I was going to go into London today to take a few shots of the crowds at the Royal wedding, but decided to stay at home and watch it on TV. It also frees up some time to produce a new entry for my blog and to spend some time developing my website (www.beechesimages.co.uk). It’s far from finished, but at least it is up and running now.
So on to my third entry regarding Jack’s birth, which covers poor Lou’s third day in hospital. I had not been home long, and just squeezed in a McDonald’s. My whole diet had come to consist of snatched sandwiches and burgers, I managed to get into bed at around midnight, but was myself very restless knowing that I had left Louise in such a state of pain. However just a couple of hours later at around 2.30am my phone went, and a tired and weak sounding Lou told me she was being shifted up to the delivery floor. I felt shattered, but the adrenaline kicked straight in, and I was back at the hospital within 15 minutes of the call. At least there was no problems with street parking, as most commuters were still in bed !!!
Louise was just being ushered out of her old ward as I arrived and I darted in to grab our bags and take them up to her new bed. Unfortunately we were not afforded the chilled atmosphere of the birth suites due to the nature of the birth, and instead we settled in to the more austere surroundings of a single bed delivery suite. Louise was getting some very strong contractions and there had also been an impressive increase in her cervix size.
For the next few hours it was our routine waiting game but with a lot more pain for Louise. It was awful to just sit and watch and only be able to offer a level of support that wasn’t in the same league as gas and air was giving her. Unfortunately again the contractions started to fade and the midwife found that the cervix was not quite as wide as first thought. It was now time for the big guns. Louise was going to have a double-header of an epidural and an oxytocin drip. From the advice we were given the two really do go hand in hand. The drip kicks in a degree of contraction pain that the body has not had time to adjust for. Louise was so tired by this time that any form of pain relief was welcomed. I on the other hand, was actually having absolute butterflies over it. I knew the needle was big, and had images of me fainting as something the size of a javelin was plunged into Lou’s back. A stroke of luck meant that they were able to grab the anesthetist just before he finished his shift. He was quite a swarthy chap, although I think in her state Louise didn’t really take in his full glory. He was also very chilled out, telling us the dangers and the chances of them happening. All were slight, but potentially serious. It’s easy to forget the impact of a routine procedure going wrong, and like an airplane safety talk, you do tend to let their consequences wash over you. Louise even had to sign a consent form, which really did set my mind racing.
Fortunately it didn’t live up to my fear and dread, and the absolute relief it offered was immediately clear on Lou’s face. Everyone describes it as a miracle drug and it certainly had that impact on Lou. For the first time in a couple of days she looked visibly relaxed and almost chilled. It is obviously a real ‘Marmite’ situation in terms of attitude to giving birth. Between those who want to have the most natural birth they possibly can and those who want to be drugged up to the hilt at the first twinge of a contraction. Personally, not being a big fan of pain I think I would have to go down the latter route if I was a woman, but I think women are under intense peer pressure to try to take a drug free route wherever possible because it is ‘natural’ and in someway better for the baby. In my mind there is nothing natural about wanting your cervix expanded to the size of a Dairylea container and then pushing something the size of a sack of spuds through it………. Not without as much pain relief as the hospital can muster anyway.
The next couple of hours were almost bliss. Lou snoozed, her cervix expanded, the midwives fluttered around and I read. There was one moment when the epidural started to run out before it had been boosted, and at that point the pain really kicked in for Louise. It was like the window to a natural birth was briefly opened for her to enjoy, or endure. The pain was made all the more acute by the fact her body had absolutely no time to adjust, and she must have all but run the North Sea dry with the gas she sucked in for 10 minutes while the new pain relief was given to her. Before we knew it Lou was up to 9 inches, we were verging on ecstasy, and even the midwives were excited that her gruelling journey was coming to an end…………….. and then she sort of just got stuck !!!
For an hour or two there was nothing. The contractions were there but nothing on the last centimetre. Never before had I realised the importance of a centimetre, but now it was our biggest stumbling block. Nine months and we were being held back by a stretch less than a finger width. The midwives were still relatively unconcerned, their focus on natural birth and the closeness had them believing that a new drip and a couple of hours should do the trick and they sent out for the consultant to confirm their belief.
He arrived with a swagger. A robust figure of a man, balding and with beard, a presence that filled the room. he looked a bit of a Costa criminal, tanned and with an open shirt with no tie. Within a couple of minutes he finally dashed our idea of having a natural birth. He said that Louise would never make the extra inch and that she would need a caesarean. Louise, after nearly 3 days of non-stop, energy sapping almost snapped his hand off at the offer of the baby being airlifted out of its siege like status. I thought I should take on the rational probing role to find out more before agreeing. A centimetre seemed so little when faced with sending Louise off for a major operation. He was blunt and said that if it was his daughter or wife he would not give it a second thought before sending them for a caesarean if they were in Lou’s shoes. In the side of my eye I caught sight of the midwives, who up to now had been floaty, and vocal in their support, but were now quiet and looking almost saddened. Was it their professional pride that had been knocked or did they disagree. My own mind was in a state of turmoil, perhaps shock at the news. We had gone from a few moments before being focused on a natural birth and now it was to be a caesarean. I asked Louise if she was sure. I was not concerned on any moralistic grounds of me missing out, but I was worried that a second of relief for her now would lead to regrets in the future. I was concerned how she would later react to a shark bite type scar across her midriff (in fact it is nothing like that, but it is amazing how your mind works in times of pressure), I thought of the feelings she may have on missing out on pushing the baby out and that moment we held Jack together. Would it later bring up issues of depression about making the wrong decision. (Again a nonsense, sitting with him at 4.00am bawling every morning, soon makes you forget that you may have missed out on 5 seconds with him two months ago !!!). I was of course worried about her having to have a major operation and the potential consequences……………. and if I am honest, my squeamish side did also make me think would I be able to take it. I had never been in an operating theatre, and I could feel myself going light-headed at the mere thought of it. Louise reassured me she had absolutely no second thoughts and wanted to do it. I told her that whatever decision she made, it was the right one. We could never look back and consider what may have been, it was our decision, it had been made, and we would move forward with it. Still my mind whirled. I realised that all of the episodes of ‘One Born Every Minute’ we had watch on TV had been various forms of natural births. I had not seen a single Caesarian. on the NCT course they had told us what to expect, but that was in a classroom where the delegates had acted as the roles of the participants in a caesarean, and even on our hospital tour we had only poked our head very briefly into the operating room, at the time an empty sterile room that we were not allowed to actually entered. It suddenly hit me, that after 9 long months this was the one situation I was absolutely unprepared for.
