Careful Preparation for Child birth...
The birth of our two children could not have been more different. The first time around we (or rather my partner) could not have been better prepared. The hospital bag was packed weeks in advance and sat in the corner of our bedroom with a crisply folded birth plan sitting neatly on top.
It was as if we had packed for a holiday but then hadn’t gone for some reason. Apart from a photo at the 20 week scan, my partner’s huge tummy and that bag, to me, it just didn’t seem real. I felt somewhat disconnected from the whole process.
My partner was a week overdue when the contractions started early on Thursday morning. She had been at Ikea the day before to buy some shelves which she then busily sawed to fit (something about the midwife telling her to get busy and get that baby moving). It certainly worked and contractions started coming at around 6am that morning. Unfortunately, contractions were erratic and much to my wife’s disappointment, everything seemed to stop that afternoon.
Luckily, they started again that evening and by 3am my wife was finding the pain pretty unbearable. So off we trotted to the hospital. Neither of us had slept a wink for 24 hours.
Vegetable Chilli at 5am
When we got to the hospital, the midwife sent us home again. There was still a long way to go. Back home, feeding my wife vegetable chilli while she lay in the bath at 5am is probably the most surreal experience I have ever had.
At around 6am, the contractions started coming thick and fast so we went back to the hospital again. This time they admitted us. We wanted a water birth and so we were lucky that one of the rooms with a pool was available. My partner found this a great relief and to her vast credit managed to go through the whole process with only the pool and gas and air as pain relief.
I had no sense of time in the labour room – we could have been in there days or minutes for all I knew. I said words of encouragement, fetched and carried, went to get drinks for the midwives, etc. I also tried to make sure that my wife ate and drank regularly. This worked at first but then I gave up due to the frequency of contractions. There is no such thing as multitasking for mum when she is in the full throes of a contraction. In the end, glucose tablets were the only things she would eat.
After around 7 or so hours of labour at the hospital, my wife quite naturally began to tire. The pool was slowing down contractions and at risk of stopping them altogether. This meant that she had to come out of the pool. This was not a particularly welcome development. It was followed shortly by the insertion of a drip designed to keep the contractions going. Now I know that the midwives were pretty busy at this stage but I never expected to have to fix up the drip myself and make sure that my wife didn’t keep pulling or knocking it out, which she did more than once!
The doctors had also begun to take an interest and were circling regularly. “Why hasn’t this woman given birth yet?”. This was when I began to get a little apprehensive and my hackles raised.
There was no way that the doctors were going to cart my wife off to some theatre, especially as I knew this was not what she had wanted at all. The midwives were fantastic though and kept shooing the doctors away. They also gave my wife some pretty hard messages that she needed to get the baby out or the doctors would take over. Meanwhile, all this time, the baby’s heart rate was absolutely normal. It was totally unphased by the whole process.
All of this had the desired effect and my wife began to push and use all of her remaining energy. It was at this point that all of us were shouting words of encouragement. Out our little girl came at 5.30pm, a healthy 9lb 4oz, back to back with her hand up near her face. No wonder labour had taken so long.
I was very lucky because I got to hold our daughter first. I sat down in a big chair for the first time in what seemed like days – I didn’t want to get up. I felt very proud of my wife and how strong she had been over the past 48 hours. I stared at my little daughter.
Unfortunately, the maternity ward was completely full and a few hours later we were asked whether we would mind going home. Owing to shift changes and the long labour there had not been a lot of after birth care. However, bearing in mind that we were complete novices in all of this, we jumped at the chance.
I remember putting our little girl in her car seat very, very carefully and carrying her from the hospital to the car. I carried her so cautiously and gingerly, it was if she was made of porcelain and might break.
I drove home at about 10 miles an hour. Back in the house, we ordered Chinese and I cracked open a bottle of something fizzy. I was emotionally exhausted and starving. That night was a little fraught with junior waking up what seemed like every 5 minutes. However, lying in bed on Saturday morning, I could hear not only the sound of my partner sleeping but also another little person breathing deeply in her carrycot. Right from day one, it was like she had always been there.
In retrospect, coming home so quickly, without my wife having been shown how to breastfeed properly, was a little foolish. It lead to a few difficulties with feeding during the first few days. That said, I still believe it was the right thing to do. For me, it became instantly real and my wife was glad to be home in familiar surroundings.