Context: It’s been a while - I returned to work when child number one (A-bomb) was about 10 months old. 12 months after that child number two arrived. I am now on Shared Parental Leave again and will be documenting my experiences here. The aim of the game is to provide some insight into the world of parenting, from a Dad’s perspective.
To kick off proceedings here’s how the second child decided to make her entrance, from a Dad’s-Eye-View.
If you think the posts are any good feel free to share...
Also: Twitter follow @daddyshortlegs_ Instagram follow @daddyshortlegsjc
A sizeable piece of the unflatteringly-named “mucus plug” was released at 10pm, signalling that an arrival could be on the way, at some point, thought not necessarily immediately.
The Weeble went to bed in spare room while I headed up to the loft. This arrangement had been in place for a few weeks - me out of the bed to give the baby-bearer the much-needed space (i assume physically and mentally) plus a poorly sprung mattress was on her pregnancy rider.
To be clear I slept in a lovely bed in a converted attic... i wasn't so chivalrous as to opt for a damp roof dwelling with stinking pigeons.
The 22-month-old A-bomb had been asleep since 8pm, put to sleep by another dose of the demented family that hunts for bears and then acts surprised a bear is found and it wants to chase them (and tear their limbs off).
0450 - Waters gone. But no contractions yet. The Weeble called the magnificent Maternity ward at St George's Hospital to let them know what was going down. She explained that we were hypnobirthing and that, pending space, we were booked into a birthing suite (birthing pool, balls, cushions, ropes, seats with holes in etc).The hospital staff were relaxed. When asked by the Weeble if we should come in the midwife said they were absolutely full in the birthing suite but we could drop in within the next few hours for them to check her over.
The Weeble promptly went back to sleep.
Had I prepared appropriately with a packed hospital bag including speakers for hypnobirth music, spare clothes, food rations and a pillow? It was two days before the due date... of course I hadn't. Easily rectified with a whirlwind collection round the house while making the right noises to my birthing partner. Before that I alerted the Bristol detachment - parents-in-law- who were on standby to look after the first-born on Labour Day. The first baby landed after a relatively straightforward 12-hour birth process... similar for number two would give plenty of time for the 2.5 hour journey to London and for us to casually cruise to the hospital, we imagined.
The external troops were on the road at 0530. Still no contractions. Loads of time.
Logging the time of each event can be very useful during the birthing process, to give you an idea of how things are progressing, an idea of what might happen next and, maybe to compare things to previous babies or suggestions from NCT classes or high value research on Mumsnet.
If you note down timings it also enables you to reflect on the occasion and realise exactly how mental the whole shebang was and how the second birth bears zero resemblance to what happened in round one.
Contractions for A-bomb started in the evening and she was born at 0950 the next day. It was a gradual build up and the hypnobirth techniques assisted with a pretty relaxed affair – if I do say so myself from the position as Chief Watcher.
So, back to round two – waters had gone and phone call had been made to the elders and the hospital birthing suite.
"Hi, my wife's waters have broken but contractions haven't started yet"
"Ok sir, just keep us informed when things progress."
All very relaxed, especially with our hypnobirthing music on. I meandered around, collecting items I might make use of in the birthing suite.
Speakers for hypnobirth tracks - Check. Ensure playlist doesn't stick on White Stripes' Seven Nation Army like last time - check.
Pack the GoPro to provide a point-of-view immersive experience? Probably not. Which reading material should I take? Not sure... I'll come back to this, maybe a magazine, possibly a book, etc. I was chilled.
0600: The Weeble was back awake and was cross that the contractions had not started. She was aware that following the standard hospital policy they would look to induce her if the contractions didn’t start within 24 hours of her waters breaking due to the risk of infection.
0601: “This is really annoying. I don’t want to get induced," she said.
0602: “Ah, its ok I’m having a contraction”.
The first two contractions were 30 minutes apart. All very pedestrian.
The next few contractions were 15 minutes apart. Still very pedestrian.
0650: Child Mk1 was awake, 40 minutes earlier than usual but perhaps understandably given the kerfuffle outside her door as contraction number three took place on the landing.
"Noiiiiisey," she said.
I agreed and explained that I would fetch her warm milk in the preferred blue cup.
"Clean blue cup. Not pink... dirty," she iterated.
