Josh is 18months old tomorrow (1st Feb) – it has been an amazing time and over the weekend C and I started talking about his birth day. We decided it would be great to record our memories of the day and then compare them… Here are mine. Apologies for the length, but it was a busy day.
It was the evening before Joshua’s due date, but neither of us were really expecting anything to happen. Charlotte hadn’t been sleeping well so the priority was very much about getting a good nights sleep. We went out to Richmond for a bite to eat and then went to bed fairly early (very early by anyone else’s standards). The next thing I remember is Charlotte getting out of bed again, it was 6:30am. About two minutes later there was a call from the bathroom “Boris! I think my waters have broken”. There is something in the sentence that hits you pretty quickly and I was up, out of bed and running into the bathroom within seconds. C was sitting there looking excited and committed. I remember us taking about labour throughout the pregnancy and she had always talked about treating it like a rowing race – ignore the pain and focus on the end-goal. It was clear that this is exactly what she intended to do.
I had expected to feel nervous, out of control, helpless and so many other emotions, but when it came I remember feeling excited but calm and ready. Charlotte phoned the hospital who suggested we come in and be checked out – though also warning we might have to go home again if nothing was happening. And then the contractions started coming – the first couple were not too bad, but they soon became fairly intense and more frequent. Still, everything was going like clockwork. We packed up the car, got in and set off to St Thomas’s.
As we were driving along I was also trying to inconspicuously measure the time between the contractions – either I was in such a state that I could no longer do basic addition, or they were getting really quite close together. By the time we were on the Kings Road I had them at less than 4 minutes apart and, from the look of Charlotte, they were beginning to get a trifle painful. I put it down to my inability to count, and also started to worry that if it was this painful barely an hour into labour what would it be by the time C got to ‘transition’? (For the uninitiated that’s the bit where a women is between 9-10cm dilated and can do anything from punching their husband in the face, through to Mooing like a cow.)
Once at the hospital we made our way as quickly as possible to maternity. By now Charlotte was feeling really sick with the pain of it and I had started adjusting to the possibility that this might be one of the births from hell we had heard about at our NCT (National Childbirth Trust) sessions. For the first ten minutes or so we stood in the reception area with half a dozen other mothers-to-be. None of them looked in as bad state as Charlotte…this was really going to be a bad day out. Seemingly the clinicians agreed, a nurse appeared from nowhere took one look at Charlotte and asked us to follow her. A minute later we were in the quiet surroundings of our own room. I should take this opportunity to say that, if you get the choice, there are few better places than St Thomas’s to have your baby. Besides housing some of the best clinicians around (more on that later) it also has some of the nicest delivery suites around. The rooms themselves are fine – they are individual and have a little sofa-bed in so the birthing partner can stay overnight and have somewhere to sleep – but what really makes it stand out is the view. 8 floors up and situated just by Westminster bridge you can see directly across to the Palace and Westminster and up and down the river. It is a truly incredible sight. With that aside over, I shall return to the story.
So, we were now in the relative tranquility of our room, although I was still feeling anything but tranquil. Watching someone you love in real pain is a truly horrible experience, and this is only compounded by the fact there is nothing you can do to ease it. I think all partners find a way of making themselves feel helpful and therefore more in control, mine was to be (and I quote from Charlotte now) the breathing police. My logic was that if I could help Charlotte control her breathing, it would help her with her both with pain and to conserve energy. I honestly couldn’t tell if you if it made the slightest difference to her, but it certainly kept me busy! That said, we were now about two and a half hours into labour and it already looked like we would be dipping heavily into the drugs cabinet, another 9-10 hours of this was just not doable. It was with these thoughts and fears that I welcomed the midwife into the room to do her first inspection.
“9cm” she said and then repeated it “you are 9cm dilated, chances are you are going to have your baby very soon”. The pain we thought was just the beginning was actually full-blown, heavy duty labour. Despite everyone telling us that first babies take at least 9-12 hours, it looked like ours was coming in less than four! There was still little time for emotion – I called my parents again, and we continued to try and get hold of Charlotte’s parents (I shall leave the story of Charlotte’s parents builder knowing about Josh before they did for her account!) I then took the opportunity to get some food, drink and a book – I really had very little idea of when I might be able to leave the room again!
