Once we had recovered from the initial excitement of finding out that we were having a baby, things kind of went back to normal.
I kept flying in and out for work and the list of things we needed to buy got bigger every time I came home as did Liz’s tummy.
Obviously, with me not being there, Liz had plenty of time to herself and had been doing a lot of online research regarding pregnancy and birth. “I’ve booked into a course for us to attend”, I was told. “It’s all about hypnobirthing”.
At this point, all I could think of was people with excess body hair, who burned incense and crocheted their own clothes! To be supportive, of course, I said, “Ok”.
So the day came that we were to go to the hypnobirthing class.
It was a two-part course but due to my roster, I would only be able to attend the first part.
Because of this Liz had asked her sister, Sarah, to come along too. Sarah was going to be there at the birth with us and so it was a good idea that she did the whole course with Liz.
I was still apprehensive about what this course was all about but Liz had obviously looked into it and thought it could work for her.
If there is one thing Liz is good at, it’s researching a topic to within an inch of its life. So with this in mind, I felt happy to support whatever she needed.
We went inside and met Pip. Pip was running the course and was also a midwife and there was no sign of any homemade clothing.
I sat, I listened and I participated in the class.
It became clear that it wasn’t a lot of hippy nonsense after all, but a method to focus your mind and take yourself to somewhere in your head that pain and anxiety did not exist. This is something I can actually do myself and have done in the past during various medical procedures. Liz however, was not good at this and so I could understand the attraction that these techniques held for her. I could only hope that Hypnobirthing would give Liz what she needed to cope with having the baby.
As the birth got closer Liz and I sat down and went over the birth preferences.
I had just flown back from work and Liz had clearly spent quite a bit of time thinking what she would like to happen in the birthing suite.
There were the physical aspects of what would happen and then all the other things like massage, listening to the relaxation sounds and a list of motivational and reassuring saying they call affirmations. It all seemed pretty good and with just a couple of minor tweaks, we seemed to have it all sorted out.
There was nothing particularly out of the ordinary in there and I even learnt quite a lot about what was good for mother and baby bonding.
I still felt a bit weird about having to read out the affirmations during the birth but I was pretty sure that on the day I’d just get on with it.
After my week at home, I flew back to work with a copy of the birth preferences and a list of affirmations to become familiar with over the next few weeks. It’s not exactly the most spellbinding read but I needed to know how it was going to go down and I didn’t want to fluff my lines on opening night!
The days ticked by and I got to the end of my swing. I’d spent the last two weeks wondering how I would manage to get myself from remote outback Australia to Perth in time if my son decided to come early. Now I’d got to the point where I no longer needed to worry about that. We had ten days left to the due date and Liz had had a trouble-free pregnancy. This pregnancy thing is a breeze!
1 week to go and Liz went for her final appointment with the obstetrician.
He had been very supportive of everything that we wanted to happen with the birth and was keen for Liz to have every opportunity to have the natural, drug-free birth that she was hoping for. I can’t remember the reason, but I didn’t go to this appointment and so Liz called me straight after. “He’s admitting me to hospital!” I was a little confused. “When?” “Today,” she said.
Liz had a condition called polyhydramnios, which meant she had an excess amount of fluid around the baby. This in itself is not really a problem but the baby was sitting high as well so if Liz’s waters were to break there was a chance that the cord might come out first and cause all sorts of problems. The obstetrician thought it would be safest if Liz spent the last week of her pregnancy in hospital, just in case the worst were to happen.
It made for a very long week.
I was going backwards and forwards to the hospital, looking after the dog, doing the washing and last on the list was feeding myself. If nothing else, it was good practice for what was to come.
The week went on and nothing happened. Nothing at all. No labour aches and pains, no waters breaking, no nothing.
We got to the due date. The obstetrician wanted to give Liz every chance of a natural birth and so we waited some more.
We got to due date +1. The obstetrician wasn’t keen to let Liz carry on indefinitely and so it was decided that if nothing had happened by late today then we would have a go at an induction.
This didn’t work either and so we were left with the option of caesarean section.
Liz had had a lot of time to get her head around the fact that this might be the final outcome and true to form had done a lot of research into it. She had pretty much discussed it with every midwife that had entered her room in the last seven days and so knew what the procedure was and what she could ask for in terms of preferences. She had spoken to Pip in regard to using hypnobirthing for c-sections and she had talked it over with me and her sister.
Liz had a new plan.
I was prepared to support my wife through any and all of the twists and turns of pregnancy and childbirth but I couldn’t help but feel surplus to requirements for most of it and totally useless for the rest.
