Alpha Papa

It takes a real man to raise 2 daughters

It takes a real man to raise 2 daughters

This weekend was Father’s Day. A day which has bitter sweet meaning for me. Firstly, when I was growing up we didn’t celebrate Father’s Day as my own father didn’t ‘believe’ in it so I was the only child who opted out of making a card at school. As my Father is no longer alive, I don’t feel sad on Father’s Day as I have a pretty awesome guy being a GREAT Dad in my house to our two little girls. But unfortunately (and a second year in a row) we seem to be at friend’s weddings the weekend Father’s day falls. So yesterday was spent hung over, eating pizza and watching re runs of Friends. He said it was his best Father’s Day ever so brownie points for me.

Today’s birth story comes another awesome chap I know, husband to a friend and father to a one year old little girl. I saw them at the wedding on Saturday and we agreed what better way to celebrate Father’s Day on the blog than no other than a birth story, but written by a father. So here is Shiraz’s email he sent us all when his wife Susan gave birth to their daughter Amelie in Botswana.

Shiraz and Amelie

Shiraz and Amelie

It’s late, I’m exhausted, but I’m home alone (Susan’s Mum is staying in the hospital with Susan and Amelie) so here are the key facts…
At 2 in the morning (Monday 17th June 2013) Susan wakes up saying her water’s broken.  After reading the NHS advice we decided to call the Doctor.  He says try and get some sleep and come into the clinic at 6.30am.  We do actually get a bit of sleep (in hindsight, not sure how), but Susan’s contractions started and by 5.30am in the morning they were pretty painful.
Working on auto pilot (i.e. no emotions at this point), I pack the final things for the hospital bags and get them, plus the car seat, into the Honda as Susan’s pain gets worse. Susan’s Mum (who arrived on Sunday) recognises that it’s going to happen today. She doesn’t realise how soon.
Get to clinic at 6.40. Incredibly, we have to wait 10 mins before Dr Jochen Eichler is ready. Susan goes for an internal exam (I’m left in the office) and is first told “I’m not going to be able to come to the hospital with you as I have appointments all day.” Susan cries  “WTF?!” The Eichler inspects and realises he’s got it all wrong. (Later he tells us that he was expecting Susan would be in the early stages of labour and it would still be a while for any serious action. This information was based on the calmness of Susan’s phone voice at 2am; calm or tired or classically apologetically English?)
He storms back into the office where I’m waiting and after shouting something about “8cm already”, he demands that I bring the car to the door and that we go straight to the hospital (about 20-30 mins drive away). It’s 6.55am and as Susan and I jump into our car and Dr Eichler gets into his, he shouts that if we have to deliver on the roadside we will: “I’ve got my [rubber] gloves” whilst waving the said gloves.
I’m no longer on auto pilot, passing-out feelings are rising, but our German doc makes as if he’s on the autobahn and so I’m forced to focus and keep up. Susan’s in the back and is letting out a combination of yelps and deep sighing grrrs as she tries to count through the contractions every minute or so. We get to the hospital in 20 mins, I drop Susan at the entrance shout for a wheelchair and she goes in with the Doctor. After parking and finding the delivery room (room 540 – the same room Susan, Amelie and Kay are sleeping in now), Susan is already being seen by two amazing midwives, is connected up to a drip and a couple of beepy machines and the Dr is talking her through the steps.  Basically the baby is likely to come soon.
It’s about 7.20 when I walk into room 540.  Only 1 hr 22 mins before Amelie is born.
We discover that it’s too far gone for any painkillers.  No epidural is possible.  Susan is suddenly frightened. It’s a heartbreaking thing to see, cos I can’t do anything about it.
For the first hour Susan is asked to breathe through the contractions (i.e. not push).  Susan moves into a zone: eyes closed, listening intently, but – she says later – only hearing key information, and answering very quietly. I massage her back and put a cold compress on her forehead between contractions and stay away or let her nails dig into my hand during the contractions. She seems to be doing well – even though there is obvious pain.
Things are happening so fast, I’m barely able to catch my breath.
About 8.20, the Doctor asks Monica (the reassuringly buxom midwife) to up the drip (which has a medicine in to make the contractions more powerful) and says to Susan “now we push.”
It takes about 7-8 contractions for Susan to make it happen.  Along the way a vacuum is used because the baby is the wrong way up (face up rather than down) and there is a chorus of “harder”, “stronger”, “longer” and even “we’re fighting for your baby”, which I’m not sure Susan heard, but made me suddenly understand everything (that same everything from the original email) clearly… for the first time.
There’s noise from Monica, Mary (another midwife) and Jochen.  Susan is pushing and suddenly I see a face.  Strange.  After just 1 or 2 seconds a purpley creature with a blue cable is pulled out and placed on Susan.
That is the moment. No words can explain it.  Certainly not words that I can string together. Beauty, responsibility, oddness combined into a ridiculously happy, yet perplexing moment.
Then: it’s a girl. Surprise!  Susan double, triple takes and then gets a remarkable glow.  No one expected this, least of all Susan.
The umbilical cord scissors are shunted into my hands. I recoil but am bullied by the six  foot aryan to do it: “it’s your baby”. I do, it’s fine, but it’s not the moment – that’s happened. 
After mum and baby skin-to-skin time, Amelie is taken for a rub down and to an incubator table.
I have Susan exhausted on one side and Amelie swaddled on the other.  We did it.
Susan has a few complications, but they are pretty much managed in about 30 mins and then she gets the baby.  Then I get a cuddle and we settle. Susan is exhausted and still in some pain.  She’s encouraged to go to the bathroom and goes in with the midwife but ends up fainting and about 5 nurses had to come to bring her back to the bed.  For about 20 mins she’s the palest I’ve ever seen her.  But that’s the worst of it, done.
Susan gets some sleep and I have 45 mins completely alone with Amelie. She in my arms, mostly sleeping, occasionally whimpering, a couple of mini-cries and a one 1 minute stare into my eyes.
Once Susan is up, I bring Susan’s mum to the hospital and we get a steady stream of midwives/nurses popping in to give advice, check up etc.  I feel like a spare part and long for those 45 mins alone with Amelie.
But that will happen again soon – everyday perhaps.”

 

2 thoughts on “Alpha Papa

  1. Oh that was very nice. We rarely hear it from the dads. My husband was awake for more than 24 hours (I had had a nap in the afternoon before it all kicked off) when our son was born and had a bit of a fainting do from hunger half way through my labour. Later when we ended up in theatre for an emergency c section he was as calm as possible so that he would not stress me. He was amazingly supportive and I could not have done it without him. And there was tears in his eyes when our boy was finally born…dads go through lots of emotions and lots of stress even though they do not have pain. It must be very frustrating to see the person you love most in so much pain yet be unable to take it away and make it all better….

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