Childbirth mishaps can be hilarious - except when they're happening to you and yours

I've just witnessed my first normal delivery. This may sound an odd claim for a doctor who has done six months on a labour ward, but the trouble with obstetrics is that you only get invited to the deliveries that go wrong. The midwives see all the joyous normal births and get all the chocolates, but if the baby gets stuck or the mother explodes, it's "over to you, doc".

This would seem reasonable were it not for the fact that the doc in question might only have a few days' experience of obstetrics. Indeed, he may not even be able to tell whether it's head, bum, arm or leg peeping out of the cervix. I know - I have been that doctor.

I was first there as a medical student in 1985. A kindly professor gathered us round and promised us that the day we delivered our first baby would be the day we realised how wonderful medicine could be. When my turn came, I was allocated a 20-year-old woman who shouted "Bloody hell - it hurts!" for about three days. When the baby finally arrived, it came out with the umbilical cord wrapped round the neck. I was on my own because the midwife had nipped out for a fag, so I grabbed a couple of clamps, stuck them on the cord, cut it, hiked out the baby and plonked it on the mother's stomach. Ten minutes of self-congratulation later, I reviewed my handiwork and realised that as well as clamping the cord, I'd clamped two huge great tufts of pubic hair (not mine, you understand).

I couldn't unclamp them without freeing the cord to bleed everywhere, so I opted for the scissors. This wasn't, I'm afraid, entirely successful and left a curious ripple effect. It's times like these you wish you carried a comb.

That was enough obstetrics for me, and it was with some reluctance that I returned to the fray as a GP trainee four years later. It was in a part of the country where the National Childbirth Trust is the major political force, and it wasn't long before I was officiating at my first water birth. You know the sort of thing - Vivaldi wafting through the speakers, Dad squatting behind Mum buck-naked and the entire extended family (Labrador included) squishing about in the foam. For all the encouragement, these affairs tend to take the best part of a weekend, and come Sunday night, the midwife was getting a tad bolshy. "Push through your bottom, dear - like you're doing a number two!" I've never met a midwife who doesn't say this, and it's always struck me as tempting fate. Sure enough, out popped the mother of all number twos - a real double-hander. Mum asked "Is it a boy or a girl?" and Dad chipped in with "How much does he weigh?" I almost popped it on the scales out of curiosity.

"Amusing" birth anecdotes are somehow less amusing in the run-up to your own, or your wife's, labour. Female doctors tend to have terrible obstetric experiences, perhaps because they know how wrong things can go and those treating them panic and opt for the forceps or the Caesarean a bit too quickly.

Even if the baby comes out okay, it's sod's law that your front bottom will look like a grenade has gone off in it. On any labour ward, there are midwives and obstetricians you'd trust with your triplets and those you wouldn't trust with your kittens, but there is no guarantee that you'll get the best, even if you're in the trade. You may get a consultant of senior years but little recent experience out of "professional courtesy" or you may get the most junior student midwife because the senior ones don't like delivering doctors. All having "doctor" written on your notes means is that instead of having half a dozen medical students round your bed, they peep in the window.

The best you can hope for is to be treated like everyone else but with a side-room, and in my two experiences as a birthing buddy to my (doctor) wife at Birmingham Maternity Hospital, I have no complaints. I can't elaborate much - what goes on in the delivery room is as sacred as how it all started - but suffice to say that first time round was a marathon and I needed three servings of warm milk and cookies from midwife Brenda to get me through it.

Second time round was last week - it all happened so quickly that I didn't even get a chance to order my first snack. Indeed, midwife Bev was so good that she had the baby clamped, washed and wrapped before I'd unpacked the damp flannel. Mum in at 8.30pm, baby out at 10.08pm and not a stitch in sight. Thank you very much and goodnight.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Popes current and former won't be watching the football together
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

    £60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

    Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

    £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

    AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

    £600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

    E-Commerce Developer

    £45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
    Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

    Hollywood targets Asian audiences

    The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial