Most people pick pets over their partners according to one recent study, and we can’t say we’re that shocked. If the two don’t get along, you’re more likely to ditch your lover in favour of your fur baby. And who’s to judge? The study also found that most of the participants admitted that their pet smelt better than their other half’s breath. Delightful.
So it makes sense that most people who own a dog kiss their pet pooch more than their partner, and new research proves this to be true.
Pet food company Riley Organics conducted a survey and found that 52% of US dog owners kiss their doggo more than their other half. The same amount of people admitted that they prefer to sleep with their hound, too.
Science does say it’s better to sleep next to a dog than a human, with research finding that those who slept next to their pooch reported a better, more restful sleep than those who snoozed next to another animal or person. Why? Because when we snuggle up with dogs we experience feelings of comfort and security.
However, another study found that sleeping next to your dog can stop you from getting the recommended eight hours kip and should only happen ‘if the mental health benefits outweigh the real risks associated with sleep loss.’
And our love for our pets knows no bounds. No, seriously. The majority of people would pick their pet over their partner according to new research.
A study by Mattress Online found that 64% of people are more likely to choose their dog/cat/hamster over their significant other if the two don’t get along.
But for those of you who might be in a relationship with someone that falls into the above category, 80% of participants said that having an animal actually strengthened their relationship and communication and reduced stress levels. So it’s not all bad.
Slightly more surprising (maybe?) is the fact that half of those involved in the research admitted that they’d let their pet interrupt sex, and most of those surveyed said that their pet smelt better than their other half’s breath. Lovely.
But have you ever wondered just how polite we are as a nation? You’re probably guilty of saying sorry at least once a day – whether it’s because you’ve genuinely done something wrong or because someone else has bumped into you. It’s a reflex reaction, right?
You’ll be shocked when you realise just how many times a day we apologise.
A new study commissioned by chocolate biscuit bar PiCKUP! found that 88% of us regularly say sorry for things that aren’t their fault, and the average Brit apologises eight times a day, amounting to 4,380 times a year.
The research showed that 57% of us say sorry when someone bumps into them, and a third say it when asking a colleague to do something at work. Astonishingly, 7% of those involved in the study admitted that they apologised when someone else bumped or crashed into their car.
And when we don’t say sorry, others are deeply offended. More than 8 out of 10 admit they’ve been furious when someone hasn’t apologised for something they’ve done wrong.
But being too polite can be irritating to some, with 77% of Brits claiming that those who are too well-mannered are taken advantage of – and we’re not happy when it comes to queue hopping, with around 7 in 10 of us complaining if someone jumps the line.
When it comes to pay rises, though, we’re less vocal with 77% of us unwilling to ask for more money at work.
When it comes to online dating sites and sex apps, the hardest part is putting together a profile. From picking the photos to writing a witty bio, it takes time and energy to make sure it reflects who you really are – and that’s before you’ve even started swiping.
But what makes a ‘good’ profile? Is there such a thing? We know that these are the most swiped right jobs on dating apps, and that including this doubles your chances of getting a match, but according to new research there are some things that ruin our chances of finding love/lust/someone to share a takeaway with.
A survey by Carphone Warehouse asked 1,000 people about their dating app habits and found that 8 in 10 people swiped left if there was an emoji in someone’s bio, and 87% weren’t interested if the pictures featured the dog tongue or flower crown filters.
However, the research also found that there are some pretty clear turn offs when it comes to dating profiles. The biggest no-nos include:
Biggest Dating App Turn Offs
Hiding your face
Making dirty jokes
Mentioning sexual prowess
Pouting and gym selfies
An obvious photo filter
Using lots of emojis
Photo with someone attractive of the same sex
But it also found that these things are most likely to get you matches:
Biggest Dating App Turn Ons
Photos with pets
Show off tattoos
Smile in your photo
Make a joke
Link to social media
Keep the bio short
Specify your height
It also reveals the secret to a good bio is being self-deprecating, and that if you’re struggling to think of what to say in your initial message dating expert James Preece suggests doing one of these four things:
Ask a question about their profile to show you’ve read it.
Ask about something interesting in their photos.
Remember that the most beautiful word of all is their name; use that to make a deep connection.
It’s fine to be a bit cheeky and show your sense of humour – but don’t be rude!
But where does it happen the most? One city that has been named as the cheating capital of the UK (lovely) and the results have come from Ashley Madison, a dating website for married people.
From a list of the 15 UK cities, Portsmouth has come out on top based on signup data per capital from the summer of 2018 from 21st June to 22nd September of the same year.
Other cities in the top ten include Coventry, Leicester and London.
The full list is as follows:
Christoph Kraemer, Managing Director Europe for Ashley Madison says: ‘While most would assume that bigger cities produce more cheaters per capita, this data shows us what we were already aware of; infidelity lives everywhere.’
Probably not helped by cheating sites, but okay.
He continued: ‘Seeing a place like Portsmouth that’s more well known for being the birthplace of Charles Dickens than its nightlife, beat out a fast-paced and transient locale like London, just reinforces that cheating isn’t contingent on a big population; it happens in cities big and small.’