I really can’t remember much of the next hour or so… I remember Charlotte first sitting, then standing, then squatting, then leaning over the bed, then squatting again, and I remember being told off by the midwife.
Charlotte – I feel like I need to do a poo
Me – That’s it my love, just imagine you are doing a really big poo
Midwife – That really isn’t helpful
However, other than this I don’t really remember much until they started talking about it taking too long and Josh’s heart rate starting to slow a little. However emotional it was for us, and physically tough for Charlotte, it was a different ball-game for the boy. After a very quick start he was starting to get tired and if we couldn’t get him moving again they would have to start interventions. Very little happened for another few minutes and we were warned that theatre was now a very real possibility. And then suddenly the midwife could see a head! I immediately asked if he was Ginger (cue another look from the midwife). Charlotte and Joshua had both found new strength and we were moving again, and at some pace…before long we had an actual head, out and there for real.
Now for any of you who haven’t done his before, there are a couple of things to understand and consider. First, it is weird to see a baby’s head sticking out of a fully grown person and despite what you might think, no amount of emotion can change that fact. Second, the midwife will ask both you and your wife if you want to have a look and/or feel – the only right answer to this can be “No”. Finally, and again despite what you might see on the television, the baby doesn’t all come out at once. So, for a few minutes there is literally just a head dangling from between your loved ones legs. Then one more push and a shout and there was Joshua, collapsed in a tiny heap in the hands of the midwife. No cry though, nothing… Babies need to cry when they first come out, it inflated the lungs full and then off they go. But from Joshua there was nothing, the birth had taken everything out of him. The midwives (there were now two in the room plus a student) gave him z little shake, a slap on the back but still nothing. What felt like minutes went by and still just silence. They brought in the resuscitation trolley, things were beginning to look a little serious. Then, after a few blows with the bag a little cry came out, followed by another and then suddenly the boy went from blue to red… Everything was good. We had a healthy little boy.
Writing 18months later, the last paragraph has left me with tears in my eyes and a sick feeling in my stomach. That Joshua was in real danger is in no doubt. However the clinicians were so calm and efficient that it never really felt like that at the time. Everything was done quickly but always explained and we we constantly reassured by their level of professionalism. There is no high enough praise I can bestow on the staff so just a humble ‘Thank You’ will have to do.
And so we were parents! Our nine month wait was over and somebody had given us helpless little ginger boy to look after. Did I mention he was Ginger? There wasn’t much hair, but what hair existed was definitely orange. He was an incredibly lovely and beautiful little boy and bore no signs of the battering few hours he had just experienced. I just remember feeling absolutely and totally overwhelmed, to feel total and unconditional love for something that a few minutes before hadn’t really existed (this might be different for mothers, where you have nine months of something growing inside you but for me at least this was the moment where everything became real) is an enormously powerful emotion. I also felt a whole new love and respect for Charlotte, she had delivered us this most incredible little thing and had done it with such stoicism and grace that I couldn’t help but sit and look at her in almost bewildered awe.
Once he was born there was another flurry of activity. Josh was weighed (7lb 10oz since you ask), fingers and toes were counted (10 of each) and his basic responses were checked. All was good. Whilst all that was happening I was busily on the phone, first to Mum and Dad and then to my brother. Charlotte was been patched up whilst also talking to her brother! Our first visitors were my Mum and Dad, closely followed by Charlotte’s parents. Everyone was truly overjoyed, but being honest, 18 months later I can barely remember anyone else being there in those first few hours. All I can remember is Josh and Charlotte.
Between visitors we tried a first feed, but he wasn’t really interested the first few times – something that changed dramatically once he worked out what was going on. Then more visitors, Charlotte’s brother and his family and then a little later our friends Bev and Gemma.
Bev and Gem’s arrival meant an opportunity for Charlotte and Josh to rest for a bit and for me to pop out, grab something to eat and have the obligatory glass of champagne. Walking back to the hospital was the first time I had really been alone all day and gave me a few minutes to reflect on everything that had happened. Again tears came to my eyes and a huge smile spread across my face – I was a Dad!