How was everyone’s weekend? Did all the Fathers and Fathers to-be get spoilt rotten with hand made cards and a lie in? My poor husband had to wake up next to his very hung over wife in a hotel in Berkshire after seeing our best friends get married the day before. He did however get treated to a bottle of coke and some Scampi snacks from the motorway on the way home. The kids were pleased to see him and made lovely cards thanks to a very lovely (albeit exhausted) Auntie. He also got to catch up on the Lions game so all in all an ok Fathers Day here.
In the light of celebrating ‘Father’s Day’ this weekend I thought it was only appropriate to hear a birth story from a man. After all it is a life changing event for both parties. This hilarious and witty yet beautifully written story comes from Dave, husband of Susie father to Emi.
Blog: About a Gadabout
We knew exactly how our baby was going to be born. It would take place at our local Birth Centre, accompanied by relaxing music in a softly lit room containing a pool. Susie’s pain would be conquered by measured breathing and the generous application of my sensitive yet masculine touch.
Turns out we were wrong.
Come with me now to room three on the antenatal ward of Lewisham hospital. It’s early afternoon yet almost completely dark outside. Susie is sitting upright in bed, her worried face drained of all colour. She is surrounded by beige medical apparatus gleaming dully under fluorescent light. The due date came and went over two weeks ago and inductions have produced no result. A scan has just revealed a lack of amniotic fluid around the baby. It’s the 23rd of October, the clock is ticking and it’s tense.
A midwife enters briskly to examine Susie and tells us there has been no change: she is still only 1cm dilated. To put that in perspective I am at a constant state of 0.5cm dilation due to a hormone imbalance. If nothing happens soon we will have to discuss other options.
Early evening sneaks in unnoticed and I ask Susie if she would like something to eat. She replies “I’m not actually that huoooowwwwwaaaarrrAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHOOOOOHHHH!!!”. She is either having a contraction or unexpectedly giving her rendition of 80′s pop classic, ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’. I decide that if I do ever write a blog about today this is the point at which I’ll stop writing in the present tense. I also went and and fetched a midwife.
Susie spent the next five hours doubled over in pain, locked in a private agony. If she had been a boxer the referee would have stopped the fight and the crowd would quite rightly have demanded a refund. As I massaged her back for the 476th time (my hands were a bit sore but I don’t like to mention it) she looked at me after a particularly prolonged groan and whispered “epidural”. Having spent the last three nights in hospital with very little sleep, she was worried about lack of energy when it came to the birth. As a midwife was due to examine her in 15 minutes I suggested she could try eating a banana to get her through until that point. We would then know how close she was and take things from there. Susie weighed up my suggestion while fixing me with a stare of primal ferocity. Her teeth formed a solid, unbroken block of enamel through which she hissed those three little words “Ep! Ee! Dural!” I sensed potassium rich fruit just wasn’t going to cut it on this occasion and rushed off to fetch an anaesthetist. The epidural process took about an hour to set up and seemed to provide relief straight away. A banana would have been quicker which is all I intend to say on the subject.
A trainee midwife set about the examination rather uncertainly and hesitantly diagnosed Susie had progressed to 7cm dilated. My spirits rose: this was much better than I could have hoped. The senior midwife repeated the examination and confidently announced the trainee midwife was wrong. My spirits sank: I knew it was too good to be true. She then added that actually Susie was fully 10cm dilated and the baby was on the way. My spirits gave me a ‘make your mind up’ look before soaring to the ceiling.
Frustratingly I didn’t have my camera with me as I hadn’t been home for quite some time. You are probably thinking ‘Dave / David / Gadabout author, why not just use the camera on your phone?” The fact is my phone doesn’t have a camera and I’m afraid that is something we are all going to have to come to terms with and move on.
I calculated I could get to our flat and back in 20 minutes by taxi to collect the camera. The midwife assured us that nothing would happen for at least an hour as the effect of the epidural had to wear off first. The buzzy high offered by a banana wears off almost instantly which is all I intend to say on the subject.
