The sound that erupted from my Sarah will stay with me forever. It was a guttural yelp of pain that simultaneously made my stomach twist and (im pretty sure) my heart to stop beating for a few seconds. This was my point of helplessness and the only one. I stood there and watched my wife out of the pool on all fours and there was nothing I could do.
I felt tears behind my eyes and my chest tightening.
And then I heard the midwife…
Hold on a second! Let’s back it up a little shall we?
Now, It is up to you as a couple to decide on where you have your birth. Sarah and I decided on a home birth as it reduced the stress of having to work out when we need to phone up a medical centre. It reduced stress by us not having to travel away from our home. It meant throughout Sarah’s labour, she would be in our house or bedroom, surrounded by our smells, surrounded by the lights around our fireplace, with our own music choice. Our wonderful Obi would be at our side if she wanted to be, and Sarah would have her own bed afterwards to cuddle up to our baby.
At home you are allocated two midwives. Once you call your local NHS hotline number that your midwife will give you, they get in contact with two midwives on call. They then call you when they are on their way from wherever they are. That can take 2 minutes, or it can take two hours.
19:50 02/03/17 – Just over seven hours until delivery.
Stage 1 labor
Sarah text me to ask what time i would be home. I had just got off the train so I text back saying about five minutes. Once through the door Sarah looked bright but a tad pensive. She had her phone out and was timing the space between Braxton hicks. Usually, over the previous few days there had been periods of an hour or two of Braxton hicks every ten to twenty minutes or so. These were between five and ten minutes. My presence must have had an immediate impact because the space between Braxton hicks reduced to roughly four minutes. It was at that point we realised that this was probably the real deal and we should let everyone know.
20:20 – 02/03/17 – Just under seven hours until delivery.
I sent a text to Bryoni our Doula first. There was a bit of back and forth about how Sarah was doing. Surges were coming with intervals of just below four minutes and becoming more intense so we asked Bryoni to come to ours. In that time I started sending texts to our families letting them know that tonight may be the night. Bryoni was with us within twenty minutes and I put the kettle on to make some tea.
Bryoni made Sarah feel at ease and within a few minutes she said it might be an idea that we call the midwives (generally, I believe, midwives want you to call when there are about two surges within ten minutes regularly. We were pushing three every ten minutes). The only reason we left it until that point was because Sarah was so calm. Her breathing was good. She was utilising all the skills she had learnt over the last nine months.
21:00 – 02/03/17 – about six hours until delivery.
The phone call to the midwives last a few minutes as Sarah being calm was quite a negative thing as midwives have to interpret over the phone how labor is progressing. The only reason they sent out the midwives to us was because Sarah had two surges in a seven minute phone call. When your centre feels you need assistance from midwives, they will phone midwives on call around your local area. Before they leave they will give you a call to tell you they are on their way. For us, that took forty minutes before we got a phone call which made Sarah a little anxious. These particular times made it fantastic to have Bryoni around. Just having someone else there to keep Sarah calm and to rub her back during a surge was invaluable. Especially when I had to call the centre to see what was going on (forty minutes seemed like forever). One of our midwives was coming from Whitstable, so we presumed 20-25 minutes.
About 20:20 I began texting the rest of the family to let them know that thing were actually happening and that Sarah was in Labor. Pretty sure no one slept that night.
22:30 – 02/03/17 – less than five hours until delivery.
Yeah you read that right. It took fifty minutes to reach Chilham from Whitstable. Knowing I can cycle that quicker made it feel worse. In that time anxiety was building for all of us. Bryoni and I had started filling the birthing pool as Sarahs surges had started to become quite intense and regularly between two and three minutes. Between us were able to keep Sarah in the right mindset and keep the pool filling to the correct temperature. By the time the midwife turned up we were more relieved than annoyed. It was just good to have some professional help now that Sarah was progressing rapidly. Roughly 10-15 minutes later our second midwife arrived.
They asked us a few questions about how Sarah was doing, took her blood pressure and jotted a few notes down. The surges were coming stronger and I could tell Sarah was physically exhausted by even this point. We had continually tried to make sure that Sarah was drinking water (with Science in Sport electrolyte tab) and eating whatever she could stomach (which ended up being a Jam sandwich). At every point Bryoni was there to reassure Sarah and make her feel at ease. We took turns in rubbing the base of her spine during surges and Bryoni would speak words into Sarah that would calm her.
23:30 – 02/03/17 – less than four hours until delivery.
Exhausted with the strength of her surges, Sarah asks if she can use the Birthing pool to the midwives and the midwives say it needs to be at 37 Degrees (We had it at 35.8C) I put the hot water on again to heat it up a little more while Bryoni assisted Sarah with words and rubbing her lower back. The midwives went downstairs and I made them a cup of tea. The temperature had got quite close to 37C So Bryoni helped her over to the pool. The change of scenery to Sarah and the warmth of the bath helps her relax a little and takes the edge of the feeling during surges. This part of Sarahs labour looking back seems to have just flown by with Sarah altering positions in the pool to help with how uncomfortable surges were becoming.
01:55 – 03/03/17 – less than an hour until delivery.
Two hours disappeared in the birthing pool until things really began moving. Sarah asked for gas and air to help with how uncomfortable her surges were. During surges I could see the strength involved with what Sarah was having to go through. Those minute moments will remain some of the proudest I have of my wife. It was incredible to watch her.
