Sunday, June 26, 2016

Alexander's Birth Story - Dad's perspective


Alexander James Blake. Not yet 8lb, 8oz. Not yet 51cm long. Not yet had the first breath of life past between his lips. Neither of us knew it yet, but he was about to contribute (in quite a large way) to the most intense experience of my 37 and ½ year life.

Barbara and I had always thought the birth of our second child was going to come fairly quickly once labour started (with Hudson taking 8 hours and 45 minutes from start to finish), however only in the deepest reaches of our most scariest of thoughts did we ever anticipate what was about to happen.

Barbara had often come to me over the final stages of the pregnancy with things she thought, or hoped, would shortly mean the onset of labour. A tightness in the stomach. High blood pressure. A feeling that today would be the day. A desire for our baby to be born on a certain day of the week. So when at around 10PM on Sunday night she told me that she’d just been to the toilet, and that what had happened there (… diarrhea) could mean the onset of labour wasn’t far away, I didn’t immediately run to pack the car for the drive to the hospital. As it turns out, that’s exactly what I should have done.

Pregnancy is an interesting thing from the Dad’s side of the fence. You know that it’s going to happen, but you never know exactly when, it could be today, tomorrow, or 2 weeks from now, so subconsciously I think the male mind/body (or at least mine anyway) doesn’t tend to spend a whole lot of energy getting nervous or excited in preparation for the birth.  We’ve dealt with all the issues that come along with pregnancy (at least as far as we can from our side of the equation) but not from the perspective of actually having a human life growing inside of us for the past ~40 weeks, so for us, our life doesn’t change a whole lot until the actual day of the birth.

Anyway, back to 10PM Sunday night.

My thought was, that if tonight was going to be the night, we should both get as much sleep as possible prior to the moment labour kicked in. I went to bed at about 11PM, and was woken up about an hour later by Barbara sneaking into the room (she was sleeping in the Guest Bedroom so she could stretch out in bed all she wanted during the final several weeks of pregnancy) to tell me she ‘thought’ her water had broken. Not a whole lot of sleep stored up at this point. We went, as we often do in times of need for information, to Dr. Google.

If her water had actually broken, and it hadn’t brought on the onset of labour, we had 24-48 hours before we were guaranteed to have a baby (as labour would have to be induced at this point to avoid infection complications to the unborn baby and Mum). By the time we’d read through a few articles, it was about 12:30AM Monday morning. We decided that as long as contractions hadn’t commenced, we should still try and get some sleep (well, I remember suggesting this and not being contradicted, so I assume Barbara agreed). I’d just drifted off again, when the bathroom light turned on, and Babs got in the shower. For whatever reason, my initial thought wasn’t of labour. My first thought was annoyance that I’d been woken up (on what potentially could be the final night of half decent sleep I was going to have for a while), my second thought was that Babs had decided to have a shower after reading in bed, prior to going to sleep for the night (as she likes to shower before bed). I did not think of labour. Time check, 12:40AM.

Three minutes into the shower, Babs calls out. I drag myself out of a warm and cozy bed. She tells me that we should start to pack and move the cars, as she thinks she’s going into labour. I tell her I’ll call Chelsea and get her to come up to watch Hudson, which she doesn’t immediately agree with, but I do it anyway. At this point, I wasn’t aware that she had even had any contractions (I think she may have had 1-2 smallish ones at this point). She’d probably been in the shower for 10 minutes, and we’d timed a couple of contractions on the phone. I was concerned that she’d end up running out of hot water, so suggested she get out of the shower and get dressed. The shower goes off, and then a large contraction hits her. I’m no help at all, as I stumble for a story to take her mind of it (settling on Hudson learning how to fix his Lego motorbikes onto his little trailer). Not my finest moment, and I’m fairly certain at this point Babs wants to kill me, and can’t believe she’s looking at several hours of contraction pain with my bumbling storytelling support. I start racking my brain for interesting or funny stories to share during subsequent contractions and come up with donuts. Shit.

Contractions are coming quickly, and lasting for a long time at this point. I haven’t done any recent preparation on contraction timing, but know that this is not good. Babs is wrapped in a towel, dripping wet, and is unable to move. I don’t remember why or how, but she decides to go and sit on the toilet. I decide now is the time to call the midwife number. Babs tells me through screaming contractions that the book with the phone number is in her handbag, and that there’s some blood in the toilet. I return with the book, and her phone, and tell her she needs to call them (so they can hear her voice, and tell more accurately what’s going on). Babs gives me a few choice words about that idea, and I make the call. After a 1-minute conversation, the midwife tells me to call the ambulance immediately.

I call 000. At this point the situation is getting real, real bloody fast. It’s about 1AM. Contractions have been going for about 20 minutes at this point. It takes probably 1 minute to go through all the emergency call details… police, fire or ambulance, what town and state, what do you need an ambulance for, what’s your address, is this the first or second pregnancy, does your wife feel like pushing…it feels like a lifetime before she tells me an ambulance is on the way. Like I’m sure everyone else in that situation, all I want is an ambulance immediately, not 20 questions.

