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As I lie on the floor trying to write this, with my 7 month year old daughter crawling all over me, clawing at my note pad, shrieking in my ear and doing her best to be impossibly cute, I’m ashamed to admit to how I’ve felt before; especially when I now know that I’ve never loved anyone more.
What follows may read asbrutal, but I feel that for fathers their expectation is to be strong (especially when mum has been through so much with pregnancy, the birth and thentheweeks and months that follow). Thereality is that it isn’t easyfor eitherand there doesn’t seem to be much out there to help a dad in need.If my words can resonate with one dad in distress, thenI’lldeem it totally worthwhile to have laid my flaws bare for all to see.
Our daughter Vesper was born in the early hours ofFebruary 3rdat Gloucester hospital.Avery difficult pregnancy for Olivia was followed by a ‘holistic’ birth plan that went out the window, a 34 hour labour and pretty much all the drugs we could legally get our hands.However, all of the pain and tiredness quickly subsideswhen you have a beautiful baby girl in your arms.
The first few days were bliss. We were inundated withfamily & friendswhobroughtbabygrowsand champagne en mass at an approximate 1:1 ratio. We didn’t have a clue what we were doing, we were making it up as we went along and we were smashing it.As the days went by Ikept that appearance up, butthe reality wasthatI wasstarting to struggleandwasfeeling very underwhelmed about being a father.
My own mother told me that ‘there is nothing that can prepare you forthe love you will feel for yourchild’. I could see that Oliviawas indeed feeling this, but Iwasn’t. I was flat,at timesfeltambivalenttowards my daughter, was easily frustrated when I couldn’t sooth her anddidn’t feel any physicalbond with her whatsoever.
When we decided to begin our family,neither Olivia norI were particularly broodybut both knew that one day having a family would be important to us.Having been together for 9 years, married for 4 and with Oliviabeing35 at the time, we both felt that it was now or never. When Vesper finally arrived (this cuts me to even think about let alone admit tooin writing) I thoughtthat I had made a mistake. I felt like I hadn’t consideredit properlyand with it rapidly becoming clear how difficult parenting was going to be, thatI’d prematurely robbed myself of my freedom at the age of 30.
There were three thoughts that would keep me up at night (other than a crying baby):
1.How am I going to provide for my family, especially when I feel like I’m falling apart?
I am a property developer and the last time I got paid (orsold a house) was May 2017.Building houses is not conducive to making a fast buck. Throwa baby into the mix,living on a building site at home aswelland you’ve got all the ingredientsneeded for one stressed out dad.
2.For how long is Olivia going to expect me to be the bread winner?
For 8 months I’dbeen living offborrowed money andprior to having Vesper,Olivia was the only one actually bringing any money into the household bank account. Olivia and I are both self employed and before having Vesper,Olivia was adamant that she’d be backpart time after 4-6 weeksand that we would split childcare. I had no reason to doubt her ambition, but low and behold it became very clear that she wasn’t going togo back to work for a long time. This put a further unexpected pressure on things.
3.How am I supposed to bond with my daughter?
By all accounts at the time Vesperdidn’t need me.Olivia had all of the ‘tools’ and I seemed so bad atcalming Vesper, who could only be soothedby her mum.Asa dad, that really fucking hurts. Whenyour daughter screams as if she’s in painwhenin your arms, and thenyou can hear the sigh of reliefin her voice as she’s handed to her mum, it makes you feel really crap.
No 1& 2 could have been easily solved had Olivia not buried our heads in the sand about the money subject and been a bit more realistic about what was achievable.A bit more careful planning and some frank conversations before probably would have saved me a whole world of pain.
Number 3 however was going to prove a bit more difficult to crack.Iwastrying to finish the house I was building so that I could sell it, claw some money back, pay off debts, keep the mortgage payments going and give us a bit of wiggle room. I’d borrowed over £1m to build this house and so it didn’t feel like I could take my foot off the gas. It was tearing me apart. I was torn between that and being there to support Oliviawhile alsofinding time to bond with my daughter. It felt like an impossible situation.
