Is childbirth the worst pain ever? It’s a bit like an orgasm, but rather than a wave of pleasure, all your insides are conspiring to catapult themselves through your vagina in an act of self-disembowelment. I tried to convey to my partner just how much agony I was in during labour – by shouting, crying and actual mooing – but he’ll never understand how excruciating contractions can be. So when he has an episode of ‘Man Pain’, it’s fair to say he gets zero sympathy from me.
One evening, we were both in the bathroom as Olivia and Mia were having their nightly dip. Rebellious Dad was kneeling beside the bath on ‘poo watch’, while I sat on the throne. Without warning, Daddy suddenly started gasping and grimacing, panting for breath and gripping the side of the bath.
“What is it?” I asked in alarm as he stood up, hunched over and began groaning. “Shall I call an ambulance? Are you having a stroke? Oh my God, it’s a stroke!” I desperately tried to remember the advert with the mum off the Royle Family and her lopsided face on fire to remember what I should do.
By now his face had gone red and he was breathing heavily. “What’s wrong with Daddy?” asked Olivia as she began to cry.
“It’s… pins.. and needles..” he grunted through gritted teeth. Pins and needles? Pins and f*cking NEEDLES?!!!
I let out an enormous snort and rolled my eyes in disgust. “What?” he asked, staggering about and rubbing his legs. “Just remembering childbirth”, I spat. “Now MAN UP for f*ck’s sake!”
What is it with men and their low pain thresholds? Pulling of their chest or leg hair will elicit a howl of distress. A simple bout of norovirus, through which a mum will carry on the school run in between puking and running to the toilet, will see a man missing in action for a whole day, groaning about stomach cramps and absolving himself of all duties. Is it that we women have just got used to pain? With our waxing, plucking, and excruciating period cramps, it seems that pain is something we have simply learned to live with.
There’s no glory in suffering for the sake of it though. When giving birth to my first daughter Olivia, I managed to consume the entire menu of drugs available during my 23 hour labour, culminating in an epidural and an assisted delivery. Olivia’s head was bent onto her shoulder in such a position that I could never have pushed her out naturally and I count myself lucky not have had an emergency C section. By contrast my second baby, Mia, was born in half an hour with only gas and air and the offer of two paracetamol. Yes paracetamol. For second-stage contractions. How I laughed when the midwife offered them! (Sorry Ruth).
Yes, I’m a firm believer in taking whatever pain relief is available. Why, only yesterday I was standing outside Tesco Express at 9am, washing Nurofen down with Lucozade in a vain attempt to ward off a migraine. I then looked up to see three of the perfectly groomed school mums sitting in Starbucks, watching me open-mouthed in horror through the window. “Morning!” I mimed cheerily, swigging my Lucozade as Mia waved her Wotsits at them from the buggy. Her Daddy, on the other hand, seem allergic to taking any forms of pain relief, believing it’s more manly to solider on with his headache/toothache/man-flu while letting everyone know just how much he is suffering.
So, as we’re crowning a baby while suffering a third-degree tear, how can we make men understand our pain? The Chinese have the answer, with a wonderful labour-pain simulator they’ve invented. The machine gives volunteers a series of electric shocks which help to mimic contractions. Watching this video of the men writhing in agony while their partners giggle gives me a certain amount of sadistic satisfaction, but in my opinion the simulator does not go far enough.
For a more realistic birthing experience, I would add some strong laxatives, something to make the man vomit and an internal examination while a gaggle of medical students watch, ask questions and ask if they can poke their hand up too. Afterwards I would keep him awake for 48 hours listening to a baby crying while someone rubbed sandpaper on his nipples.
Harsh? Maybe. But then remind yourself that it’s NOTHING compared to the pain and indignity you experienced in childbirth, or at your last smear test with your feet in stirrups, or when trying to suckle a newborn whose teeth were clamped so hard on your nipples that they bled.
In fact, so splendid are women at dealing with pain, we should lobby for a change in the urban dictionary. The saying should no longer be Man Up, but Woman Up. Because if you can take it like a woman, you are made of stern stuff indeed.
©Rebellious Mum 2016
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