This is the first of a two-part “I Am Your Father” special, which will tell the story of what happened in the hospital when the time finally came for my son to be born.
I was labouring (no pun intended) under the ridiculous notion that I would be mostly superfluous and that I would have the time to ‘live blog’ the birth; making notes every-so-often as we went along.
What a sweet, naive, young man I was!
Don’t worry, I will be sparing most of the graphic details and, as ever, my wife has had power of veto over what you are about to read. Some of this was ‘live-blogged’, with additional comments added afterwards [in brackets/italics].
My wife had passed her due date and was booked in for an induction. It’s not what either of us (my wife in particular) wanted, but there was no sign of anything happening naturally. By the time I took her to the hospital, my son was 10 days overdue and my wife was getting really uncomfortable. We had already had a checkup and knew that he was at least 7lb, and that was a few weeks ago at this point. Let’s just say that she was very ready for the baby to come out!
I wanted to find a photo to give you a sense of how big the bump was by the end, but I can’t find one where it isn’t being guarded by our dog, Marvin.
Anyway, as I start to write this, I have just dropped her off at the hospital (on Friday afternoon) and then – because of the Coronavirus restrictions – I have had to go home and leave her to it.
And so it begins…
Fortunately – and surprisingly – we were both able to get some sleep on Friday night, plus I was able to do some chores and even some shopping before it all kicked off.
It is now 5 pm on Saturday. M’wife and I have, of course, been in contact during the night. She has had various attempts to induce labour, but without much success. If the third pessary hadn’t worked, she would have been booked in for a c-section, but fortunately, her waters finally broke at 3 pm, so she’s going on the hormone drip. I got the call to say that she was being moved into a private delivery room, which meant that I was allowed to be with her again.
I know that there will probably be consequences – particularly for my wife – from having to be induced [and oh how right I was!], but it has actually been kind of nice to have the time to sleep, shop and do some last-minute preparations before it all kicks off.
The Hospital Room
I arrived and – after parking the car and walking for miles through the labyrinthine corridors of the hospital – I arrived at the maternity reception and was shown to the delivery room. I actually beat her there, so I had some time to unpack some of the snacks, entertainment and other supplies that I had brought with me before m’wife came waddling in, accompanied by the first of the midwives who would be looking after us.
I was surprised how large the room was [though later I would come to understand why there was so much space!]. There was an adjustable, transforming bed/thing, a couple of chairs, a desk and miscellaneous medical equipment. It was fairly spartan and sterile, but not unpleasant; pretty much what I expected. Because of the drip and the increased likelyhood of interventions, we are not allowed to use the fancy delivery suite, so no water birth for us – the birthing plan is out of the window already! (There may be a rant about birthing plans and how NCT doesn’t truly prepare you for the realities of birth at a later date…)
As I write this, I’m feeling pretty useless. I’m on a plastic-covered chair off to one side. Anyone who has any illusions that this is in any way glamorous should see my wife sat in her over-sized pyjamas, a drip in her hand, sensors strapped to her exposed belly, with the midwife holding a thermometer under her tongue and a machine measuring her blood pressure. It doesn’t look like it does on TV!
They are taking great care of us though. I expected the midwife(s) to be coming and going, but the first one stayed with us until 8 pm, when the second one took over. They were constantly by our side, mostly checking instruments and doing paperwork. I’m not sure if this was a Coronavirus thing or an induction thing or if it’s normal during labour. Anyway, one thing I did notice was that they’re great at explaining what they are doing and why. It’s good to know, for example, why other midwives come in every-so-often to check the baby’s heartbeat (just so there is ‘another pair of eyes’ to make sure that everything is OK).
I’ve had a go on the adjustable bed while my wife was bouncing on a yoga ball; it’s pretty comfy. I suggested that we should get one for the house, but m’wife wasn’t keen. (Don’t worry, we’d agreed on a ‘safeword’ to use in case I stop being funny, but keeping her happy and sane is basically my only job here!) [As it happens, the safeword wasn’t necessary, as it was pretty obvious when it all got very serious, but more on that later…]
Update: I have at least been slightly useful now, I was asked to pass some equipment to the midwife and I’ve just fetched my wife some water so she can take some tablets. Nothing to worry about, apparently the drip can cause heartburn so it’s just a precaution. I feel a bit like the midwife’s assistant but in a good way. M’wife is holding up pretty well so far, starting to get some aches and pains, mainly in her lower back so far.
So much for the plan
And that is where the live-blogging ended. Suddenly, I went from feeling useless and mostly decorative, as I had for most of the pregnancy, to being suddenly very useful.
One major side-effect of the drip is that it brings things on rather rapidly, and is known to be more painful than ‘natural’ labour, if for no other reason than that the body doesn’t have time to adapt. By 7 pm, the contractions had started to become noticeable and out came the gas and air. By sometime later (I lost track), the pain was starting to become unbearable and out came the opioids, which took the edge off, but not for long. It wasn’t long before the pain went past unbearable and out the other side.
Of course, I wouldn’t dream of comparing my experience to what m’wife had to go through during those hours, but I can tell you that it was one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my entire life. All I could do was hold her hand and encourage her to take deep breaths as her body tortured her. Seeing someone that you love so much in that much pain is heartbreaking, there is no other word for it.
Eventually, despite not originally wanting to have one, she finally agreed to the epidural and, frankly, that thing was a fucking miracle. An anaesthetist was called in to do a couple of injections in m’wife’s lower back (between excruciating contractions). It’s a risky procedure (not that I think either of us was really listening to the anaesthetist when she was explaining things in the heat of the moment) but it was worth the risk for the results in our case.
Less than an hour later, my wife was so chilled and spaced out that she even stopped taking the gas and air. (It was only then that she handed me the mouthpiece and I got a go on it – one breath doesn’t really make a difference, but after three deep breaths I started to feel light-headed.)
Anyway, the hard part seemed to be over. We both settled down and even managed to get maybe a couple of hours sleep. I stayed up a bit longer until it was clear that she was no longer in pain and there was nothing else I could do. (I also had to wait until she stopped using the gas and air, as it was a bit like trying to sleep with Darth Vader snoring next to me!) The midwife very graciously brought me a reclining chair, I pulled out my headphones, put on an Audiobook and, eventually, at about 11 pm, I slept.
So, that was it. The live blogging didn’t last the night and the birth plan was out the window almost immediately. It had been the most difficult couple of hours of our lives, but the drugs gave us a brief respite before the next stage of the proceedings.
Part two begins – very suddenly – in the (very) early hours of Sunday morning…