8 things they don't tell dads about childbirth
Once upon a time childbirth for men involved sitting back with a cigar and a glass of brandy, and waiting for a nod to say the messy business was all done with.
But it's the 21st century and all that has changed - you try finding a hospital that serves Courvoisier to go with your Hamlet at 3 o'clock in the morning.
Dads of the world are now front and centre, right in the middle of the action (and quite right too).
If you're an expectant father and anything like me, you will probably have shunned the pregnancy books, swerved One Born Every Minute and put all those dad-to-be pamphlets permanently in the 'to read' pile.
If you didn't read the instructions on how to put that IKEA wardrobe together, why start now?
I'll tell you why, with 8 things I learned from my son's birth...
1. The feeling come kick-off
You've never felt blind panic like it. I'm not lying - when the pregnancy finally reaches 'end game' it hits you like a bus (except being hit by a bus is pretty humane and over in a matter of seconds, I imagine).
For nine months you've had that feeling like you're gearing up to watch your team come out in the cup final.
But then that giddy, mindless expectancy subsides into nauseating dread. Remember that sick feeling when you were called into the headmaster's office for photocopying pictures of your a*se and pinning them up in class? It's like that only worse.
2. Your plans will go t*ts up
Remember all those plans you made? Forget them. That's right, all of them.
You can craft the most perfectly intricate step-by-step plan of how you want the birth to go down, but your baby will crap all over them (quite literally when they're finally out into the big wide world).
Me and my other half planned the perfect birth - relaxing music, meditation, magician, the pool thingy - all nice and natural.
But everything went out the window. We didn't even get a dip in the pool - I was wearing trunks for nothing.
3. Everyone has a war story
Birth centres are full of mothers. Like prisons, you have lifers - women who are on their fifth or six kid. And of course they have plenty of war stories that they're all too willing to share - showing them off like battle scars.
I've heard stories that would make your hair stand on end: "When I had our Sharon, she were that big I ripped like an Asda carrier bag."
My imaginary womb (that's a real phenomenon) was weeping for my partner, so she must have been feeling even more terrified.
4. You'll feel pretty useless
Being a modern type of chap, I wanted to be in the thick of it, helping out. But you soon start to feel as much use as papier mâché wellies at Glastonbury.
A pat on the back, a glass of water and the odd 'go on love' chant of encouragement are probably about the limit of your powers.
They wouldn't even let me be in charge of the laughing gas.
5. The noises
They will haunt you forever. You might think you've had a force five hurricane of a bollocking off your partner or wife before, but that's f**k-all compared to what you'll hear in the delivery suite.
You'll hear swear words the devil himself hasn't even conceived. They will probably be aimed at you for causing the whole thing.
When it gets really bad those shockingly profane neologisms your birthing wife is screaming will just become visceral grunts and howls. The kind you might hear on a BBC nature programme narrated by David Attenborough.
It's genuinely hard to watch your significant other suffering so much (and feeling at least partly responsible for getting her into that mess).
6. Don't complain about anything. At all.
I once spoke to an old chap on his golden wedding anniversary and he said the secret to a happy and ball ache-free marriage was to "keep yer mouth shut".
Never was this advice more apt than in the childbirth situation. Even if you've had the worst 24 hours of your life - lost your job, lost an eye, lost the will to live - don't you dare utter a word of it.
Keep your mouth shut unless you want a bed pan full of p*ss wrapped around your head.
I foolishly said I was 'tired'...I will never, ever say that again.
7. When it comes
If you were unfazed by everything that's gone before, then this bit will definitely knock you sideways.
Being Lancashire's most squeamish man, I thought I would have passed out early on, but somehow I was still there...transfixed by the scene unfolding before me.
When the baby finally comes it's the most surreal thing you'll ever see (and that includes the Garth Marenghi's Dark Place box set).
No amount of One Born Every Minute could prepare you for the shock/relief/joy/love of seeing a tiny human jolt forth into the world.
Just make sure you think up something slightly more profound to say than "Bloody hell, it's a bloody lad" followed by delirious laughter.
P.S. Don't look at the afterbirth. Trust me on this one.
They don't tell you this bit either, but your emotions will be all over the place (and that's coming from a stoic Northern lad who has suffered two relegations with Blackburn Rovers).
It will hit you in the moments of quiet contemplation (and muted terror) after all the showbiz ER stuff has finished.
The rug has well and truly been pulled from under you. Life will never be the same. Every second is never your own again. Why would anyone do this? Where's the instructions for this thing? How have the Government knowingly allowed me to procreate?
But all these doubts and anxieties melt away when you hold your baby in your arms...and realise it will give you an excuse to play computer games, go on the football and act like a child all over again.