It came to a climax after a particularly shit day on site. I always tried to come home earlier than Ihad before having Vesper to help Olivia, whichoccasionallyirkedme asI was underpressureto get the build finished.Olivia hadalso had a bad day and asked me to take Vesper for an hour so she could have a bath and relax, as was often the case when I got back from work.
Vesper was really fractious and I just could not calm her. I tried tiger in thetree;put heron her back, on my knee, between my legs, on her own, swaddle, cuddle, bouncing. You name it, I tried it. The more stressed I got, the more stressed she got and the whole thing just compounded itself. After 20minutesIlost my coolandscreamed ‘what do you fucking want!?’
I was immediately appalled with myself for screaming at a baby. Then my phone vibrated and it was a text from Olivia asking me to bring Vesper to her.She had heard everything.Olivia was crying in the bath and I felt like a monster.It was my lowest point as a father.
It was the culmination of a tough couple of weeks, and although Olivia and I had spoken quite a bit about the fact that I was clearly struggling, neither of us were able to make any sense of the situation, or what we could do about it. My mental health was not in a good place and I needed some help.
I’vestruggled with my mental healthbefore and so I’m very fortunate that I have noissuewhatsoever in confiding in others, and neither should anyone reading this. Mental health can be a killer if left untreated, so there is not a single good reason tonottalk to someone.
Ourmidwifewas dueoverfor one of her finalcheck-ins a few days later and I told her everything. She put me in touch with an amazing man called Mark Harris. Mark is a male midwife and he also runs a program for dads called ‘Birthing For Blokes’. I took the dog for a walk onCleeveHill just behind our house and spoke to Markon the phonefor over an hour. Speaking to Mark was the catalyst for putting things right. Not only was he able to impart some insightful knowledge, but he also pushed me in the direction of some ‘self help’ which ultimately hasgivenmeabeautiful relationship with my daughter. One I was afraid I might never achieve.
Someone reading this might resonate 100% with what I’ve said. Otherswon’t but might feel that things just aren’t right and being a Dad isn’t quite what they hadexpected. Whateverthe situation, below are a fewof my takeawaysfromlearning ‘on the job’for any dads in need:
1.You’renot alone.Part of the reason I felt so bad is that I was ashamed that I was the only Dad in the world who wasn’t bonding with their child. I felt like I was broken.I waspunishingmyself for my feelings, butMark reassured me that my situation was not unique in the slightest and that he spoke todads like me on adaily basis.Knowing this was the single most important fact that helped me becomea better dad.
2.The love you have for your childmighthave to be unearthed, worked forand polished like a rough diamond.
I had just assumed that I would love Vesper sodeeplyand unconditionallyfrom day one. This is what I had been told was the norm. I thoughtthat the sleepless nights, the crying,the burden it puts on your relationship with your partner, etc would alljust fade into insignificance.Imagine mydespairwhen I didn’t have the feeling of unconditional love that I had been promised.
What I can say with the benefit of hindsightisthat I now know that it’s the struggleand the fight to have a relationship with your child that makes the love that much sweeter.It’sthe struggle that makes the reward soworthwhile. Seeing your daughter smile, or hearing her giggle for the first time is so much sweeter when you’ve had to battle a few lows to get there.
3.Being stressed, stresses your baby!If Olivia had had Vesper for a whole day, I felt it my duty to take heras much as possible in the evening to give herbreak. Sadly I wasn’t able to separate the work stress or financial worries from home life, which would lead me to being ill equipped to look after a baby. I learned that it’s much better if I just say ‘Darling, I really don’t thinkI’min the right place to sooth a screaming baby right now’.
Olivia would sometimes take Vesper when it all got too much for me and Iwould sit with them bothand just be there for Olivia, which was actually a great help for her having spent all day alone.
4.It’s good to talk.The single best thing you can do is also the single hardest thing to do. We live in a generation where for some reason talking about the state of your mental health to a medical professional is so much harder than walking into a hospital and showing doctor a nasty cut, or having lumps and bumps examined. It’s especially bad for men!
