Call the midwife!
At the birth of my daughter I did just that… Call the Midwife, only she didn’t get there in time.
It’s something every pregnant woman dreads and every Dad-in-waiting prays will never happen to him.
It happened to me… and it was more wonderful than any words can describe.
It started with a kiss…
Or so the song goes. Some nine months or so ago it may well have. However, on this chilly Sunday morning it started with a nudge in the ribs at around 7am.
My wife was nine days past her due date at this point and even her stoicism was being tested to the limits.
B and S (children one and two) had both been late. B by six days, S by a couple. We thought ‘Six, then two… this one’s bound to be on time!’ — we were wrong.
After a couple of ‘sweeps’ (if you don’t know, don’t ask, you don’t want to) being induced was looming large on the horizon. Something we were both pretty keen to avoid.
As I blurrily came to on that Sunday morning, unbeknownst to me my wife had been awake for about an hour having “felt a pop” which had been her waters breaking.
With me blinking my way to semi-consciousness she told me “I think something might be happening, so I thought you could get the boys up and call our friends to see if they’re ok to have them today. Just in case…”
We’re both pretty cautious people so caveats like “Might be happening” are par for the course. I got out of bed, got the boys up and whilst making their breakfast texted our friends. They live just around the corner and, as we’d been planning a home birth, had been on standby to take the boys off our hands for the day — when it eventually arrived.
B’s birth had been a 16-hour marathon. S’s had been a good 10-12 hours so, even though we’d been warned baby #3 could come quickly I was banking on having a fair bit of time. After all I thought, even if it’s HALF the time of S’s labour we’ve got a good 4-5 hours. How wrong I was.
With the boys munching Shreddies and cornflakes I went upstairs to throw a last few bits into their overnight bags. My wife was out of bed and in the loo so I thought I’d check on her. A gentle tap on the door got no response… somewhere in the back of my mind a small alarm bell went off.
Eventually she unlocked the door (note to women: when pregnant and at all near labour do not lock doors) and I opened it. She was on all fours clearly in some considerable pain.
Despite that faint ringing in my brain logic still shouted loudest: ‘Childbirth is painful!’ it said ‘She’s just starting labour – nothing to worry about.’ She groaned something about thinking the baby was coming and for me to call the midwife – so I did. I’m still presenting the cool, calm exterior to try and keep a lid on things.
Logic: It’s an ass
After calling the wrong number first (delivery unit not much use when you want a community midwife) I was then put on hold waiting for a midwife. By this point the boys are upstairs, considering getting dressed but generally just playing and having fun.
Whilst I was still on hold my wife had crawled to the edge of our bed and was leaning on it looking damned uncomfortable. I’m cooing platitudes to reassure her and I’m still on hold… and the voice in the back of mind (the one in the room with the alarm still going off) is saying: “Hmm… wasn’t she in that kinda position when she had #1 and #2?” But of course good ol’ logic is still loudest and shouting “Nah! It can’t be coming that quickly.”
However, soon even that doubting Thomas was drowned out as my wife started to, rather loudly, insist “She’s coming. I think the baby’s coming now!”
As I said, my wife’s usually pretty reserved and, having watched her have two kids before, I know she’s hard as nails when it comes to pain threshold. Therefore, I’m getting pretty concerned, pretty quickly. Still on hold for a midwife I decide I’d better phone 999, just in case she’s right. Note “just in case” – I was still doubting it even then.
After explaining the situation to the call handler I was asked which service I wanted. Rather a stupid question I’d have thought. I’m not going to want the fire brigade to deliver a baby, am I?
Eventually I get through to the ambulance service and, retaining my cool give them the address and details so they can get an ambulance on the way. I’m still thinking “I’ve got a while… worst case scenario the paramedics can help us deliver the baby.”
Can you see the baby?
The voice on the phone is asking me questions, as I get towels and things ‘just in case’. “Can you see the baby?” he asks. I check.”Nope.”Wife has other ideas – she still says it’s coming.
Moments pass with more questions. I’ve got my wife’s mobile in one hand and the other is gently rubbing her back. “Can you see the baby?” the on-phone medic asks. “Still nope.” I say… and then seconds later eyes and nose appear.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so surprised. I’m not sure if I threw the phone or just dropped it. Why-oh-why I hadn’t put it on speaker-phone I don’t know. About a million thoughts raced through my head one of which was ‘Is she breathing?’ I stared at my upside-down daughter for what seemed an age before I noticed bubbles coming from her nose. Bubbles meant air… good ok… breathe… phew… right.
I found the phone again and got it on speaker this time, as I held on to the baby’s head. “Support the head.” said the voice, seemingly unphased by the ordeal of having been thrown across the room. “I can see her!” I told my wife, “She’s ok!” and, at advice from the phone “We need to get her out with the next contraction ok – so push down hard when it comes…”
Phone voice said, helpfully, “Don’t drop her…” and moments later my daughter came into the world in one, wonderful, unimaginably heart-stopping go.
Phone voice got flung again in the ensuing seconds. R was rather still, quite pale and gut-wrenchingly quiet. She also had the umbilical cord around her neck — twice. Not taught, thankfully, but in two big loops. Both wife and I spotted this and in a few panicky seconds which seemed like hours managed to untangle her.
I tipped her forward on one hand, rubbing her back to try and get blood to her head. Where this instinct came from I’ve no idea. Probably from having seen my two sons born, possibly from watching too much One Born Every Minute…
R’s bluey-white skin started to go a heart-soaring shade of reddy-purple and then… a gurgled”Waaah!” the best sound any mother or father will hear at childbirth. Waves of “She’s ok… thank God, she’s ok…” flooded through me.
As if that weren’t enough of a blur what happened next is all rather jumbled too. These scenes were included in the next hour or so:
- At some point S (#2 son) barged into our room and saw what will probably cost us a fortune in therapy one day
- Our friend arrived to get the kids (definitely before ambulanceor midwife) and I bundled the boys out the door with any clothing possession of theirs I could lay hands on. I may have hugged our friend quite hard – I was rather charged up on adrenalin at this point
- The ambulance arrived and the paramedics (presumably more used to dealing with drunks and grannys falling over) seemed rather more panicked than us. They kept offering my wife oxygen which, given she’d just had a third child without so much as a paracetamol seemed rather ridiculous
- The midwife arrived and took over — shooing away the paramedics who were asking my wife to ‘Cough out the placenta’
- Someone asked me what time R had been born… which was the first time since I’d got up that I looked at the clock. We guessed in the end!
All in all it was one of the most amazing, scary, marvellous and terrifying things I have ever done.
Pleasingly I’ve got loads of kudos having delivered a baby. I’m now among an elite group of Dads to have done so. I do feel a bit of a fraud though. I did what I had to really. There wasn’t much alternative. My wife did all the hard work (again), I just caught the baby (I didn’t drop her!).
Still. It’s quite a story to tell R… one day.