31 Mar

Dean’s birth story

Dean and Claire were on my first NCT Essentials course. Instead of coming along to session 4 of 5, they did this…

Firstly a little recap. Claire’s liver had been playing up so she was on medication and under consultant care. This involved blood tests that were taken on a Monday and the results given on a Wednesday. Last Wednesday we went in at 9am to find out how she was doing and where we were going from there, the options being full term or induced early. The results came in and everything was looking better as Claire was responding to the medication. Due to her age and the problems, Claire was booked in for an induction on her due date and I left to work in Scotland with 4 weeks in hand. I was going to have a nice lay-in at the hotel on Monday, grab a bike ride on the way back and be at NCT for 7.30pm.

So, on to Monday 24th
5am. My phone rings and it’s Claire, her waters have broken, she’s phoned the Triage and they have asked her to come in. Claire’s sister is coming over to take her in and her Mum will be taking over as soon as she can get there.
No panic, I have loads of time and so I pack up and load the van: 7 hours of motorway here I come.

A couple of hours later and Claire calls. Everything is still OK and nothings really moving. We agree that I’ll go home, send a few emails, have a shave (8 days growth….) grab the camera and head in. I’m halfway through the emails when my phone rings, its Claire’s Mum, Pat, and I should come in now, they are prepping the Delivery Suite.
Laptop closed, camera grabbed and I’m out the door. Hold my breath, turn the ignition and the car starts, phew. Ok, drive as fast as you can, as safely as possible within the law. Why are all the traffic lights red? Is that the slowest learner driver in front, don’t they know I have a baby on the way? Come on, pull out, drive a little faster!! If you had, we’d have made those last traffic lights. Finally, one more set and I have a clear run to the hospital.
I pull up to the Maternity block ramp and park the car. I press the button and wait for the lift. The doors open, I rush in and frantically stab at the 3 button. Why aren’t the doors closing? After what seems like an hour, they slowly start to close, nearly there, nearly there….. A workman squeezes in, touches the door and they open. Aaaargh. Continue stabbing at button 3. Door starts to close just as the workman tries to help by pushing what he thinks is the door close button. It’s not and the doors open once again. Stab, stab, stab. Doors finally close, all is quiet and 10 seconds later the doors behind me open. There is a guy pushing an empty wheel chair trying to get in, I squeeze by into a corridor and look around. The workman in the lift tells me we are still on level 2. I dive back into the lift. Stab, stab, stab. The lift moves, doors open, the workman redeems himself by letting me into the ward with his pass and I’m here.

I find a desk where there are lots of official looking people and nurses having a meeting. Politely I try to make my presence known by hovering. Nope, so I just butt in and ask where I need to go, they ask for Claire’s name, there is a mini search as no one seems to know where she is or if she’s come down from the ward…….. Located in room 8, I’m led in to find Claire nice and relaxed.

Those small period pains were in actual fact contractions and at this point she was 4cm dilated. In fact, she wasn’t in much pain at all and the contractions were pretty much just a painful inconvenience!

Also in the room is Pat, who has been with her from 7am and our Midwife B. After a briefing I sat down next to Claire for a chat. B strapped two monitors to Claire’s tummy and connected them up to a screen. One of them measures the babies heart beat and the other the contractions. All the info is shown on a screen and is constantly printed out on a paper graph feeding out the bottom. Being a bloke, I was fascinated by this and it’s pretty cool to see the graph ramp up as the contraction comes and the numbers increase on the screen. Baby’s heartbeat also reacts to the contraction and dips a bit as the former increases. Another great feature of this machine is that it has audio which is highly amusing when Claire burped and we could hear what baby has been hearing for 8 months.

I head off to move the car. Returning to room 8 things had moved on a bit. The pain had got a bit worse and Claire was now using Gas and Air (GaA). A rhythm was now in place as Claire announced a contraction was coming, she took in GaA, the graph ramped up as babies heartbeat reacted, the contraction subsided, Claire laid off the GaA and a few seconds later she came back into the real world. This was repeating itself on a fairly regular basis so things were moving along.

This carried on until about 4pm at which point B asked if she could examine Claire. She was now at 7cm and Becky was pretty sure he was coming today. She calculated about 1cm an hour from here on so we were looking at 7pm for 10cm and action time.

My primary job was to sit there and pass her drink when she asked for it. My next tip is to buy bottles with squeezy lids. Claire was on her back for most of the labour and it’s obviously easier to feed her with something that doesn’t empty itself all over her face. Try and get a few isotonic drinks like Lucozade to keep up those energy levels. I also found it easier to let Claire drink herself as I just ended up firing drink at great velocity down her throat.
B continued to monitor baby’s heartbeat and decided that this was getting a bit high so went to seek advice. Enter a few experts.

It’s now getting to around 6.30 – 7pm and B does another exam. The good news is that he’s in position, but facing slightly the wrong way. Still, nothing to panic about as the contractions can sort this out.
Claire is now having sets of 3 contractions approximately every 10 minutes. She’s taking more GaA and sometimes has to be reminded to take in some fresh air.