First dates are awkward approximately 99% of the time. Whether they’re a blind date set up by friends of friends, a hook-up from a sex app or someone who you randomly exchanged numbers with on the tube (does that really happen in real life?) the fact of the matter is that when you go on a first date you’re probably bit nervous, excited and hopeful that you’ll have things to talk about.
And while there are plenty of experts out there offering all sorts of advice – from this non-negotiable first date question to how to spot red flags – one pro suggests that you should talk about something that might make some people uncomfortable.
The age old question has been answered. Is it a good idea to talk about your exes on a first date? Apparently, yes, it is.
Relationship expert, James Preece, claims that warning bells shouldn’t start ringing if your date tells you about their previous relationships.
Speaking to the Independent, he said: ‘If you can joke about the situation, it’s a clear sign you are ready to move on.’
Madeleine Mason added: ‘There is no harm in swapping stories and if the relationships have been significant; the experiences from there can be valuable in getting to know someone.’
However, one thing to watch out for is your date’s reaction to your tales of lovers past.
‘If your date is jealous of you simply having a healthy relationship history, it’s a red flag which is better to see sooner rather than later,’ Madeleine continues.
Well, these experts know what they’re talking about.
Time to take the plunge and get chatting about your most recent ghoster?
What motivates a woman to choose, and stay in, an open relationship? Three women tell Gabrielle Fernie why they turned their backs on monogamy
‘I’m happy that she’s sleeping with my husband’
Hannah Collins, 31, works in the arts industry. She identifies as queer and polyamorous. She’s been with her partner James, who is also dating Rae, for 16 years.
‘For many people, my relationship is their worst nightmare, but theirs is mine. We only get one life and I’m not trying to be something I’m not. That’s pretty empowering.
‘My partner James and I have always been “open”. We speak about people we like, but we’d never “cheat” on each other without discussing a sexual encounter first. Strangely, it was getting married that was the turning point for us. We took the decision to formalise our relationship with a wedding because we knew we were life partners. But a few months in, I was struggling with the fact that, despite being happy and in love, I was also thinking, “I don’t think I can be with one person forever.”
‘I shared my feelings with James and he looked relieved − he felt the same. What followed was an honest discussion about where we wanted our relationship to go and we started dating other people about a year into our marriage. To start with, we dated girls who we met on apps together. We met Rae on an app called Feeld. It’s mainly for couples looking to meet another girl – for dating or sometimes for sex. We were looking for someone to get to know properly. We initially met up with Rae separately, and when I went for drinks with her in a bar in Camden, we ended up kissing. Then the three of us dated for about six months, sometimes together, other times in pairs. But as time went on, I could see feelings grow between James and Rae. They are very similar with shared interests and had a strong connection from the start. In contrast, I felt more casual about Rae. I began another relationship with my current boyfriend, Arron*, which was intense. I said to James and Rae, “I think it’s better for me to step out and let you guys continue as a two because I think this is wonderful”. There’s a great buzzword in the poly community called “compersion” – feeling happiness on someone else’s behalf. I felt that and love how happy she makes him. But he’s still my husband.
‘Arron and I have been together for a year now. He’s good friends with James and they hang out together. I sleep with them both and James is very supportive. Some poly couples have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, but we are honest with our feelings. We even like to have a gossip about the sex.
‘Is it possible to cheat in open relationships? Sure. If a partner didn’t communicate a situation to me first, that would be cheating. I don’t want children, but I don’t have a problem with the idea either. If a child grows up around people who love them, what’s the issue?’
Rae Campbell is 29 and works in healthcare. She identifies as queer and ‘solo poly’− living her life as an independent, single woman while still being in various relationships.
‘Unlike many people who are in poly relationships, I have always been poly and have never had a monogamous relationship. For me, polyamory is literally what it translates as: many loves. I believe that you can be in love with many people and treat all of those relationships as equal.
‘I currently have three people that I would class as a regular partner. My primary relationship is with James. From the outside, we look like a normal couple, except that he’s married to Hannah.
‘I know very few poly people who’d have handled that situation as well as Hannah did. We’d been dating as a three for a good few months, but the triangle was becoming unbalanced. James and I were developing a very strong connection, as we were able to see each other much more. Whereas Hannah and I were feeling this weird pressure for the two of us to be as into each other as James was.
‘We all sat down in a pub one evening and talked it out. I thought Hannah would suggest we all cool off and I’d be put to one side, but she said, “I think the two of you should prioritise this lovely thing you’re developing and I’ll be the one who steps back,” which stunned me. It was a true moment of someone being selfless for someone they love. I think that’s admirable.
‘Another of my partners is Arjun*, who I met online. We’ve been dating for a few months. He’s new to poly and comes from a really conservative Indian background, so he’s adjusting to how he wants to come out and what that will mean to his family and friends. I’ve also just started dating a girl called Robyn. She’s a lot of fun and we go on great dates together. The only limit to how many people you can date at once is time.