I can’t tell you why that is, but what I can tell you 100% without exception that telling someone you’re having a shit time of things, will always help. Swallow you’re pride, tell your partner, tell a friend, see a councillor, tell that guy at work you’ve never said more than ‘alright’to. For God’ssake, just tell someone.
The issues I had were far more complicated and wide reaching than I could ever hope to explain in a single blog post, which is why I have simplified them for this piece of writing. My biggest concern was that for a long while I couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a journey and will require self learning, but hopefully something in this post will be the catalyst for someone in need to take that first step.
As with all good stories, this one had a happy ending. I finished buildingthehouse, renamed it and called it ‘Vespers’. The house then sold in 4 weeks. I have the most beautiful relationship with mydaughter who I love unconditionally. What I had always wanted. While being dad is still at times the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, I feel so well equipped to handle it now that my mental state of mind is in check. I’m now able to understand Vespers needs, know how to make her smile and how to sooth her when she cries. As we wean her off breast milk, it’s now my job to settle her to sleep every night as it’s much easier to do it without the smell and temptation ofOlivia’s milk. I look forward to bed timeeveryday as I get to sing to her, stare into her eyes and watch her drift off to sleep in my arms.
I know of other fathers who have experienced similar and allowed their frustrations to manifest as shouting at a baby. I also know that they have been too ashamed to talk to anyone, and their partners don’t want others to know about it either. It is not my place to approach them and to explain that I’ve had the same, and thatit’s behind me. I want this biggest lesson from this to be that dads (and mums for that matter) must feel that they can approach anyone and tell them all is not well without fear of persecution.
At the end of the day, no one would dare deny that parenting is the most challenging experience one can go through, but also without doubt the most rewarding when you come out the other side smelling of roses.
For any dads in need, feel free to drop me a line. It might be best thing you ever did.
Let’s throw it back to the 1950s where only the aristocratic Dads may have made an appearance in the birth room to welcome a son. The majority of Dads would be waiting in the pub for the news of the arrival of the baby at a homebirth or sat in the hospital waiting room, only to see the baby when their wives would be clean and decent. It was deemed inappropriate for the wives to be seen by their husbands behaving the instinctive, primitive way that labour brings.
Fast forward 60 years to now and Dads are thrown into the birth rooms with often not a scooby doo to what to expect or to do. With the role models from one born every minute spotlighting Dads to be jokers and a spare part in the birth rooms, more concerned with whether they’re going to eat the pickled onion monster munch or the sour cream Pringles. It’s no wonder with the media portraying Dads this way that they find their comfy chair in the birth room, open up their snacks and load up the iPad with the latest football match and settle down for the next few hours, leaving their other halves and the midwives to it.
What would you think if I told you that as a Dad, you are the best asset to birth? You can reduce the want for pain relief and make birth run more smoothly. Oxytocin is the reason why. Dads are the biggest source of oxytocin, with this hormone being the love hormone. A high level of oxytocin means a high level of endorphins (your body’s own morphine supply) and stronger, more regular contractions (oxytocin directly acts on your uterus muscles.)
So to the Dads out there that want to be that difference to the birth (that’s all types of births), here’s my tips for you…
1. Touch- Holding a hand, massaging the lower back, popping a hand on your partners shoulder. Touch increases the oxytocin and let’s her know you’re there.
2. Have a good poker face- No matter how you’re feeling underneath, bring out your best poker face. If she sees fear in you, she’s either going to feel scared herself or feel like she has to reassure you. Either of these are not ideal for her oxytocin levels.
3. Encourage her to eat, drink and wee often. Eating and drinking because the uterus is a muscle that needs nutrients to work effectively. You wouldn’t run a marathon without fuel. Wee often because if the bladder is full then baby’s head can struggle to get past it- women in labour often don’t get the same urge to wee as they do in pregnancy so need reminding to go.
4. Help pack the hospital bag- during birth if she asks you for her flannel for her forehead, or her Vaseline as the gas and air is drying out her lips, you’re going to want to know where it is in that bag. If your partner has a cesarean then all the baby clothes/hats/nappies are going to be your responsibility to find afterwards.
