An advanced warning to potential fathers…….

An advanced warning to potential fathers…….

So, you are planning on having a baby (or maybe you weren’t planning, but you are having one none the less….. lucky you!)

As the soon to be father in the relationship, there is relatively little you can do to influence the birth process. A general rule throughout the 9 months of pregnancy is….. “Whatever she wants….. she gets” – It’s served men well for centuries, and that rule is still going strong.

I believed I was fully prepared for every possible scenario when I found out my wife was pregnant. However….. It goes to show that you really can’t prepare for every possible situation. So here is the story of how our baby girl came into this world, in the hope that it gives some prospective fathers a bit of time to prepare…….

The first 9 months

You can probably guess that this isn’t going to be a scientific article….. But I should probably add that you are best off doing your own research and make sure you are as fully prepared as you can be.

Although, there wasn’t a single soul on this planet who prepared me for what was needed to be done.

Anyway, I digress!

There are various classes you can do as couples, and even more that are typically aimed at the expecting mother.

For us, we went for the 3 pronged attack!

Firstly, Jemma (my wife), started doing “Baby Yoga”. No, this isn’t little people doing stretches on mats. It’s for pregnant ladies to practice yoga with a qualified instructor – One who knows what, and what not to do with pregnant women. There is also an element of meditation/mindfulness involved – I’m not sure I’d have managed to stay awake personally, but the reports always came back very positive. So positive in fact that Jemma took the same course twice (from memory, the courses ran on 6 week cycles).

These classes were exclusively for the pregnant women, which was probably a good thing considering my flexibility……

The next prong to our attack on pregnancy was “Hypobirthing”. Yes, it sounds like a hippie cult getting together in a smokey room and chanting to the goddess of childbirth – But I was assured that it was very good.

This course was made up of 5 sessions – The first 4 containing just the pregnant women, with the last session including their partners as well.

I had my reservations about this course if truth be known – Jemma had never really shown an interest in the “mindful” side of life – If anything, it was myself who’d tried the various “mindful apps” that have rocketed in popularity over the recent years (I’d always enjoyed them, but struggled to stick to it).

That being said, the one thing I’ve learned is that even the smallest piece of information can make all the difference – It could be a simple breathing technique, a “mindful” action, or even doing something in preparation to make things easier.

The session I attended was a few months after the the one I was due to attend (unavoidable holiday!) – By which point, I’d already learnt quite a bit through the NCT classes (which I’ll come on to in a minute) – But….. I did get the pleasure of watching a “hypnobirth” in it’s full glory…… It was certainly revealing (in more ways than one), and ended up being rather useful……….

The last piece of the puzzle for us was NCT Classes. Given the £200+ price tag, I was sceptical (especially considering there are various free course available through the NHS).

I’d heard from people that had previously been to these classes, that a lot of people sign up to NCT to make friends……. Yes, it sounds like an introductory play group!

But…. When you consider that the woman will be off work for up to a year (or longer), with most of her existing friends likely working (or who don’t have similar aged children) – Having those friends who are going through the same thing as you, with a similar aged child can make a world of difference.

The course was run over 6 session, each lasting between 3 hours and 8 hours……. Yes, ladies and gentleman, you read that correctly.

8 hours of learning about pregnancy…… on a Saturday….. My initial assumption was that if you could get through that, childbirth would be a breeze!

We were fortunate to be in a group of really nice people – 6 other couples in total (see….. friends!) The classes were really thorough, and covered a hell of a lot of information around pregnancy – Far too much for me to remember if truth be known, but I was hoping that the important stuff would stick.

There were some really eye opening facts – Which on reflection, may be obvious to some (or simply that they knew it anyway), but was an eye opener for lots of us.

The amount of people in the operating theatre for a C section was one of these facts (spoiler alert….. there’s a lot!).

You learn about so much, but as the supportive partner….. It’s really a case of…. Don’t mess it up….. rub her back if she wants, and decide which “end” you are going to be at….. The business end or the family friendly end?

All in all, the £400+ we spent on classes were probably worth it. It gave Jemma piece of mind that she was doing everything she could to be ready, it gave me a few tips and mental images that I’ll never be able to un-see, and in general….. We felt pretty prepared.

Where to go?

There are 3 main options when deciding where you’ll be giving birth.

  1. At home.
  2. At a birth centre (which is generally next to the labour ward), but it’s a little more relaxed and “holistic”.
  3. The labour ward in the hospital.

Jemma had always wanted a home birth, but with the size of my head, I figured we’d be safer if we were closer to a hospital…… She considered the options…… and agreed with me (there’s a first for everything).

That being said, we went with the “home birth” midwife team, just on the off chance that she changed her mind, and we ended up at home (something that in my mind, was always going to be a no no).

When the midwife came around the first time, I asked her how big the area was they covered, and how many of them work at the same time.

The answer….. A massive area (think, county size) and they only have 4 working at once, with 2 working during the night (2 midwives are required at each birth).

