My wife told me the other day that she wanted me to write a piece for her blog on what it was like for me to be at the birth of our children.
Naturally I do everything she tells me to do, so I am happy to oblige.
I like to think, as I’m sure is true of most men, that I was a supportive and calming influence both in the lead-up to and at the birth of our son. But I also felt clueless and powerless about what was about to happen. That’s not an altogether unfamiliar state of affairs to me, so I didn’t let that fact bother me.
I was happy to stick to pep talks, brow wipes and back rubs and to leave the serious stuff to the more competent parties – i.e. the women. My birthing tag-team partner was my mother-in-law and having her with us made everything that little bit easier.
Owing to my general inability to perform simple, practical tasks without screwing something up, I have a tendency to lose my rag at inanimate objects. Fortunately though, I’m usually pretty good at staying calm in extreme circumstances and that held true with the boy’s birth.
It was a long, drawn-out labour. There were early rumblings (I’m sure that’s not how my wife would describe them) on the Thursday but, after a few trips in and out of hospital, things really started to come to fruition on the Sunday morning. Gran-to-be and me got the call and set off excitedly and expectantly to the maternity ward.
My wife was amazing during the birth and I felt deeply privileged to bear witness to the occasion. I found it fascinating really. She was calm, controlled and focused throughout. I watched intently as she closed her eyes in concentration, regulated her breathing and rode the waves of pain each time a contraction hit. It was beautiful, graceful even, to observe. She seemed other-worldly and untouchable. Late on in the labour she took just a few gulps of gas-and-air for the pain, allowed one mild curse to lightly blue the air and shortly thereafter produced our beautiful son. It was a magical experience. As the midwife expertly whipped him out, in a flash I’d spotted the tell-tale signs and blurted out “It’s a boy!” as a tear trickled down my cheek.
Given the length of time between those early twinges of labour on the Thursday and the birth of our son the best part of 60 hours later, it was ironic that his entrance music was Take That’s “It Only Takes A Minute”.
What we didn’t appreciate at the time was how prophetic it was too.
So, we’d had the sublime; two years later, it was time for the ridiculous.
We were prepared for the second one to be a bit quicker. Certainly my wife hoped that this would be the case! I was even more relaxed going in to the second birth, not least because we were having the baby at the local hospital and not opting for the risky dash across the moors along a road notorious for landslides and weather-related closures.
My wife gently woke me in the early hours of the morning to inform me it was time (she’d been having contractions for a while but had thoughtfully left me to sleep for as long as she could). It was hectic at the hospital so they made us wait in reception for a while, until my wife showed clearer signs of needing to go in. At this point it might have been advisable for her to drop the calm poise and start kicking up a fuss, but that’s not her style. So we waited patiently until they agreed to take us through.
I suspected that my wife was further on than they thought. She did too. Turns out we were right.
She hadn’t been all that long hooked up to the monitor when her readings started going a bit odd. The baby’s heartbeat was quite erratic but frustratingly the nurse hadn’t set the machine up correctly to record the readings, so they tried again. I was getting a bit concerned at this point but the staff didn’t seem overly worried – partly I guess because they had 101 other things going on that morning. As one breezed in and another out, we lay/sat there feeling a bit forgotten about.
Then it went slightly crazy. The contractions had been registering around 40 to 50 on the bleepy machine thing. Suddenly one shot through at a whopping 100-plus and my wife urged me to fetch a midwife. I skedaddled off out into the corridor and accosted the nearest one. When the second big wave came very shortly after, the nurse agreed it was time to hit the pool and wheeled my wife to the suite.
It was when she was making her way gingerly between beds that another almighty surge came on and she cried out “The baby’s coming!” I think the midwife muttered some platitude or other, not realising that my wife is not one for melodrama (unless we’re talking water parks, which is a completely different story). As the midwife turned her back to get some gloves, suddenly, surreally, no doubt agonisingly, a little head popped out from between my standing wife’s legs, followed by the rest. On instinct my wife produced an outstanding low catch around the head and shoulder area. I dove and grabbed a combination of back and legs (I can’t be 100% certain of exactly what I got hold of – it was all a bit of a blur) and the midwife span round to get a grip of bits of arm, thigh or whatever was available.
I couldn’t comprehend what was going on. It was farcical, like a scene from some macabre Carry On remake. I was gobsmacked. Bewildered. The four of us were caught up in a grotesque game of Twister, with a newborn baby but no mat. She had been born in her waters, with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck (that’s my girl – just like her daddy) and the midwife had the tricky task of getting her out with minimal damage to my wife, removing the sac from around my daughter’s face and releasing the cord from around her throat.
Thankfully she worked fast and it wasn’t too long before my girls were safely tucked up in bed together and I could finally catch my breath, relieved that order had been restored. I also remember the midwife mentioning some point after freeing us all that the baby was a girl. I hadn’t even given it a thought up until that point.
When we were left alone with the baby, my wife and I looked blankly at each other, not saying anything, just shaking our heads, with bemused grins on our faces. We could not take it in. This was nothing like anything we could have ever imagined would happen.
Still, the pool (which was barely half full and was tantalisingly, mockingly still filling up as my daughter arrived) made a lovely bath for my wife in the aftermath of the birth.
And at least I didn’t have to put up with Take That on a loop this time round.