‘I once dated seven people, but it became a burden. Many dating apps comprise couples looking for “unicorns” − young, bisexual women who are happy to have threesomes with a heterosexual couple and be treated as a secondary partner. I’ve dated couples where you can’t be in the room with just the guy: the girlfriend is too scared you’ll steal him. Women often get a raw deal in poly relationships, just like normal ones. I once had a great relationship with a couple, but the girlfriend forced him to break up with me after a trivial argument. As a solo poly you’re vulnerable to the power imbalance of being a single person versus the primary relationship. That can be challenging. When I meet couples online, I ask if they’ve seen I’m poly on my profile. The guys often say, “Great, let’s go on a date.” They translate being poly as being easy, which is not the case at all.
‘People thought being poly was a phase for me, but it isn’t. My brain just cannot compute the idea of being with one person indefinitely.’
‘There will always be an element of jealousy, but you deal with it’
Vee Stiles, 34, is training as an equine sports massage therapist. She identifies as pansexual and polyamorous.
‘Coming out as poly has been relatively recent. I’d been trying to squash myself into traditional relationship roles most of my adult life. Five years ago, after coming out of an incredibly boring monogamous relationship, I decided that I was not going to get romantically involved with anyone, I was just going to keep things casual.
‘But I began to miss that emotional support and intimacy of a relationship. I started seeing Danny last year and we shocked each other when in our first conversation we both admitted we would prefer to try an open-style relationship. It was the first time for both of us. We are what we call “nesting partners”. This is our primary relationship: it’s strong, supportive and constant. When we sleep with other people it’s extracurricular.
‘Later this year, we’re looking to move in together and we’re serious about staying together long-term, so we’ve agreed that we can have sex with other people − just not in the place we call home. Our bed is our bed. It is where we go to sleep at night. If we broke that rule, we’d have to talk about it on a person-by-person basis and see how we felt about inviting them into our space.
‘We both identify as poly, but we have different preferences. My partner feels he may be more traditionally polyamorous, in terms of developing affectionate feelings for more than one person at a time. I’m more interested in sexual intimacy with both men and women, without developing deep feelings.
‘There’s always going to be jealousy there, and it’s manifested for Danny a couple of times. I recently had lunch with a male friend and Danny questioned me intensely afterwards: “Do you not want me there? Is it a date?” He later admitted he was jealous. It’s a very natural emotion and it’s important to talk about it.
‘There’s a lot that we want to explore together as a couple. The best thing about polyamory is knowing that even if one person breaks my heart, my world won’t crumble. I’ll always have somebody else I can turn to. The downside, however, is people judging you. One of my best friends once joked, “There’s a word for girls like you.” That was really hurtful, but it opened up a dialogue between us and now she’s incredibly supportive. All of my friends know that I’m poly. Most are in very traditional relationships and tell me they could never share partners. I understand that. A few years ago I probably would have said the same, but this is the choice that we have made.
‘I definitely feel less judged in the polyamorous community, and it’s so much easier to talk to Danny about things that I want to explore sexually, which I’ve struggled to do with other partners. Once you’ve said, “I want to have sex with other people” or “I want to fall in love with other people” there’s not much else that’s going to shock them.’
Language of love
Open: Where both partners have a desire for sexual experiences outside of that relationship.
Poly: Having intimate, loving relationships with multiple people.
Solo poly: Somebody who chooses polyamorous relationships, without the ‘goal’ of becoming a primary partner.
Pansexual: Not seeing gender as a deciding factor when choosing who to date.
Bisexual: People who are attracted to both men and women.
Demisexual: Somebody who always forms an emotional connection with someone before a sexual one.
It also helps in dating it seems, with dating service Zoosk via Mashable, discovering that quoting the HBO show right now could hep you get more matches.
Yes, really. After looking into 375,454 messages, they have found some interesting insights, and after seeing the results, you will want to pepper your profiles with GoT quotes whether you watch the show or not.
Charlotte Philby reports on a long-overdue movement seeking to open up the conversation about miscarriage at last
It may have happened to you, but chances are you haven’t shared your experience. So why are we still secretive about miscarriage?
I remember my first pregnancy as a series of fragmented snapshots: me, aged 25, on the floor of my bedroom, shaking with shock as I watched the second line emerge on the pregnancy test. A few weeks, later trying on maternity clothes in Topshop, smiling as I imagined my belly expanding over the following months. Later that afternoon, the feeling of liquid pouring down my leg as I walked home from the Tube station. That evening, the doctor’s mouth moving as she explained the procedure known as a ‘sweep’ – necessary to clear my womb of any debris from the foetus I had just lost – as swiftly and as unexpectedly as I had learned I was pregnant.
The experience of having a miscarriage at almost three months filled me with a deep well of sadness, a feeling that sat fundamentally at odds with the doctor’s reassurance that this was a common occurrence, and that, at this stage, the life inside me had been nothing more than a collection of cells. My sadness was unalleviated by the well-meaning close friends, who reassured me that one in four pregnancies fail to thrive and end in spontaneous miscarriage, or to hear that I was still just as likely to have a healthy baby one day. I had already redrawn my future with this particular baby at the centre of it. This was my baby. I had loved it, and now it was gone, and only a handful of people knew it had ever existed. I was heartbroken.