The next couple of hours were probably the fastest in my life. Once the decision was made and the form signed, Louise was wheeled into the operating theatre within an hour. I think I followed round like a puppy, suddenly not sure of what I should be doing. I felt like a groom who has to go through a whole wedding day but without any rehearsal or even idea of where the venue is. I felt spectacularly alone in a hospital full of people. Obviously the focus was on Louise, and I was chaperoned round by anyone going spare. I was given a sterile clothes to put on and some shoe covers. Suddenly, every question becomes stupid but important. Can I keep my own clothes on underneath, where do I put our bags, I really just wanted someone to walk round with me, to put my mind at rest. Louise was wheeled into the theatre, to the side there was a room where the baby would be taken after he was lifted out. The atmosphere was surreal for me in terms of how much it was just a routine place of work for the people involved. For me, this may never happen again, for them it would probably happen again in the next hour or so.
The midwife helped me sort out a vest and bodysuit for Jack. I was just uselessly clawing through our bags trying to find the items she was describing, and trying to make sure we had his ‘best’ one as his first ever clothes to wear. In the theatre an iPod was playing and the room seemed hectic, lots of people doing their jobs, so many individuals but all in the same team. I was told to keep my camera with me as they would drop the screen so I could take a photo. I said that really wasn’t necessary. The camera is expensive and I didn’t want to keel over and smash it, but they said I would get some good shots. Oddly, the midwife went to take a shot of Lou and I before the operation, but was told by one of the surgical team that no photos were allowed before the caesarian. One of the midwives sat me down by Lou’s head. I had been prepped before going in. Once the baby comes out, it will go in the side room, you follow, but stare at the wall, DO NOT LOOK AT LOUISE AT ANY POINT ON THAT WALK. On our NCT course we had discussed caesareans briefly. The instructor had told the men to take lots and lots of photos to share with the mum so she did not feel she missed out. One of the girls on the course said a friend had also brought up the not looking back part, with the warning, if you see your partner in the state they will be below the waist you will NEVER want to have sex with them again.
The build up to the operation was swift. I was given a swivel chair to sit on and the team kicked into gear around Louise. A quick check was done to ensure that there was no chance of a natural birth. I think that this was done more to reassure Louise and I that we had made the right decision. I was concerned for while that they would not put up a high enough screen as I could still see the length of her body, but just before they ‘painted’ her up it was put in place. I could feel my head becoming very light, and was probably gripping onto Louise more than she was me. In fact she looked a lot happier than me. Her epidural was tweaked up and they were ready to go. I did throw in a late request asking if they could do a cash in hand tummy tuck on her while they were down there !!!.
The operation was fast and before we knew it Jack was out and the screen dropped a little for me to take a couple of photos. I didn’t even look properly afraid of what I may catch sight of. It’s simply impossible to put into words how as a dad you feel at that moment. The world seems chaotically perfect. For a brief second you are alone in a room with your girlfriend and child, and blissfully unaware of the other ten people in the room. A couple more seconds later and I was stumbling after Jack into the side room, just aware that Louise was calling behind us ‘is it a boy or a girl’ and me realising that I didn’t know either. I really didn’t mind the sex, and we had assumed it would be a girl, but in that single moment when I was told it was a boy, my whole mind-set readjusted. It went from pretty pink and ballet lessons to someone to take to Millwall and play sport with.
In the side room I came face to face with Jack. Immediately I could feel myself welling up. I don’t know where it came from. Perhaps the relief after 3 days, the realisation that I was now responsible for a life, lots and lots of thoughts and emotions encapsulated in the little chap in front of me. Tears came to my eyes, I wanted to share it all with Louise. The midwife was going into overdrive, doing various little tests and dressing him while he screamed and screamed. As soon as was possible I wanted to get him back out to Louise, She was still laying there being stitched up.
I walked Jack out to her, trying to look at the wall, but my eyes drawn to a mat on the floor covered in blood. The respect for her strength and what she had been through grew even more, and then we were sitting together, the three of us. Jack screaming, and Louise sharing the same drained, ecstatic, euphoric state I was in. Tears coming to both of our eyes. The world suddenly seems a perfect place. Jack had arrived. It seemed so quick and soon we were all wheeled up to a new ward to recover together. Well again, I have written far too much. The next entry on this subject will be the post op recovery in hospital, but I will leave you now to do other things.