Labour – Part Two

So, now we were at hospital and we made our way slowly up to the birth centre. A midwife(maybe – I didn’t know at this point who was who) let us in and we were asked to sit and wait for a while. It seemed like an eternity but was probably 20-30 minutes before someone came to get us and took us to a side room. There my wife was assessed by the on-duty midwife whilst I tried to help make her comfortable and get through the next while.

This room was a normal room as far as I recall. No fancy birthing bed and no pool, either. The midwife did her checks and my wife was 5 cm dilated. So yay, we didn’t need to go back home and labour was properly established. This relived me massively. I believed we would be given the delta between contractions but I still worried we’d be sent back as we weren’t far enough along. By now it had started in my head, and the car journey was such a hassle for my wife that I really don’t think I could have taken a knock-back!

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Castor oil. Can help induce labour but really it’s here because Google wasn’t helping my ‘icky birth’ search and this looked cool

I made the room as comfortable as I could. I put on some hypnobirthing background music, I got some food ready and some drinks. I was helping my wife stand, sit, lie as she wanted (mainly the former two – lying was bad as that would not help the labour now would it? Gravity is your friend…). I was doing as much as I could think of too help, and responding immediately to her needs. She was focused on labour; I was focused on making that as comfortable as I could.

My wife mentioned to the midwife that she had wanted a pool. So this was going to be setup for us, and would take a while. In the meantime we stayed where we were and periodically upped the Tens machine, did various hypnobirthing exercises and let the midwife check us from time to time. In a couple of hours we moved to 6 cm dilation. Not the pace we’d hoped for but still good progress.

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Yep, a birthing pool. Move along…

As part of this labour started to get real. I don’t want to go into details nor do I need to. But being a very intense biological event it puts stress on the human body. I knew this. I had accepted it. My advice to any man is accept, expect and deal. It’s reality and part of the birth of your child. It is not icky, scary or anything else. You need to be there for your wife/partner. Get over it ahead of time, or straight away. You frankly do not matter. If you pass out and fall over? That’s where you’ll stay. And you’ll be no help to the Mum nor will you see the birth. Pull yourself together, man.

The Tens machine’s limitations were starting to show. Gas and air was requested and provided. I avoided trying any which must be the first time in the history of man that the male birth partner has not partaken. To be fair even had I wanted to (I was focused on helping, not getting air-drunk thanks very much) there wouldn’t have been much time. Contractions were between 2 and 3 minutes and that gaseous cocktail was needed elsewhere…

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Believe it or not my search term for this was ‘midwife dilation’. The mind boggles.

At that moment, around 7, the pool was ready and we moved rooms. I gathered what I could and the midwives/assistants helped with the rest. Oh, and my pregnant wife of course! I think the birthing pool, and what I guess is act III of our labour can come in a third post…

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Labour – Part One

It’s very nearly 3 weeks since my gorgeous daughter was born. I’m still getting to know her, learning what she does and doesn’t like, and most importantly learning how to look after her. My wife is doing similar, with the added complexity of being the only one who can feed her and recovering from labour. My wife is doing brilliantly. My wife is amazing.

Anyway, I digress. What I wanted to do now is talk through the labour a little as I remember it. Naturally there will already be fog from the time passed, plus the event itself was intense but hopefully I can capture some of it so my wife and I can remember in the future.

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Quite clearly, yes it was labour

The first I knew about it was at 2.43 AM on Monday 17th October. My wife woke me and said “Contractions have started” then walked off. I was still in a sleepy haze but eventually worked out that I didn’t know what she wanted me to do with that information and that I should find out how far apart they are. Good call, it turns out.

It’s interesting to note here that my wife the night before had asked her bump to come along now – and she listened! Also, this was the date we reckoned our baby was due. Good workings Mummy!

The contractions were already 4 minutes or so apart. We’d been told by NCT that 3 in 10 was when you head to the hospital. So, I was getting ready to go. My wife here was doing a sterling job of looking after herself. Tens machines, birthing balls and general exercise were working well. We stuck hypnobirthing music on and I tried to get going on my part of that, from touching her shoulder (an anchor) to reciting calming words (3, 2, 1, relax relax relax) and counting down from 10 with affirmations in-between during a contraction.

