed at an unstoppable pace until she's lying on her back on a hospital bed. Doctors will monitor her constantly, checking figures on screens and noting them down on clipboards. When the baby emerges, he will be clean and presentable, exactly like a doll. Then we'll go home-having fitted the car seat with no difficulties at all-and settle into a life of immaculate domestic cosiness.

At least, that's what I understand happens from the times I've seen childbirth depicted on TV and in films. But over the course of our antenatal classes, given by a genial, no-nonsense midwife called Viv who says things like "Can someone pass me my woolly model of the womb?", I've come to realise how unreliable nearly all those accounts have been.

I know, I know-television industry in "not entirely faithful to reality" shocker! But all the same, did you know that many women's waters don't break till they are in hospital? Or that lying on your back is now thought to be a difficult position to give birth in, and a huge number of women choose to hang on to a rope, or immerse themselves in water? And that babies normally arrive an alarming colour and covered in all sorts of unsightly gunk? And that they're really small and can't do a bloody thing for themselves and don't even have any money on them? …

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