I questioned whether this caused a huge amount of “crossovers”, with them not being able to reach the labour in time (especially given the fact there was a lady just down the road from us who gave birth on her own) – I was assured that it was very rare…… I wasn’t particularly sold.

I didn’t give it much thought though, as in the back of my mind I knew we would end up at the birth centre anyway.

By week 37 – The bags were packed (all 15 of them it felt like). Items such as….. candles, vapour things to calm the mood, changes of clothes for everyone, 17 different baby outfits…. Because, ya know…. that’s really important.

Headphones, speakers, chargers, books – You name it…. We had it. I was worried that the NHS would weigh our bags and charge us for extra baggage!

So….. The the bags were packed, we’d survived 720 hours of various classes, and the plan was as follows.

  1. Jemma goes into labour – Pretty important part of the plan.
  2. My mum would come over and look after the kids/dog depending on the time of day
  3. We’d go to the birth centre
  4. I’d set the room up with the candles, the birthing pool, the music etc etc.
  5. It would be the most peaceful and relaxing birth ever!

Simple right? I mean…. We were prepared for absolutely everything.

Well….. No.

40 + 3

I bet you’re thinking….. “43!” – Even the slowest of mathematicians can get that one?!

Not exactly – 40 + 3 is what pregnant women say when people ask how far along they are – 40 meaning they are at their due date, with the 3 meaning they are 3 days over.

It actually started at 40 + 2……..

It was the night of Thursday 15th November – We were just finishing watching “Operation Live” – A fascinating (and slightly gory) 3 part series on Channel 5, which gave you more of a glimpse into what a surgeon has to do on an operation.

There were 3 in total – The first was open heart surgery, the second a full knee reconstruction, and finally it was a tumour on the intestines.

It sounds grim….. But it was incredible to watch.

It finishes at around midnight, and I head to sleep around 12:30am on the 16th November.

Now….. for anyone who has seen the hit show “24”, you’ll need to read this in Jack Bauer’s voice. If you don’t know what I’m talking about…… watch this short clip –

The following takes place between 1:05 am and 2:05 am.

1:05 am – Is there anything worse than being woken up at 1 in the morning, after half an hour of sleep? You are in that “where the hell am I?” mind frame, and quite frankly, you might be dreaming.

“Nick, I think my waters broke”

Well…. For anyone curious, that sentence is like an ice bucket in the face.

1:06 am (yes, I called that quick) – I call my Mum and ask for her to come over. No questions asked, she hangs up and heads over (ETA 10 mins).

I check to see how Jemma is doing…… She’s huffing and puffing quite a bit. I’m trying to think how I’m going to bundle her downstairs and into the car.

“I don’t think we’ll make the hospital Nick”………

Er….. come again? I mean…. You’ve just gone into labour…… Are you for real?

Of course…. this is what I was thinking….. Not what I actually said.

I believe my response was….. “Whatever you want” – I’ve been using that sentence for the past 9 years and it’s always served me well!

1:08 am – I call the birth centre…… There’s no answer.

1:11 am – I call the birth centre again to say Jemma is in labour, and that we are hopefully coming in (still living in hope).

They inform me they are busy, but sure, come on in (like it’s some open invitation party).

1:12 am – Jemma is insistent she isn’t going anywhere….. I could pick her up and carry her downstairs…. Or I could save myself from a beating, and just go with what she wants.

Option 2 won the day.

1:14 am – I call the home birth midwife team – The saviours to my sudden predicament!

“Hi, my wife has just gone into labour – Could you get someone over asap as she feels it will be quick”.

“Hi…… I’m afraid we are with someone at the moment. Please call 999”.

You know when you have a massive urge for a big fat “I told you so!” – Yeah….. this was one of those times. In a shocking turn of events, more than 1 person in the entire of Northamptonshire was having a baby….. Who’d have guessed?

But, such is life, and there was no time to dwell.

1:16 am – The 3 numbers I’ve never called before. 999.

“Ambulance please – My wife has gone into labour, she’s about to have the baby, can you get someone to us as soon as possible?”

“Good morning sir, it’s a really busy night tonight – I’ll get someone to you as soon as possible”.

I mean….. what the actual….. In my mind (and in theory), this was a life or death situation. So many things could have gone wrong.

• I could have fainted and hit my head.

• My heart might have stopped from the stress.

• My eyelids could be burned with images I’d see every time I closed my eyes.

But joking aside, it wasn’t ideal in the slightest, and he couldn’t give me an ETA for an ambulance.

I still thought that we’d have a few hours of labour anyway (because most people’s labour lasts multiple hours!) So whilst I was incredibly annoyed that “it was a busy night for the ambulance service”, I was still confident they’d reach us.

1:20 am – My Mum arrives in the war zone, and looks after a very confused dog downstairs.

1:25 am – Jemma, by this point doubled up on the floor in the bedroom, managed to crawl her way into the en suite…… Because, and these were her words in labour, not mine….

“We’ve just had the carpets cleaned Nick, help me in here”.

Absolute LOL…… Can’t argue with her logic I guess.

