The Father's Voice (a semi-regular review of becoming a father): pt1.
(or 10 of the things no-one tells you)
I became a father this week! Thanks for your congrats. Apart from the lingering feeling of amazement that comes from seeing your newborn being lifted up by the midwife and taking its first breaths of air, we feel like we've completed part one of a Doctorate in only 7 days. While nature does do its thing supernaturally well, its still a huge learning experience. Below is an overview AND a list of ten vital, important, crucial, essential things that NO ONE TELLS YOU!
1.10pm Penny calls to say she's having irregular cramps that feel like period pain - are these contractions starting?
1. Contractions actually feel like period pain, so will be familiar, and are centered in one spot, not all over.
4.00pm I arrive home from work. The cramps are still semi-regular, but Pen has to sit down when they come now. I guess they are contractions!
5.30pm Ring the midwife - yes come in when they are 5 mins apart. By this standard, we plan to leave around 7pm.
6.15pm Things are really moving! We leave instead at 6.30pm.
6.45pm We drive (fast!) to the hospital - imagining what we'll say if/when we get pulled over for speeding... “yes, we'd love a police escort officer”.
7.10pm We're here! Poor Penny pausing every few minutes from the car to the birthing suite. No prizes for guessing why we're here as people we pass offer us a wheelchair.
8.00pm After initially writing her obs on a paper towel, the midwife has now got Pen's chart and her contractions have slowed a little now where in safe hands. Nothing for it now but to let them take their course, maybe have Pen in the shower to help with pains, give her regular drinks and snacks, and as the midwife says, 'just breathe through it'. I support her in different standing and sitting poses to alleviate things a little...
2. Breathing is the number one key thing at this point! Pen just mostly figured it out - slow and deep - some extra coaching though wouldn't have gone astray.
3. There are some really good poses (wife's arms around your shoulders/neck) that help ALOT - ask your midwife to show/ describe them in good detail before labour starts...
10.00pm- Examination time. Enough said, apart from the fact that another one won't be done until 1:00am 2am - that's another four hours of regular pains now every 4 mins... The midwife came in every 30mins, just took blood pressure etc as you'd expect, but I was never sure what their role was - do they 'make' it all happen or just be there for an emergency? Maybe we were just naturally gifted so didn't need much help...
4. Ask the midwife exactly what her role is so your not disappointed when she disappears for stretches/ r annoyed if she's always in your face.
1:01am After a shower, and various poses to aid the growing pain (every 3 mins now), Pen starts to feel that something is changing. What? We don't know, but by 1:30am, things are really happening. Pen's pain has really changed and asking the midwife (who's still getting ready for a routine 2am examination) gets her thinking it may be nearly time.
5. There are 3 pain stages to labour - initial contractions, then it changes when bub is entering the cervix proper, then the pushing at the end is different again. Knowing it will change and knowing what this signals would have been nice! Its a bit hard for the wife to ask many questions at this stage!
1:30am Pen turns herself around on the beanbag as she feels thins are getting close. I support and talk to her.
2:00am Bub's head is crowning! The midwife gets Pen to feel the top of it - her hand comes away red but she seems to have renewed energy. Suffice to say (skipping past the gory bits) that the pushing stage commences and bub comes out fast! Only three big pushes (with long pauses in between actually) and the midwife holds up our darling, letting Penny be first to check its sex - a liitle girl!
6. You will cry. Spontaneous tears appear when bub does.
2.45am Helena Rose is here, and resting on mum's chest, alert as anything, gazing around, and only crying when Pen is in pain for a few more pushes (getting out the placenta) - maybe empathy will be a personality trait for her. She's strong too - grabbed and brought out some of the placenta membrane with her.
4:30- Time passes as a blur now. Some of it is Pen cuddling bub, me cuddling bub, etc. We 7:00am finally put on one of Pen's 'birthing' mix cd's - a classical one and all fall asleep for 20 mins or so. 7:30 we're off to the ward - its breakfast time - remember eating? That essential life action? We'd forgotten all about even basics like this!
09.08.07 Amidst some lovely hospital visits by family and friends, there is the feeding. Its hard! Bub and Mum are amateurs really. Some midwives take time to help out and teach Pen different ways it is done. But regardless, it gets painful. A book or something mentions protectors that can be worn to help out. Right, that sounds pretty good, why didn't anyone mention it before things got sore?
7. & 8. Nipple protectors and creme are essential! They're the best gift you could ever get your partner BEFORE entering hospital. Use them early (especially the creme) and much later cracking etc can be avoided. Not like us, I mean I only got the creme itself after seeing it on the chemist shelf myself while getting the protectors... And get good thin protectors (Avent is good).
9. This is the most amazing bonding time for you and your partner - made poignant by the father having to leave the hospital overnight (maybe we'll go private next time).
12.08.07 Home! Better and a little scary at the same time. My first night with bub and I wake every 5 mins to check I can still hear her. Its obvious that bub has only a few phases; sleep, feed, dirty nappy, and cry. Helping her arrange these in the best order is our adventure of the first week.
10. With help from my Ma staying over, we've worked out that if you must do something to baby (change nappy, bath etc) do it BEFORE a feed. She'll naturally drop off to sleep after a feed, but not if you then have to disturb her again. This will save heaps of angst and crying and desperation.
Oh and here's a bonus #11: be prepared for life in slow motion... its not entirely unpleasant to just sit and hold baby and next thing an hour is gone.
ps. The midwives were really good at their job! Just not so at communicating.