Why pregnancy can be difficult, especially when you're a man

WHEN Mark Woods' wife Sarah went through her first pregnancy he felt "a bit of a spare part sometimes" – and nowhere more so than on the labour ward, when the chips were down and he wasn't sure whether to keep topping up the iced water or hide in the hospital canteen until it was all over.

Today 90 per cent of fathers are present at the birth of their children, and their partners generally want them to take an active part in proceedings, rather then sit there reading the newspaper or putting in some quality napping time. The men themselves – unless they're the ones with a residual neanderthal streak – genuinely want to feel

they are doing something useful as they share the momentous experience.

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But, if you, the father, have spent the last nine months hanging around on the periphery, attempting to avoid facing up to the wondrous but exhausting and testing time ahead, then you're unlikely to come up trumps on the night. If you've been begging your wife to give you only the clinically excised version of pregnancy and birth as she reads her way through the complete oeuvre of Penelope Leach, and keep howling "no yucky bits!" when she mentions words like "placenta", then you really need to get a grip.

It's simply not done any more to avoid knowing about hormone levels, different types of prenatal diagnostic tests, what causes pregnancy cravings, the options for birthing positions, and

whether you should or shouldn't be talking – or even singing – to

the baby in utero. Mark Woods seems like a blokey enough sort of bloke, and he's managed it.

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In fact, after feeling he hadn't quite pulled his weight before the arrival of his first child, Stan, he was determined to be less useless second time around (baby two is due shortly).

Having perused the kind of books available to advise men, the writer and head of creative for Comic Relief felt there was a gap in the market and decided to share the fruits of his research .

"When you first discover that your partner is pregnant and

the thrill has died down a bit, you know that you are supposed to be supportive and helpful. That sounds a bit vague, though. Most of the hundreds of books about pregnancy are about the woman and baby,

rather than exploring the father's point of view; the few aimed at men tend to be of the 'how to avoid doing anything' variety. They're a bit laddish for my taste.

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"Also, men take in information in a different way to women, and a man writing for men from their point of view was needed, with concrete 'what to do' lists at the end of each chapter. It might sound simple, but men are quite simple. Women like to sit around even before pregnancy, comparing birth stories and they instinctively know more about pregnancy and birth than men, from quite a young age and through women in their family.

"Men like to read the facts and get the inside track on how their life is about to change and where their role lies. Because, let's face it, your life will change in an important and irrevocable way. The arrival of a child is a bombshell."

From sore boobs and constipation to changes in your sex life or the danger of cat faeces to pregnant women, Pregnancy for Men – The Whole Nine Months, does appear to be the ultimate idiot's guide. With a few laughs thrown in.

"Every woman's pregnancy and every birth is different, of course," says Woods. "But there are common milestones, events

and phenomena to talk about,

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and many mysterious goings on like, in Sarah's case, the urgent need to 'nest'."

He describes how, despite energy levels dwindling in month eight, somehow reserves could always be found for another round of washing baby clothes, reorganising the cupboards and even sorting out the attic – just in case the superhuman baby somehow managed to escape from the Moses basket and was appalled by the mess up there.

"Shocking or sentimental, traumatic or transformational – the memories of the moment you became a father and what your partner went through to make that happen will live as long as you do. No matter what friends who've been there tell you ahead of the event, no matter what you see

on the television or at the movies, and no matter what your read, yes even in books like this one, nothing even gets close to how you will feel."

n Pregnancy for Men by Mark Woods is published by White Ladder Press, 10.99. To order from the Yorkshire Post

Bookshop call 0800 0153232 or

go to www.yorkshirepost

bookshop.co.uk Postage

costs 2.75.

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