This is how it went…
You approach the impending due date as if it is something set in stone. It is a big sign-post given to you by professionals and you trust that it is there for a good reason. You are also told that boys and first-timers are always late. Therefore on the Monday of the week in which the due date is the forthcoming Saturday, you do not expect anything to be happening.
So on the Monday morning as I am getting ready for work, Willy says that she has had a ‘leakage’ in the night. Not a massive amount and it had stopped, so she thought little of it. I said that I would go to work and that she would phone the maternity department and get back to me if we needed to go in. We were both very calm, believing the action wouldn’t start for another 5 days at least.
I drove to work and Willy got in touch later saying the hospital had just advised her to ‘keep an eye on things’. Nothing else really happened during the rest of that day.
During the early hours of the Tuesday, Willy was awakened again, this time with muscle spasms. She had thought that she was experiencing these during the evening of Monday, but as she had never had contractions before, thought that these spasms couldn’t be them. However, as I awoke on the Tuesday morning, she was pretty sure the contractions had started. I got my trusty Contraction Timer app on my iPhone and started counting… 7 or 8 minutes apart. We had been told that unless the contractions are at least 5 minutes apart you would probably not be admitted to a birthing room, so we sat it out. Willy attached her tens machine and applied the boost button every time the contraction reached its height. She seemed totally calm and in control. She later told me she was in total denial.
Within an hour the contractions were about 6 minutes apart. I say ‘about’, as Willy was telling me when she started to feel them and when they ended; sometimes the timing was a little out – at times 6, at others 5: once it may have been 4. When Willy became more and more uncomfortable and The Wright Show was not enough of a distraction, I suggested her getting into a warm bath (this was something I had remembered from ante-natal classes as a good alternative pain relief), and this she did. However, no sooner had she lowered herself into the warm water, she became fully aware that she was fully in labour and it was time to go. It was at this point that she began to look worried: really worried, as if we were not going to get to the hospital in time. Labour really seemed to go from nothing to go,go,go in a very short time,
As you would expect when you are in a rush when driving, every obstacle in the world is set before you. Traffic lights turn red; pedestrians step out and cross the road slowly before you; lorries and cars drive at 23 miles per hour in front of you. The journey to the hospital seemed endless and with Willy gripping onto her seat for dear life, I thought we would never make it. Luckily we arrived still intact as two people and I was able to park in a temporary parking space by the entrance. We carefully walked into the hospital, up the lift, through security and onto triage. Then things really started to escalate.
The reception for triage is at the end of a long corridor. I begin walking to the glass hatch to sign ourselves in and am aware that I am on my own. I stop and turn around to see half way back up the corridor; Willy is leaning against the wall, her eyes imploring: ‘Wait! I can’t go any further’. Luckily a nurse emerges from their reception and we are ushered into a room, where Willy can rest. The time now is approximately 11:00 in the morning.
In this first room Willy is examined and it is confirmed that she is 5cm dilated. We are amazed and thrilled in equal measure, knowing she is half way there and her only pain relief over that time had been a tens machine. The mid-wife offers Willy some additional pain relief now that the contractions are getting closer together and more difficult to bear: gas and air is accepted and after an initial moment of extreme dizziness, Willy is satisfied and uses nothing else for the remainder of her labour.
We are then advised we have to move to a birthing room and can Willy walk there. She is in no fit state to walk, so is wheeled down the long corridor, down another long corridor into our room. She is plugged back into the gas and air line and is asked whether she wants to lie on the bed, sit on a ball, or rest on a birthing mat. Willy asks if she can just stay in the wheelchair. She is probably joking, but the mid-wife says calmly that this is not possible. We had hoped for a birthing pool and this was on our ‘Birth Plan’, but as it had just been used and had to be cleaned, it was not an option. In hindsight, Willy could not have climbed into the birthing pool anyway at this stage, so far gone was she.
And this is what I mean when I say birth is a rollercoaster. You can plan all you want, but on the day, it happens despite any well-laid plans… and it can happen quickly. I think we had foreseen labour as hours of waiting in the hospital, utilising our relaxation techniques to bring on the contractions, playing music, phoning our families, however, nothing on earth was stopping our Theo from coming out that day and all we could do was go with it and help him out.
This Willy did with absolute dignity and poise. It is not the most graceful situations for a woman to find herself in, nor is the actual physical position; however, my heart was so full of pride as she brought our son into the world with hardly a bad word and almost no complaints. I had pictured her directing all her pain and discomfort at me in the form of expletives and physical punches (not that this is her usual nature), as this is the image that is presented to us by the media and the mythical stories of friends: this, we are told, is how women act during labour. But no, Willy, using only gas and air throughout, did no more than shout into her pain relieving gas and air mouthpiece and grab my hand; only occasionally leaving her fingerprints and nail prints embedded into my skin – a very small price for me to pay.
Our mid-wife was supportive and calming throughout, and we both are full of appreciation and gratitude she was the one who was there for the start of our family. Luckily she didn’t need to interfere too much as Willy and Theo were doing everything that was necessary themselves, but her calming commentary on how he was progressing through the birth canal was reassuring for us both. When she said his head had become visible I knew we were close to his birth and that Willy’s pain was almost at an end. She had done such an admirable job so far that nothing was to stop this happening soon.
And there it is… at 13:20 on 4 September 2012, with one loud and blood-curdling cry from Willy, our Theo joined the world. He was passed to Willy momentarily before being checked over by the mid-wife and then as he was a little blue, she advised for the cord to be cut so he could be seen to. This I did after checking Willy did not want to do it herself. Theo was then taken to the warming lightbulb and wrapped up before being placed back in his mother’s arms.
This was the second big issue from our ante-natal classes that caused Willy weeks of guilt – the ‘skin to skin’ beneficial start for the baby. This is when naked baby and mother are together immediately after birth and essential anti-bodies flood from one to the other. It is also a time they say when the baby may route for food and breast feed. This may happen in a perfect world, but it is not our experience and because it did not work out as we had wanted, there was a time when we felt let down… we then felt cheated by the ante-natal classes as almost setting us up for a fall. Many mixed emotions after, but at the time it was just joy. Admittedly I also felt a huge relief, firstly that Willy was okay and also that Theo had all the bits he should have and looked to be in perfect health.
Due to Willy having a slight tear, the mid-wife confirmed that she would need to be stitched immediately. Therefore, the mother and baby bond had to be broken for a while so that Willy could be seen to. This was good for me as I was able to hold my boy for the first time and stare into his beautiful eyes. I admit I was torn though, as I wanted desperately to be with Willy while she went through the ordeal of having stitches – I began to realise then that before Theo, me and Willy were there for each other, now Theo was always going to be first before we would consider ourselves.
Again at this point another part of our birth plan did not come to pass. Due to the situation it was necessary for the afterbirth to be artificially induced with an injection. Willy had wanted the placenta to come out naturally; when asked and advised what needed to be done, Willy agreed and what seemed like just moments later, and with a lot of bloody discharge, there was the placenta. I never imagined it was so big.
So having just gone through the agonizing pain of childbirth, it was almost a double blow for Willy, as she was up in stirrups being sewn and not able to be with her baby, and me, who had done nothing really, was enjoying the early moments with our son. Luckily, there will be plenty of time for us all to enjoy as we all grow together.
And I will leave it there for now, but just add this before the next chapter… I had considered that the most stressful, painful and troublesome of times would be the birth. I believed therefore that only easier times were ahead and we had got through the worst; I was so wrong. But what is odd is that nothing bad happened after, it was just a case of believing we were prepared for parenthood and being very, very wrong.