It’s the liquid.
The amount of liquid involved, that flows out, that covers the space, that shocks you, me; the most. Forget tidal waves of emotions – this was a tidal wave of a birth.
Delivering your own child is a strange, never to be matched experience. The experience is further heighted when you, sometime after, try to piece it all back together again. There are the obvious whys – as in, why were we there? Why did it happen that way? Then there are the hows – how did someone not respond in time? How did we ever get through that together?
We got through it with help. With a reassuring voice on the end of the phone; from a midwife trained to deal with fathers who say, or don’t say, what it is they are really thinking. Without her it could have all been so different. With her, it could be argued, someone else should have made it all different.
Harry was an unplanned homebirth. Amy’s labour with Lauren was short – approximately 6 hours all in. We were told to expect Harry to come and come quickly (under four hours). We didn’t realise that would mean a desperate call to the hospital for an ambulance, as the pain and intensity of the contractions kicked in. We made that call – the initial call to the delivery room at 10am. A quick diagnosis over the phone, and the midwife agreed to send an ambulance out. This baby was coming.
I remember pacing the landing as Amy tried to find a comfortable position to ride out yet another contraction – watching the kettle that was, the overdue ambulance. I remembered somewhere that a call could take 12 minutes or so to get to you. I calculated in my head how long it should take, on a Sunday morning, for an ambulance to get there. I phoned back at 10.20. I was reassured it was on its way. At 10.50 I phoned again. This time Amy was laid on the bed. I was presented with a sight I convinced myself I would never look at – I didn’t look at with Lauren. I still wasn’t sure what I was looking at?
The midwife readied us. She told me to pass on what I needed to say to Amy. Just breathe through your contractions; don’t push. You feel helpless. You look at what it is you are doing and force yourself not to panic. I thought I could see the head. I could definitely see blood – the room was now covered in fluid. With every breath the head came out a bit more. With every breath there was more head to concern you – he looked like a cross between a Klingon (if that’s the right Star Trek character?) and Violet Beauregarde (send him to the juicing room). His scrunched up face and rippled head were still; too still?
With the head out it was all systems go. No longer was it time for breathing, now it was time for pushing. Now it was time for the tidal wave of – everything.
With one push his right arm popped out. With another he shot out like a flume rider in a Mediterranean water park. I caught him in my arms, flipped him up and put him on Amy’s chest. I didn’t think about cleaning him down – which I should have done. I felt I had to get him up and out and in to his mother’s arms. We dried him down. I covered them both in a blanket. Our job was done.
And then the cavalry arrived. First a rapid response unit turned up – some 70 minutes after our original call. He cut the cord and checked Harry and Amy over. Then came the ambulance – narrowly beaten by the rapid response guy, but still 75 minutes or so after our initial call. Then the midwife arrived – a happy midwife – who helped Amy with the placenta and the post-birth requirements. Because of the pace, because there were no complications, we were allowed to stay at home. Allowed to simply relax and bask in the joy of bringing new life, our son, in to the world. It felt perfect – felt right. Even if it was the complete opposite to any birth plan Amy could, had, written.
It’s only after that you start to ask the obvious questions. What would we have done if something had gone wrong? Should we have tried to make it in to hospital? Why were we let down by the ambulance service the midwife felt we needed?
You don’t have much time to dwell on such things. A baby feeds, a family arrives and the towels – the bedding – the carpet all needed cleaning. All that fluid had to go somewhere. When you see TV programmes where someone tells a father-to-be to get warm towels and water, you expect it is to wrap the baby in. What you don’t expect is to go through nearly every towel in the house, just to clean up.
Harry had his hearing test today. It was all OK. That was the last of the checks we had to go through, that would have normally been completed in the hospital after his birth. In having him at home, we ended up with a story we can share with the world for the rest of his life. In having him at home, we did something millions of people do, in less comfortable settings every year. People are often amazed when I tell them we did it, at home, with limited pain relief. They are always shocked, both at our apparent composure – and the inability of the ambulance service to respond in time.
It was scary, it was difficult and it did create an ungodly mess. I wanted to shout, to encourage, not stood at the end I was. I wanted to ask lots of questions but didn’t dare for fear of worrying Amy. I wanted to be in a hospital, safe, with someone looking after my family. But looking back, piecing it all together again, I wouldn’t change the experience for the world. Not now I have my healthy boy – and a story to tell for years to come.