Perhaps one of the reasons why many of us simply don’t know what to say is because so little is known about why miscarriages happen, why they sometimes recur and, ultimately, how to prevent them. Beyond the stock advice (not to smoke, drink or eat certain foods), miscarriage and stillbirth have long been subjects that are rarely discussed or carry the stigma of failure, and yet, once you start to talk, it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t been affected. Julia Bueno, 46, is the author of The Brink Of Being: Talking About Miscarriage, one of a number of new books this year seeking to open up the conversation around baby loss, alongside online movements, including psychologist and maternal-health campaigner Dr Jessica Zucker’s social-media drive #IHadAMiscarriage, launched to raise awareness and create a community.
Bueno had her first miscarriage nearly 20 years ago, at 30, when she lost twins. She subsequently discovered she had an abnormal-shaped uterus, and now has two sons, aged nine and 16. Struck by the impact of her experience of recurrent miscarriage, Bueno retrained as a psychotherapist and support worker for The Miscarriage Association. ‘I had learned the value of talking to someone who was prepared to listen and be genuinely curious and understanding about my experiences, and I wanted to offer the same,’ she says.
In her book, she recalls the stories of the hundreds of women she has met over 15 years in consulting rooms. Her aim is to give a voice to those who remain unheard and bring to light the questions that their stories raise about how we as a society have traditionally discussed – or, rather, not discussed – the grief of baby loss. ‘Most miscarriages happen even before they have been revealed to the world, or even suggested by the hint of a pregnancy bump. This event can be devastating, physically painful, or both. And yet, despite its prevalence, we have long been unable to talk about miscarriage in any adequate breadth or depth,’ she says. ‘If we do, we tend to do so awkwardly, quickly, and in the most general terms. We squirm, we whisper, and we avoid asking questions. We just don’t understand the experience well enough, or the complex grief that can hit hard in its wake,’ she says. But sometimes, when baby loss occurs after birth, following months of anticipation, the conversation can be even harder.
Jennie Agg, 32, uses her blog, uterusmonologues.com, to document her personal life after the recurrent miscarriages she had between January 2017 and June 2018. On her Instagram, @jenniemonologues, she explains why she continues to write about the subject: ‘I write because miscarriage is sadly normal, but it is not yet normalised. If two years ago I’d had a baby instead of a miscarriage, and continued to post about it now, sharing my experience of motherhood, no one would think it remotely strange. Yet somehow writing and talking about the other side of that sliding-doors moment still feels like a statement.’
‘Miscarriage is sadly normal, but it is not yet normalised’
While miscarriage is most likely to happen in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, it can occur up until the 24-week point, when it is then deemed a stillbirth in the UK. There is, however, ongoing debate over the terminology. Last year, mother-of-three Kayleigh Parnham, who was carrying a baby she knew would die at birth, led a campaign for parents to be given the option of having a birth certificate for their dead babies, even if they were born before 24 weeks.
Freya Hodges*, 38, has had six miscarriages, one of which was at 20 weeks. She also has a seven-year-old son, who was born following a perfectly healthy pregnancy and home birth. ‘Miscarriage is a personal thing. Some people want to talk about it, but at first I didn’t. Losing a baby at 20 weeks is still called a miscarriage, albeit a “late-term miscarriage”, which in a way doesn’t matter, after all, it’s just a name, a label, but it felt like much more than a miscarriage to me,’ she says. ‘He was tiny, the size of my hand. We sat with him for a few hours before going home. We then had to arrange a funeral for him. I was all over the place, but eventually we had him cremated and now keep his ashes in a special basket at home. We also had a special brass leaf made, engraved with his name, Juno, which is at the crematorium.’
It has been two years since she said goodbye and, for Hodges, the healing process has been ongoing. ‘There are no answers for what happened. Our son had a post-mortem and they found nothing wrong. There was nothing wrong with me or my blood tests, there was nothing wrong with the placenta – it was just bad luck,’ she says. ‘I spent the first two months after his loss drinking every night; I constantly felt incredibly anxious. Time has helped, as well as forms of therapy, such as Reiki healing, reading, yoga, meditation and spending more time in nature. I have also started writing about it, as a way to work through my feelings and open up more.’
Elle Wright, 33, is the author of new memoir Ask Me His Name: Learning To Live And Laugh After The Loss Of My Baby. Wright’s son, Teddy, died three days after his birth, in 2016, of a very rare metabolic condition that meant everything was poisonous to him – even the air he was breathing. Having amassed a 106,000-strong following on her Instagram handle @feathering_the_empty_nest, Wright provides a safe space for women to converse about the life and death of babies at all stages. For her, the motivation to share her story was partly about being acknowledged as a mother. ‘As I watched mothers holding their babies and rocking them in their prams, I wanted to scream, “I’m a mother, too, you know,”’ she says.
I am hugely lucky to now have three children, aged eight, five and three. While there is the temptation to cite my own happy ending when consoling friends who continue to miscarry, I have learned to resist the temptation because their story isn’t mine, just as mine wasn’t anyone else’s. Opening up a dialogue doesn’t necessarily mean talking. The point surely is to listen, to give space to one another, to share, and to allow people to sit with their own stories whether they choose to talk or not; to know that their experience has not only been felt but heard and understood.