I raced out of the room, checked on the main event who was back lying in bed, then launched myself downstairs to collect milk. I had to do it really fast and full of dynamism, to make my input to the whole day seem on a par with the other adult's.
A-bomb downed her milk and requested "out?".
"Not yet.. would you like to have a party?" I ventured. Even if she had cried I couldn't have had a toddler sprinting into the action chamber... it would've been harrowing for her and also the risk of unimaginable mess was too high. It turned out that a party was a great idea. Bob the rabbit and Burgess the bunny were the only invitees and I simply had to throw them into the cot. She ordered those idiots around for a bit and was suitably entertained.
0700: tentative call to the in-laws... "hi, yeh no panic but where exactly are you?
"We are about 25 minutes away and it's a clear road"
"Excellent, if you could just be as quick as possible, while remaining safe, that would be super."
They got the gist.
Then the fun started.
0745: The contractions began coming pretty quickly and were suddenly very intense... none of the slow build up like we'd catered for. Mmm this wasn't in our "birthing plan".
It was evident from my sidekick position that things were progressing decidedly faster than that time 22 months ago.
Maybe it was going to be an aggressive, intense start before slowing down in the middle with the baby landing at the end?
There was not an ounce of respite for my female counterpart. It was contraction-central.
Zero rest for The Birther.
Even a spectator can see that childbirth is one of the toughest things a person can do, physically and mentally. And I knew that my yet-to-be-born child was in the best hands, or more accurately, birth canal. I knew that wifezilla was physically prepared and could conquer (almost thrive on) the pain but even more importantly she had the mindset to take on the challenge – in fact any challenge.
I mentioned that to her. And I cranked up the music.
0755: The Weeble was on all fours doing her thing. She calmly explained to me that she could not now make a trip to the hospital in my car. I was slightly offended. The car has served me well. I thought my birthing partner could have made her transport preferences clearer before this crucial point. She explained she couldn’t move from her current position and the baby was coming right now. She assured me there was nothing wrong with the car itself but that we had simply run out of time. Not wanting to get drawn into an argument about the motor we moved onto discussing alternative plans for A. Maybe she could come with us.
We decided that the likelihood was that we would not be making it to the hospital.
I was actually confident that we would be fine. There was no medical or visual basis for this, but I was. I cannot explain why I thought I had it under control.
The boss made it quite clear that the baby was looking to arrive at any moment.
I was in no position to suggest that all was going to be fine. I had my fingers burned in 2010 when The Birther got injured playing netball and I said "you'll be fine, jog it off"... turned out she'd ruptured her Anterior Cruciate Ligament. I am not a doctor and must not give medical advice.
I remained calm - tapping into the Hypnobirthing techniques – and also aware that Mrs Daddyshortlegs was a hero and cracking on with the challenge. Things were getting pretty loud now.
I dialled 999 for only the 2nd time in my life.
1st time was when a joyrider lost control of his car and crashed roughly two centimetres in front of me and the car was about to explode. But anyway...
Four minutes later, after checking in on the Cot Party (which was going very well), I was at the front door welcoming visitors. From the left of the street came Mr and Mrs In-Law, to which I said: "that's for us," pointing at the Paramedic car parked to my right. There was a knowing exchange of "ok, right, yep" and some nods before the grandparents took over with the first-born and I chatted with the paramedics who came to the door seconds later. Lovely stuff.
I showed the man and woman in green suits to the action. They said hello to the protagonist and then got round to asking me the mandatory questions.
"Do you know her? What's her name? How old is she? What's her date of birth?"
They were more happy than I deemed acceptable.that I knew the answers to all of these questions.
Then came a few more...
”Have her waters broken? Has she started having contractions? How frequently are they coming?"
"Yes. Yes, and very... look at the breakdown of precise timings on this App".
Once the bloke saw my smartphone data (and had witnessed a contraction first-hand) he understood that our 999 call was appropriate and he got straight on the walkie-talkie to send an ambulance, sharpish.
The initial call just requested the nearest team, not an ambulance. Completely understandable.
Three minutes later we had an ambulance outside and two more Paramedics in the bedroom. It was an immersive episode of ER. Not so much Casualty - too British and not as exciting.
