Unlike most dads, I’m a full-time dad. Yes, you guessed it. The wife is the one with a career and as for me, let’s just say I have the luxury of working whenever I want (and I make more money too). You can say that I have what most adults crave and yearn for these days – freedom. But this luxury and freedom also meant that I didn’t have any reason to say to my wife, “No, I don’t want to be there when our baby comes out.”
It’s not that I didn’t want to be there. I actually wanted to be there and I was looking forward to it. But I also didn’t really have a choice. You see, my father wasn’t there when I was born. He was so overwhelmed by the whole thing that he accidentally reported to work after dropping off my mother at the hospital. By the time he had realized what he had done, I had already taken my first gulp of sanitized hospital air.
It’s not that my dad isn’t a noble man. He is. It’s not that my dad is “afraid of blood”. Come on. It was because, back in the day, it wasn’t an obligation for a dad to be in the delivery room to welcome his newborn. A dutiful dad or husband wasn’t and shouldn’t be judged by whether he was there. Besides, it was a working day and someone had to pay the hospital bills.
If I may add, history was on my father’s side. I’m sure you’ve seen it on television. You know those period TVB dramas where the pregnant wife is bawling in between contractions while the husband waits nervously for the midwife to turn up? This usually happens at some old wooden shack in the middle of nowhere. When the midwife turns up, the father is ordered out of the house to “boil some water” – God knows why.
While this father attends to a pointless pot of water on a brick stove, the midwife attends to the mother. Then, in every well-written Chinese drama script, we suddenly hear the cries of a newborn son of Mao. Elated, the father leaves his boiling station to greet the baby. The scene ends with the water boiling over and extinguishing the flames beneath it with the blurry silhouette of the new happy family in the background before fading to black.
Fast forward to today, it is the “in thing” to be next to your wife while she goes through labour. What could be a better ego booster than to tell everyone you know that you were there, and to have earned the right to update your Facebook status that you’ve witnessed the birth of your own child? Nothing beats the beauty of this moment, right?
Right after agreeing to be in the delivery room, I imagined myself tightly gripping my wife’s hands, reminding her to breathe and occasionally wiping off her sweat. I can even almost hear the cries of my soon-to-be-born baby. The scene ends with our newborn in our arms and me softly telling my wife, “He has your eyes.” At least, that’s what I thought.
After seeing the actual scene unfold before me, I’ll never forget the images of my wife with legs wedged apart by castors, her face as red as the blood that is spewing out the other end, and delivery nurses as well as her gynae taking turns to shove their hands (one at a time) into my wife’s vajayjay before saying those few reassuring words that I, as Chinese boy, have been wanting to hear all my life – “Wah, down there getting bigger ah?”
Besides, I don’t even know why I was there. I was totally useless! I didn’t even hold my wife’s hands. The metal bar handles on her delivery bed did the job for me. I didn’t have the chance to offer any encouragement words to her. Every time I tried to, she snapped back at me with her best Satan impersonation – “JUST SHUT THE F*** UP!” The only thing I managed to do was to take tonnes of photos that weren’t Instagram-friendly.
What I’m trying to get at is that fathers-to-be should be given the right decide whether they really need to be there. Is it really necessary? Nobody cares about how we fathers feel after the ordeal. Sorry, experience.
So, now that you, O’ father-to-be, have read all that, I suggest you really think things through. The urban jargon “mind-f***ed” does not even come close to how I felt after that traumatic ordeal. (Sorry, beautiful experience).
But I guess I got it worse than most. My wife works at the hospital and her boss, her MALE boss, is the one who delivered our lovely baby! Heck, I can’t even bring myself shake his hands now that I know where his fingers have been! Thankfully, certain medical fees were waived, so…
Phoon Chi Ho is part-time comedian, full-time father. For comedic inspiration, he used to wait for Malaysia making the wrong headlines or scandals to happen. Now he just has to wait for himself to do something stupid.