The birth of our daughter – a viewpoint from a first-time dad
After writing part one of the birth, I didn’t mean to leave it as long as I did before continuing onto part two. Understandably I’ve been caught up in the newborn bubble.
I’ve tried to jump on this countless times, but between the nappy changes, feeds, lack of sleep and generally making the most of bonding time during paternity leave, it was difficult to find a writing opportunity. And now I’m back to work, I’m eager to get home and spend time with the fam.
But, let’s get this show on the road!
A little before 4am on Wednesday 31st May was when I felt myself being awoken from a deep sleep.
It was finally happening – Jenna’s contractions had started. Of course, not for the first time.
To recap, we had a due date of Monday 5th June 2017, but the contractions had started a full week earlier on Sunday 28th May – during the wedding reception of Jenna’s best friend, which prompted us to head to the hospital as the intensity increased.
After examination, we were sent home as dilation hadn’t begun. The contractions subsequently stopped at about 2am, rendering us confused about where they’d gone and when they were planning to make a reappearance.
“She wanted me as her birthing partner for a reason, and I was adamant I’d make her proud.”
Despite spending Bank Holiday Monday on red alert, and then convincing my boss to let me work from home on Tuesday, still nothing happened.
So when the 4am wake-up shake from Jenna came on the Wednesday, I was immediately wide-eyed and alert.
Could it have been a false alarm again? There was a noticeable change in her; more concern and panic when compared to the Tonis that gave us a couple of false alarms – after all, the hospital had already revealed she was in early labour.
Expectation versus reality – I hope 😅 Although I did receive a cautionary call yesterday, which made me fly out the office like a man possessed; somehow managed to get from Chelsea to Herts in an hour! ☎️🏃🚔 It wasn’t anything a paracetamol couldn’t solve though, and thankfully auntie @robynshilston was visiting at the time 👭💊 I’ve negotiated some working from home time, which begins tomorrow, so if labour could start on one of those days I’m indoors, that would be ideal 👌 #DADultLife #DadlineBling
As above, I was worried I wouldn’t be nearby when labour started, but thankfully that wasn’t the case!
A fear she had during the later stage of the pregnancy was that she wouldn’t know when the contractions started. Anyone she spoke to for advice, mums and midwives, assured her: “You’ll know.”
And know she did. The contractions were more intense than before and it was taking a great amount of effort to work through them.
But she wasn’t alone. She wanted me as her birthing partner for a reason, to see our daughter come into the world together, and I was adamant I’d make her proud.
Whenever people asked me whether I was nervous about the birth and how I felt, I answered honestly – “No, just excited.”
I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way for anyone to feel in the situation, everyone is different, but I felt calm when the contractions began and somehow found a focus that allowed me to keep a level head.
Part of the reason I felt composed in the lead-up was due to my revision of The Expectant Dad’s Handbook, written by Daddynatal expert Dean Beaumont. I also attended antenatal classes with Jenna to absorb as much knowledge as possible.
The fact of the matter is my own biological father had very little to do with my own upbringing, so I’ve always been determined I’d be the total opposite and get as involved as I could when it was my time to enter fatherhood.
Armed with the lessons garnered from my pregnancy studies, I knew the oxytocin hormone was paramount to encourage contractions, so it was necessary to keep Jenna as comfortable as possible.
I took deep breaths with her, alternated between fetching flannels of the hot and cold variety, rubbed her lower back and timed the contractions with the Pregnancy + app, waiting for them to become three minutes apart over a period of two hours, with each contraction around one minute – otherwise known as the 321 rule.
The time came for us to head to the hospital. After a clear journey in, we were then, thankfully, met with an empty car park (7.30am at this point) and headed into triage.
It turned out that despite the severity of the contractions, Jenna was just 1cm dilated, rather than the 4cm required for admission, but as her waters had partially broken they said they’d keep us in.
It soon became clear that the birthing plan can change in the blink of an eye.
By around 9am, Jenna was approaching the 4cm dilation, so we were admitted to the birthing suite and a water birth was on the cards – something granted to those deemed “low risk”, which she had been throughout.
“The gas and air, which gave her a happy, care-free, stoned quality, was very much pulling its weight.”
45 minutes later with the water still filling up the birthing pool, we were told we needed to move onto the labour ward as the birth was considered “high risk”.
Those words are enough to put fear into anyone, especially the mother about to go through the birth – even if she has been absorbing gas and air like it’s going out of fashion.
The high risk was down to the waters partially breaking the day before. The midwife was concerned about a risk of infection – there was none in the end – meaning we had to go onto the labour ward so that Jenna could receive a cannula (drip) for antibiotics to be on the safe side.