After a few anxious tears (Liz’s not mine), the time came to go down to theatre.
I can’t remember if we went up or down in the lift, it seemed like the longest journey ever, but in reality, it must have only been a few minutes. We arrived in the holding area, freezing cold and populated by people in baggy scrubs with a shocking array of odd footwear where they check your details for the fiftieth time and where you hope they don’t mistakenly send you for an amputation.
We found out there was a delay, as our obstetrician had been called to birth suite for a delivery. So we waited and waited a bit more.
Liz was starting to feel uncomfortable and so went to turn onto her side and this is when her waters broke and the surges started.
I was back in my own personal hell dreading the prospect of a natural birth but also worried that the cord may have prolapsed and about all the risks that go with that. However, my anxieties were of no importance at that precise moment or at any moment until long after the dust has settled and everyone was at home dealing with a newborn.
The obstetrician was clearly in high demand and was taking a long time to return so, after checking that everything was ok with the cord and Liz, the midwife went off to tell him what was going on. As she went, she asked us to time the surges.
This we did and it turned out to be very therapeutic. By concentrating on the timings Liz was distracted from her earlier anxiety about the caesarean and I no longer had any worries about the birth at all.
I was just overwhelmingly excited about becoming a father.
After a minor eternity, the obstetrician arrived. He was cool and calm as if he’d done this before. It was reassuring.
He talked us through our options and left the two of us to make a decision.
We could go ahead as planned with the caesarean or could try for a natural delivery.
The natural delivery was what Liz had wanted right from the start but it wasn’t so straightforward. Despite the regular and strong surges, the baby’s head had still not descended and so there was a high probability that a natural birth could be very protracted and ultimately result in the need for emergency intervention.
I knew what my decision would be but I felt that this was something Liz had to decide. Whichever way she went she would have my full support but I needed her to make the call.
Firstly, I felt that I didn’t really have any right to sway her one way or the other. It was her body after all and what right did I have to tell her what to put it through?
And secondly, Liz would need to work through the process so that there were no doubts or “what ifs” left over to nag at her after the birth.
She would need to do this for her own sake and I needed to allow her to do that.
To some, it may seem like I took the cowardly option but it needed to be 100% Liz that made that decision and my job was to back her with her choices.
In the end, our own separate conclusions turned out to be the same. It didn’t matter now, how our child came into the world anymore. What mattered was that we got him here without any undue risk. We decided to go ahead, as planned, with the caesarean.
With the decision made it was just a couple of minutes later that we were in the theatre. Liz moved over on to the theatre bed.
Now was the time for the hypnobirthing techniques to be put to the test.
For someone with a penchant to tattoos, Liz had a surprising fear of needles.
The earphones went in and Liz was immersed in her relaxation tracks as the anaesthetist attempted to insert a needle the same length as a biro into her spine.
I was quite surprised to hear him say to his assistant that he needed the longer one as this one wouldn’t reach!
To her credit, Liz managed to keep herself together for the second needle and consequent fishing around while the anaesthetist tried to establish the spinal block.
A few moments later and we were all ready for things to get going. The obstetrician and his team were ready to go and the drapes were put in place so that we couldn’t see too much of the goings on at the business end.
Liz had established a good relationship with her obstetrician and so the mood was quite light-hearted and there were even a couple of jokes thrown around but Liz was in her zone by now and deep into the relaxation tracks but it was entertained.
The obstetrician popped his head up over the drapes. Liz was in another place and it took a couple of attempts for us to get her attention.
It was time to meet our baby.
The drapes were lowered and without any prompts Liz and I reached for each other’s hand. Through the beauty of seeing our son coming into the world, I couldn’t help but notice how brutal the process actually appears to be.
Liz had asked for immediate skin to skin contact and as soon as the cord was cut, that’s what happened. Our son was presented to us and put on Liz’s chest. It was a perfect moment and I felt like I was about to burst.
I was so proud of my wife and what she had done and was in a state of awe of the total and instant love I felt for this tiny person lying on her chest.
It didn’t matter that he was covered in muck and gunk. I just wanted to touch him and kiss him.
Liz started to feel sick from the drugs in her system and so the opportunity was taken to clean him up and for me to cut the little stubby cord that was left and to take my chance to cuddle him.
Liz felt better and so we all cuddled together and took a few photos. It was all over.
Life had changed forever.
I was a father and nothing could ever change that. All the stresses and worries of the past few months had totally disappeared in a moment. Of course, they had been replaced with a million new ones, but for today I could put them all aside.