During the call, I can’t remember if it was before or after she told me the ambulance was on the way, she tells me to see if I can see the baby (at this point Babs is squatting over the toilet in pain). I don’t see anything, thank goodness. A minute later she asks me the same question. I look again – things have changed drastically. I see something. I’m not sure what it is at first. Then…oh shit, that’s the top of a baby’s head. She tells me to put some slight pressure on the baby’s head to prevent a quick birth, and that Barbara needs to get onto the ground immediately, I also need to get blankets and clean towels for the baby. I do as instructed – I’m touching the top of my baby’s head with the palm of my hand. This is insane. I then run frantically to the bedroom, grab two pillows, consider briefly then immediately discard the idea of grabbing the doona too, and settle on grabbing the blanket and sheet instead. I set all of this up on the bathroom floor. I don’t have time for towels. I tell the operator that my wife is still on the toilet. She says it’s very important that she move. Babs seems to in between contractions, so I grab the moment and drag her onto the ground, lowering her down as gently as possible. I look down and the baby’s head is half out. I’m down on my hands and knees, phone on the floor near the shower on speaker-phone explaining this to the 000 operator. I can’t believe this is happening. She tells me that when the baby comes out I need to support the baby’s head, and don’t drop the baby. Not words I was expecting to hear even 30 minutes ago.

It’s at this point that I realise the front door is locked. How is the ambulance going to get inside? I bolt out of the room, unlock the door, and run back. As I’m halfway back I hear Barbara shout out…”oh god, something just came out”. Shit. I look, and thankfully it’s just the baby’s head, it is now almost all the way out. It came out looking down at the floor at the start, but has now turned to look into the shower area. I put my left hand under the baby’s head. The 000 operator is telling me to tell Barbara to push. I do as instructed. I tell Barbara she is going a great job, and to keep going. One push it all it takes. The baby comes shooting into my hands, left hand under the head, right had under the hips. One quick cough from the baby, and then it goes limp. The operator asks me if the baby is breathing. No, it’s not. I have images of doctors from the olden days lifting babies up by their feet. Is this what I have to do, what do I have to do to get my baby to breath!? The operator tells me to clear the baby’s airway, there is nothing in the mouth, and the nose and mouth look clear to me. I wipe the face anyway just in case. 10 seconds pass. Then another cough, followed by a big cry. What a huge relief. I try desperately to follow the instructions to clean and wrap the baby. I have nothing but the blanket Barbara is lying on, and do the best I can to clean and wrap the baby. This tiny little purple baby that has come screaming their way into this world.

It’s then that I notice the bleeding. Barbara is bleeding quite a lot. It seems to me to be pouring out. I freak out and tell the 000 operator. I look up at Barbara’s face, she is calm and relaxed. I can’t believe it. The operator tells me I need to try to get the baby onto Barbara’s chest without stretching the umbilical cord. I don’t know if I can do it, as there doesn’t seem to be enough cord. What do I do if I can’t get the baby onto Barbara!? It’s around this time that I notice that it’s a baby boy and tell Barbara. Probably the least of our concerns at this point, but I guess I wanted her to know.

I lift the baby up, the cord reaches! I then wrap baby and Mum as much as possible in the blanket. I hear the ambulance pull up…what a relief! Then I hear Hudson crying from his room. It’s amazing that he’s only just woken up, I thank the world for small favours, as I don’t know how the birth would have unfolded with Hudson standing there screaming along with everything else.

The ambulance guys walk in. I can’t believe we’ve done it. Alexander James Blake was born at 1:10AM on Monday, June 13th 2016, about 30 minutes after Babs got in the shower. Ambulance arrived at 1:15AM. They bring with them clean towels, bubble wrap, knowledge and experience. Everything needed to make sure nothing goes wrong from this point. I’m so grateful.

I move out of the bathroom, and go and get Hudson. He has come out of his room, and is standing in the hallway in his sleep bag crying. I scoop him up, give him some comfort, and go and show him Mum and his new baby brother. He stops crying, and points to his baby brother. “Baby brother or sister” is what he says. “This is your new baby brother Hudson, can you believe it?”

This was the most incredible of experiences. To deliver your own son into the world is something that I’m not ever going to forget. I’m just so thankful to the universe, and everything in it, that nothing went wrong. Barbara was absolutely incredible throughout the whole experience, the 000 operator was amazing (as soon as the ambulance arrived, she moved on with praise and thanks, probably to another emergency that night…amazing people), the ambulance guys were truly impressive, and Hudson was so great at keeping himself together and letting everyone do what needed to be done. He even earned himself a ride in the ambulance down the driveway, and hardly cried at all.

Chelsea arrived just as the ambulance was about to leave. I’d called her at some point after the birth to let her know what had happened. She got to meet Alexander just before he left for the hospital with Barbara, which I was really happy about. She cleaned up while I comforted Hudson, even putting a load of washing on. Quite an amazing sister I have. We then chatted about the whole experience, I read Hudson a book and put him back to bed, then packed the car and left for the hospital at about 3AM.

When I got to the hospital and walked into the delivery room, Barbara had little Alexander on her chest, fast asleep. She looked so beautiful, so radiant, and so relaxed. What an incredible person she is.

So that’s it, the recollection of a father 60 hours after the birth. I’m sure I’m missing some things, but I hope I’ve managed to capture the essence of what happened, and some of the thoughts running through my head as it did. I still can’t believe this actually happened. I’m so thankful that everything worked out, and I came out of this experience with a healthy new baby boy, and a new-found respect and admiration for my amazing wife. Wow!

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