For support, go to miscarriageassociation.org.uk, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Seven Dads, including the comedian Russell Brand, get real about the panic, pain and euphoria of watching their partner give birth, and explain why counting down from ten while she’s pushing isn’t necessarily a good idea
‘I was blown away by the naivety of the whole thing and wept uncontrollably’
Nick Francis’s wife Antonia gave birth to their daughter Willow on 24th October 2016 in Homerton Hospital, Hackney
‘The lead-up to Willow’s birth reminded me of the beach scene in Saving Private Ryan. We had done the NCT course beforehand and, like the soldiers in the landing craft, we felt we were prepared for what lay ahead of us. But nothing could have prepared me for the moment when the ramp came down and the bullets, blood and arms started flying.
We had done a hypnobirthing course, so had the yoga playlist on the iphone, essential oils and various massages ready to go. The plan was to have a fairly natural waterbirth.
We had been told the partner should make sure they get plenty of sleep in early labour as you don’t know how long it would last. When Antonia woke me at 2:30am to say that things were happening, she said she was going to get into the bath and I should rest. I lay in bed wide awake for about ten minutes, then thought “what the hell I am I doing?” and went to see how she was getting on. I had downloaded an app to time the contractions. The first timing put her at three contractions in ten minutes. That’s apparently when you should head into hospital, but when I rang them they told me not to worry and not to come in.
An hour or so later the contractions had got to five in ten minutes. I rang the hospital and, again, they were extremely laissez-faire. I felt like they weren’t really listening to me. I called a cab (we had been told to use Carrot Cars in East London as they are happy to take women in labour), but when the car arrived Antonia’s contractions were so strong she wasn’t sure she could get out of the bath. In the end we had a fairly protracted journey to the cab, punctuated by several pauses for noisy contractions.
The cab ride was eventful. At one stage Antonia screamed that she could feel the head between her legs.
When we arrived they took Antonia’s blood pressure in the natal ward any chance of the planned water birth went out of the window. At NCT the partners had been told that we were responsible for looking after the mums during the birthing process, acting as their guardians. It meant that I pushed quite hard to stick with our water birth plan.
The midwife told me we had to go straight into the delivery suite. I pressed her, asking if she was suggesting or telling. She turned to me and said: “Listen. This really isn’t good.” That was quite a scary thing to hear.
I don’t like hospitals. My dad died suddenly of a heart attack when I was ten. I was by the bed with the rest of my family. Seeing my older brothers cry had a massive effect on me. So did the unreality of saying goodbye to my rock of a father.
Overall I thought the hospital staff were a mix of excellent and “is this really the right job for you?” not bothered. Most were so lovely. One said it was the end of her shift and left the room moments before Willow was born.
‘I could see a stream of blood pouring from her into a rapidly expanding pool on the floor’
The toughest moment was just before the delivery. Antonia’s waters hadn’t broken and in the stress of the labour the baby had pooed. The baby can swallow or inhale this poo – called meconium – and suffer lifelong ill effects and potentially instant death. Because of this, the midwives were very keen that Willow was delivered very quickly. The hippy music and low lighting were brushed aside and out came the stirrups.
The delivery was forced and Antonia bled quite badly. A (holy shit something’s gone wrong) alarm went off and eight or nine doctors stressed-looking doctors came running into the room. They were ordering each other around with an urgency that sat on just the professional side of panic. Antonia had gone pale, with blue lips, and was convulsing in a fit. I could see a stream of blood pouring from her into a rapidly expanding pool on the floor.
I’ve had my fair share of hospital visits and I’ve seen lots of people hurt themselves badly. It was all put into perspective by watching a large lump of flesh being pulled from my wonderful young wife. It gave me a huge amount of respect for her, and women more generally.
They don’t tell you this but when Willow came out I had very little in the way of strong emotion towards the small screaming bundle of bloody blankets having her throat cleared. It was more of a bewildered fascination and awareness of her vulnerability. This was tinged with the numb horror that both my wife and baby seemed to be about to die.
They isolated the bleed and stitched Antonia up, but she was exhausted. She held the baby briefly, fed her and then slept. Willow slept too and I was left in the room texting a few people to tell them the key (censored) details.
‘I was blown away by the naivety of the whole thing and wept uncontrollably’
My brother had his baby, Grace, three weeks earlier and came to the hospital so we could pop out for a beer. Talking to him about it made me feel a lot better.
When I returned to the hospital they moved us into another room. I went to pick up a couple of bits from the delivery room. It was empty so I thought I would have a little go on the gas and air. I really went for it, before turning to carry a pile of things out the door. At a desk nearby I saw the matron, just as the gas hit me really hard. My face went hot, my hearing went weird and I nearly lost my balance.
A couple of days later I went home to pick up some things from home. I went into the nursery we had set up for our baby. I was blown away by the naivety of the whole thing and wept uncontrollably. There we had been skipping along through the excited expectation of the pregnancy, unaware of what was around the corner.’
‘Don’t ask the cabbie if this is their first fare of the day at the very moment your partner thinks they’re having the baby. Apparently that is not the time for small talk.’
