It was October 2002. Overdue and starting to panic, given the memory of my first son's stressful, induced delivery following the failure of my placenta, I was very fearful. Heading to the High Risk maternity hospital, I was expecting at least 24 hours of waiting around for labour to start following the induction. So it was decided that my sister would come with me to keep me company, while Ian went into work to finalise everything before going on paternity leave. Sister and husband would change shifts in the evening, so Ian could be there when things got going.
Ian had been present at Ella's birth 5 years earlier. We went into hospital after my waters broke in the late evening. I was assessed and told that nothing would happen until morning and Ian should go home. My sister was also with us and we kicked up a fuss because I didn't want to be left alone. The midwife tutted and found us a pre-labour room with no bed in it, instead it had a ball and a mat on the floor! We were then ignored. Three hours later, having had no check-ups, no monitoring and no pain relief, my 9lb baby girl was born. My sister had shouted for help and the tutting midwife ambled in, took one look at me and suddenly went into ultra efficient mode. She didn't even have time to get her gloves on though! It was an unnecessarily stressful birth in that we were simply left alone and I was made out to be an over reacting early labourer. Ian did not have the experience he had anticipated, being bedside in a well managed labour suite. Instead he was part of an almost feral delivery. None of us really knew what was going on, and for Ian, this was his first time seeing a baby being born. He admits to feeling clueless and helpless. He was a little shell-shocked, blown away and in emotional over load. But he instantly fell in love with his newborn baby daughter that he cradled in his arms. So the plan for birth number two was made. It was a good plan that covered everything... everything that is except for when things don't go to plan.
I arrived at the hospital and was processed, given a pessary to soften the cervix and left. I instantly had a huge contraction pain which was dismissed by staff. (Why am I hard to believe?) I was sent to the lunch room and told that I couldn't have any with me until visiting time that afternoon. Barbaric! Ian phoned but in spite of my pains, I was convinced by the consultant that they were just a reaction to the pessary and not labour, so I told him to stick to the plan, but to stay in touch. Me and my sister went to the hospital cafe as I didn't want to be left alone on the ward. I couldn't even sit in the chair, jumping up every three minutes in pain. We went back to the ward and asked if I could be assessed. Again they said I wasn't in established labour. At this point Ian who was sixty miles away and on tenterhooks, phoned the hospital. He was told nothing was happening. Meanwhile I was pacing, puffing and panting in the ward where other non-labouring were trying to enjoy visiting time with their families. They tried not to stare at the mad woman in the corner! Eventually I convinced someone that I needed a room as I was in pain and had no pain relief. They begrudgingly let me into a delivery suite and said they'd monitor me for a half hour. There was no urgency. I asked someone to phone Ian. They said they would. The midwives faffed around trying to find a monitor. Within 10 minutes of getting into the room at 3.17pm I gave birth kneeling up on the bed, unattended. Midwives suddenly sprung into action...too little too late. Ian had missed it.
Unbeknown to me, he had not been contacted. He had also in fact tried to phone up a further few times, each time being told nothing was happening, or being left on hold until the phone cut off. With some sort of sixth sense in action, he left work because he couldn't bear to be so far away. I had been told that Ian was being contacted so expected him to arrive in an hour or so. Time crept on and he didn't come. I had visions of him in a ditch somewhere. I began to panic. Bless him, he was driving around trying to find me my favourite snacks and magazines to bring to the hospital as he still thought nothing was going on and he'd be joining me at six o'clock. It was only when he was congratulated on the birth of his new daughter by my friend who had picked up the children from school, that he realised he was a dad again. If only we had all had mobile phones...none of the communication cock-ups would have happened!
When he did finally get to the hospital, 20 miles away, Kizzy was dressed and asleep in her crib and 2 hours old. He was a gibbering wreck, shocked, stunned, upset, frustrated, but most of all over the moon to meet his brand new little girl. He bonded with her as instantly as he would have done if things had gone to plan.
Freddy's birth put right all the mistakes and disappointments. Ian and I were together throughout from me waking him up at 3am with my waters breaking to his birth at 5.56pm. We laughed as he mopped up puddles of amniotic fluid as I had a huge amount of water and Fred's head wasn't engaged. I was like a tap! I didn't go into active labour until late afternoon, but he was allowed to stay with me. We hugged. We listened to music. He rubbed my back. We did it all together. He was 100% present, engaged and involved. For once I had an amazing midwife who was straightforward, unpatronising and efficient. Ian cut Freddy's cord and even managed to video himself doing it! He dressed his son in his first little outfit. He looked after him while I had a shower. It was perfect. Ian was in awe, but enjoyed the whole experience. He knew what to expect and knew what I needed. He was the most amazing birth partner, finally being given his chance to shine.
Even with births that did not go to plan, his love for each of our children is equal (including our two eldest who may not be his children biologically, but are his in every other sense of the word). The only difference that Freddy's birth has made, is that it has made us closer as a couple. We shared an experience that was simply awesome. Ian feels now that he knows how good a birth can be. He feels so blessed to have had the opportunity to be a part of a wonderful birthing experience, but that does not diminish the overwhelming joy he has felt when holding each newborn baby for the first time, regardless of how they came into the world.
This post is part of the Channel 4 \ Netmums One Born Every Minute linky that is currently running on Netmums Blog.