This was originally written for the Dads’ pages of the NCT Warwickshire newsletter, but I wanted to share it here too. I’m going to share the story of the birth of my second child Lara who was born at the end of November last year. I wanted to tell it from a dad’s perspective, but I wasn’t planning on taking as big a role as I did.
Firstly a bit of background. When our first child, Izzy, was born in 2009 Abby (my lovely wife and the real hero of this story) had false contractions a couple of weeks before the real thing. Not knowing any different we journeyed to the birthing centre. The contractions eventually subsided, and when the real thing came it was clear there it a big difference between false and real contractions. In the end Izzy was born in under four hours of Abby’s waters breaking so we knew a second one would come along pretty fast.
After Izzy was born we moved down to Leamington. After the lovely experience of giving birth in a midwife-led birthing centre Abby didn’t want to give birth in hospital so she suggested a home birth. I was more than happy to agree, after all hospital is somewhere you go when something’s wrong, and there’s nothing wrong with most births is there? We hired a pool, set it up, and all was ready.
At about 6pm on Saturday night, Abby started having mild contractions. We were obviously quite excited, but aware it could be some time, or that they could even stop entirely. I bathed Izzy and put her to bed as normal, with Abby’s contractions continuing irregularly. Not knowing what the next few hours would bring we had a reasonably early night.
The contractions started to get a bit stronger, and I helped put the TENS machine onto Abby. We still weren’t certain this was it, but it was looking more likely that the new baby would arrive that night, and we even allowed ourselves to get a bit excited.
By midnight the contractions were really affecting her, and we started timing them at about a quarter past. Still, I asked Abby (at the height of a contraction) “are you sure these aren’t real” and she replied (with actual words – something she would not have been able to do last time around) that she wasn’t sure.
At about 12:45 we decided it was probably going to happen that night, but would probably be some time as the contractions weren’t strong enough. I suggested I run Abby a bath to try and relax her and let her get some rest (and maybe even some sleep). I ran the bath and removed the TENS machine (making sure I turned it off first – something I learned from Izzy’s birth – a top tip). Abby had another, stronger, contraction and then started to climb into the bath. Before she even sat down she shouted to me “call the midwife – it’s happening”. Thinking she meant she’d just decided that they were definitely real, I got my phone out and started to dial.
As I was finding the Labour Ward number in my phone, she told me (with a bit more worry in her voice now) “cancel that, ring an ambulance”. At a glance I could see a little blood, and I helped her out of the bath. I calmy (well, relatively calmly) told the operator that my wife was having a baby. I think their first reaction was to assume I was overreacting and that it seems bad for everyone having a baby, but I knew Abby wouldn’t have said to call an ambulance for nothing. It wasn’t until I was following the operator’s instructions and Abby moved her hand out of the way that I could see how keen Lara was to see the world – her head was crowning!
I was told to “apply gentle pressure to prevent tearing”. In fact I was holding her in. As soon as I released a little pressure Lara was born gently into my waiting arms with a couple of pushes from Abby. She was so keen to exit that she came out with one hand up by her shoulder!
I instinctively knew everything was ok. Our new baby was crying, and Abby was barely bleeding (in fact I don’t remember any blood at all). My first thought was to make sure Abby knew everything was ok too, so I just kept saying “you’ve just given birth to a healthy baby girl”.
The call to the ambulance was logged at 00:57. Lara was born at 01:00.
We now were in a rather comical situation. Abby was stark naked bent over the wash basin. I was stood behind holding Lara, who was of course still attached. I knew an ambulance would turn up soon, but they wouldn’t be able to get in if I didn’t let them in! There weren’t even any towels in the bathroom. Izzy (who had been woken by Abby’s cries as she got out of the bath) was in her room crying.
Abby waddled to the bedroom with me following close behind (still holding Lara you see). We then did some complicated twister moves to untangle ourselves so Abby could sit down on the corner of the bed and I could get them both warm. Lara went straight to the breast for her first feed (before the ambulance operator even had a chance to suggest it).
I’d like to rewind for a moment if I may. When Abby told me to ring an ambulance one of my first thoughts was that she may get taken to hospital in a rush. I was aware that Izzy was asleep in her bedroom and if we didn’t have anyone to take her I would have to leave Abby to go on her own. My parents only live a couple of miles away, and were already on standby, so while on my phone to the ambulance operator, I grabbed Abby’s phone and dialed my parents. Unfortunately I couldn’t speak to them (my other call was a little more important), so I just put the phone on the floor in the hope they would at least get up (if in bed) and ready to go, even if they didn’t set off. This meant they heard everything, but had no idea we were on our own! When I did pick up the phone (after the untangling stage) the first thing my mum said to me was “is the midwife there?”!
I went downstairs to open the door for the ambulance. Two turned up. My first reaction was that they’d messed and sent too many, but then I realised there were actually two “patients”: mummy and baby!
Five men traipsed up the stairs (one of the ambulances had a trainee on board). Poor Abby was sitting naked (although admittedly under a quilt) on the corner of the bed when they came in! They soon saw that they weren’t really needed. One crew went back down to their ambulance and the other did a quick examination to see there wasn’t too much bleeding, and helped Abby further up the bed to a more comfortable position. They then made sure the midwife was on the way.
The midwife and her assistant turned up (another trainee?) a short while later. They cut the cord (I declined, having found the first time around a bit disappointing) and gave Abby the injection to help the third stage of labour along (Abby’s request – the third stage was a little difficult with Izzy’s birth). Most of their time was spent doing paperwork, and they eventually left after 3am!
At 3:30am Lara was asleep in her crib but we both had too much adrenaline in our systems to sleep. I decided to go and pour myself a beer, knowing it would be the last one I would be able to manage for a while! The adrenaline soon subsided and I never finished my beer. We went to bed, although it didn’t last for long! The first of many broken nights.
Overall, it was quite a whirlwind experience. I have had a lot of congratulations on delivering Lara, although being quite honest all I did was catch! Abby really did all the work. Even if you discount the birth itself (which was a lot harder for her than me of course) she carried her for 9 months!
I would have thought it would be more worrying and stressful, but whether it was too quick, or whether it was instinct, I wasn’t worried at any point. Being present at Izzy’s birth helped, and of course the preparation our NCT antenatal classes gave us was great. I have heard in general if a baby is coming very quickly, there are unlikely to be any complications.
I don’t think we are planning on a third child, but if we do I think we would have to have a live-in midwife to have a chance of one being present at the birth!