It’s 2012 and as usual I’ve started the year off with computer problems! For the past week I genuinely thought that our laptop was broken and havent dared to tell my husband. On trying to “fix” it today I found that it was working perfectly, relief and annoyance at all the wasted time. So anyway I need to kick the new year off with a blog post before I get back in the swing of things next week and as 2011 was a special year due to the arrival of Sam I thought the prefect thing would be to join in with NetMums One Born Every Minute blog post relating to dads during childbirth.
Now I have to say that during Elliott’s birth I felt as though Steve was being outwardly calm but inwardly going “oh my goodness, oh my goodness oh my goodness” – or words to that effect – although he would deny that. Having a homebirth certainly meant for things to be a lot calmer with no need to worry about rushing to the hospital and then all that entails, I basically got to wake up, have a baby and go back to bed!
I probably didn’t help things for Steve, we knew the night before Elliott was born that I was in early labour and decided to sleep on the sofa as I just felt I wanted to be on my own and nearer the downstairs bathroom. I promised Steve that if things started I would wake him up. At 3am I woke up with mild contractions, I’d had them the day before and thought that they may just fizzle out again so I may as well get some sleep because if they got worse I was going to need to be as rested as possible. At 5 am I was so uncomfortable I gave up trying to sleep and just got up, went to the bathroom and had a show – at this point I should point out that I was 11 days overdue and I had been waiting and hoping that I would get a show for weeks to give some indication that Elliott was on his way and getting it whilst it was blindingly obvious I was in labour was just ironic and slightly irritating. I still just wanted to be on my own so didn’t wake Steve, I just spent and hour and a half moaning to myself and worrying that this was going to get intense and I wouldn’t cope. At 6.30 Steve gets up and comes downstairs to start getting ready for work and instead finds me in labour! Well it woke him up at least. He sort of sat next to me for a while, asking if I wanted anything and not really sure about what he should be doing. I asked him to get the tense machine down from upstairs and get it going as my thoughts were if I could take the edge off the first bit I would cope better when the contractions got worse.
When he came down he convinced me we really should phone Sally, our fabulous independent midwife, I hadn’t called her at this point because I was extremely aware that first babies could take hours and hours and I didn’t want to ring her too early and wake her up when we could all still be waiting at midnight for Elliott to arrive. We rang her at 8am ish and after asking various questions including if I wanted her to come, to which I said no I was fine, we hung up deciding that I would just get on with it for a little while and then see what happened. My contractions were close together, about every 1-2 minutes but they only lasted about 30-45 seconds so I genuinely thought we would be there for hours yet. This is when Steve said something that would make a dramatic difference to how things turned out, he said “Wouldnt it be better to get Sally to come now? Its rush hour and she has to get through the Dartford tunnel if she gets stuck because of traffic she could be there for hours” – To this day I honestly think that if he hadn’t said that Sally wouldn’t have been at Elliott’s birth at all. Remember those short but close together contractions? Well if you go by “the book” those contractions shouldnt have worked at all but when Sally arrived she quickly realised that although they were short they were intense and it transpired that my body didn’t bother to read “the book” and I don’t have normal labours – in fact Sally hasn’t ever seen anyone labour the way I do before or since. I have come to the conclusion that for most people they get the gradual build up of a contraction and then it peaks and tales off, I just get the peak, BANG, and that’s it, gone,. The intensity never increased or gap between them decrease so if it hadn’t been for Steve’s rush hour concerns I think I would have just carried on like that untill it was too late! When Sally arrived at 9.30am she did her observations and it got as far as 10.30am before she uttered the fateful words “I’m sorry but I think I’m going to have to examine you to see what these contractions are workng”.I really wanted to know what was happening at this point and was thinking that if I was 7cm I would be ecstatic, if I was 4cm I could cope and if I was less than that I may cry. What I didn’t know was that in Sally’s head she was thinking that I may not be dilating at all! Upon examination I was 6-7cm, woo hoo carry on and HELLO gas and air!
