When this blog was born, my son’s birth was pretty much the driving force behind it all. This became my space to sort out my feelings about one of the most influential experiences in my life. Rightly or wrongly, I’ve written about what happened before, during and after his birth, and the effects that it had on me as a person. But when a baby is born, there is one other person who sometimes is overlooked in it all. During my son’s birth, my husband was most definitely bottom of the list of priorities, so to speak.
Channel Four’s One born every Minute starts again this week and the first episode’s theme is all about dads. They are the most necessary part of making a baby after all, and most women rely on them wholeheartedly as birth partners. New guidance has been released which outlines the need for dads to become more involved in ante-natal care and the whole childbirth process. So it seemed apt to write about my two birth experiences with Ghostwriterdaddy taking centre stage.
My husband is good at listening and following instructions. So when he was advised during an ante-natal class to ensure that he packed a lunch for the big day, he did just that. Two weeks over, I was to be induced and so this made the sandwhich making process a little easier. He even made soup the night before, to heat up once we arrived home with our new bundle of joy. The plan was simple: pop to the hospital, eat ham sandwhiches and return that same evening to dine on soup. Lovely. The reality was a little different…
I was induced and instantly in a lot of pain. Ghostwriterdadddy sprung to action and made himself handy by timing the contractions and chasing midwives. We had a laugh: hopsital food was worthy of many a joke or two. When the pain became more intense, my husband ran me a bath and we settled into the warm room. This was the point he felt able to open up his lunch box and finally- after hours of no food- unwrapped his lovingly prepared ham sandwhich. Unfortunately, this was also the time that my body decided my waters should break and my announcement of this promptly put Ghostwriterdaddy “right off” his sandwhich. I’ll never forget his face. The disappointment.
I’m making light of the situation. My husband was fantastic. We went down to delivery where he turned off Coronation Street upon my request, he held a cold flannel to my head and he cracked appropriate jokes at appropriate times. It never occurred to me that the alarms, oxygen masks and beeping machines were actually freaking him out a little. Having had an epidural and sucking like crazy on the gas and air, I was still laughing at his jokes long after my husband had realised the gravity of the situation we were in.
When the decision was made to go down to surgery for a Ventouse delivery, my husband took my wedding and engagement ring and put them into his pocket. He arrived in theatre with a green gown floating behind him and a smile on his face. Or at least, it looked like a smile to me. We laughed again as the anaesthetist realised he had turned a lovely shade of white and quickly adjusted the height of the screen. The Ventouse wasn’t going to work and they were prepping me for an emergency section.
Ghostwriterdaddy was the first person, after the medical staff, to hold our daughter. He gave her the first bath, changed the first nappy and did all the get-ups in those first days back at home. BUT I have to add that he also, helpfully, took ALL of my hospital bags home in an effort to keep tidy, leaving me with no nappies, no clothes and no blankets. We can’t have it all, I suppose.
We laughed about the funny things that happened during my daughter’s birth, but we retained a sense of fear as my second pregnancy began to draw to an end. Ghostwriterdaddy had admitted how frightening he’d found our daughter’s birth and we’d requested an elective c-section this time. Regular readers will know that this was denied and so the night I went into labour was terribly devoid of jokes.
We arrived at 4 am and I was admitted. Ghostwriterdaddy was sent home until visiting hours resumed at 11am. When he arrived back on to the ward, he was greeted with a near hysterical wife, in pain and terrified. He then spent a further four or so hours, pacing the corridors with me, fuelled on nothing more than paracetamol. He grew increasingly concerned, tense, angry. We were pretty much left to it.
At around 3pm my husband was helping me out of the bathroom, which had become something of a distraction from pacing the corridors. A midwife spotted him and pounced upon us to inform him that the bathroom was for the use of women patients only. Perhaps not the best comment to make, but now that he had a midwife, he was going to keep her for a while. My husband demanded that someone come to my rescue, as it were, and we were led back to bed for an examination. At 6cm, we were finally granted access to the delivery suite.
Ghostwriterdaddy informs me that I was propped up on the bed with towels, since there were no pillows. He also informs me that the blinds in the window were broken and that the workmen outside had a very interesting tea break that day. There was no crib. There was no birthing pack. The mouth piece for the gas and air was missing. Another piece of equipment was broken. It did not start well.
Ghostwriterdaddy held my hand and stayed with me as the machines bleeped, the staff talked and the doctors came and went. He knew the drill this time. Oxygen masks. Pain. Terror. It was almost exactly the same as before. And then. And then…
My son’s heart beat fell to silence and the bars came up on the sides of the bed. Tears streaked down my face. My teeth chattered. My hand fell from his. We disappeared.
I hate to think of Ghostwriterdaddy standing in that suffocating, gloomy delivery room, all alone. I hate to think of the silence. I hate to think of him walking down the corridor, where just moments before, feet had been running. I hate to think of him finding the operating theatre, since this could be the only place they had taken me. I hate to think of him waiting there, not knowing. I hate to think of nameless faces telling him that they could not tell him anything and that all he can do now is wait.
Wait, as I was waiting for him. Wait, as they put me to sleep and sliced me open. Wait, as our son was born, alone and blue. Wait, as a tube was pushed down his throat and finally- finally- air breathed into his lungs.
When I awoke, my husband was holding my son and he was all wrapped up in a blanket like a neat surprise. But this is where I must lighten the load of this story. He did it again. Ghostwriterdaddy took all of my hospital bags home, once again leaving me nappy-less and clothes-less. We laughed about that. We had to.
In around six weeks time, I shall be going to hospital to live out the third part of my birth story. Once again, Ghostwriterdaddy will be there, holding my hand when it matters and cracking jokes when I need him to. He’s seen me at my worst, my most vulnerable and my most scared. He’s been there.