5. Get involved in the birth prep too. Help make the playlist, help research the birth plan. Knowing what will be happening in all avenues of the birth will mean that you can be confident and provide reassurance. Antenatal class can help you with the knowledge that you’ll need. If you know the choices she’d like then you can work with the midwife to make this happen. In the thick of contractions it can be a challenge to make and voice decisions so you’ll be the main communicator.
6. Tell her she’s doing amazing, tell her everything is going well, rather than asking her if she’s ok. If she’s feeling uncomfortable with contractions then she’s probably not going to say she’s fine and dandy.
7. Be a leaning post. If your partner is upright and leaning forward her pelvis will be open an extra 28% meaning more room for baby to pass through. And again the closeness will increase the oxytocin.
8. Be present. Try and limit the use of phones or iPads. When you’re trying to birth a baby and your hubby is scrolling Facebook it can feel a tad isolating.
9. Get your dose of skin to skin after with baby. It can be great for your bonding with baby, helps regulate their temperature, heart rate and breathing. Plus it gives your partner the chance to rest after birth and have two hands to eat the well deserved tea and toast.
10. Look after yourself. There’s nothing worse than having a hangry Dad in the birth room. Pack yourself lots of snacks and drinks so you can stay well fuelled too. Pack yourself a change of clothes too and maybe a toothbrush as labour and birth can take a while.
12. Practise the techniques with her in pregnancy. This can be breathing techniques, counting, visualisations or relaxations from hypnobirthing. What ever coping techniques you are going to use, you’ll need to know what they are to be able to prompt them when the going gets tough- this can be in the car on the way to the hospital, in the waiting room or during transition when birthing mums tend to momentarily lose control.
13. Sort the practical stuff- know who to call, where to park, how to get there, how to get the car seat in the car for the ride home. This will take lots of the pressure off.
Remember YOU are the biggest source of oxytocin in the room. Don’t underestimate your role in the birth room.
For more ways on learning what goes on in labour so that you know what to expect, what to do when things don’t go to plan and other ways to make the birth go smoother then you get involved with midwife Beth’s online birth course.
I’ve never been asked about my birth story. Not surprising really seeing as I’m not the one that did the pushing, but like most things in life, there are 2 sides to every story – granted, mine isn’t the one that people immediately gravitate to – I don’t think anyone has ever come up to me, ignored Clemmie, and asked me how the birth was – it would just be weird.
All that said, I’ve been present at the births of all 4 of my girls. I’ve been there at the classes, at the antenatal checks, at the scans and have witnessed first-hand the emotional roller coaster that Clemmie went through.
My approach and understanding of birth has, unsurprisingly, evolved over the years – I’d be shocked if it hadn’t to be honest – I’m married to a midwife and I have 4 children, if I’d not learned anything from one to the next then it’s not a good reflection upon my grey matter.
Birth No. 1 – I was 24 and bricking myself. Clemmie and I had been together for a total of just over 2 years when she was about to go into labour. You’d think that with Clemmie being a midwife, I’d be clued up and completely at ease with what was about to happen. Well, it’s true what they say – ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’ I knew the basics of what to do not to get in the way and actually help, but I’d also educated myself on what can go wrong and was nervous that everything that could go wrong, would go wrong. Our midwife, who was also Clemmies Mentor at work, travelled back from Glastonbury to deliver Clemmie – she still had mud in her hair and smelt like bonfires. We’d done all the preparation you could, including making a birthing CD (how mid 2000’s) . Clemmie had also developed a craving for ice which I hear is not uncommon, so I spent a lot of my time running to and from the ice machine to ensure she was fully stocked up.
Knowing Clemmie was surrounded by her colleagues, I knew she was in safe hands and it helped relieve my stress levels immensely (that said, I rarely get stressed about anything) and focus on just giving Clemmie reassurance that we were ok and that she was doing brilliantly. She did get in the pool several times throughout Anya’s Birth (we don’t tend to call it labour as it makes it sound like a hideous chore, when in actual fact it can be a lovely experience). I made the mistake of pouring warm water over Clemmie’s back while she was on all fours and commented that it was ‘like pouring gravy over a big fat turkey’. If looks could have killed, I’d be 6 feet under right now, that’s for sure.
