Tonight I thought I would chime in with a view of how the birth went from the Father’s perspective. Sophie’s birth was rather eventful. It’s very easy to forget that labour carries a lot of risk for both the mother and baby, and not just the father’s hand.
Thinking back to “Labour day” is an odd thing for me. It began normally- I woke up, said “Good Morning” to my wife Nicola, discussed the day, wondering whether Sophie would make an appearance. We noticed Sophie was lying in an odd position, leading us to think she might be on her way. I left for work full of anticipation for the day.
The call did not come at work, so we went out for dinner with one of our best friends. Nic wanted a shandy, but felt awkward asking for an alcohol-free one. So, she ordered a Pepsi, and I ordered, very loudly, an alcohol-free shandy. When they arrived, we swapped.
Pains started after dinner, and we joked that Nic was too full and Sophie had run out of room. Now we’re getting to the fun part! On the drive home, the pains continued, and we were starting to realise this may indeed be it. No waters to be seen, though.
At this time, the pains were coming relatively frequently, so we stated timing them. They were around 30-40 minutes apart to begin with. We called the midwife when we got home who advised painkillers and a bath- “No need to come in yet.”
And then boom. 30-40 minutes dropped to 12 minutes, dropped to 7 minutes. I had started to question whether the contraction frequency was a sign things weren’t quite right. A further call to the midwife, and we get the green light- Time to head to hospital! Nic’s mother drove us to the hospital where the three of us began the final wait.
When we arrive at the hospital (Shortly after Midnight), We are taken to the first maternity room. Nicola is quickly hooked up to the usual apparatus. At this point, the contractions are coming very, very frequently- Every couple of minutes. Meanwhile, Nicola was puffing on Gas and Air, and giggling a lot. The waters haven’t broken yet, so we were due to wait here until they did.
A word of warning to others: If you eat a large meal before your body decides to apply a large amount of outward pressure, be prepared to be reminded of what you had for dinner.
We could hear Sophie’s heartbeat on the monitor. Normally, it was running at around 120bpm, but when the contractions hit, I noticed the drops. Nobody else seemed to- including the midwives- but I put this down to professionalism. As a result, I don’t think Nicola noticed a thing. Nicola was screaming with each contraction, but it was nowhere near as loud as some. My hand wasn’t as lucky as my ears, though.
After an hour in the first room, we are relocated to a secondary room. The doctor enters the room and asks whether Nic wanted an epidural. I am very clear at this point- Nic has a very sensitive back, and there’s no way it would handle an epidural. Despite this, the doctor ignores the request and walks off as if I had agreed.
In this second room, the midwives, the anaesthetist, and the doctor / surgeon are all waiting. Val, Nic’s mom, is with us in this room.
I question the heart rate drop I noticed, and was given a standard response, “It’s OK, We’re monitoring everything.”
They turn to Nic, “Nicola, we need to help baby along- We’re going to insert this instrument to break the waters.”
At the same time, Nicola is arguing with the surgeon. The surgeon wants her to have an epidural, but Nicola is still sure she doesn’t. Nic’s story will tell you more about this part, as I was focused more on the rest of the scene!
And then they try to break the waters.
And here we go. Expecting water, we get blood. Lots and lots of blood. I notice a bit of panic on one of the midwives faces, but it subsides as she explains the situation to Nicola. Sophie is in distress.
She explains that the water contained blood, which is a sign of placental abruption. It is now an emergency and we need to prepare for a cesarean.
At this point Nic is wheeled off for preparation. I’m allowed with her to begin with. They take the gas and air off her, providing a bit of tube as a placebo instead. Nicola was amazed to find the placebo still provided some comfort- but she clearly just wanted some real gas and air to suck on.
She’s sat there looking at me at this point, one hand on mine, one on the tube, and I can see the anaesthetist behind preparing the needle that Nicola so sorely did not want. It goes in. Nicola clamps my hands, but surprisingly no scream- or perhaps a silent, internalised scream (She didn’t want to wake the rest of the hospital I guess.)
At this time I’m asked to leave so they can prepare for the cesarean. I’m led outside.
I was stood there for what seemed like hours. I could hear them working away, opening my wife up to get at the tiny human inside. Every now and then a scream would echo down the hall from other mothers. I remember grinning to myself, thinking “I do hope those aren’t from other cesareans!”
I was called in probably 15 minutes later. I’d guess it was around 03:15 at this point. Nicola was there, happy as Larry. (Who’s Larry and why is he so happy?) I’m sat next to her to provide support. I do not remember even touching her at this point- I’m not even sure I’m allowed.
That’s when I take a peek south. Well now. There’s supposed to be a barrier put up so you can’t see all the mucky bits, but I saw far more than I needed to. At one point, I saw some stringy thing pulled out and flung across. That shocked me. I’m not sure what that was to this day, but my best bet would be the placenta.
At 03:18, I see the focus move (mostly) from Nicola to an incubator. The room is silent, bar two-three people trying to stem Nic’s blood loss. Now, I don’t know what they were doing, but they weren’t just moving things around- they were yanking and shoving at a rate that took my breath away. At the same time, still aware of the silence, I can see a little blue foot surrounded by doctors and nurses.
I’m stroking Nic’s head at this point. She’s asking what’s going on. The anesthetist says something that Nicola doesn’t hear: “It’s been rough for baby. She’s in shock. All we can do is cross our fingers.” – This is the one thing that really worried me, and I remember thinking it was a little inappropriate for him to say it. I turn to Nicola and say, “Sophie is out, behind me, they’re getting her breathing now.”
A few more minutes pass, and I get worried- but then, we hear it.
Not a cry, but a whimper. And Sophie is handed to me. She looks up at me, pulls a face, and…
…That’s right, she sneezed all over me! This was a huge bonding moment for me- and it happened right away. Those who know me know my sneezes!
….Sophie is born!
Around Nicola, the surgeons are still pushing and pulling and yanking. I hope they didn’t put a potato in there, or lose a watch.
I’m asked to leave for now. Sophie is taken off me for a moment. I’m taken to another room. I’m in awe at everything that happened. Sophie is handed back to me and we do the weigh-ins (8lb 8oz!), all whilst waiting for Nicola to be stitched back up. Sophie and I go to find Val, who’s been patiently waiting for news since she found out about the Cesarean. I’ve no idea how long this next phase took, because so many things were rushing through my head. I asked questions about what had happened. Nic had lost 800ml of blood- and there was a huge risk to both her and Sophie- but the doctors, nurses and surgeons were all so professional that we felt safe and secure at all times.
I think it was closing in on 04:30 when Nicola was bought into the room with us to finally meet Sophie, before we were moved into a post-birth unit, where Nic had some baby bonding time, and I passed out on an awkward chair to catch some sleep. All of us so very, very happy at the thought that our lives had just changed forever.
The experience has put one thing in my mind since: That day could have ended very differently, with a very real risk to Sophie’s and Nic’s lives. I am lucky to have either of them with me now. And that is how I’ll see it for the rest of my life.