Holiday 2014 – Oban

I called it a “babymoon”, mostly as a joke, but it was quite apt – this past weekend Connie, myself, and our unborn child, left Frank (he’s our dog) with his grandparents (my mum and dad, come on, keep up) for the first (of what will likely be many) overnight stays in the coming months. We headed up along the A82 and A85 towards Oban, the self-proclaimed seafood capital of Scotland, and a small guest house up a very steep hill.

The weekend was lovely, and we really lucked out with the weather. In Glasgow the weather was so bad that it cancelled a friends game of golf, whilst at the exact same time as they were giving up on the tenth hole, Connie and I were likely lying out in the sunshine on the Isle of Seil. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

The journey up the A82 is one I never look forward to, to be honest. It’s a dreadfully busy road, and one that is far too small for the size of the vehicles that now travel it’s length, but it is a necessary evil when going that way. Luckily, we drove up late morning on Friday, which meant it was fairly quite most of the way, and dry for a good part of the drive too which is always good. A short stop off at Tarbet to use the bathroom, the next stop was Oban itself, quite different from the previous drive to Carradale Bay, which actually was our last holiday (if you, like we, don’t count our wedding in Canada as a holiday), because on that trip we stopped of a few times to do some walking about and seeing the sights as they were.

I’ve been to Oban twice in my life before, both times with Scouts. We have one of the best camp sites there, on Barnacarry Bay, just south of Oban harbour. It’s a nightmare to get to mind you, needing offroad vehicle access, and a 15 minute walk to the site from the road, but all said that adds to it’s charm. Oh, and have I mentioned it’s literally on the water’s edge? Well, yeah – it is, and by god, the sunsets are the best I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

The Friday was fairly overcast, but not cold. We ate our lunch, premade that morning, on a bench at the railway station and ferry port, watching the endless stream of unoccupied taxis park and chat to each other. The guest house was very close to the town centre, but up a fairly steep hill (as is most of Oban) and was very lovely. The car park was impossibly small, the bedroom was nice but tiny, and the guest house owner was lovely – we were referred to as the “Shields’s’s’s’” due to me stumbling over our name when introducing us when checking in.

We went to a lovely restaurant for dinner called Cuan Mor, somewhere a friend of mine has stated was somewhere he’d “been drunk in a lot” which was a good sign. I had a starter and then couldn’t eat my main course, and Connie too found her main to be vast, but delicious. I drank some of their own-brewed beer, and it was lovely – Skelpt Lug and Kilt Lifter, if I remember rightly, and both were tasty. Afterwards, and sensing I wanted to have a few beers more, we searched for a bar. We ended up in the Harbour Inn, underneath the Columba Hotel, and it seemed far sketchier that I’d expected. The seats were well worn, but the beer was cold and the barman was complaining about his wife. It was actually pretty good, I thought.

On Saturday we woke to a nice breakfast and weariness of the weather – it was supposed to rain all weekend, but I’ve already spoiled this twist earlier, because it didn’t. Not once. In fact, the whole time we were in Oban I am unsure if it rained one drop. After a quite consult with the Nexus’ map we decided to drive across the Atlantic Ocean (yep!) and head to the Isle of Seil and the small settlement of Ellenabeich. On the water across from the even small settlement of Easdale, the town is known for it’s slate production, and the small museum was amusing – photos of old mines, photos of the farm we camp on at Scouts (mentioned above) and even midwifery notes taken in the 19th century, which amused Connie a lot.

The weather was astonishing. I mean, just look at this place:




That afternoon we had an ice cream on the harbour side and enjoyed a bit of down time. We talked about something I’ve considered a lot recently, that Connie and I are quite content to go away on holiday and… well, holiday – we don’t need a lot of stuff to keep us interested any more, happy to wander around, with no plans, and maybe just relax back at the hotel for a bit. That was the point of this holiday – some relaxation and rest. That evening we headed to a Indian which was marginally sub-par, and then onto a local bar for a few more drinks and whiskies, before retiring to our room.

Oban is a really nice place, and we have already suggested going back next year, around the same time, with our then 10 month old child, and maybe Frank. Maybe.


HypnoBirthing

I have a position, as a man, to sit outside of the experience of birth if I chose. I could have, if I had wanted, to simply walk away. My job is “done” to an extent, and ever since that positive test I’ve been trying to work out what I am to do.

Let’s talk about that first positive test – I had just downloaded the first episode of the Walking Dead computer game, at an attempt to get back into computer games during a small moment of boredom. I had just witnessed one of my choices mean that a character, someone’s son or wife, someone who I had just met, would die. This was pretty awesome, and absolutely terrifying, and at this exact moment, as the character took their last breath and their family screams in anguish, Connie comes in and tells me the exact opposite news – a positive test. It was probably the best moment of my life. I can’t adequately explain how it felt. It was quite something else – I felt emotional whiplash in that moment.