Transition to stage 2 labor
When Sarah asked for the gas and air, I felt a little down about it, as if we had failed in the idea of no pain relief, but that subsided pretty quickly when I realised that it was Sarahs body and I didn’t know what she was feeling. I also remembered that gas and air pretty much just takes the edge off and apart from smiling during the rest periods, Sarah could obviously still feel the surges.
After a couple of surges with gas and air Sarah was laughing. The midwives asked Sarah if they could do an examination again but Sarahs face was saying a definite ‘No’, but the midwives made a good job of saying that it’s in Sarahs best interest and that it may help her know where about she is in her labor (even though in our birthing plan it stated pretty plainly Sarah doesn’t want to know). Luckily, at about quarter past two, and the reason for Sarah to be laughing, was that Sarahs waters had broken in the pool. All the while, Bryoni was there to support Sarah and I, never leaving our side for anything.
02:20 – 03/03/17 – about forty minutes until delivery.
After realising that no examinations were required, the midwives started setting up for delivery. Sarah had begun bearing down during surges. My arms were round hers, her left hand gripping my left arm as the waves of the surges built up, and subsided and rested. Built up, and subsided and rested. The membrane that houses our baby had begun showing. (In case you want to know, it looks like pale seaweed floating in and around your Wife or partners foof) The midwives got their trusty mirror and flashlights out to have a good peak…..Bryoni also managed to get her hands on a flashlight. Not sure where from. But she then assisted the Midwives because from that point I did not leave Sarah, stroked her hair and back. And spoke words of encouragement to her.
02:40 – 03/03/17 – less than 25 minutes until delivery.
The midwives can see the top of our babies head. Sarah is exhausted. Yet the strength never fades her. Every time she bared down, I feel so amazed, so moved by how strong my wife is. She grits her teeth and growls each time, and each time Bryoni and the midwives say words of encouragement, praise and comfort. They are all amazing.
02:50 – 03/03/17 – less than 15 minutes until delivery.
After a few surges, the midwife checked the heartbeat of the baby. Our babies heart rate had dropped and the midwives told Sarah she needed to do some big pushes to help our baby out. They told her to breathe. She bared down and pushed with all her might. But our baby only budged a little. The midwife checked the heart rate again and we hear a strong, normal heart rate on the monitor. Sarah carried on her big pushes for a couple more surges. No movement. So the midwife checked the heart rate again. We heard a slow thudding and the midwife told Sarah that they needed to get her out of the pool for delivery. There was no questioning at that point and we just followed orders.
02:58 – 03/03/17 – Less than five minutes until delivery.
Sarah had a surge roughly the same time she got out of the pool. Then, about two minutes after she touched the floor. She had another. She was on all fours and I was stood by the bed pretty much paralysed. There was nothing I could do. There wasn’t enough room for me to be close to Sarah. Bryoni was stood next to me on my left and then I heard something that still makes my heart skip when I think about it….
03:02 – 03/03/17
The sound that erupted from my Sarah will stay with me forever. It was a guttural yelp of pain that simultaneously made my stomach twist and (I am pretty sure) my heart to stop beating for a few seconds. This was my point of helplessness and the only one. I stood there and watched my wife out of the pool on all fours and there was nothing I could do.
I felt tears behind my eyes and my chest tightening.
And then I heard the midwife…
“The head is out”……
(now gents, I will warn your here that there can be quite a substantial amount of blood involved. There are unfortunately, or fortunately for some, no pictures of our bed or floor during and after delivery. But to some it can look like a great deal but you need not worry yourselves unless midwives are literally swabbing and calling ambulances. Everything is normal. Blood, shit, sweat and piss. It can all happen here. So don’t be a fool, be prepared. This is where your wife or partner will need you to be your strongest. This is the hardest part for most men. We are not used to helplessness, but it hits us head on none the less. Fight it, control your breathing. Deep,in through your nose, slowly out through your mouth. Again. Focus on your breathe. Your baby is coming….)
Immediate relief followed those words I heard. Sarahs face showed a quiet disbelief that suddenly a huge milestone has been reached. A single minute later our baby calmly slid into the world safe and sound in our bedroom. The midwives I am told are unwrapping our baby from his umbilical cord. They threaded our baby through Sarahs legs for her to hold and covered it with a towel and gave our baby a quick rub down. Sarah face was a picture of delight, relief, love, just a picture of more emotions than I can put down here.
She was amazing.
The lead midwife asks the time. I looked at my watch.
The third minute of the third hour of the third day of the third month.
“what is it? What do we have?” asked Sarah.
He’s a Boy! He’s our Oak! And he is. He made a little whimper after the towel rub. But then all was quiet. All he did was open his eyes and look at this strange new world of his.
Stage 3 labor
What?! yeah boys that’s right. The birth of your child isn’t the end. After a few minutes I cut the cord. Now your babies life support machine has to be born (or ejected). Now this can take a few minutes if your Wife or partner wants it to be induced, or it can take about an hour if born naturally. We opted to birth it naturally, which Sarah did in our toilet.
She collapsed in the doorway after for a few minutes because of blood loss. The midwives and Bryoni helped her stand and walked her to our bed so they could examine her. The lead midwife said that the tear that Oaks head had caused was a little too much for her skills and we would have to go to hospital for a surgeon to sort out.
Cutting that part of the story short. We got there about 05:30.The surgeon did a magnificent job at 07:30. I came home with Sarahs dad at 10:00 because we had an Ocado delivery coming (figures). But it did mean I could clean up the toilet and bedroom before Sarah came home. Sarah was kept in hospital for way longer than needed and didn’t come home after surgery until 22:30 that evening.
And that’s where the real stories of fatherhood can begin….