Mikey with his daughter Willow
‘The experience taught me to be grateful to my Mum’
Felix Riadigos’s wife Cam gave birth to their daughter Olive at home in Southwark on 22nd June
‘Olive was born on the hottest day in London since the 1970s. We were told beforehand that you shouldn’t just make one birth plan, but our first choice was for Camilla to give birth at home in a birth pool we rented.
The labour lasted 28 hours. We had done a hypnobirthing course, which teaches you to look upon each contraction not as pain but more as a wave, reminding yourself that it is totally normal and will bring you nearer to meeting your baby. I was trying to be supportive and remind her to breathe it out, to think of it as something good.
I never really felt like a spare part – at the beginning I was bringing her food, water and helping with breathing. Then I needed to inflate and fill the pool, which has to be between 36 and 38 degrees, so I had to heat the water twice to get the correct temperature.
‘When the baby was coming out the midwife asked for my phone and took some pictures’
Every time Cam got inside the pool she would relax and contractions would stop. We tried twice and the same thing happened, so in the end she had Olive on the living room floor.
We had a great team of home-birth midwives who helped Camilla. One came in the first hours of the contractions but we were still in early labour so she left. Another midwife came about 16 hours later, who was also amazing, and stayed with us at home for 12 hours until 4 hours after the birth. She got us to walk up and down the outside stairs (we live on the fourth floor) to help bring on more contractions. She also massaged Cam’s back which was really hurting.
The most surreal moment was when the baby was coming out. The midwife asked for my phone and took some pictures to show me how she was, as I was in front holding Cam’s gas & air. Suddenly she was in Cam’s arms, this little person that looked so fragile.
Afterwards I remember thinking, “wow, I should really thank my Mum for going through this.” Childbirth is a beautiful thing, but it’s exhausting for the Mum.’
‘Try and sleep lots before it begins. I know it’s impossible to know when the baby will arrive, but after two nights of not sleeping and suddenly taking care of your newborn… I remember saying to all my friends that are Dads, “why didn’t you tell me to sleep?”‘
Felix with his daughter Olive
‘Hypnobirthing may as well be called “hippie-birthing”, because that’s what it is’
‘Laura had been so pregnant for so long that any other state seemed inconceivable. I watched the house fill with subtle signs of a new arrival, a pram, tiny clothes and I myself participated in the painting of the baby’s room but it all seemed like an abstract and ceremonial exercise.
Something we were doing as a blind ritual of appeasement. I looked at the robust and ridiculous pram in the hallway and said to Laura, “But where will we go? When would we ever need such an object?” She did not enjoy the line and in fact became annoyed. I just couldn’t think what use a pram would be.
I don’t know why the world persists with the idea that a pregnancy lasts nine months either when it plainly lasts for ten and by the end of the ninth the waddling goddess does little but beseech the tardy heavens for delivery of this inconceivable cargo. Quietly I said my own prayer, I asked for preparedness knowing all was about to change but not knowing how. The change from not having a baby to having a baby is too radical to be taken in one almighty leap. It should be handled in instalments, like those magazines where each edition is accompanied by a further piece of the Cutty Sark or a Spitfire (issue one 99p – ‘I hope the second issue isn’t a fiver!’). The baby should arrive one foot at a time. An ankle independently issued, then a finger or an ear, the mouth last. If I can take care of this leg successfully, like a girl at an inner-city comp lugging around a bag of leaking and battered sugar, then I can take the rest of the infant in a few months. Instead the whole incredible bounty arrives in one opera of glorious revelation.
3 a.m. Friday the 4th of November 2016. “Russell,” says a voice through the silence and the stillness. “I think it’s started.” I know of course that this is a signal of commencement, a call to arms, the starting pistol has been fired but as a prospective father I do not know what manner of race is to follow or where the finishing line might be. When we awaited the result of the seven-week scan I relayed my concern to a friend: “What if there’s something wrong?” “Even if there isn’t,” she said, “then you have the twelve-week scan, the thirty-six-week scan, the birth, the childhood, the adolescence. You’re a hostage to fortune now.”
I’ve been awake since midnight, the contractions, or surges, are eight minutes apart. We call them “surges”, when we remember, as the medical language around childbirth is negative and unhelpful, we learned on a course called “hypnobirthing”, which may as well have been called “hippie-birthing” because that’s what it is. I get up and I think put the kettle on and move some towels around, having some semi-conscious recollection that this is what the situation demands. What I sense though, on the periphery of my awareness, is that a greater force is about to be asserted, reducing all of our human activity to ornamental incidentals.’
‘I did some counting while Laura was pushing and was told in no uncertain terms to stop’
Hywel Mills’s wife Laura gave birth to their daughter Teddy in New York on 6th December 2015.
‘Laura, my heroic wife, was in labour for about 56 hours. Her contractions started at 5am on Friday and then eventually our girl arrived on Sunday afternoon. During that time we went to the hospital three times; twice we were sent home because she wasn’t dilated enough to stay. We walked around the deserted Upper East Side at 1am. We went up and down the stairs in our building and walked around our neighbourhood in Brooklyn repeatedly. Laura bounced diligently on a yoga ball for hours. We watched an entire series of The West Wing. Neither of us slept very much, Laura less than me. Eventually, late on Saturday night, Laura was dilated enough to have an epidural and have some much needed rest. On Sunday, things got going (with a little help from some more drugs) and when it came time to push, Laura crushed it. Teddy was born in less than an hour.