ANYWAY

Being the father of a child is an oddly distant concept even when you know it to be real. I know that in a few months there will be a child and everything’s going to change, but – and this will be hard to explain – it really feels like it’s taken a long time to really understand that concept. I am ready, or as ready as I can be, but I felt like I was passive. Not really there – I mean I can still eat, drink and do whatever I want for the nine months or so that Connie is under the most horrible discomfort. She’s been beset with pain, sleeplessness, nausea, tiredness, sore heads, and many many many other similar ailments. It isn’t hard to understand then that I’ve felt oddly disconnected from our growing child, and this is also an not an uncommon feeling amongst prospective fathers.

So I made a decision that was important, and it actually falls into the phrasing of a well-known saying.

“Start as you mean to continue”

I want to be a great dad – but surely every father starts out like that. It would be a certainly twisted person to actually want to be a bad father. But I want to already be a great dad by the time the baby comes, so that means getting stuck in when others might not. I made the call to go to all the classes, appointments, and be deeply involved in the preparations. I have read some literature, read loads online about the whole process and what to expect, and together, Connie and I have started doing HypnoBirthing.

“HypnoBirthing?!” you will undoubtedly ask, and ask in an incredulous voice, and yes I completely understand that reaction. HypnoBirthing is nothing really to do with hypnosis, despite what it is called. At its base level, it is a way of using mediation, deep relaxation, and breathing techniques to control pain and discomfort during labour, with the ultimate goal of reducing and maybe negating the need for medical intervention during birth. So that's where the name comes from, I guess - those are the same techniques used in hypnosis. 

You’ll likely scoff at the thought of a birth that isn’t the typical howling screaming woman pushing and reaching about screaming for drugs. That, my friends, isn’t how it is supposed to be. There are many reasons why that has become our go-to thoughts on birth, but it’s in part due to media portrayal of birth. You don’t need an epidural. You don’t need gas and air. You don’t need an episiotomy (I honestly don’t recommend Googling that term). Those tools are there, if you need them, but for a normal birth you shouldn’t rely on them, you most often don’t even need them. You certainly shouldn’t turn to them as the only way to give birth. A natural birth doesn't make for very dramatic television or movies (for example, the staple "My water's just broke" and rush to the hospital is so uncommon it's almost medically unconsidered - many women go far into labour before the waters break, and in some cases the baby can be born still inside the mebrane).

HypnoBirthing is all about empowerment and control. It gives you (or, in my mind, reteaches) tools that humans (and mammals) have had for years. For example, when you hurt your hand, you hold it, and take a deep breath, right? That is a natural way of helping the body to release endorphins, a natural pain relief. Birth is as natural as anything there is, as literally every single human that is living, has ever lived, and will ever live will be born, and the female body is designed to do it (it is actually the female body’s only reason for existence, much like the male’s body is only there for one reason too, one that normally gets us into this predicament in the first place). The medical advancements have gone far too far into our process of birth.

Did you know that in the early 1900s in the UK birth care that was almost entirely done at home? The disassociation of birth from the hospital was important, because it isn’t a medical procedure. People think it is, but they’re wrong. I made this point at our birthing class just this past week – the mistake is to put maternity units in hospitals. I understand that in certain cases you need to have the doctors and obstetricians there in case something goes wrong, but the location makes it feel like a different thing – you can’t exactly have heart surgery at home, can you? But you can have a baby at home. What this means is that you’re more likely to just turn over your birthing experience to those who you believe have the best experience in that field like you would do for any other type of medical procedure, despite the fact that a woman is designed to do this perfectly and birth isn’t a medical procedure.

The techniques play into Connie and I’s mentality already aswe are major proponents of yoga and meditation. Connie has used meditative techniques to deal with her chronic pain issues already, and this is an empowerment of those techniques towards childbirth. In addition, Connie’s main interest in the baby care, having decided on doula-ing as her career, with hypnobirthing a major part of that philosophy.

The techniques are fairly easy, in truth, but it’s the practise that is most important, and the positivity. Many women and birth partners spend most of the pregnancy worried about the birth as it’s a big black box of fear and pain, but it’s not supposed to be that. The hypnobirthing classes are away of teaching you to look forward to the pregnancy’s end and the arrival of the baby, and it also enables me to be involved.

A massive part of the experience is the one on one time it breeds with Connie and myself. I am her partner, and I will be there for the whole thing. I’m the conduit through which our healthcare providers will speak, I am the protecting buffer, and I am the calm experienced guide into relaxation. The techniques have already helped me relaxed myself, but also increase my own positivity and power towards the birth. As I was saying before, I was worried about not being involved, but this has given me power, confidence, and a real role in the early part of parenthood, and also has the happy effect of reducing my own stress.

Over the past months and years I’ve struggled with stress and anger issues. I’m better, in part to a concerted effort on my behalf to get help, but also by relaxation techniques, and this is a way of solidifying them into something concrete. I want my child to be happy, healthy, and relaxed with me, and I need to be that then with them, and reflect what I want them to see in me back to them. It’s not rocket science.

Obviously, the end result isn’t confirmed, but we have to stay positive. That’s part of the battle – if we don’t expect it to work, it definitely won’t, which is why you’ll find Connie and I talking at length, excitedly and enthusiastically about it, because it’s something that now excites us and gives us a lot of hope that it will be very positive. I’ll keep you all posted on how it is going, but so far I’s a real joy to take part in and work on.