The gas and air, which in the early stages gave her a happy, care-free, stoned quality, was very much pulling its weight now to act as pain relief, both softening the blow of the contractions and the cannula, which had really freaked her out.
Time passed slowly. The midwives came and went, as did the contractions, which were getting increasingly stronger, leaving Jenna in increasing amounts of pain to the point that I had to ask them when the next dilation check was coming.
At 1pm, our midwife did another check. “You’re 5cm now. By this point, I’d have expected you to be at least 6cm,” she said.
That wasn’t exactly the news we were looking for.
“Sitting there, ultimately powerless, watching the woman I love shrieking and contorting herself in agony.”
Half an hour or so passed by, during which Jenna got more and more uncomfortable, so I tried to get more and more encouraging.
It was by no means easy – inside I was breaking. Sure, I had every confidence in her, that wasn’t the problem, I knew how strong she was and what she was capable of, even if she didn’t.
The problem was sitting there, ultimately powerless, watching the woman I love shrieking and contorting herself in agony. Combine that with her being delirious from the gas and air, begging for help, which made it feel like watching some sort of torture.
I just hoped my face wouldn’t betray me and give the game away as I furiously held back tears to stay strong for her.
Soon enough, it all became too much – Jenna wanted pain relief.
We’d discussed that ahead of the birth, at which time she was adamant an epidural was not an option. She never even takes so much as a paracetamol, and after hearing how immobile an epidural can make you during an antenatal class, she was keen to avoid that at all costs.
For the moment, I let the midwives do the talking. They ran through the risks associated and brought in paperwork, but by that point Jenna didn’t care.
As birthing partner, it was time for me to step in. “Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked. She paused briefly before insisting that she did.
“Somehow, she’d gone from 5cm to 10cm dilated in under two hours.”
“What’s the code word?” I replied.
The code word technique is one designed by Daddynatal, meant to help the mother gain focus during the birth as she speaks a predetermined word to agree to something that deviates from the birthing plan, ensuring the birthing partner truly sticks to her wishes.
“Pretzel,” she murmured, a reference to the night we found out we were going to become parents.
It didn’t matter though. The anaesthetist was in theatre apparently, unable to make it to our room immediately.
Such was the pain and gas and air-induced haziness Jenna experienced that she routinely called out for help and asked when the anaesthetist would show, feeling as though a lifetime had passed, leaving a pang in my heart with each cry.
Without warning the contractions became unbearable and she was screaming louder than before. There was no need to buzz for a midwife to return, one came in right on cue and said it sounded as though Jenna was pushing.
Another examination and… she was 10cm dilated! She was pushing!
Somehow, she’d gone from 5cm to 10cm dilated in under two hours.
The amount of medical staff in the room quickly doubled, which didn’t help Jenna’s comfort levels – or mine for that matter – but I reassured her it was for both her and the baby’s safety. The two midwives that had been looking after her were bolstered by another midwife and a doctor as baby’s heart rate had started to drop, making them keen to get her out quickly so that she didn’t get stressed any further.
“The floodgates opened and we both burst into tears.”
“What’s happening?” Jenna sobbed. I explained that everything was okay, that the rush of bodies in the room was because the dilation happened so quickly.
I got even closer to Jenna than I had been, echoing the instructions of the doctor in her ear to help her stay calm, breathing with her and offering hands to squeeze as hard as she needed to. Meanwhile, the cannula had popped out and a midwife was frantically trying to reattach it.
Because of baby’s position and the stress she was experiencing, time was of the essence, so the doctor performed an episiotomy to bring her out quickly.
Before I knew it, with one final scream and push from Jenna, our daughter had arrived!
The floodgates opened and we both burst into tears.
There was still tension as we waited to hear that first cry from our little girl to confirm she was okay and after a long several seconds passed, she soon let off a wail – what is now an all-too familiar sound.
“I did it! I did it!” she wept.
“Yeah you did, I knew you could!” was my choked reply.
The midwives did their checks and everything was fine. With the birth itself happening in the blink of an eye, a midwife was getting carried away and I managed to catch her in time, just as she was about to cut the umbilical cord, having failed to check whether I wanted to do the honour.
I got my first true look at our little girl, as I accepted the scissors and performed the cutting of the cord. She was breath-taking.
Soon enough we were allowed to hold her. With Jenna shaking, recovering from the rush of adrenaline pulsing through her body, I had the first hold – and that really was terrifying.
I’d become a dad!
The dainty, fragile little 7lb bundle being presented to me by the midwife was my daughter; I’d helped to create, and become responsible for, a tiny little person.
“Have you got a name for her?” she asked.
“Roma,” we said, “Roma Nita Terrelonge.”
And just like that, we’d started a family.