The one thing I have learned from our journey to having a baby is to expect the unexpected when you’re expecting.
Whether it was unexpectedly bad test results, or unexpectedly good results from medication not usually used on men, or even Napier’s maternity unit being closed down within weeks of our due date, you will have all sorts of stuff come at you from every angle imaginable… and then even more from places you never even thought about or knew existed.
So it came as no real surprise that when our baby arrived, there were a few unexpected aspects there too.
On the day before our due date I had gone out to get some Christmas shopping done when my wife called in tears to say her waters had broken. Nothing was wrong; she was just a bit surprised / overwhelmed by it happening so suddenly.
I raced home from the shops and we waited for further things to happen – it can take up to 24 hours from waters breaking to actual birth.
It didn’t take that long.
Within half an hour my wife started having contractions. We had learned these went in stages, starting slowly and becoming quicker and more intense as time went on. We called our midwife, Yoka, who said that’s fine; she will see us in a couple hours. But straight off the bat, our contractions were one minute long and two minutes apart. This went on for about half an hour before we called her again, my wife saying she felt like she needed to push. Yoka came over immediately and checked the level of dilation (2-3cm = hours away, 10cm = hello, baby!) My wife was at 9cm. Holy crap.
Our midwife gave us the option of going to Napier’s Wellesley Road Maternity Unit (where we had planned to have the baby), or having a home birth. I started closing up the house to leave and texted my mother-in-law to meet us at Wellesley Road, but the pain was too much for my wife to move off the bed. We were having a home birth whether we liked it or not!
Yoka told me to ring an ambulance, just as a back-up in case anything went wrong, while my wife started the huffing, puffing and pushing (with surprisingly no swearing whatsoever – wouldn’t have blamed her if she had, of course) that makes up labour.
Having been suddenly diverted by another text message and possibly infringing on a few road rules, Mother-in-law arrived more flustered than we were and Yoka gave her tasks to do like heating towels in the oven (this is actually a thing – I had thought it was just something they did to keep the Dads out of the way) and boiling water to sterilise bits and pieces, while I stayed with my wife, holding her hand and encouraging her (because all first-time dads are experts in this?).
The Ambulance crew arrived next, one officer coming into the bedroom where we were and the other staying in the hallway. They said they couldn’t believe how calm we were – usually they arrive and it’s too late – the baby has already arrived, or too early and everyone is in a state of absolute panic. We were just plodding along happily and under control – although my wife did tell me to shut up once when I was chatting with the officer just to pass the time.
Pushing and panting escalated until, a mere three hours after her waters broke, my wife gave birth to our beautiful daughter! Our baby didn’t even cry much – just one “Wah!” then a bit of a look around the room and an expression that pretty much said “Ok, I’ve got this!”
All the struggles and stresses of the past years were gone and forgotten and here we had before us this perfect (albeit a bit bloody and gunky at the time) little baby – Our own sentient being to look after and love for the rest of our lives (no pressure, eh?)
The day after our baby was born, my parents came to visit their new, first, grandchild. As they were leaving I caught my own reflection in the window of their car. “Huh!” I thought, “That’s what a father looks like!” “Suck in that chest, soldier, you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you!”
It’s almost a month since that day – one of the longest, poopiest, cry and scream-filled, sleep-deprived months of our lives, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We have a baby and she’s beautiful (and quite smart too).
Life is good.
We are a family!