Dan Colasimone puts on a suit, downs some appetisers... and finds out just how tough his family really is.
My wife went into labour after the entrees and just before the speeches. We were at a wedding and had just had the seared scallops, grilled chorizo, cauliflower puree and sauce picada that was heavy on the garlic and, regretfully, that was the last thing we’d eat that night. The chorizo and garlic lingered in our mouths for the next 12 hours.
She was 34 weeks pregnant and as big as a Beluga whale, and there had been much joshing before and after the ceremony about how it was lucky there were a few nurses present because she might just pop that night.
It was all good fun, of course, because the due date was still six weeks away, even if her magnificent round tummy was stretching her spotty dress to the limits of its functionality.
The drink waiters after the ceremony had been zealous, refilling my wine glass enthusiastically as we milled around on the grass outside the church, looking over the Brisbane River.
This meant I was four or five glasses deep by the time we’d moved on to the reception and tucked in to our starters, and I was unperturbed when my wife came back from the toilet telling tales of leaking liquids.
“Relax, sweet cheeks,” I quipped, reaching for my shiraz again, “we can give the hospital a call after the main course if you’re still worried.”
Just as the best man took to the stage to begin regaling us with what I hoped would be some saucy stories from the groom’s past, my wife’s eyes bulged.
“Dan, there’s water pouring out of me.” What? What was going on here?
We happened to be seated with a doula friend, and she knew exactly what was going on. Waiters were called, cloth serviettes were shoved up my wife’s dress.
We really didn’t want to make a scene, so we shuffled out the side door, leaving behind a large puddle of liquid (which would later be partially soaked up by the bride’s wedding dress when she knelt at the table to find out what had happened).
We called an Uber. The driver’s face dropped when he saw the state of us. Fortunately, he resisted any temptation to screech off into the night. RIP his white leather seats.
To the Hospital, on the Double
Even more fortunately, we were literally five minutes from the hospital, so in no time at all we were squelching through the foyer and up to the birth suites.
A couple of days earlier my wife had started to think about her hospital bag. THINK about. We hadn’t discussed a birth plan in any detail whatsoever. We had nothing with us.
My wife’s dress and shoes were soaked through, and the midwives soon had her in a gown. I had my fancy wedding duds on, which was great for my reputation as a sharp-dressed man, but very unsuitable. My kingdom for a pair of trackie dacks.
For a while I left my tie on, picturing myself as some Don Draper-esque 1960s husband, pacing the hall in a cotton suit – but my wife said I was being an idiot and made me take it off. The wine buzz I’d had earlier soon turned into a bad tension headache.
I won’t go into detail of the labour, but highlights for me included when the midwives couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat for an eternal couple of minutes just before she came out – they just hadn’t attached the monitor properly – and after the birth when my wife’s uterus wouldn’t drop back into place and she kept siphoning out blood all over the place, while screaming due to the pain of the cramps. But she was fine. The baby was fine – she came out tiny, but chipper. Well, she was shrieking, but that’s the newborn version of chipper.
The Premature Baby Experience
Looking back, the whole experience was probably a lot harder for me than for my wife. Just kidding. Please don’t tell her I said that.
But seriously, having a premature baby whacks you on several fronts – and I say this with the knowledge that our experience was at the mild end of the scale; only a few weeks early and no major complications. Some people have it really, really tough.
There’s the obvious stuff, like suddenly having this partially cooked micro baby. For the first few weeks you’re simply trying to make sure she gets the food and oxygen and warmth.
But it’s the element of surprise that really throws you into a spin.
Mentally, we were completely unprepared. We went out on a Friday afternoon, leaving our almost-two-year-old toddler with her grandmother, looking forward to having fun at a wedding which would double as our last date night for a while.
Instead, we got a few drinks, some seared scallops and a new family member, and were to spend the next few weeks ferrying back and forth to the hospital.
Logistically, too, we were nowhere near ready. The baby’s room still looked like a storage room, the packed-away cot and bassinet needed some major Allen-keying and the car seat had to be installed.
All of this had to be rectified somewhere in between trips to the hospital.
The icing on the cake was our toddler picking up some mild form of Ebola so she couldn’t be left at day care or brought into the special care unit. So essentially mum and I had to take turns going to the special care ward, passing each other like ships in the night.
When the Going gets Tough…
Enough whinging, though — this whole period revealed how resilient everyone could be, and that made it special. No matter what pregnancy and childbirth have in store, people tend to find a way through it.
We all faced our own trials. Mine was trying to care for the three of them while each needed her own kind of help.
My wife needed me to lean in and keep the household functioning as she went through the emotional and physical strains of giving birth to a premmie.
Frustratingly, all I could do for the little one was to spend time with her when I could and let her know the world was more than just fluorescent lights and abrasive hospital noises.
Our toddler was the one I could help the most, and who probably needed it most. Her whole world had been flipped upside down and she couldn’t really understand why mum had to spend all her time in hospital with a new little baby.
Let’s just say she got more babycinos and trips to the park in those few weeks than in her previous 20 months on earth.
Through all the distress and exhaustion, I knew they were doing it even tougher, yet were somehow powering through it – with only the occasional (cathartic) meltdown.
What I Learned from Going 10 Rounds
It’s through hard times that families are really forged, and every family gets its share. Coming out the other side, you’re all slightly in awe of each other.
As life slowly gets easier the awe fades and you slip back into what we call the routine of family life; tiredness, bodily expulsions, laughter, irritation, boredom and love.
The next time hardship rolls around though, I now know the three girls in my family, in spite of their cute and cuddly outward appearances, have surprising stores of toughness and resolve.
I know we won’t have to deal with the challenge of a premature birth again, at least. After all the drama, my wife is now certain she won’t be going back for round three.