Finally in the end, Clemmie delivered Anya while squatting and hanging off my waist. She’d been active throughout the whole birth so I was glad not to see her on her back– being married to a midwife, I would often hear while watching a birth in a film, “oh she should be up and about and getting active, not lying on her back, she’ll find it harder to push and contractions might drop off” (I have picked up a lot since osmosis!)
Clemmie held her straight away, I then cut the cord which I liken to cutting the rind off of bacon. With that done, whipped off my shirt and had skin to skin with my first born – It really was amazing. The one thing that I know Clemmie is still annoyed with me about is that I didn’t shed a single tear throughout the whole birthing experience. Apparently I’m an emotionless robot father, but I know that I was feeling choked up on the inside.
Birth 2 – birth number 2 was supposed to be straight forward. We wanted a home birth but due to some complications, that option was taken away from us (which I was quietly happy about – I didn’t fancy a big paddling pool in my house to be honest, I had visions of it bursting and me clearing up after birth from under the sofa!)
We now had a different plan as Clemmie had developed obstetric choleostasis, so we were going in 2 weeks before our due date to be induced. Going to the hospital on the bus with a bag and a pillow tucked under my arms while not contracting was an odd experience. I’d never given any thought to the fact that some people don’t naturally go into labour but have to be encouraged so that one was a new one on me.
Things were progressing well and I remember a doctor coming in to perform an ARM to get the birth moving along, she then scurried away leaving us to get on with things. Things ramped up quickly and it was at that point I looked around and realised all the midwifes had left the room. Clemmie had gone into transition, seeing the speed at which she changed really had me worried, I felt out of my depth and without anyone to call over and not wanting to leave her, I pulled the emergency cord to get people back in to the room. I helped Clemmie over the pool and after slipping on iced water (she still had the ice craving) and wearing a vomit bowl on her head for about 15 minutes, she gave birth to Marnie in the pool. Clemmie was so loud, but after her head was out, we peered into the water to see a screwed up red little face. The rest of the body was born in relative slience and she slowly drifted up to the top of the water to be held by Clemmie. I was on hand to capture the whole thing on camera as I’d been told that I didn’t take enough photos at Anya’s birth (in all honesty, Anya’s birth was my first birth and I was a bit grossed out by the whole thing, Clemmie wanted photos from all angles and I wasn’t quite prepared to do that! It’s not like we would have sat down and gone through them again together over tea and cake or sent them to my family!)
Birth 3&4 – by the time I’d gotten over the shock that we were having twins, the due date was already in sight. Being twins, and with the added complication of Clemmie’s obstetric choleostasis coming back to haunt us, we were looking at a 36 week induction. This time we’d been studying hypnobirthing – I was incredibly sceptical of the whole thing, until I realised that the work Hypno is misleading. It’s actually about relaxation and breathing, rather than Derren Brown making you believe you were a chicken in a past life, back in 1843.
Once again I was on ice duty, but with no ice machine in sight and the birth taking a bit of time to get going, I walked about a mile into Camberwell to get my lunch and fill several large cups with free ice from the local Subway. All that time, in the back of my head I was thinking, “she better not give birth while I’m away or I’ll never ever hear the end of it!”. I got back and Clemmie was stood up, rocking over the bed with her headphones in. I walked over and rocked with her from behind her, holding her neck and counting her breaths. The smell of lavender was thick in the air.
After about 4 or 5 hours, Clemmie finally started to get regular contractions and she got into the bed. Held her hands and looked into her eyes. I told her that it was only her and I there (when in fact there were a good 5 or 6 other people there!) and that she just had to concentrate on my voice. Within 10 minutes, twin No.1 had arrived. I cut the cord and was holding her for what felt like seconds before a midwife tapped me on the shoulder and said the other one is coming – I’d genuinely forgotten that we we’re having 2 babies – while staring at my newest daughter, I’d somehow allowed that rather important piece of information to be forgotten. Within 5 minutes, twin no.2 was out into the world and before I knew it I was topless, holding not 1, but 2 new members of the human race. Looking at both of them, and then at Clemmie, I almost squeezed out a tear, but I was too happy and nothing would come. I truly am a robot.