Claire lays on her left side as the contractions get bigger. Pat proves her worth by massaging cramp from Claire’s legs as I hold her hands and kiss her forehead. Pat had asked if we wanted her there at the birth and we said it was entirely up to her, if she wanted to be there then that was fine with us. To be honest, it was a real plus to have someone else there so I could just deal with the top end. Claire also found it comforting to have people talking and it distracted her in between contractions. So things like the missing plane and why my mother’s partner hasn’t proposed were discussed.

After a while B asked Claire if the contractions made Claire want to push at which point Claire decided that they did. B told Claire to push into her bottom and hold her breath for as long as possible, take a quick breath and push again, take another breath and push again for each contraction. As she was on her side facing me I held both her hands and put my forehead to hers, whispering what I hoped were encouraging words.
I looked at B, she nodded. He was on his way.

After a while, I don’t know exactly how long, B decided that he might need some help. His heartbeat had increased and Claire had a slightly high temperature.
Enter A, who took in the situation and decided that we were going for the toilet plunger, or Ventouse method by its posh name. A quick transformation took place where Claire was laid on her back, stirrups were unfolded from under the bed onto which her legs were placed, the bottom of the bed was removed and A pulled up a stool. She explained what was going to happen and let Claire know that she would only cut her if she thought it was necessary.
Baby gets hiccups which still look funny on Claire’s tummy and with the audio up we now get a soundtrack.
Another lady appeared with a space aged cot with lots of wires and screens. It also went ping ( For all you Monty Python fans http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qbnv6eHKjCQ ).

A is watching and feeling baby. It appears that he’s moving with the contractions bit then sliding back. His heart rate is up and Claire is getting tired. A decides to make a cut and anaesthetises the area before doing the deed. It’s now time to fit the suction cup. This goes pretty quickly and I don’t really see what’s going on. I can see it’s connected to a trigger by a tube and that the trigger is the thing that creates the vacuum.

Claire keeps pushing in threes with the contractions, I keep hold of her hands, forehead to forehead, whispering words of encouragement. I look down at A who is now standing and is pulling on the trigger to stop him sliding back in.

At this point Claire makes the first sounds of pain throughout the whole process and squeals through each set of three pushes. Two like this and his head pops out, one more and Alexander makes his full appearance into the world.


He looks a bit messy and is still attached to the placenta, I’m asked if I want to cut the cord. Before the birth I wasn’t too fussed, but standing there with the chance to actually disengage my son from his life support and set him free on his way in life, I said yes. Two clamps are put in place and an evil-looking pair of scissors/snips are handed to me. One forceful snip later, he’s free and whisked away to the machine that goes ping.
On to the less nice bit and that pesky placenta. We had been asked and agreed to an injection to help it on its way, but we weren’t quite prepared for how quickly it would pop out. Literally 2 minutes later, a few pushes and it was out into a tray.

We could they see Alexander being checked over and his unofficial weight of 6lb 3oz appearing on the screen. I looked at Claire who, in a bewildered voice said “We have a baby”.

A resumes her position and pops in some stitches, Claire hits the GaA for the last time! It’s only a small cut, so doesn’t take long.

I’m asked if we have any nappies and produce some after directions from Claire. I’m then asked if I want to put them on him. Sure I do, but how? I’d seen friends do it but how to put this into practice? Alexander was then wrapped and handed back to Claire for her to hold for the first time. He’s got a nice round bruise on his head from the suction cup so a little hat is put on him.

B puts on some more gloves on and starts her favourite job of checking the placenta, and we have a little biology lesson. It looks like a jelly fish that has eaten 2lb of raw liver and then committed suicide by jumping off a tall building.

We decide to give him the BCG jab straight away, along with the vitamin K jab. He takes all of this with a little squawk and is even pretty chilled when they do a heel prick to check his blood levels. They then put the thermometer under his armpit and he doesn’t like that at all…

A, the machine that goes bing and everyone else leave the room and it’s just the three of us.

A lady comes in and asks Claire if she wants a shower and she is directed into the adjoining toilet which is also a shower. Alexander is unwrapped, off comes my top and it’s time for that skin to skin contact we have heard about. Hopefully you guys will get to do this, it’s such a special feeling to look down at this tiny bundle laying on your chest, knowing that the heat of your body is helping to keep him alive. Too soon Claire comes back and takes over.
Over the next hour various midwives and other workers come in and perform tests and ask questions. One young trainee helps Claire into a wheelchair, I grab all the bags and we head up to the postnatal ward. There are 4 beds to a room (unless you are lucky enough to get a private one) and each bed has a mother and baby at different points post natal. There are different crying sounds, squawks and mothers talking to babies from behind curtains all the time I’m there – it’s very natural and there is an acceptance that this what’s going to happen to everyone.

We unwrap his first vest – selecting the “Tiny” size as he’s less than 7lbs. But how do you put this on? Weren’t we supposed to practice this at some point? Luckily a midwife appeared and, after a quick demo, Alexander was sporting his first togs complete with a blue whale logo. We put a blanket on him, put him in the cot and stare at our boy.

I leave at 12.30am, and crawl into bed about 1am.
To be continued…