Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Labour: just like building your dream house

One of my favourite British TV shows, which I missed the most when we were in the US, is Grand Designs. (Gratifyingly it has become one of TLOML's favourites too.) Grand Designs follows interesting home builds - unusual restorations, eco-friendly new builds, and so on.
A Grand Design house (image pilfered from Channel 4)

Most weeks the people building their dream home liken it to labour. As in 'this house is our baby and building it is like giving birth.'

I have a new perspective on any use of birth as a metaphor. I now know that nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, is anything like giving birth. Giving birth alone is like giving birth, and it is like nothing else.

Having said that, I noted a couple of interesting parallels with the dream-home building process.

1. Naive optimism
The happy fools who are turning their grand designs into a home are always unrealistically optimistic. Kevin McCloud, the presenter, scoffs at their budget estimates and their idea of a reasonable timeframe. He is always right: in a dozen series I've never seen a home built on budget, or on time.

And yet the owners always think the impossible can be done, no contingency will be required, and the build will be weatherproof before winter. Just like I thought, when we arrived at the birth centre at 4pm, that I was very far along and would doubtless be delivering Lady P in an hour or so. (She arrived 8 hurt-y hours later) The same kind of naive optimism that lead me to ask the midwife, after a couple of pushes, 'do you think she'll be born on the next push?' (In the event I had about an hour of pushing ahead of me.)

2. Foolish pride
Often the owners decide to despatch with specialist support from professionals like project managers, quantity surveyors and even architects. And even when the windows arrive on site completely the wrong size, or the entire building team quits en masse, and Kevin McCloud raises his eyebrows and says 'Are you sure you can manage this build without help?' the foolhardy owners are too proud to admit defeat and hire in the experts.

Similarly, even when it became apparent that I had many hours of labour ahead of me, and the pain was hugely more than I had anticipated (for who could anticipate such pain?!), I bit my lip, banished thoughts of an epidural, and said to TLOML 'this pain is totally manageable'. Pure pride.

For what it's worth, I'm glad my optimism and pride won the day. Lady P was so alert, and calm, swimming up to meet us, and I felt pretty much 100% within a day or two of giving birth. So taking the natural (optimistic, prideful) path paid out for me. Still, if I'd know beforehand quite how much it would hurt and for how long, I wouldn't have been quite so bullish.

I'm like those chumps at the end of the Grand Designs episode, sitting in their dream home, laughing at the fact they went £100k over budget and they nearly had a nervous breakdown in the process, saying 'If I did it over again, I would do it just the same.'

They usually go on to add 'I'm not sure that I would do it again though.' That's where we differ... two weeks in and we're already confident we'll be doing this whole birth and newborn thing again some day. Only next time, I'll know how much pain to expect.


  1. That's very astute. Laughing lots here!

  2. Thanks Cumulus! Glad it resonated. I wanted to capture the whole 'giving birth' but it's amazing how quickly it becomes a blur. Clever mother nature.