Tim Roxborogh on the joys of (fatherhood and) moaning about your holidays.
Men who think being on holiday means you don't have to shower
At 4.45am on Friday, July 5, 2019, my wife gave birth to our daughter Riley and we became parents for the first time. That moment when I first saw my own flesh and blood come into existence was the closest I've had to an out-of-body experience. In days gone by, people would've said it was like you're floating above yourself or that you somehow magically have a bird's-eye view from on high, even though you're standing on the ground.
A couple of decades deep into the 21st century and I liken it to feeling like you're watching drone footage from a movie. All the editing was so perfect too. There was the shot of Riley, squirming with life, in the hands of our midwife, Annie, for whom we'll always feel indebted. Then the camera cut away to my wife, Aimee, exhausted beyond any comprehension I'll ever know, but with joyful tears. Next the camera spun across, swooping down to catch the expression – also of tears – of my mother-in-law, Kathy, before turning around for similarly teary close-ups of my sister-in-law, Tiria and finally me. Then the drone flew upwards again to capture a final frozen-in-time snapshot of the entire emotion-filled room.
Back inside my body and several hours later, we were driving north of Auckland to the Warkworth Birthing Centre. Just as life will never be the same ever again for Aimee and me with Riley now on the scene, so too have I left behind certain misconceptions from pre-fatherhood. Things like having little idea at all about how unbelievably awesome midwives are. I think I spent my whole 37 years on Planet Earth believing that delivering children was the domain of doctors, but when you've seen your midwife with the life of your child and your wife literally in her hands, a few pennies start to drop.
From our midwife to the team of midwives at the remarkable Warkworth Birthing Centre (those roast meals!), these ladies went out of their way to offer knowledge and support. That kind of wraparound service – where the mother gets three free nights with all meals and 24hr how-to-mum coaching sessions also included at no additional cost – is such a dream way to ease into the enormity of parenthood. There was plenty of how-to-dad coaching going on too.
Speaking of the dads, partners generally get one free night out of three at birthing centres, after which most either commute or book nearby accommodation. Showers and meals also aren't always provided for the support partners but luckily I had good friends in Matakana who put me up, so I was very thrilled to jump under some hot water and get clean. Which brings me to the travel bugs part of this "Travel Bugs" column.
That's right. This isn't just an ode to fatherhood that accidentally made its way into the Travel section. Though who am I kidding? That is unashamedly mostly what this week's entry is. But the small part that isn't was triggered by the reaction of a friend of mine when I told him I hadn't been able to shower for a couple of days:
"Brilliant! If only you could stay for the full week at the birthing centre and not shower once, that would be like being on holiday!" He was serious.
As in, his idea of a blissful holiday involves days on end without bathing. He's far from alone. An unnamed (and much loved, I must add) member of my wife's family is known to enjoy extended summer camping trips sans shower, while another friend remains under the impression it's not really a vacation if you're showering every day.
How did this anti-shower-on-holiday malarkey begin? For a start, I genuinely love a shower. Being clean and smelling good has never struck me as a chore. It's therapeutic too. It helps me sleep. It tames my wild hair. It makes my tired eyes look less so. What's the issue?
It's malarkey, I tell you.
• Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's Weekend Collective and blogs at RoxboroghReport.com