It has taken seven months to get to grips with the birth of my son. Between the sleep deprivation, the tiring days at work and the constant joy of having this amazing new person in your life, the words just weren't getting onto the page the way that I wanted them to!
The perspective that this little person gives my life is incredible, and I don't want to be away from him for a second. So on this Autumn morning heading West bound on the Piccadilly Line, I thought I would give it another go!
Birthing Plans should be renamed
A "Birthing Plan" implies that you and your partner can choose what will happen with your birth, but quite often this is not the case! Of the four other couples in our NHS classes who we have stayed in contact with, not one had a straightforward birth that fit in with their "plan". Yes, a plan means that you can choose what you want in your best case scenario, but please go into this with an open mind – don't pin your family's hopes on any one thing, because it will be gutting when you can't have your water birth or when you need the pain killers that you had promised yourself you wouldn't have, or when your birthing partner is unexpectedly away on a conference! Instead, as a family, think of it as a wish list and how nice it would be to have the items on the list, but with no expectation of actually having them all!
My son's birth was far from "to plan" so I thought I would share my unique experience.
It's four days after his due date and I have decided to finish work today ahead of the birth (as a "pathological planner" I didn't want to be surprised into a sprint from central London to the hospital!) I pack up my desk and leave for home. As I approach the only overground stop on my journey I see that I have a missed call and a text from my wife.
Panic stations are engaged, of course the train terminates at that station, and in blind panic I await the arrival of the next tube…
I jump out of the station and sprint Usain Bolt style down the Highstreet, dragging behind me a large bag-for-life containing the contents of my desk and realising that I haven't eaten since breakfast!
I arrive as the Taxi does. I usher my overdue wife down the stairs and pick up the baby change bag, the baby suitcase and my wife's bag… Completely forgetting mine.
We arrive and the tests begin. I feel like a bag lady with the pile of wheelie suitcases and unnecessary coats, in fact I remember getting wedged in the doorway there was so much stuff!
We are 3cm dilated and can go home, only I don't drive and there is no time scale to follow. Will it be minutes or hours or days? The amazing team decide to find us a bed for the night. This was evidently the right decision as within 15 minutes the contractions begin (big style!) There is pain and relief, there is vomit on my leg and there is laughter and crying and affection and lovely nurses who don't think you are a crazy man for asking if your wife can eat a granola bar, and of course absolutely no sleep for either of you!
By 7am our birthing support Jaja arrives and we are moved into a birthing suite and preparations are made.
There are understanding glances from the midwife as my wife is getting irate at me. This is after all, my fault. I decide to suck it up.
As the next minutes go on, the pain is unbearable for my wife and there is little I can do to help. We decide that an epidural is the way to go. She is so tired and yet she is still glistening to me, the same woman I met all those years ago.
A scanner with many wires is attached to the bump and it spits out bits of paper filled with lines. The lines begin to shift shape and there is perhaps a slight tension in the midwife's demeanor. I look at her and she says very calmly
"Baby's heart rate has dropped from 130 to 25. If it doesn't improve in the next minute, then I will press this red button here. An alarm will go off and then 20 people will come running into this room and we will take your wife away and get baby out."
Almost immediately this happened…it was 9.14 am.
The next four minutes are a blur.
My wife stifles a cry and mouths the words – I love you. In hindsight she may have said this out loud but my world was travelling in slow motion.
My cousin Jaja who is as petite as they come holds up my manly 18 stone frame whilst the last 14 hours of emotion escape all at once and my legs buckle beneath me. I escape from the room constantly thinking that the worst may happen, but the sharp February air slaps me awake. I call my nearest and dearest in quick succession bumbling through inaudible sentences drenched in tears. I contemplate finding a cigarette from someone, maybe the man in the dressing gown attached to the drip… But I promised my baby that I wouldn't.
Our midwife appears and ushers me back in. She tells me mother and baby are fine. And that I have a beautiful 9lb 7oz son.
It is 9.18am
I needed to go and look after him, I needed to see for certain that he was ok. I was led to an adjoining room to where the surgery happened and was introduced to my son.
So small and so big in equal measure, I fell in love with him as instantly as I did his mother. I knew his name, but I didn't want to call him by it, in case it didn't suit him or my wife had changed her mind, it wasn't my place.
Our lovely lifesaving midwife helped me change him and clean the meconium from his chubby legs and bottom. I looked after him for an hour not knowing if I could pick him up from the heated machine that surrounded him. I repeated the same phrase several times because it seemed strange to say anything else.
"Mummy and Daddy love you so much, you are our little boy"
Several of the team who performed the surgery congratulated me as they passed through and told me that he was beautiful but I barely looked up. I had seen the seemingly lifeless form of my wife through the door that they had come from. I could see the tubes and I wanted to pull the hair back from her eyes.
A nurse realised I had seen her and apologised profusely, saying that I shouldn't have seen that. But I needed to see her, because she should have been here with me in this room, that's the way that it goes in the movies. He only had me, and I felt the weight of the world lift itself onto my shoulders.
Later, I wheeled him to my wife who was in recovery. I forgot that she didn't know whether we had had a boy or a girl! I said very simply "say hello to our son."
A plan is a plan. But in this instance we couldn't have had any concept of what would happen or how it would feel or the decisions that we would make under this type of stress.
I remember every minute of it like it was yesterday. It is indelibly scribbled across my forehead because in that instant, you change. My wife had the first cuddle with my son. It wasn't planned but I believe it was meant to be that way. Our bond is forever connected with our son (who kept his original name) so plans be damned, sometimes you just have to roll with the contractions!!!!