It snowed last weekend, and I mean snowed. But more of that in a moment. At 3:40am on Sunday morning Charlotte woke me with the slightly delayed words ‘I think my waters have broken’. It stirred in me a mixture of excited anticipation and relief – we were after all nine days overdue. Our first labour had been a shade under four hours, quick by first-time standards, but not alarmingly so. I woke Carol and Piers (my in-laws) and phoned my own parents, then put the coffee machine on; it could be a long night.
The first inkling that things might not go entirely to plan was when Piers and I went to get the car. The moment we stepped outside our shoes sunk down into the four inches of newly fallen snow, the car was going nowhere. A sense of hope not really bedded in any reality led us to the porters lodge to see if they had a solution. Whilst Piers was chatting to Howard I noticed a car stuck in the snow and went over to help. After a fashion we managed to get the car moving again, as thanks the driver kindly offered us a lift to hospital. It only took a quick look towards Piers before we both politely declined. It was time to call an ambulance.
When I got back up to the flat it was apparent Charlotte’s labour had progressed. She was in a lot of pain, but dealing with it in her normal stoic way. It reminded me just how amazing it all is – she could be shouting out in pain one moment and then able to hold a perfectly normal conversation the next. At this point I still assumed we would be having the baby in hospital, however two things quickly disabused me of this. First, Charlotte announced that, in the last seven minutes, she’d had three contractions. Second, in response the ambulance call-handler (who stayed on the line throughout) very calmly but assertively told me to get her somewhere comfortable, get some towels (it turns out you do need them) and check ‘if you can see the head’. Thankfully it was all clear, but equally clear was that it wouldn’t be long until I could. I handed the phone to Carol and got ready to deliver a baby.
Lots of people over the last week have asked how I felt at this point. The answer always seems to disappoint. I felt remarkably calm – I knew I had to take control of the situation and be able to make decisions on Charlotte’s behalf, allowing her to focus solely on the childbirth. This much we had already agreed in our birth plan (though that had assumed a midwife might also be there to help out a little). It sounds strange now, but my overwhelming feeling was that it was no big deal – she had chosen now to enter the world, all I had to do was guide her out. What’s more we were in a safe, warm environment and an ambulance was on its way. Things could have been a lot worse.
And so the time had come. After two contractions where Charlotte had resisted the urge to push on the third I told her to let go and push as hard as she could – what felt like seconds later I could first feel and then see a little head as it emerged to join us. There was a small moment of private panic when I thought the cord was stuck round her neck, it was just a hand, temporarily trapped by her shoulder. There was a moments pause as Charlotte caught her breath and then, with a final heave she was out and in my arms. We wrapped her up, placed her in her mothers arms and waiting for the pros to arrive. Our work here was done.
Writing a week after the event, there are a couple of things that don’t quite fit into the narrative of the story – the first is my sheer admiration and love for my wife. It is impossible to imagine the feelings and emotions that must have been coursing through her as first plan A, then plan B were torn-up before her eyes. Yet she never showed the slightest bit of panic and dealt with everything as if it was entirely routine. Even better she made us the perfect baby girl. I should also thank Carol and Piers who not only allowed us to turn their beautiful home into a temporary birthing centre but also supported us in the whole thing with a contagious sense of calm.
There is nothing to compare to the pride you feel on becoming a new father, and this doesn’t diminish second time around, The emotion that comes with being the first person to hold your baby and to have actually delivered her into the world is however off-the-scale. Even as I look at her feeding now, I can’t quite believe that it happened. It is a night that will never leave me, and one that I am sure will haunt Alba as I bore first her and then her friends recounting the tale for many years to come.