Baby

The day I delivered a baby

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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.

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Memories of Joshua’s birth – Charlotte’s Story

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I have handed the blog over to my darling wife Charlotte for the day – read on, I promise it’ll be worth it.

This is how I remember Joshie arriving in the world. My account has been rather a long time coming – Joshie now being nearly two and a half. However, I thought it necessary to match Boris’ account with my own, and before the memories of going through another labour blur these ones.

I think it was a sunny morning, Saturday the 1st of August 2009. I woke up at 6.30am, having had a surprisingly good night’s sleep, and rolled my rather large and unwieldy self out of bed. I waddled down the hall to the bathroom and sat sleepily on the loo, at which point my waters broke. It was his due date, but my brain hadn’t got as far as processing what might be in store for us that day. It did now. I yelled down the hall “Boris…! I think my waters have broken!!” And my bleary eyed husband came to assess the situation.

So things seemed to fairly swiftly swing into action. I called the hospital, as I didn’t seem to be having any contractions. They told me to come in, as they want to check if your waters actually have broken, as they’ll induce you after 24 hours if you haven’t gone into labour already. However, within about 15-20 minutes I was certainly having contractions, though they were somewhat erratic…they seemed to be happening all on top of each other. None of this slow steady business, with big waits in between. This wasn’t what I was expecting from all the NCT briefings! I called the hospital back – primarily to say I was having contractions so shall I just wait and see what happens rather than coming straight in. We’d been briefed heavily on not going in too early, and given it had only just started it was supposed to be hours and hours before we got to the hospital bit. In hindsight it was very lucky indeed that they told me to come straight in anyway.

It was after 7 by this time. I had a few things to sort out – firstly I tried ringing Mum & Dad. I rang Hampstead and Mum’s mobile and left messages – I thought Dad must be asleep and Mum having a swim. I had to ring Phil the builder to tell him that we weren’t going to be there so he better stop the painter from coming round that morning. The main thing on my mind was that I didn’t want Mum finding out that I was in labour from Phil the builder! I had no idea that they’d gone off to Wiltshire the evening before with Dad proclaiming the boy wouldn’t be coming yet!

We eventually got into the car, my seat bedecked with maternity mats. I only remember the contractions becoming a bit more regular at this point, as I had to lean forward strongly gripping the door handle each time one came…and they were coming quite fast! We were driving down the A4 towards Earls Court and with an odd clarity I remember the billboard just before the junction with North End Road showing a British Gas poster saying “He’s on his way”, which he was. I wasn’t really thinking much about what was happening, and I couldn’t tell you how I felt about it. The focus was so on the moment that I don’t remember feeling a sense of anticipation, or anxiety, or excitement. Boris on the other hand, as I have been since informed many times, was timing the contractions and thinking 2-3 minutes apart isn’t supposed to be happening yet! And he was also thinking – if she’s being such a wuss about these contractions, what’s she going to be like in 12 or more hours’ time?!

We got to St Thomas’ at about 8.30 I think, and I waddled leakily to the lift, where I remember there being other people, but not caring in the slightest. As we went into the maternity reception there were various women with their assembled birthing pals sitting around. There was a midwife on reception and she was processing the crowd. Everything was very calm – there didn’t seem to be any urgency with any of the pregnant women there. I was leaning forward resting my forearms on the high counter and having strong and frequent contractions – which I only remember in contrast to the others who didn’t seem to be in any kind of discomfort whatsoever.
It wasn’t long before another midwife appeared and seemed to survey the scene and ask the reception midwife who was furthest along – at which point all heads turned to me. So we were ushered swiftly into the birth centre – into our adorable room which was bright and sunny and overlooking the Houses of Parliament and the river (though I can’t tell you if I clocked all that then, more likely afterwards!).

On first examination the brilliant, lovely and ever-so-professional midwife, seemingly impressed, said “Well here’s one to tell the NCT group – you’re already 9 centimetres!” Well that explains a lot thought Boris, and I think I thought that was quite a relief, but can’t quite remember as I was busy having contractions. It was about 9 by now. We got to grips with the gas and air and I was standing and leaning forward over the raised bed. It’s a bit of a haze, but I recall trying to lay my head down and have a nap in between each rather-too-frequent contraction. I also became rather irrationally demanding about getting a hair clip to keep my fringe out of my face – and Boris disappeared off for a while getting the stuff from the car. Though all of this seemed to pass by in a bit of a blur. It must have been on his return that he turned into the Breathing Police! By recollection, I’m thinking the contractions were getting a bit sore, and the gas and air was fine but I don’t know how effective it was – however the breathing policeman was on the case, and it helped. Lots. It’s easy to forget in between contractions what you’re doing, but not if you’ve got your trusty PC Boris by your side threatening to caution you if you don’t breathe the gas and air in properly J.

So it wasn’t long again before it was time to start getting the boy out. It was quite clear to the assembled midwife 1, midwife 2, student midwife chap, breathing policeman that it was time as I started exclaiming frequently “I need to poo!” Calm and professional midwife reassured me that I didn’t, it was just the urge to push the baby out. Which clearly I knew, but had lost the power to join up thought and speech, so persisted with the exclamations. I was pushing sitting on a birthing stool on floor mats with Boris on one side and midwife 1 and student chap alternately lying down on the mat peering up my nethers and taking Joshie’s heart rate. I have to say it was pretty sore. At the NCT classes I asked about the pain of actually delivering the baby, and the general answer was that everything else was so painful you won’t really notice the delivery bit. Not so much. This was the worst bit!! I was pushing, but there was certainly a little bit of me holding back the full-on push because it was just a little bit too painful. However, after a while midwife 1 said that Joshie was showing some signs of distress and that if he wasn’t out soon we might have to transfer to the delivery ward. Incentive enough to do a proper bit of pushing. And all of a sudden his head was out, and then the rest of him. I had expected him to be handed straight to me, but he was whisked up by midwife 2 as I was helped onto the bed…it was all a blur and I think I was being dealt with matter-of-factly by midwife 1, and that Boris was next to me…but Joshie wasn’t breathing. I think there was an air of suspense, but not anxiety in my case, as I felt a complete sense of calm trust in those two wonderful midwives. I have no idea how long it was, not long I think, but the cry came and then he came to me. And he was so lovely, just so lovely. And that’s what I said to him: “You’re so lovely”.

And then all the excitement came…. Nanny and Grandad arrived to see the lovely one. Granny and Papa arrived, having been eventually got hold of by Boris, and sped back to London at breakneck speed. Having spoken to my brother straight after the birth, whilst midwife 1 was in the midst of stitching, he then whizzed up with Philippa, Morley & Henry. Bev came too, later in the evening, and whisked Boris away for probably the speediest bottle of Champagne he’s ever drunk.

So there he was, Joshua Piers. He came at 10.30am, only 4 hours after I’d sleepily rolled out of bed that morning. He was 7lb 10oz…about average size, but so little as he was cradled in Boris’ giant arms. And after all the excitement it was just us, and a beautiful sunset, and a beautiful boy, and a sense of awe and amazement, and he was so lovely. And he still is. And he always will be.

If you want to read Boris’ memories of Joshua’s birth – click here