Dad bloggers are taking the internet by storm with Simon aka. Father of Daughters leading the pack. If you have not yet seen his hilarious and real squares of dad life then you need to visit his Instagram and Facebook. It is a MUST. For the other side of this story you can read Mother of Daughters, Clemmie’s account of birth 3 &4, Ottilie and Delilah, here.
I returned home from work and the flat was in chaos. After spending the previous night in hospital following a false start to labour, my wife Rosie’s nesting instincts had well and truly kicked in.
Stressing about how underprepared we were for our impending arrival, she’d left piles of personal items in every room that needed washing, ironing or putting away. Despite being told by the midwife that it would almost certainly be another 10 days or so before our contractions would start in earnest, Rosie wasn’t convinced.
To allay her fears (and leaving the boring jobs for later), we lay on our bed researching TENS machines online and downloaded a free contraction tracker App on my phone. It was 8pm.
While testing the App out for the first time, Rosie suddenly clutched her bump and let out a quiet moan. The pain intensified for around 30 seconds before subsiding.
“Don’t worry, I’m sure it’s just Braxton Hicks” I said confidently, given the midwife’s recent prediction.
But six minutes later, she had another cramping pain in her belly. Like clockwork, the pain grew progressively stronger for another 30 seconds before easing off.
“It can’t be real labour,” I said hopefully. “It’s way too early!”
But sure enough, six minutes later, it happened again. Nine minutes. Seven minutes. 10 minutes. Six minutes. Six minutes. Six minutes. Each separated by a consistent contraction of sixty seconds.
“Still think it’s Braxton Hicks?” Rosie asked…
At this point we called the Birth Centre, who confirmed that the baby was definitely on its way.
But then they gave us the bad news. Since we were only 36 weeks pregnant, we wouldn’t be allowed to have our baby in the midwife run Birth Centre as we’d planned. The baby was officially premature so we would have to give birth on the labour ward instead. Rosie was visibly upset but she didn’t have time to wallow as another, more intense contraction took hold.
“Once the contractions are three minutes apart and have been like that for an hour, then you should come in,” the midwife said calmly before signing off.
For the next two hours Rosie ensconced herself in our bedroom, with the windows open and the lights off, as the sun slowly retreated behind the horizon.
In complete darkness, she breathed her way through every contraction while (out loud) I counted down from 100 (a distraction technique our antenatal instructor had recommended) and massaged her lower back.
In between contractions I sprinted back and forth from the kitchen, preparing some fish cakes and boiled courgettes for supper. If we really were in labour, she would need some sustenance to keep her energy levels up.
I even managed to slowly but surely finish all the jobs she’d left for me to do, while dutifully rushing back to the bedroom at the start of every contraction to start the timer App, count down from 100 and massage her aching back.
At midnight, we called the midwife again. The contractions were more powerful than ever and had been consistently three minutes apart for about forty minutes. Kneeling on the bed with her head buried in a stack of eight pillows, Rosie could hardly speak when the midwife asked to talk to her.
“It’s time to come in…right away,” we were told.
This was it. Action stations…
I ran to the nursery to pick up our hospital bags and car seat, before hurriedly loading them into the car. As I rushed back in, I found Rosie at the kitchen sink washing up the dishes from our supper. I couldn’t help but laugh…even in the midst of labour, she refused to let her domestic standards slip. She grabbed the kitchen worktop and breathed her way through another intense contraction.
After what seemed like an eternity, we finally made it to the labour ward. Between contractions, the midwife did a quick examination and confirmed that Rosie was already 5cm dilated, before adding that the baby would be with us by the morning. This baby wasn’t hanging around…
So Rosie was quickly wheeled off to a surprisingly large and dimly lit room, with a new midwife ready and waiting to take us over the finishing line. It was 1am at this point and we were told that the next cervix examination would be scheduled for 5am…a lifetime away.