We had had some ante-natal classes which helped us understand what was going to happen, but it doesn’t prepare you fully to get through it for when it actually happens to you.
Men don’t really talk to each other about childbirth, certainly not before your partner is pregnant. On TV and in films, it’s depicted as a moment of high drama, of dashing to the hospital and screaming pushes quickly followed by babies wrapped up neatly in a mother’s arms. It certainly wasn’t anything like that for us.
‘At some point in the morning before Teddy was born, we heard blood-curdling screams down the hall. The nurse nonchalantly told us it was a woman having her second child. Without any painkillers.’
Walking around to help get things moving in Brooklyn, where there are many young families and I got lots of knowing looks, encouraging thumbs ups and smiles as Laura nestled her head in my chest to breathe through contractions. It was very sweet. I also imagine that people were thinking, “oh, you have no idea about what you’re going to go through next”.
There were definitely strong preferences about a few things but no strict birth plan. Laura was happy to take drugs as needed, and she really needed the epidural by the time she got it. At some point in the morning before Teddy was born, we heard blood-curdling screams down the hall. The nurse nonchalantly told us it was a woman having her second child. Without any painkillers.
The hospital staff were wonderful. We had several great New Yorker nurses who looked after us most of the time before the doctors arrived to deliver Teddy, who were brilliant… other than the junior doctor who was almost certainly on his first day of the job. He looked more shocked than I was at what was happening. He offered to go get ice chips. That was the last time we saw him.
I didn’t have a clue what to do when she started pushing. I did some counting and was told in no uncertain terms to stop. I went back to being encouraging and holding her hand.
Theodora – or Teddy as we call her – weighted 7lbs 7oz. She came out hungry and full of personality. Nothing has changed since.’
‘Wear comfortable shoes.’
‘Be prepared to be the one who takes as much stress away from your partner as you can by making sure she doesn’t have to deal with anything practical so she can focus on having the baby.’
This story was extracted from a blog post on Medium
Hywel with his daughter Teddy
‘When you know the exact date of the birth you can plan ahead’
Jon Cryer’s wife Olivia gave birth to their son Finn at the Royal Surrey Hospital, Guildford on 19th June
‘It was two years after the birth of our daughter Ruby that my wife and I were told just how close we had come to losing her. The labour had been very traumatic, ending with an emergency c-section. It transpired that Olivia’s placenta had not been functioning properly for ten days before the birth so Ruby hadn’t been getting the sustenance she needed. After three days of labour, when the birth failed to progress, Ruby’s heart rate slowed right down and doctors rushed Olivia into theatre.
The birth of our son Finn was very different. As caesareans are so expensive (they cost the NHS thousands to carry out), NHS doctors will always try to convince you to go for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean). But when we talked to a consultant about the details of Ruby’s birth he quickly understood that a caesarean was the best option.
When you know the exact date of the birth you can plan ahead. Olivia had her hospital bag ready to go and we had made plans to file Ruby off to her grandparents.
We arrived at the hospital at 8am but were warned there would be some waiting around; the theatre is prioritised for emergency c-sections so you have to wait for a free window. Our wait was relatively short (around five hours), after which things went very quickly. The birth was only around 45 minutes between being told the theatre was ready and Olivia having Finn put into her arms.
‘I was surprised by how physical the operation was – they try to make as small an incision as possible so there’s a lot of tugging and the table was shaking.’
Olivia was taken off to get into a gown and I was given scrubs to wear with some particularly sexy orange crocs. Once you’re in the theatre it’s quite a rush, your heart is pounding and all you can think about is the safety of your child, even while you’re exchanging small talk with the doctors in the room (all the staff at the hospital were absolutely brilliant). A screen was put up over Olivia’s chest, which I stayed behind so I didn’t see what was going on. I was surprised by how physical the operation was – they try to make as small an incision as possible so there’s a lot of tugging and the table was shaking. Finn started crying almost as soon as he came out, we were able to do skin-to-skin and I cut the cord (one snip, like a pro).
When Ruby was born I had been an absolute mess – exhausted and emotional – and I’d had this nagging doubt that I wouldn’t be able to feel as strongly about Finn as I do about her. But as soon as he came out I was overwhelmed with the same love. There’s a great phrase in Winnie The Pooh that really sums it up: ‘Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.’
‘Don’t watch One Born Every Minute – it’s TV so they’ll always show the dramatic births with the most screaming and the daftest partners.’
‘Opt for an “enhanced recovery” caesarean if you can. This enabled Olivia to be out of hospital in just 30 hours.’
‘Be very clear before the birth on what your partner doesn’t want. For Olivia, it was going under general anaesthetic as she wanted to be able to hold her baby immediately, so when they said that she would have to go under for Ruby, I was able to fight her corner (politely – you should never be rude to hospital staff, they’re only trying to help).’
