Time check… Wednesday 25th February 2015, about 1:40am.
We parked up at the hospital (furthest car park from the maternity ward obviously!) and very slowly made our way to the Birth Place. Expecting to be sent away again – obviously to have the aforementioned picnic (see Labour (Part I) if you missed it!) – we took Mummy R’s maternity notes and that was it. No point me carrying 15 bags through the hospital (I felt bad asking Mummy R to share the load) to perform a u-turn and retrace our steps back to the car. Besides, Mummy R was waddling like the mum in Pingu at this stage (I wished she ironed like her!). Despite her obvious discomfort, her stubbornness would not allow her to accept the offer of a wheelchair, so instead we stopped every few yards for a contraction and eventually reached our destination – The Birth Place (think hospital meets hotel). This place was amazing. It had a lounge, TV, coffee machine, fully stocked fridge – glad we hadn’t bothered with the picnic now! I was just settling in to make a cup of coffee when Mummy R told the midwife she was unable to sit down.
They confirmed that the baby was crowning (I didn’t know what this meant but guessed it was quite serious when they shepherded us off to the next room) Brilliant, just brilliant, my coffee was only half made, I hadn’t even started on the cheese and biscuits in the fridge and to top it all off…all the bloody bags were still in the boot of the car!
We walked into the birthing suite… nice… en-suite, radio, comfy chairs, wall mural of a beautiful meadow. Lovely for a weekend away, but obviously none of this was important as the baby was very close to dropping into the world. We were told there was no time for a water birth (something we had strongly considered if things had panned out differently) and Mummy R was told she wasn’t allowed gas and air as it was too late. By this point her only pain relief was two paracetamol… she asked me to include that! I repeat… TWO paracetamol. I concluded this was neither the right time nor place to inform her that last time I stepped on a plug I did it with no pain relief – but this situation we found ourselves in didn’t really lend itself to jokes! Despite being a far cry from a comedian (something else Mummy R asked me to include!) I know I am in a tough situation when I cannot call on humour to lighten the mood.
So what should I do to add value to this crazy experience not that I had done an awful lot up until this juncture. Spout clichés that’s what I shall do. Despite telling myself that I would not resort to this in the run up to labour, I went into a state of mind somewhere between the panic button and autopilot and simply repeated the following four phrases… “breath” (always a useful one); “push” (in case she forgot the procedure); “you’re doing really well” (solid encouragement); and “love you” (not sure the feeling was mutual at this point!!). What more can you say?
Aside from this I assumed the role of chief water boy, trying to navigate a straw into Mummy R’s mouth on demand; occasionally I would try to hug her… bad idea! “I’m hot, get off me”. Then she’d want a hug… then she’d shout at me again for being too close… then she’d dig her fingers into my arm. Despite being in considerable pain I managed to continue my encouragement. “Breath… push… you’re doing really well”. It was all rather intense with little respite for small talk. I imagine some dads get into the technicalities but I left that in the capable hands of the three midwives looking on… i knew my role!
These snippets aside, I really cannot remember much of the actual delivery, it really was a blur. I don’t know what emotions I felt at the time as I was so focused on Mummy R. Whilst writing this, lots of the other parts have been pulled from the back of my brain but of the actual delivery I have very little recollection – it was just a surreal experience – almost out of body.
Time check… Wednesday 25th February 2015, 3:35am
A mere four hours and twenty minutes since the first contraction our first-born was in the hands of the midwife. At this point I was permitted to visit the “business end” and there it was. A healthy, beautiful baby.
I say “it” because despite not finding out the gender throughout pregnancy, Mummy R and I were both convinced that we were having a boy. However, as I stood there looking at this amazing little creature we had created (see I was useful at one point!) and Mummy R had expertly brought into this world, I couldn’t help but notice it didn’t have a penis! I stood there bamboozled. To show you how my brain was operating at the time I remember thinking “maybe it grows later” (maybe this was covered in A Level Science)! Not sure how many seconds passed before the midwife clarified to me that it was indeed a baby girl.
May i introduce to you…Tegan Lily May.
I cannot stress how amazing Mummy R dealt with the whole situation – did I mention she only had two paracetamol? Tegan decided to enter the world in her best Superwoman pose so caused a little bit of damage – as a result Mummy R was taken off for yet another person to look at her hoo-ha whilst I was literally left holding the baby!! They told me she would be gone for 10 minutes. I could do this, Daddy R stepping up to the plate! Obviously I had no idea what to do so walked around the room and started singing a stupid song I had sung through Mummy R’s belly button during the pregnancy. It worked… no tears (Tegan or Daddy!). The song only had about eight words so god only knows how many times I must have repeated it. An hour into that ten minutes, Mummy R returned to be united with her baby for the first time. I took the opportunity to unload the car – two trips!
We sat looking at out little princess for a few hours until it was a more sociable hour to call the family. Because it all happened a few weeks early, overnight and very quickly, nobody suspected that Mummy R was even in labour. It’s fair to say it caught everyone by surprise including Mummy R’s Nan who spent the first 10 minutes of the call telling us about her radiators before we could finally break the news!!
The staff at the Birth Place were amazing, for all the negative press thrown at the NHS, they could not have done any more for us. They allowed us to extend our stay for an additional night (well we had to make the most of the facilities!) – they even babysat Tegan overnight so that we could recharge our batteries and get her feeding into a routine. Because she spent the first hour having skin to skin with me, she wanted to latch onto me more than Mummy R so we had a bit of a battle!
Time check… Thursday 26th February, 10am
Our stay at the Birth Place had come to an end – great hospitality – would highly recommend it. It was time to load up the car again (we had hardly scratched the surface of the things we had packed) but this time with one extra special piece of cargo! There is no better feeling than carrying that car seat down the corridor with a little bundle of joy wrapped in a snowsuit looking up at you. I really feel for those who are not lucky enough to take their new addition home for one reason or another. We’d had a reality check a year or so previous so knew that we shouldn’t assume that baby will be delivery safe and well. We were very fortunate.
Now tears… I guess you all want to know! Men can cry right? OK good… well The Cure were blatantly lying when they sang “Boys don’t cry”!! Whilst sitting down for dinner that evening, I burst into floods of tears… I could sense them coming but I couldn’t stop them. I don’t really know why. Until this point I hadn’t really felt many emotions things had moved too quickly for us to realise what was happening. I just think everything that had occurred in the last forty-odd hours hit me… hard. I was a dad. We had a child. We were back at home. I took myself off to buy some baby grows to compose myself!!
As we are await the imminent arrival of Baby Number 2, I haven’t dusted off the picnic basket. The fact they tell you the second is usually quicker than the first just blows my mind – perhaps the picnic will need to wait!