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An artist’s impression of my labouring wife and I on our journey to hospital

Soon we made our way to the hospital after ringing them and being told to do so. The car journey was hard for us both – my wife especially, of course. It was 30 minutes, on a thankfully quiet nighttime road. I managed to get there with correct turnings in every case – improving on my Best Man’s attempts with his labouring wife a few weeks’ earlier. But cornering and bumping in the road didn’t help calm the labour and of course contractions continued throughout. I carried on with my counting and affirmations and we somehow made it to the hospital. I like to think I was rather calm and well-controlled up to now, and I’ll give you a spoiler – ongoing, too. My wife I would hope would agree…

I parked up in the previously scoped-out 20 minute drop-off area. It was 4-something AM by now (I can’t recall exactly, I think maybe 4.15-4.30?) and given the fact it was hard for my wife to walk and she was having contractions this was the only option and the actual car park was a no-no. I knew what the fine for parking here was and had accepted in my mind that would be ok as a full day’s car parking was only 2/3 of it anyway. We parked up, and I got the various bags (which I had loaded into the car earlier of course, taking time before we actually left our house as a couple for the last time) and we headed up to the birth centre.

I’ll continue the rest in a separate post…it’s getting rather long, isn’t it?

I’m a Dad!

And it is awesome.

This time last week I was in the birth centre with my wife moving through the various stages of labour. She did amazingly. I am completely in awe with her. At the end, at around 1.14 PM we had a daughter. It was a challenge in the end but my wife came through magnificently.

There would normally be a picture here but I can’t find one that doesn’t make me all teary-eyed thinking about my daughter and how she is my princess and I will look after her and lover her forever.

We’ve spent the past 7 days getting to know this little princess and trying to help her as best we can. Suffice to say it’s completely altered our entire lives, week, days and hours, but all in a good way. Even when I’m grouchy with little sleep and I still can’t help her I want to.

A picture would tend to sit here as well but I wanted to reiterate that this little girl is one of my two shining lights (hello Mummy as the other one!) and I’ll basically do whatever she wants, forever. Little fingers / wrapped around them; already.

I’m finding fatherhood tough but great. I love it, but I find it hard and some bits downright upsetting (I want to help you baby girl but I don’t know what you need yet!). I’ve been cried at, cuddled, wee’d on and slept on and it’s all kinda super. I wouldn’t do it for anyone else but I wanna do it for this one all day long.

Waiting for paternity leave

I’m not really, but with my wife being 40+3 weeks’ pregnant people in the office know I’m about to disappear for a couple for weeks. This brings all kinds of comments, and actually so does impending parenthood. The kind of comments that you wonder why someone said them. Here’s a couple that spring to mind:

  1. “Any news yet?” – No, I’m in the office so quite clearly no.
  2. “Get some sleep whilst you can!” – Thanks, I hadn’t realised babies have irregular sleep-patterns and need things when they need it. Also, you can’t really stock up on sleep and put it in your fat reserves. That’s why hibernating animals eat to manage their sleep, not sleep to manage their eating.
  3. “How long until your life is ruined forever?” – Says the pregnant mother of two. Really helpful comment. And somewhat disingenuous, no?
  4. “Have you got any nappies? You’ll need lots of nappies” – Yes, well, quite. This one is helpful I guess but equally, really?
  5. “Are you looking forward to your holiday, nudge-nudge; wink-wink?” – Does this one even need an explanation?
  6. “How’s the mother?” – Oh she’s doing brilliantly as it’s totally not impactful having a multi-pound baby rearrange your internal organs to aid Feng Shui.
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We shall see.

Anyway. We’re ready. We’re waiting. Things keep happening but no baby yet. Soon!

The 39 Steps

Or, when ignoring the fact the title is the name of an Alfred Hitchcock movie, the 39 weeks.

My wife is 39 weeks (+3) pregnant. Our baby can come anytime. This is hella exciting. Is it nerve-wracking? Bizarrely no. I don’t suggest for one minute I know what I – or we – are doing, nor am I anything less than intrigued by the changes which will be coming but, nervous? No. Ready, excited – looking forward to this wonderful change.

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Pretty much.