We decided there was no risk of me missing the birth and it was important to have a record of the moment so I rushed off and jumped in the nearest cab. I explained the situation to the driver who sported the kind of moustache worn by a man who has always had – and will always have – a moustache. He sped off with real urgency which was encouraging although a major downside was the unavoidable fact we were going in the wrong direction. Despite my protests he insisted this was the quickest route and pressed on. It eventually turned out it was indeed the quickest route but regrettably to an address other than my own. It seemed he had misheard me. Performing a U-turn that would make the Dukes of Hazzard car sick, we roared back in the direction we had come. He promised to make up the time with a ‘shortcut’ and went blazing down the backstreets. We didn’t get very far before stopping short at an aggressively stationery line of traffic.
“That’s right, the road ahead is closed. I was here earlier, I should have remembered that. The problem is I haven’t slept in over 24 hours”, explained the driver calmly.
As I thought about my anxious wife alone in hospital about to give birth while I sat trapped in a car with a stranger clearly unfit to drive, I felt a warm glow of contentment wash over me like a million silken caresses. I felt a strong urge to express this emotion by attacking and killing the driver. I restrained myself as I still needed him to transport me and because I am a physical coward.
I told him to reverse and follow my directions. We finally arrived outside my flat and I jumped out saying I would be no more than 30 seconds. 30 seconds later I was back with the camera to find him leaning against the car lighting a cigarette. I interrupted this disturbingly post-coital scene by getting in and slamming the door shut. He took a long puff, giving me a sideways ‘hello Mr Selfish’ look before begrudgingly easing his frame back behind the wheel.
After setting off in strained silence he apologised for the earlier mishaps and offered not to charge me for additional driving time and waiting period at my flat. It was all I could do to stop myself kissing him directly on the mouth in gratitude.
Eventually we screeched to a halt outside the hospital. I noticed the cab didn’t have a meter so thrust a handful of notes at him and graciously told him to keep the change. He graciously told me I was £2 short. There followed a brief and frank exchange of views during which I’m delighted to say he agreed to act as Godfather to my first born child.
I sprinted through the hospital swing doors, went bounding up the stairs to the fifth floor and burst into room three gasping for breath. Susie was stretched out on the bed in exactly the same position as I had left her. Bit lazy.
The midwives made their preparations while I stood next to Susie and gripped her hand. She looked focused, determined and much calmer than I felt. This was it. Baby stations. All hands to the bump. I knew what my role was in this situation and threw myself into it. “You’re doing really well wow that’s amazing fantastic not long now almost there you’re doing brilliantly keep going EXCELLENT WELL DONE THAT WAS BRILLIANT PUSH PUSH PUSHPUSHPUSHPUSHPUSHPUSH!!”. I suddenly realised we were only 30 seconds in and I had started way too big with the encouragement leaving nowhere to go when things really started moving. I considered taking it down a notch by throwing in the odd “yeah not bad, seen better” but fortunately there was no need as with a sudden rush at 11.32pm we were joined on planet earth, Lewisham Hospital, room three by our little baby daughter,Emi.
From what I had been told and read, I’d expected our newborn to look like a little blue alien creature when she first arrived. Instead here was this pink, beautiful baby with ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes each evenly segregated into four clumps attached to their relevant limb-ends. For me, the moment my protective Dad instincts kicked in was four seconds after she was born when she looked at me with an expression that said “well I did not expect this when I awoke. Please explain what is happening”. The thing is I was in no position to explain anything to anyone at that moment.
I cut the cord and she was given to Susie to hold for the first time. Whatever further gadding about awaits the three of us, looking at Susie and Emi together was the most monumentally happy event in my life so far. Susie was pale, exhausted and bathed in a feminine glow (sweaty). She cradled our baby, looked up at me and laughed “I think I’m ready for that banana now”. I laughed too but unfortunately it seemed an unknown person had selfishly eaten all the bananas during the course of the evening. Despite subsequent wild accusations there is no way of proving who that individual may or may not have been and that is all I intend to say on the subject.