Because we were around five days short of the pivotal 37-week mark, two monitors were strapped onto Rosie’s bump, and the room immediately filled with the sound of our baby’s heartbeat. The atmosphere was intense and the room was baking.
With every contraction I continued our ritual of counting down out loud, while massaging her back. I could see on the monitor an erratic graph, which tracked the progress of every contraction. So I used this to let her know when each surge had reached its peak. All the while, she breathed heavily on the gas and air (her new best friend) as I rushed back and forth to the water fountain to keep her fluids topped up.
Given how little sleep she’d had over the past two days, I soon started to stress about her energy levels. So, I encouraged her to try and eat some of the snack bars and sweets that we’d brought in our hospital bag. But all she could manage were two Jelly Babies…
Luckily we’d also bought some energy gel sachets (popular with long distance runners), which she did manage to suck on between contractions. I just hoped for her sake that this birth wasn’t going to turn into a marathon itself.
At 3am, during a particularly powerful surge, I felt a gush of liquid against my leg as Rosie’s waters finally broke. We convinced the midwife to examine her again and helped Rosie onto the bed, at which point she whispered…
“I think I’m gonna be sick.”
We managed to grab a cardboard sick bowl just in time as she projectile vomited twice, filling the entire container. Unfortunately, we weren’t quick enough at finding a second bowl though, as she threw up again, this time on the edge of the bed, the floor and my shoes. By this point of labour, and already covered in various fluids, I was beyond caring. I covered the wet patch on the bed with a hospital incontinence sheet and wiped her chin with my handkerchief.
The midwife donned her surgical gloves to investigate the state of Rosie’s cervix. 6cm dilated.
I could see the disappointment on Rosie’s face but we reassured her that an extra centimetre of dilation and the breaking of her waters were two massive positive developments in the space of just two hours. So, she stood back up, leaned against the bed and resumed the cycle of contractions.
Before long, I started to notice a subtle change in her behaviour. She began hopping from one foot to the other to manage the pain. Meanwhile, she began making long guttural mooing sounds during each surge; a sign (I’d read) that we were nearing the pivotal transition period of labour.
It was at this stage that she started doubting herself. Repeatedly she asked for an epidural. We thought this might happen. So, as we’d agreed before the birth, it was my job to remind her of all the reasons why she didn’t want one.
You see, an epidural can massively slow down labour. Plus, it increases the chances that you will need either forceps, a ventouse or even a Caesarian to get the baby out – all things I knew for certain she wanted to avoid.
I reassured her that she was doing an incredible job. That she was being so brave. That she had already progressed so far. And that, with her waters broken and her contractions getting closer together, everything seemed to be speeding up.
I knew should could do it naturally. And she knew it too.
Sure enough, at 4am, within an hour of her last cervical examination she began to feel the overwhelming need to push. The midwife couldn’t believe it and questioned whether the baby might have rotated into the wrong position.
Again, we convinced her to check how dilated Rosie was. So the midwife donned a clean pair of gloves and disappeared down below.
When she re-emerged, the look on her face was a picture. “10 centimetres,” she said. “This baby’s ready to be born.”
She couldn’t believe it. We couldn’t believe it. It was all happening so fast. Rosie had gone into labour only eight hours earlier and now we were about to come face to face with our new son or daughter. Incredible, and with just two paracetamol and gas & air to get her through.
With each contraction, our midwife coached her through the process and gradually the baby edged closer and closer towards its escape hatch.
I’d sworn to myself that I would stay up at Rosie’s shoulder throughout the birth and never look down at ‘the business end’ of proceedings. But like a moth to a flame, I couldn’t help myself. I was transfixed as I saw a mat of black hair start to emerge as the baby crowned. It was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen.
“You’re amazing! Keep going! You can do it! You are incredible!” I repeated, in a state of total awe for my wife and the wonder of childbirth.
After the head was born, the midwife instructed Rosie to pant, with short, sharp breaths. She followed her advice to the letter and in no time at all, our little one shot out and we were presented with our new baby boy.
Covered in a waxy white substance, his head slightly cone shaped after squeezing so quickly through the birth canal, we couldn’t believe it. He was utterly perfect; a healthy, happy seven pounds.