In the midst of all this Steve was setting up the birth pool and filling it. We’d had a practice run a few weeks earlier and left the pool partially inflated but he was still having trouble getting the connectors to the taps to co-operate and he was loosing as much hot water as he was putting in the pool. Added to this complication was that as soon as our hot water tank was empty it would take 20 minutes for the water to heat back up again for another batch. He said that he liked having to worry about the pool as it actually gave him something to do rather than feel like a spare part. However he also did do his bit being the supportive partner and every contraction he would be right by my side, usually, rubbing my arm and looking at me with a mixture of guilt and concern. Now I know some women would love this but quite frankly I’m a bit of a lone wolf when I’m in pain I like to be left alone but instead of yelling at him obscenites and telling him to get off I just tried to keep it in my mind that as irritating as it was he was doing what he needed to do to feel as though he was being supportive.
His BEST bit of support however came when I just sat half leaning on him for a while, he was like a comfy bean bag, nice and warm and squashy….he would seriously not appreciate that comment!
My labour was fast, by 12 I was pushing, I’m not really sure where Steve was, he was certainly down the business end watching it all happen because he jokingly complained at having to watch later! At 12.40 there was an Elliott and as per our birth plan Steve fished him out of the water and handed him to me – after a bit of panicked fumbling. He said after it was one of things he wanted to do but when it happened his head just exploded with the responsibility for a moment.
I sat in the pool holding our baby boy and Steve shed a few tears….not as many as I am sure he shed when Elliott pooed all over his West Ham shirt a short time later!
When we had a few technically problems with the placenta Steve sat and cuddled our new baby for 2 hours and loved every minute of it.
2 and a half years later it was Sams turn!
With Sam things were different, we knew things weren’t going to be normal and we also knew it would be quicker, which it was and it wasnt.
I had been having a few days of Braxton hicks on and off but they were seriously mild and never lasted long, I also wasnt due for a few more days and so didn’t think Sam was appearing any time soon; what I didn’t bank on was the brewing thunderstorm and because of the change in air pressure it tends to throw everyone into labour – apparently the maternity ward was chocker as a result that night.
In the morning I was niggling but very mildly, and despite it being Saturday Steve was going to work. He asked if he should go and I said yes because it probably wasnt going to turn into anything it was just annoying more than anything, WRONG!
We had planned with Sam for various situations…..despite someone who shall remain nameless saying we didn’t need to worry he would come at night when Elliott had gone to bed ;-)……we had planned for what to do if it was night-time and Steve was home, if it was day time and Elliott was at school, if I went in to hospital unexpectedly, we hadn’t planned for what to do if it was day time and Elliott was home AND Steve was at work – and of course this was what happened!
Steve left for work at about 10.30, at 11am my friend, Ruth, came over and we went to Tesco to get the last few bits we needed before the big day; as I had already explained to Steve it was either going to get things moving or it was going to distract me and they would just go away. I think pushing the trolley probably helped because by the time we got to the car park I was seriously starting to have to think about breathing through contractions but again they were still quite mild but less so than earlier.
On arrival home we were going to take Elliott to the park to get him out of the house for a while but something kept telling me not to go and the contractions were getting more difficult to just ignore but I still really didn’t want to say anything to anyone in case it was a false alarm and look like a complete ninny – I’d had a baby before after all and this wasnt how things happened with Elliott; then I remembered that with his birth I had slept through the really early bits so actually I didn’t know! It was about 2pm and after a few deep breaths from me Ruth said in this I’m probably being daft but tone, “Alice, are you in labour?” to which I said I might be and Ruth’s 12-year-old daughter went very quiet!
We decided it was best to start making phone calls and the first was to Steve who was told not to panic but this could be it and to come home, he sounded very chilled about it – I personally think he was just happy to have an excuse to leave work but he will deny that! On his way home he called to ask how things were, I told him the latest on the practicalities on Elliott (I am leaving chunks of this out I know but it’s because I suspect there will be more chances to tell the full story over different blog posts over time) and he asked did I think he had time to go to B&Q!!!! Apparently he hadn’t been to buy a connector for the tap so needed to go fetch it! I did jokingly tell him off but despite not knowing exactly what was happening with my labour I didn’t think he had to rush.
When in B&Q he got somewhat panicked, nearly loosing his temper with someone stealing his parking space and an over enthusiastic Saturday worker but on his arrival home things were pretty chilled, Sally was on her way home from the zoo (sorry kids) and Elliott had been collected by his grandad.