1:30 am – The 999 operator is still on the phone to me, and is sounding far more panicked than we are. He’s managed to call Jemma “Rachael” a few times by now, and keeps on asking the same question over and over (from his script).

“Can you see the head?”

To which I replied….. “Yes, she’s looking at me with an incredibly angry face because you keep calling her Rachael……And no, I can’t see the bloody babies head!”

This back and forth continues for about 20 minutes – Clearly the operator has never been in this situation before, and I can’t say I was particularly prepared for it either.

1:50 am – It’s around now that I realise…… They aren’t coming. Which was a strange feeling. On the one hand, there was a huge amount of anger that an ambulance wasn’t going to arrive, and the midwives couldn’t make it.

But on the other…. I felt that now I knew it was down to me (with a little help from Jemma of course), we could nail this home birth thing…….

2:00 am – Houston….. We can see a bit of the head.

Thankfully, I’d seen plenty of graphic birthing videos to know that this was just the start……. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to YouTube a home birth delivery though.

2:04 am – Dear all prospective fathers and mothers – There is nothing in this world that can prepare you for the sight of your babies head appearing, eyes shut, mouth shut, completely motionless….. Just…… hanging there.

They look a little blue, and it’s possibly the most exciting, and terrifying thing in the world – Times that by 100 if you are doing it on your own.

2:05 am – With one last contraction, the rest of the baby comes out, with Dad, catching and guiding her into this world, passing her between the mothers legs, and straight onto some famous “skin on skin action”.

It was the most surreal experience of my life – Almost like it wasn’t me who just took delivery of the baby…. But someone who knew what they were actually doing. I don’t know if it was fatherly instincts or what, but I never felt particularly unsure of what to do – Maybe some of what I’d learnt had stuck after all.

Hats off to the 999 operator who did catch the time of birth though!

Although…… he loses points for telling me to get a shoe lace, and tie it around the umbilical chord (something the midwives have said is a complete waste of time, and not particularly hygienic).

But I did it anyway (it’s very hard to go against the advise of 999), and it made me feel a little like Bear Grylls…..

We waited the full 10 minutes before we did so anyway (optimal chord clamping and all that).

It’s worth noting that she didn’t enter this world kicking and screaming like you see in the films – She was surprisingly sedate…… We towelled her down and made sure she was OK (we had a few cries from her etc).

2:15 am – The next couple of hours were a bit of a blur.

My mum had the unique opportunity to come upstairs and see her Granddaughter within the first few minutes of her life. I’ll never forget the look when I came downstairs to tell her….. Not that we were off to the hospital, but that she was born upstairs!

2:30 am – The ambulance finally arrives!

They were compassionate people, but again, didn’t seem to know what to do.

Long story short, but we should have gone straight into hospital so Jemma could get the placenta out – Alternatively, she should have been told to push the placenta out naturally at home.

The messing around also made our daughter a bit cold (November in the UK isn’t exactly warm), which didn’t help at all.

4:15 am – They finally take her to hospital, with myself flying along in our car behind.

Fun fact….. I beat the ambulance, despite giving them a head start….. Not that I’m proud….. Ok, maybe a little proud.

4:35 am – They wheel Jemma and baby into the labour ward…… To find that there are no rooms at the inn…….

We end up in a consultation room with what can only be described as the worlds hardest bed. It’s here that they warm up the baby, and give Jemma the injection to get the placenta out.

For any women (and men) reading this – The pains of the placenta (after birth), were almost as bad as the contractions! That’s something they never tell you…….

5:55 am – We are finally wheeled off to the labour ward.

They have arranged a private room with en suite in a very quiet part of the hospital. The aftercare we received once we reached the hospital was fantastic.

They do various tests on the baby whilst we are in here – One of the biggest things is her temperature. The absolute lowest they can be to be signed off is 36.5 degrees (ideally it should be 37 degrees).

Baby came in at 33.4 degrees, was warmed to 37 degrees initially, before falling back to 36 degrees when we moved rooms.

There was also a heart stopping moment (no pun intended), when the nurse who was doing the initial checks was unsure over a potential “3rd heartbeat” which is usually fine, but could be more of an issue.

Long story short, but apparently new babies have a hole in their heart that closes within 72 hours of being born. As our baby was only 5 hours old, the tests were a bit fuzzy at that time.

So we had to stay in until the afternoon, when they came back and re did the tests.

I’m happy to say that everything was fine, and we were finally signed out at 2:40 pm – Just over 12 hours after she entered this world.

To sum it up…….

I haven’t even mentioned the fact that my wife did all of this without any pain relief. I don’t give her enough credit half the time, but this goes to show what an absolute hero she is.

It’s also worth pointing out that having someone (family or friends) on call to help out at a moments notice is vital in situations like this.

We couldn’t have done it without my Mum coming over looking after the kids and dog.

Finally…… Be as prepared as you can possibly be…… But still be prepared for the one thing you haven’t thought of.

When it’s all said and done, no matter how it happens, you’ll have a magical story to tell your baby one day, and it’s something that none of you will ever forget.

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