I was kind of perched on a pile of clothes while the paramedics made their assessments and essentially ensured L was in good shape.
It was decided that we needed to move the birthing process to the St George's Hospital, which on a clear road is a six-minute drive (incidentally we did it in four). The paramedics suggested to L that she should make a move to the ambulance asap, so should prepare to get to her feet and start walking on the next break between contractions.
This made sense but looked an impossible task.
Any attempt to rise from kneeling to standing was met with a fresh surge of "baby's coming" pain. Nevertheless, she clambered onto her feet. It was an effort to watch the feat never mind carry it out.
The Weeble then had to make it across the landing, down a flight of stairs and into an awaiting ambulance. Contractions were coming too quickly to do it in one go so we had a contractions stop half way down the stairs, in the hall and in the front garden, but the hero remained focused on a quick transition from house to vehicle.
My wife was also focused on other (odd) priorities.
"Make sure my parents know where to find A's food!" She requested.
Followed by an aggressive "You DO know where the frozen Chilli Con Carne is in the freezer don't you?!
"Tell them it's on the second shelf."
I did know. The message had already been passed on to the room behind the closed door.
At this point I merely suggested to my lovely birthing partner that she might want to chill out, forget about the pre-cooked toddler meals and concentrate on the impending baby.
Onward and downward to the front door we went.
Wife and impatient in utero baby were wheeled up the special ramp into the ambulance. All good, while a whirlwind. As with all of it, I was doing my best cheerleading.
Hypnobirthing usually conjures up images of a calm, relaxing room with soothing music. A safe place where you "breathe your baby down". However, the hypno techniques and resulting mindset came into their own in this rushed, emergency situation. In spite of the blue lights and sirens Mum and I were relaxed. And most importantly the heart rate of the new person was calm as the lapping waves on my imaginary hypnobirth beach.
0840: We landed outside St George's Hospital.
Down the ambulance ramp, through the hospital doors, up the lift.
Rolling, rolling, rolling.
We were going to the Maternity Ward. We weren't scared.
Mama bear was pretty chilled while bewildered at being wheeled around like a load of shopping on supermarket sweep.
The head midwife met us on arrival and in the melee of the medical professionals working out where we needed to go I waved my special piece of paper while saying "Hi, yeh, this is our Birth Plan. I'm not sure which stage we're at".
Always good to add a bit of comedy in. Everyone laughed, according to my notes.
The head midwife told the paramedics to take us to the Triage room. 10 steps down the corridor she had a little peak under my wife's gown.
"Change of plan, straight to delivery," she said.
The munch bunch was nearly here. No time for prep.
0847: into the delivery room. Wheely bed was aligned with static bed.
"Ok, on your next rest I'm going to ask you to move on all fours from this bed onto that bed," said the midwife.
Personally, I couldn't see how that was going to happen as there was a not insignificant gap between beds. But I'm not a medical or bed expert. My wife looked at me for reassurance and I gave her the facial version of a Thumbs Up and said "You've got this", which I knew was never in doubt.
On the count of three the hero launched herself onto the new location. Then straight into more work.
"On your next contraction I want you to bring your chin down to your chest and close your mouth, please", said the head midwife.
I suppose if anyone was allowed to dish out tips, it was her. I kept my ideas to myself (I didn't have any).
"Ok, when you're ready, let's have a push," said the junior midwife.
Mama did what she was told. Oh man she loves instructions.
Two pushes and our baby girl was in the hands of the midwife. TWO pushes.
It was 0852. We'd been on the hospital site for 12 minutes.
Not only had Birther turned things around in rapid speed but she'd done it with a 10lb 2oz (4.6kg) baby.
We got all of the important checks done, quite a few docs and nurses popped in to take a look at the giant baby and we were home by 1830.
We may not have used much of the resources at the hospital but we certainly got our fair share at the front end. Four experts in our bedroom and chauffeur driven to the hospital.
And then there were two. A-bomb and The Guvnor.
We arrived home to two beaming grandparents and beautifully excited two-year-old.
Thankfully for everyone, Child Number One had eaten chilli for dinner.
TAKE-AWAY POINTS 1) No birth is the same 2) Mums are incredible 3) Mums take the lead, obviously, but giving birth is made easier with team support 4) I'm not a medical expert