At this point Ruth was still with me and although we had sent Miss Charlotte home, I didn’t want to traumatise the child, her dog Dougie, was still snoozing in the window and we had to make a decision on what we were all doing. The plan always was that Ruth would be with me if Steve couldn’t be and if he was home she would either take Elliott to her house if he was awake or if he was sleeping she would be there with us in case he woke up etc. Now Elliott had gone to his Grandads and Steve was home and although she offered to go and get Elliott and take him home with her Steve and I had a brief chat and I decided that she had done all her homework by attending Sally’s birth talk, she had been amazing during my pregnancy helping all the time it would be nice if she could see it through to the end, if she wanted to, which she did!
So Ruth nipped home to return Dougie and also change into something more practical, Sally was on her way and Steve was off to get the pool started and at this point my contractions kept getting further apart!
I got my ball out because it felt like it was actually starting to stop, I wonder if it was partly due to the thunderstorm having been and gone, but by the time Ruth arrived and Sally had walked in things were getting really slow and so I was sent for a brief (very brief) lie down to rest because after about 2 minutes Sally decided to do my obs and to check Sams position. When she did this she found that his head was very high up and he had become unengaged – without him putting pressure on my cervix he wasnt going anywhere and basically I had to go for a walk and get things moving not just from early labour to turn into established labour but to get his head down and get it moving at all. This was 9pm
Steve was once again pool boy so Ruth and I went for a walk – an odd choice maybe but it made sense as he had a job to do, Sally had midwife things to do and Ruth was the only one without a job. To be honest it was a slightly odd experience in general having Sam. I should maybe point out that over the 2 and a half years since Elliott’s birth Sally had become a really good friend and so most of the time it didn’t really feel as though I was having a baby at all, it was more like my friends had come over for a cup of tea and while they were there I happened to have a baby.
I barely made it down a 6th of the street before the walking started to take effect and labour established fully. I kept it going as long as I could manage before coming home, which really wasnt long and we came home to continue things in a less mobile fashion. I think I handled the pain a lot better with Sam than Elliott, I think the fact that I had been niggling all day helped and that I was much more relaxed and chilled than when Elliott was born. Also I had decided before I even went into labour with Sam I wasnt going to do the whole growling thing I had going on when Elliott was born and would just breathe really slowly and concentrate on relaxing all the muscles that hurt instead of tensing up.
With the pool done and a lot of chatting going on I think Steve now did feel like a bit if a spare part Coupled with there not really being any major signs of big progression changes from me he understandably thought it was going to be a long while yet so decided to go upstairs and clean and organise the bedroom ready for after the birth and this is where he was when Sally yelled up the stairs “you better come down now if you want to see your baby being born”
When labour progressed to pushing my goodness the pain stepped up a major gear. I hadn’t had any gas and air this time so I was really feeling everything and as my SPD had been a lot worse this time around as he came down it felt as though my pelvis was being ripped in two!
I remember being turned to face the pool wall and Steve dipping his head down to be at the same level as me and talking to me. I lost it a bit at one point, briefly but Sally told me to get back in control and I decided that I had to get this baby out so to give it everything I had and between that and Steve talking to me he helped me find the strength to calm down and get the job done and I don’t think I would have found that without him. I felt Sams head coming out as I pushed and as it was nearly fully out I could feel the contraction fading and I was NOT putting myself through more contractions THAT intense for nothing so I was buggered if I was going to let him get that close and need an extra one so I gave it an extra bit of welly and his head was out, with the next contraction the rest of Sam followed into the pool, I pushed for a grand total of 10 excruciatingly painful minutes and it was so quick Steve was still talking to me while Sam was floating around between my legs in the pool because he hadn’t realised that he was out! My instinct was to pick Sam up but I ignored it and Sally asked Steve if he was coming to get him and a slightly startled Steve was the one to hand our new baby to me for a first cuddle.
I think due to Ruth and Sally being present at Sams birth Steve probably underestimates how important he was to me that day but when it came down to it Steve really did make all the difference and what is more important than that. In the end I actually had everything I needed, I had Ruth to make me laugh and Sally that I could trust 1000% and who took the stress away and Steve who was the voice in my head when mine was in pain.
Sam and Steve didn’t get to have 2 hours of cuddles as he had done with Elliott and I think Steve probably felt on a slight back foot with Sam because of this but Sammy loves his daddy regardless and gets so happy and excited when Steve comes home from work that he certainly hasn’t had a negative effect on him in the long run.