It would be true to say that becoming a father changes life more than you could ever imagine. It starts from the moment that you find out and I doubt it will ever stop changing.
My wife and I found out that we were pregnant differently to many couples; I was in the privileged position of being able to break the news myself rather than being told. Beth had been complaining that she had not been feeling right for a while and after a negative pregnancy test during our honeymoon in the February we thought that it would take some time to be blessed. A month later Beth complained again about feeling odd and after a busy day at work I suggested taking another test to be sure. Of course I expected the result to be negative again and felt quite lost and confused when it went straight to positive in front of my eyes.
I thought that there was a mistake with the test, saying that’s odd…
3 further tests later (thankfully Tesco’s were running a promotion) we were excited beyond words.
From this point on we spent many trips at Burton Hospital, I was lucky to be able to attend every scan and appointment. However when we went to our 28th week growth scan we were delicately told that there appeared to be a problem. Our baby we were told, wasn’t growing enough. We were then taken through to the consultant and informed that we may need to have an early delivery at any time.
It was frightening. I have never felt so helpless or at the hands of nature before. Weeks went by and once we got to 37 weeks Beth started to feel not so well, we had a couple of emergency trips to Burton after this point with her fainting, not feeling movement (until we got there) and general check-ups.
Once we got to 40 weeks our consultant informed us that Beth would not be able to carry past 40+7. At this stage the induction was booked and I was shocked at the 7am arrival time that was booked in. It wasn’t an error though, that’s when they start these…..
My paternity leave had been set to start from the Monday of the next week, and despite a false alarm on the same day Burton flooded I put this back as far as I could. However once we got to the Monday of our due week I had to take the leave as Beth was no longer safe to be able to do things on her own unaided.
We had packed our bags a long time before, so we were ready with bottled water in the boot and the baby on board window sign at the ready. We were up early on the morning of induction (Friday) and we went to Burton via the Uttoxeter MacDonald’s drive through, macs breakfast was immense and we drove through frozen fog on the way in. At 6.45 ish we arrived at the hospital and after a short toilet stop in the entrance we went on up to the ward.
We started in our own bay, with Beth hooked up to the monitor a pessary followed shortly after and then we were left to it.
That first Friday there really wasn’t much going on; we had lunch together and dinner too which was nice. It was odd though as half way through the day we were moved into the other ward due to an outbreak of d+v. But it was nicer, there were 6 beds and the others there were very friendly.
Beth had some back pain, but not much and mostly we chatted and walked throughout the day.
I left at 9 that evening, to drive home and I found it really difficult to leave Beth that evening. I felt responsible for her care, being tired I struggled driving home but managed it and an hour later I went through our front door. After responding to all the text messages and voicemails I finally went to bed at midnight.
After what felt like a blink of the eyes it was time to get up again, showered and back in the car driving to Burton. Arriving at the hospital I wasn’t allowed back into the ward straight away, they said that they were sleeping – which Beth said was untrue and they finally let me in just about 8.
Once in, Beth told me that she was having contractions and that they had been going since the early hours. VERY excited!
For the rest of the day, we spent a lot of time having baths talking and I rubbed Beth’s back until my hand was sore. A small role to me but it made all the difference to her.
The pessary was removed shortly around 9 and in the afternoon a sister from the birthing unit came to examine Beth. It was awful. Beth was in tears as she wasn’t gentle at all and her bedside manner was an absolute disgrace. Beth turned her back to her and the sister left muttering that she would inspect her in the morning but not to get her hopes up.
Beth cried for a good hour, distraught and feeling that she was doing it wrong and despite my assurances of the opposite her heart literally broke. Dinner arrived for Beth and I went to the canteen to get my tea. I sat in the canteen eating some dinner, but the pressure and the events of the past 24 hours just overwhelmed me. I sat in tears, quietly crying in a mixture of fear, helplessness and lack of sleep. At the end of my meal, I dried my eyes, blew my nose put my smile back on and returned to the maternity ward to continue my position of back rubs and drinks runs.