‘Once you’re out of hospital, wake up with your partner for those night feeds. You only get the opportunity to have a newborn a few times in your life and you’ll learn to read their signals better and support your partner if you’re there for those key moments.’
Jon with his son Finn
‘I thought holding him skin-to-skin would be faddy and pointless, but in the moment it felt like the only thing to do’
Michael Mullin’s wife Marie gave birth to their son Arthur on 7th March 2016 at St George’s Hospital, Tooting
‘No aspect of childbirth is tough for the Dad – tough starts when you get home and have two people to keep fed and watered. In hospital it’s the most amazing, life-affirming, visceral experience you will ever have.
My wife thankfully had a complication-free delivery, though even that is fairly dramatic at points. You inevitably feel a bit superfluous more than helpless, as if it would all be going on with or without you – which as a cold fact is right I suppose – but I did feel connected to the process in a small way.
‘Women giving birth go into an almost-trance like state so getting through to them is hard’
The doctors and midwives in St. George’s were completely amazing, so I didn’t feel protective of Marie against them, but I could see how that would be different if the proverbial hit the fan.
I just wanted to try and maintain communication with my partner and to let her know I was there, that she was doing well and that I loved her – incidentally that is really hard at the end, as [women giving birth] go into an almost-trance like state so getting through to them is hard. Afterwards, she told me she was aware that I was there, but the details are hazy.
Right after Arthur was born I held him ‘skin to skin’ for quite a while as my partner was so exhausted. We had debated beforehand whether I would do that – whip the shirt off, that is. My initial reaction was that it was a bit of a silly, faddy and ultimately pointless thing to do (also I’ve been nurturing a dad bod despite not being a dad since my teens, so add embarrassing), but in the moment it felt like the only thing to do.
I was ready to have a child, I was excited about it, but nothing could prepare me for actually seeing and holding him for the first time. Well, except watching Jacob imprint on Bella in Twilight – that’s actually pretty close to how it feels so watching that would be a good preparation.’
‘Practice the drive to the hospital and figure out where you will park.’
‘Make sure you can install and uninstall the car seat in the dark, in the rain with one hand (this is not as easy as you might imagine).’
‘Get all the baby pictures from the pro photographer lurking in the hospital – yes they’re expensive but they’re also great.’
‘It is so hard seeing the person you love in pain and not being able to do anything to help them’
Mikey Howe’s wife Heidi gave birth to their son Louis at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital on 17th July
‘Two weeks before our due date, my wife Heidi thought her waters might have broken. We called Chelsea & Westminster hospital and they suggested we go in for a check-up. As Heidi was being checked, the midwife said ‘you’re not going anywhere.’
Having Louis two weeks early was definitely a surprise. I think we had naively assumed everything would go to plan. In the weeks leading up to the birth we had been completely distracted by renovating our new flat, and timed everything to give us a couple weeks of much needed “nesting” time. Still surrounded by boxes, we had only been there for a day before we were off to the hospital.
When we arrived they thought Heidi’s waters might have been breaking for a few days, which isn’t something I even knew could happen. The midwife said that Heidi was going to be induced – another thing I didn’t know much about.
Our original plan had been to have a water birth in the birthing unit at Chelsea and Westminster hospital – it’s all brand new and feels like you’re in a hotel – but because Heidi was induced, we were told we had to have our birth on the ward in order to be closer to the doctors.
‘We hadn’t planned on an epidural, but there just came a point where it made sense to relieve the pain’
It is so hard seeing the person you love in pain and not really being able to do anything to help them. There were two occasions when our midwife hit the alarm, which meant the doctors and other hospital staff came rushing into our room. Those were the hardest moments; trying to reassure Heidi when I really didn’t know what was happening.
When I had a chance I stocked up on food and drinks to keep us going. Heidi struggled to eat and I didn’t have much appetite either. The most she could manage was sips of juice. I had planned on downloading some films on my ipad, but never had the opportunity.
Another thing we hadn’t planned on was having an epidural, but there just came a point during the labour where it made sense to relieve the pain Heidi was experiencing so she had the energy to push at the end and get Louis out safely.
Towards the end Heidi had been in labour for nearly 27 hours and she was absolutely exhausted. They had been listening to Louis’ heartbeat and it was starting to slow down. The midwife hit the alarm which started sounding throughout the ward and our room quickly filled hospital staff.
No-one had a chance to explain what was going on so I had to just hold Heidi’s hand while the doctor was trying to see how much further Louis had to go. They decided that he had to come out immediately, so they used the ‘ventouse’. They attached the suction cup to his head and while Heidi pushed, they pulled him out at the same time. I couldn’t help but look as he came out – I just wanted to know he was OK.
The best part was seeing our little man in Heidi’s arms for the first time, witnessing that mother-child connection and knowing he was perfect.’
‘One thing that really helped Heidi was having her own pillow. It sounds trivial but that little bit of comfort and familiarity made a big difference.’
‘On the ward the bathrooms and communal showers get pretty messy as you can imagine, so I would recommend bringing flip flops!’
‘Bring extra sets of clothes – including nighties with boob access – in case you have to stay longer than expected. And an extra set for the partner as well.’