Me: “How would you feel if I recorded the labour?”
Her: “I would kill you!”
Me: “Not video, just audio?”
Her: “YOU’RE NOT RECORDING ME GIVING BIRTH!!!”
That’s how the conversation went with my wife in month 9 of her pregnancy. And guess what? I did record it. Yes really. And guess what else? I edited said audio and put it on a podcast. YES REALLY! But you know what else? Recording the labour, as well as the months running up to my first born’s birth and broadcasting it, has been one of the most satisfying achievements of my life.
My name is Manish and I’m a former radio journalist. Back in September 2015 I was sitting on a beach in Spain with my pregnant wife. It was our last holiday before the birth of our child, which was due in December (apparently this is called a ‘babymoon’). On this holiday I had podcasts pretty much permanently wired into my brain. I was listening to tonnes. Especially the American serialised ones, where they tell a story over the course of 8-10 episodes. Being an audiophile, I was inspired to produce my own. But what story could I tell? Then, peaking over my sunglasses, my story was staring me right in the face. My wife’s gigantic belly! I would tell the tale of the last few months of her pregnancy and, all being well, the birth of our first child. I got out my phone, opened up the voice recorder app, and started recording.
Now you might be wondering why my wife would be up for such a strange idea. Luckily I have an incredibly supportive partner who understands my eccentric ways. Plus I sold it to her like this… Recording and documenting these moments would:
- Be great for my career because I’ve always wanted to make a podcast of my own and who knows what it could lead to.
- It would be really cool for our son/daughter to hear when they’re 18 what our life was like before he or she was born.
An insight into our 9 months
So off I went in true Nick Broomfield style, recording first hand experiences of everything that we went through. I caught it all, including coming up with baby names, imagining how our lives were going to change, financially planning, wondering how bad the pain was going to be, questioning our parenting credentials, being overdue and yes, the birth itself (or at least a part of it).
Along our journey there was plenty that I learned too. For example, did you know that the average UK parent will spend around 38% of their annual salary on their first born?! Or did you know that the state of Mexico has banned certain baby names following a trend of silly applications (Harry Potter, Robocop and Facebook). Did you also know that one in four pregnancies are miscarried in the UK. I found out this last stat after chatting to a woman who after 9 months of pregnancy gave birth to a stillborn baby. I interviewed her for episode 2, which is all about the many, many scary stories you hear when you’re expecting. So the series isn’t, I’m afraid, all joy. The stark reality of this life-changing time in our lives is evident for all to hear.
Getting it live
Just before Father’s Day this year I finally published these ramblings online. I wasn’t going to though. The night before I had cold feet. I was nervous because I was finally going to put this ‘out there’. I was really putting our private life out into the world to listen to. It might surprise you, but I really am quite a reserved person. What’s more, there’s this conversation between me and my wife in episode 3 that I tease her about conceiving our baby to Nicki Minaj! NICKI MINAJ!!! I can’t have my family or work colleagues hearing that! But after a chat we decided why not. It’s simply how we would speak to eachother around friends. So why not share it with the world.
Looking back at the last few weeks and monitoring the number of downloads (1,000 and counting), I’m so glad that I hit ‘submit’. Because ever since posting it I’ve received nothing but warm, kind messages from friends, family and even some strangers. Some of the highlights include:
- An Australian mother of 2, who I have never met before, told me how refreshing it was to hear the story from a dad’s perspective.
- A transgender person from Baton Rouge, Louisiana (US) sent me an email telling me how much they enjoyed it.
- But perhaps even more surprising is the number of distant family members that have sent me messages congratulating me and explaining how much it reminded them of their own children’s births. A cousin who’s an accountant (a profession which universally conveys a lack of emotion) told me he cried at episode 6 (the birthday).
- A cousin sister-in-law, who had miscarriages of her own, told me she found the episode about miscarriages and still births incredibly cathartic. And a friend in London (who I suspect is trying for a baby!) has just today sent me a whatsapp telling me that she binge listened to all 8 episodes once, and is now listening back all over again.
Of course I’m hoping the podcast reaches as many people as possible. Not because I make money from it, because I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT (in fact the podcast is hoping to highlight the work of a charity called Cardiac Risk in the Young- check them out!). I just enjoy other people reliving the most important time in their lives through our story. It’s nice to share these memories right? What’s more, it’s going to be really cool when I finally sit my daughter down and play this for her. Maybe I’ll record her reactions and make a podcast out of that moment too.
Manish Verma can be found:
@ManVerm on Twitter.
@Manvermpics on Instagram.