Then a kind nurse arrived, she said that the best thing to do would be to sit on a Swiss ball. Spell letters, write words and bounce. OH MY WORD, what a game changer, it made such a difference.
At 9 that evening as I was due to go home, we got talking and I was delayed. A different sister came to examine Beth on the off chance and said that she was 1.5 cm. She asked us to wait and called through to delivery who agreed to take us down for Beth’s waters to be broken.
I felt as though we had a winning lottery ticket, we practically skipped to the delivery unit and made ourselves comfortable in our little room.
Beth was seen to straight away by a doctor who broke her waters, much less than I expected. No gush or anything just a small trickle of water. We were then left and I was taken through to the other side of the unit where I was shown the kitchen. I made us a coffee and a hot chocolate which we both enjoyed. Nothing much happened until about midnight when the midwife came through and after an examination explained that Beth needed to go onto a drip to kick-start the contractions. This was very effective, and her contractions really kicked in around 1. At 2 I went to the toilet and came back to find Beth was on her side. She had convinced the midwife that this was needed and the perfect position to deliver the baby! Well, I put a stop to that quite quick and Beth returned to her back position. I then took Beth to the toilet and after this she struggled to get back into bed. I called through to the midwife for some help. She came through and examined Beth to find that she was 7cm. At this point I demanded something more than just gas and air for Beth and they gave her Meptid. Explained as a sedative that won’t stop the pain but would enable her to forget it afterwards. For the next minutes we went through a mixture of heavy contractions, with Beth finally demanding Pethadine – er no that’s not what you wanted. Followed closely by ‘I want a caesarean’. Er no that’s not what you wanted and so on… I had my work cut out with Beth sleeping between contractions – but at-least one of us could!
I am not sure of the time but sometime around 3, Beth screamed that the baby was coming. The midwife said ‘It’s too soon you can’t be’. But after an examination was told that she was now 10 cm and to start pushing when she was ready.
It’s strange to say but I always said that I didn’t want to watch a baby being born; I thought that it would really have quite a negative effect on me. But when I happened to glance down and see the baby’s head crowning I struggled to take my eyes away. Six pushes and our daughter was born at 03.12.
During those first few moments it was a mixture of what appeared to be unexpected events. First our daughter was presented to me and the midwife said congratulations. Beth asked what we had and in the confusion I couldn’t distinguish and simply said ‘it’s a, it’s a baby’. Both midwife and Beth stopped and looked at me, before the midwife confirmed we had been blessed with a beautiful baby girl.
In every ‘dad to be’ book I read during the pregnancy I was told that I should cut the cord, it’s apparently a magical moment, a moment of bonding between me and our new-born. The dream and the reality were two very different things. When the midwife offered I accepted, but was not prepared for the spatter of blood (which I had to clean off my face and Beth) or the fact that they give you what appear to be blunt scissors to do the job and it’s like cutting garden hose.
Grim, although that was nothing it turns out in comparison to the placenta. I was distracted when the midwife declared, ‘here’s the placenta’. Why did I look?
Anyway, we then spent some time together as a new family, Beth fell asleep within the first 30 mins or so and it left me with our daughter, whom we had decided to name Grace Amelia. I fed her the first bottle and it was lovely a real time of bonding between us.
Beth awoke and went for a bath, when she returned we talked about the name and decided that although it had been her name for the past hour, Grace didn’t fit. We decided quite easily to change her name to Eloise Amelia a perfect fit for our bundle of joy.
After about 2 hours we returned to the maternity ward, luckily I was able to stay with my wife and daughter and slept (v badly) on a chair in the corner of our cubicle. We were lucky to be able to come home the same day at 14.15 and that walk from the ward to the car was a truly special time. Driving home that day I felt a new sense of responsibility and the precious cargo I was carrying couldn’t have made me prouder.
It’s true to say that my life – our lives changed forever with the arrival of Eloise. But do you know what- I would do it all again in a heartbeat, the dirty nappies, juggling work with home, the late night feeds and the screams… All just for one of those glances that says ‘you are my dad you make the world turn’ – not to mention the most recent addition of actual ‘Dadda’.