I've never felt so helpless, or so proud as I did watching my wife give birth. Until she did it all over again.
I won’t lie – the arrival of our first baby was a total nightmare. I was an emotional wreck by the end of it, which I capped off by crashing the car into a pole in the parking lot as I left the hospital to get some much-needed sleep.
Because I am, clearly, a genius.
So when the birth of bub number two was looming, I was not a happy camper. But I was about to learn a valuable lesson about having babies: what happened last time doesn’t necessarily happen again.
First time around
With our first, we tried to have everything organised and ready to go. We had a bag packed and filled with music, essential oils, a change of clothes, a printed copy of the birth plan – all sorts of stuff.
So when labour kicked off at a very reasonable 4:00 pm, we called the hospital to let them know we were coming in. From there it was a bit of a mad dash – I was hyped, Bella was in tons of pain – the usual for first timers.
We arrived at the hospital and bolted straight to the maternity ward – where we then discovered we would have to wait about two hours for a room to become free.
It was lots of back rubs and soothing noises from me, as Bella toughed it out in the waiting area. When we finally got a room, a midwife took one look inside Bella and told us she was nowhere near advanced labour yet, and that we should probably just head home.
So home we went, where for another five or six hours I did my best to comfort Bella, until the pain of the labour really started to worry us.
Back to the hospital, straight into the room this time – only to get the same news.
“You’re not ready to go, yet… sorry.”
Hurry up and wait…
We stayed in the room and had midwives and nurses popping in every now and then to check how dilation was going. After another six hours of doing it tough, Bella decided she’d had enough and asked for an epidural. She was exhausted and needed relief.
Only problem, we hadn’t requested one up front and there was no one to perform the procedure. Poor Bella had to endure another hour before a doctor could come down and sort her out.
Once that was done, they decided to break out the Syntocinon – a synthetic form of the naturally-occurring hormone Oxytocin, used to jump-start or speed up labour. The issue with that is that it can have side-effects – one of which is slowing down the baby’s heart rate.
Which is precisely what it did.
Several times, the heart rate monitor would dip, alarms would beep, and nurses would come charging into the room to see what was happening. It felt pretty chaotic – and it was hard on Bella. She couldn’t move because of the epidural, and later told me that she felt totally helpless.
The heart rate dipped again and again – until the possibility of an emergency caesarean was raised… to a very, very loud ‘No!’ from Bella.
The surgeon took me aside to try and talk me around – so that I could talk Bella around, when suddenly one of the midwives piped up:
“She’s ready… start pushing…” – and so it began.
An hour later, our baby was out… and he was very, very quiet.
They put him on oxygen right away as the Syntocinon had left him starved for air.
I was panicking inside, until finally, he started to bellow.
Once he figured out how his lungs worked, it was straight over to mum for a bit of skin-on-skin. I excused myself from the room and – elated at the birth of my son – rushed to the bathroom to be sick.
Nearly 30 hours of hard-core, mind-bending stress. I’d felt useless throughout the whole thing. The birth plan had gone out the window, there was stuff from the overnight bag strewn all over the room, but Blake was here… alive and well, and nothing else mattered.
I had learnt one thing though… my wife is a superhero.
Here we go again…
As the big day for baby number two approached, I started getting nervy. I was dreading another marathon session of feeling like a useless prick while my wife went through such horror.
What’s worse, Bella had decided on a drug-free birth, after what happened with Blake.
My job was to remind her of that decision, and do my absolute best to talk her out of asking for anything, unless it was a genuine emergency…
Oh. Shit… what’s a ‘genuine emergency’? How do I tell if she’s just in a bit of pain, or if it’s going to take hours and hours?
I was not looking forward to this at all.
So when labour started at about 2:30 am, my heart rate went through the roof. Bella, however, seemed weirdly serene.
We called the hospital and they told us to come straight in – but Bella said no.
“I think I’d like to wash my hair…” she said.
And so off she went – took a nice, long shower, while I paced up and down in the hallway, tapping quietly on the bathroom door and asking when she’d be ready because there’s a freakin’ baby on the way!!!
Clock’s ticking, sweetheart…
I rang Bella’s folks, organised to drop Blake off to them on the way to the hospital, threw the overnight bag into the car and got ready for the mad dash.
Bella, meanwhile, took her time. Two hours later, calm as you’d like it, she announces she’s “ready to leave now, thanks…” – and strolls off towards the car.
We were in the birthing room by 5:30 am, and the labour started in earnest around 6.00. Aside from a couple of sucks on the laughing gas, she didn’t ask for pain relief once.
The urge to push kicked in around 9:40 am, and Lawrence arrived 20 minutes later.
“It’s a boy!” I shouted in jubilation, before rushing to the bathroom to be sick. (I prefer to think of it like I was crying for joy, only the tears were coming out of my mouth and had carrot in them).
That morning, family came in to meet the baby and around 12:30 the midwife let us know that a room was ready for us in the ward upstairs.
“Is it a single room?” Bella asked.
“Then we’ll just head home, if that’s okay…”
“If you’re sure…?”
Yup. She was sure.
It took a few hours to get the paperwork sorted, so we all had a bit of a nap. Then a few quick checks from the midwives and the surgeon – and we were on our way.
Bella’s family called to say they were having a celebratory dinner at a local pizza place, which sounded like a grand idea. So she asked her mum to organise two more seats at the table “and space for the baby”.
I drove us home, dropped the un-touched overnight bag in the hallway, grabbed a bottle of champagne from the fridge, and off we went.
Just shy of 12 hours after Bella had set foot in the delivery room, we were in the restaurant, toasting Lawrence’s arrival and eating pizza.
My wife really, really is a superhero.