Many of you must have read my wife’s account of Emma’s birth in the Spring issue. It now falls to me to present a father’s view of the pregnancy concentrating on those that were simply glossed over or even left out (perish the thought!) of Thomasina’s article. The time taken to prepare this article is indicative of the time available to me since the momentous day.
Knowledge of our pregnancy was gained on a Wednesday. As Thomasina had to lead a Children’s club at Church I had arranged to come home early to look after Daniel. I’d also arranged for a meeting with a colleague to discuss some research at the University. I hadn’t met him before but as time was limited invited him to our home. Whilst I was reading the paperwork Thomasina was pottering about upstairs. We had bought a pregnancy test that morning, but she’d decided not to try it as she "couldn’t be pregnant" anyway. The next thing I knew she thrust a plastic rod in my face and said "can you see a line there?" I looked closely and sure-enough there one was, "Yes," I said. In my ignorance I had assumed that the line meant nothing, and I needed to keep her quiet as I had reading to do. "In that case I’m pregnant," and off she went to Church. I had to start my meeting in a state of shock, with three people I’ve never seen before, and Daniel (then about 16 months) rolling around the floor.
Our previous pregnancy had ended in a Caesarean, so one of the main tasks of this pregnancy was to prepare in such ways that would avoid another one this time. Thomasina read lots of books on foetal positioning and enrolled on a "Yoga for Pregnancy" course. This involved ten meetings, two of which were Saturday ones with husbands/partners attending as well.
Anxiety preceded the Yoga Saturdays, but this was tempered as I knew one of the other partners already. They were fun. However, they were not without problems. Thomasina has lots of hair. I am allergic to hair (except mine). As the supportive postures we were practising brought Tom’s head close to my nose, I began to sniffle and sneeze. The rest of the class were engaged in relaxed positioning whereas I was sneezing and Thomasina was trying (unsuccessfully) not to laugh, and considering adding antihistamines to her delivery kit. We also got the opportunity to learn some Shaitsu massage, which looked like it would be useful later.
The actual labour started early Sunday morning (about 3am). I had only awoken as there was the sound a can being kicked around the street. This then changed to the squeaking sound of a crying grown man saying "Let me in." Thomasina meanwhile was having contractions a couple of minutes apart. Knowing that last time Thomasina stayed awake for about three days, being too excited to sleep, I told her to go back to sleep and wait until morning. In the morning Daniel woke up at his usual time (6am). After breakfast, at around 10, I took him off to the park and left Thomasina to it. Later we called my Mum, had lunch (except Thomasina – too excited again!) and at around 3pm off we went.
On arrival in hospital (QMC) we were booked in and Thomasina was given the initial monitoring. We were one of only two births that day and the mid-wife (Sharon) was very keen. Being indecisive we hadn’t really decided everything about the birth, and Sharon decided to bring in what seemed like all the possible birthing aids. We had several bean bags (with covering sheet), cushions, plastic chairs and rocking chair (more of this later) as well as the usual bed and armchair.
Things progressed normally, but slowly, pain increased, some of the yoga techniques were helping, although we weren’t able to get as much Shiatsu massage done as we would have liked. At some point I persuaded (it took some) Thomasina to stand up (as she’d been lying down for monitoring) as she’d been saying throughout the pregnancy that standing would be the best position to be in. Her waters broke, a new experience as it was ARM last time. Then the pain really got going. Sharon wanted to monitor her after the waters breaking and Thomasina wanted to stay upright. So she climbed onto the rocking chair, and plugged her into the gas’n’air (I quote – "I don’t want to try gas’n’air, it will make me sick"), and she took some deep breaths. Well I can only say that I’ve never seen a rocking chair move so fast in my life. Any faster and she’d have taken off. As the monitor wasn’t working, Thomasina got back on the bed and the monitoring continued there. Sharon left the room as she was nearing the end of her shift. Thomasina was feeling hot (not surprisingly after the rocking chair) so I offered to switch on the electric fan. Of course this didn’t work and in the process of fiddling (I was an engineer, after all) I knocked the thermometer on the floor. Thinking that a pool of mercury was not the most sensible thing to have around I rang for help. The shift was changing so Sharon introduced us to our next mid-wife Debra while clearing up the poisonous substance.
Debra (and her student assistant) was very good also, and saw use through to the birth, which is well detailed by Thomasina. Important quotes are "It feels like a poo," from Thomasina, I think during every contraction, and "it’s got hair on, then," from the student. Here I learnt the best mechanism for pain relief, its pain transfer. It seemed that as the contractions came, Thomasina would breath the gas’n’air and use her other hand to squeeze mine. As the contractions were more intense, so was the squeezing. More intense, the squeezing concentrated on one finger, more pain (for me). More intense and the squeezing fingers adjusted themselves so that the nails dug into my fingers – more pain (for me). As a mechanism for pain relief, pain transfer seemed to work, but if you’re the partner then try to avoid it.
Emma was born straight onto Thomasina’s chest (at 11.30pm) and fed almost immediately, which was a perfect resolution to the previous Caesarean. I took the customary photographs, (which were developed and on the Internet by 6pm the following day). After we’d phoned the grandparents and gone up to the ward, I came home (about 3am). Daniel woke up at 6am, as usual, and a new day started