We’re about as ready as we can be too. I mean we had hoped to have had the house decorated but lead paint in the door frames delayed that (we need someone to seal it in and paint on top and we couldn’t get anybody quickly enough after two sets of decorators let us down and a third wanted to sand the paint – a big no no). But we have a cot, a dressing table, changing mats, travel systems, car seat, clothes, muslins, nappies, frozen food for Mummy and Daddy, a heavily pregnant wife with SPD (so painful and I can’t do anything to help relieve it) and much, much more I’m forgetting. Oh yeah, we finished our antenatal classes without giving birth too which pleased me a lot.

I’m actually so becalmed that I’m evolving a kid’s story in my head. I don’t know whether to go for a baby-type execution (like Where’s Spot or similar) where I need good pictures, or a more Winnie The Pooh type one whereby my story needs to be a little more involved. I have a great pun in the title though :).

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I have felt baby quite a lot but this happens a lot too!

We’re nearly there. At the end of one chapter we found difficult to begin and hard all the way through. But then the start of another one which will be rather amazing, crazy and much more in-between all on its own.

It’s been a while…

I know, I’m sorry. I haven’t posted here for a long time. Various reasons for it, but no excuses. Last time I posted we were on holiday. I say holiday, it was m ore a militaristic exercise in getting stuff done. Largely in prep for baby-time. Anyway, back to work tired me out no end. Get used to it I guess – but still. Then I didn’t really have anything to say and then stuff at home got real and that needed focus. It still dos but I have some time to give a quick idea about what we’ve been up to.

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I keep pointing this out…

Lots, frankly. We now have an unopened car seat and travel system. We have a painted nursery and two new cars. We have new doors and they’re unpainted for all kinds of reasons I can’t get into. We’ve started antenatal classes and we’re 35 weeks’ pregnant today. We’ve annoyed the grandparents and made them happy. We’ve seen our close friends give birth to a boy – not literally you realise. My wife’s on holiday ahead of her maternity leave. Baby is more active than a fidget-monster (takes after Dad there) and I read to baby really rather regularly. We’ve been on a proper holiday, for 3 days, which was lovely. My wife now has a cold and with the heat she is not doing well. I’m cooking the best food I can and she’s eating whatever she can.  I did surprise my wife too by knowing what a mucous plug was at the antenatal class…(amazingly and chucklesomely I knew this thanks to a football forum!).

Can I just say here my wife is awesome? She’s amazing. She sits there worrying about what she hasn’t done as opposed to everything she has done, along with all the grief her body and the cold is giving her. Amazing.

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Well, if it happens, it’s not my fault!!!

We have nightlights and we’re using them in readiness. I’ve asked my boss how the whole ‘baby’s coming – bye!’ thing works. I’m making contingencies in case I’m not at work to do key things I’m responsible for. I’m excited, slightly wary and waiting for the fear to kick in. Doesn’t matter mind, as a day or two working through it all and survival mode will activate. Sorted.

There must be more but frankly life is busy. But you know what? If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it. This is one of those moments, if fleeting. It’s pretty cool.

Time to buy some baby stuff

Starting with the car seat! Tomorrow my wife and I have an appointment at John Lewis to spend 2 hours talking car seats. We need it. My number one baby prep priority is this. I want to get my wife and child home safely as soon as possible. For that I need a car seat. I spent a weekend researching them as detailed here, but tomorrow we do some ‘in the flesh’ work.

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This looks a decent foundation

It’s hard, isn’t it? One hard thing is knowing what you need. I think we’re getting around that. Car seat, pram/travel system, somewhere to sleep and a changing centre. Bosh. Everything else is gravy, right? We’ve just been offered a Moses basket from a colleague of my wife, very kindly. All we need is a new mattress.

I’m excited to get stuff. In a week or so (once I’m back from a work trip to he US) we have other appointments with Mamas and Papas, and Mothercare. We’d hope from those to either buy some bigger stuff, and/or know what we NEED (and want) overall. Awesome.

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Or maybe this? Honestly I’ve not really looked at them…but they seemed an appropriate image to pick.

We probably need to think about names now…AND TOYS!!!

Why would you do that when you’re pregnant?

My wife and I have a long list of things that need to be done around the house (and more). This list has existed for a few years, probably 3. We’ve been in the house for 3 years too. Coincidence?

