I’ve learned much since becoming a dad. I’ve discovered a whole new range of skills. These include changing nappies in the dark, preparing breakfast with one hand and some odd ways of stopping tears. Who knew doing an impression of an electric toothbrush could be so soothing?
Being a proud dad of three, I’ve also learned that no two babies are the same and, as a result, neither are their births. Mamas & Papas asked me to share my first-hand experiences of what goes on in the delivery room.
To be honest, I was pretty badly prepared for the Dylan’s arrival. We couldn’t afford antenatal classes and there was only one free session provided by our local hospital. It was largely useless. It concentrated mainly on the consistency of a baby’s first poo – thankfully I’ve never liked Marmite anyway – and what would be appropriate gifts for visitors to bring to hospital.
To complicate matters further, we were due to move to the next county one month before his due date. The hospital staff had told us that it was best that we still had him there. This didn’t fill me with confidence as they’d already managed to lose our records twice!
Luckily, I’d done some reading and had a basic idea of how events were going to unfold. I was thrown though when Kate, went into labour. I phoned the hospital to find that the goalposts had been moved. They suddenly didn’t have room for us. I phoned our new one. They were happy to take a look, but warned me that we would probably be sent home as they thought I’d been a little hasty.
We got there around midnight. Kate was examined and the midwife seemed somewhat surprised when she announced that we would indeed be having our baby that night. Without wishing to sound arrogant, we both knew this already – it goes to show that it can be worth trusting your instincts!
A couple of hours later, Dylan was born. The experience was a decidedly strange combination of tension and calm. While I was fully aware of everything that was going on, I switched off in a way. That is to say I somehow put my feelings to one side and concentrated on making sure that Kate and he were okay. I also offered words of encouragement and did what I was told by the midwife.
Even when he came out with his cord around his neck, I remained horribly calm. He was fine and I remember thinking that it must be a fairly common occurrence.
It wasn’t until a couple of hours later that the enormity of everything that had happened hit me. I wasn’t allowed to stay once Kate and Dylan moved to the ward – ridiculously, I was considered a ‘visitor’. I was walking home when the love, joy, relief and ‘what if?’ feelings stopped me in my tracks.
A little under a couple of years later, Xander was born. We were told at an early booking appointment that the records showed that Dylan’s birth had been complicated and traumatic. I’m glad we weren’t told at the time, but this had me on high alert as we approached the due date. Especially as, late on in the pregnancy, we were told that he might be small for his dates.
He was clearly determined to catch everyone out and did so in a number of ways. He arrived a couple of days early after a very fast labour and weighed it at nine and a half pounds. As if to prove people wrong, he snapped his cord on the way out too!
The atmosphere was much more relaxed this time. Both Kate and I had a better idea of what the experience would be like and it actually bordered on comical with Xander’s thunderous entrance and the Pythonesque scenes that followed with staff from most departments popping in to the delivery room to look at the baby who broke his bungee. They evidently thought we were seasoned professionals as we were all back home by dinnertime.
Then, of course, Amelie arrived last year. We had planned on a nice, chilled-out homebirth and were fully prepared for everything. Or so we thought. Soon after Kate went into labour, the midwife arrived and examined her only to discover that the little one’s heartbeat was too high up. She may have been in a ‘breech’ position.
An attempt to arrange a quick scan at our local hospital to find out for sure was fruitless, so we had to go to the second nearest hospital which is 45 minutes away.
Once there, the scan confirmed that Amelie was in breech. There were two options; an attempt at a feet-first delivery or an emergency C-section. We opted for the latter, only for the surgeon who was really rather keen on the former overruling us.
We were whisked down a long corridor as staff argued with each other over what was best, I was sent to put on scrubs and we were soon in a scary, stark operating theatre surrounded by more medical staff than I could count. It didn’t look good.
To our relief, the surgeon’s boss showed up and overruled him and we were finally underway. It was difficult to hide my feelings this time. I was scared as well as angry about the fact that time had been wasted while Kate was clearly in distress. Nonetheless, I bit my tongue and was by her side holding her hand throughout.
Amelie arrived safe and sound – completely at odds with how it felt things may pan out, but the best possible news, of course. I was sent home again but, given how things could have unfolded, neither of us minded.
So there you go, three completely different birth stories from the same family. My advice to expectant dads is to do your research, try to plan for the most common eventualities and know your birth preferences backwards, but also to expect the unexpected and be prepared to wing it.
The most important thing is to be there and I don’t just mean literally. Be on hand to support your partner in the delivery room, to hold her hand even when it feels as though she’s going to break your fingers. Remind her that each push or second that passes is bringing you both closer to meeting your little one.
Don’t worry – you’ve got this!
Disclosure: this is a collaborative post.