Anyway, we have been slowly working our way through it, and adding more on. It’s like the never-ending story but without the white fluffy dog/dragon thing. Some things are important to have done before the baby arrives. One of those things is the internal doors, given they were all from the ‘50s and most didn’t shut. We’ve had my Dad doing those for the past couple of weeks. It’s been good to get new doors, but hard work. We had to pick doors first of all, and that took a few months. Then wait for them to arrive and then wait for time for my Dad to do the work. He likes to start and finish early, like me. That means he’s been arriving at 6.30. That’s when I’m getting g ready for work but the wife tends to leave later. Doing this for most days during two weeks is hard. I then have had to load up the skip, and hoover the house each day after the work. Ho hum, it’s the least I can do. Combine all of this with normal life, like cooking and so on, things get exhausting.

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To be fair it doesn’t mention anything about new doors, plastering or painting. 

Still, it’s all for a good reason. Now however we have a lot of wall damage from where things like picture rails have come off. Not a problem as after the doors we knew we wanted plastering, painting and decorating of everything. Thing is, we have ~3 months until baby arrives, and we want at least a month before then for the fumes to dissipate. This is working on the assumption the baby will not arrive too early….

It turns out plastering, painting and decorating has more considerations than we realised. That’s fine, we’re at the point where we need to make a decision (what work to do, colours of rooms and the like) which should help as we have less time to think and re-think, then overthink everything! There is an element of should we get it done now, or later. Thing is, after the baby arrives we’ll never get it done and my wife would not cope in the meantime with the mess the walls and doors will be in (they need to be painted too!). I don’t know why we are doing it but I know we have to do this! It will be awesome once done though – we have been living in a house that’s needed decorating for 3 years. To finally be in a position to press go is all kinds of awesome…so let’s hope we can do that. We’re gathering quotes this week. Fingers crossed.

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Maybe it will be like this, maybe it won’t.

Hypnobirthing, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the birth

Really I’m not sure how much I had thought about the birth yet, let alone worry about it, but I always seem to write titles analogous to Dr. Strangelove. Some might say I can’t fight in here because this is the war room but hey, you know.

I digress. What I really wanted to talk about is the day my wife and I had yesterday. We were in a Hypnobirthing class ran by Mindful Mamas. It was a really good day, providing useful information, tools and support as we look towards the birth of our baby and how to make it as great an experience as possible, rather than the horrible one we’re conditioned to expect by British society.

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Honestly hypnobirthing is nothing like what this chap does!

As a man I’ve spent my life knowing very little about the actuality of birth. What I do know is what I’ve gleaned from very British people talking about it (oooh it’s so painful, and lasts ages and the only reason you have another is because you forget what it was like) and TV or film. It seems that whilst all of this can happen, it doesn’t need to happen. Birth can be swift, pleasent, amazing and anywhere in-between. The key is to help yourselves get it as far as possible to the good side of the spectrum. We can’t predict what will happen but we can prepare to achieve what we want.

That’s where hypnobirthing comes in. It’s not sciencey mumbo jumbo. It’s not all about being hypnotised. It’s just a mindset, some tools and help and support to get you through the big day and beyond. It is based on actual science though.

Birth can be split into four stages:

  1. Opening / Transition
  2. Pushing / Crowning
  3. Placenta
  4. Babymoon

The first part if the long and slow part, and the part where all the contractions are felt. The transition is the point at which most Mums seek out that epidural, or decide they’re off. It’s all to do with hormones unsurprisingly. But, before that, part 1 is all about Oxytocin versus Adrenaline. You want the former and not the latter. The former will make you feel happier, physically better and so on. How do we drive the production of that and hinder adrenaline? By focusing and relaxing. It’s not easy, but that’s where the tools come in.

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Simple really – use the techniques to remain calm and relaxed, feel the oxy flow and enjoy!

Really they are just ways of relaxing – perhaps by deep breathing, or by conditioning certain items, sounds and so on to remind you of good times. I won’t go into detail but one or more of the techniques will work for your partner and therein lies the path to success.

This all feels like a self-help blog post doesn’t it? Pah. The point is hypnobirthing is easy to do. It will help. It might not solve everything but it will definitely lead to a better birth. From my point of view I can see how I can help my wife here and also a little more knowledge is now present about the day itself, and what I can do. I encourage everyone to go on a course, or read the book here. My wife and I are much more relaxed about birth now, and at the very least – if we had taken nothing else away from yesterday – it was great to hear stories about good births and how it doesn’t have to be horrible.