Hello, it's Daddy again. It's time again for my take on Charlie's birth. These events are so special to us that we want to remember and document them as much as we can. Thus, here's my account of the day we became a family of four.
"It's a good bake" declared Paul Hollywood as we switched the lights off for the final time as a family of three. It was 8:30pm on Sunday, April 10th (Yes, we really do go to bed that early) as labor began. But at around 10:30pm Angela sat up in bed, worried.
"What if I go into labor tonight? What do we do with Henry till Mom can get here? What if she's ASLEEP?" Thus, "Panic Texting" (good name for a boy band) set in. With Angela and I being such planners we both couldn't believe we hadn't made plans should we need to go to the hospital in the middle of the night! Luckily, both next door and Angela's mum responded to our mild panic with their support. Normal 'fully planned' service was resumed.
By this time, the pain of labor prevented Angela from sleeping, so just as before, she adjured to the living room to let me sleep to be 'fresh'. I remember thinking how much this paralleled the night of Henry's birth. I hoped the day would be as special.
Early next morning, our planning kicked into high gear as we began to make our arrangements to leave. Yes, we are the couple who packed their bags weeks ago. Mine packed with two days worth of clothes. Angela's was packed with two days worth of junk food.
After showering, Angela's mum had arrived and a short but emotional 'goodbye' and 'good luck' later, we were on our way to the hospital.
Only one 'un-made' decision loomed - "Does Angela ask for an epidural or try without?" Being a guy (and therefore have no pain tolerance what so ever) I would have at this point been searching the hospital website to see if there was an epidural ordering option. Angela, however, is someone special. Despite the fact that, initially, she decided to get the epidural (in fact, she told me later that she'd phoned one of her secret nurse gang and arranged it. Yes, I didn't know that there was a secret nurse gang that talk in Latin and solve medical problems in a very Sherlock Holmes-y fashion either) by the time we'd reached the hospital I think she'd already changed her mind to go without one.
Deciding to go without the meds really takes something special. All the people that we'd talked to that had gone natural had spoke of it literally being the worst pain they'd had in the lives. ALL OF THEM stated it. Yet, despite knowing that, Angela decided to go natural. Think about that? worst pain ever AND you can avoid it....yet she still choose to do it without. Not to prove anything to anyone else. Just to her. Love her.
By 10:30am, we were in the room and going through the motions of the pre-birth process. Angela was checked resulting in a confirmation of 6-7 cm and the nurses spoke more of their secret nurse codes. Blood was drawn and the 'baby table' was placed in the room. Seeing the baby table in the room so quickly really took us both by surprise. Last time the baby table arrived a short time before that actual birth..so....does this mean they think we are going to have this baby quickly?
Throughout all of this, the staff at the hospital were going about quietly being awesome. Truly, the encouragement and support they gave was amazing. Never pushy, but commanding - they assured us both through the whole thing. I think they'd even helped reinforce Angela's decision to go without an epidural by simply telling her how awesome she had and WAS doing.
During the constant wave of contractions, Angela just sat listening to music and went from position to position trying to find somewhere uncomfortable. You could tell when a contraction arrived - Angela would stop humming along to the music, her face would wince with pain and she begin intensely rocking back and forth in her rocking chair. I get like that listening to some of the music she listens as well (Love you Honey ;-))
As a dad you REALLY feel useless during this process (more useless than we normally feel). You don't want to interfere and you certainly don't want to offer the lines you hear dads doing in movies e.g. "Breathe Honey!" for fear of a response like "OH THANKS!!!! - I HADN'T THOUGHT OF THAT!!!!!"
Thus, I took on the role of Carson from 'Downton Abbey' and just tried to provide Angela with what she needed, when she needed it.
At around 1pm, Doctor Woodall and nurse Valerie came to discuss breaking Angela's water. Whilst she was progressing nicely, Doctor Woodall felt that we could speed things along by breaking the water. I could see the weighing of the decision in Angela's face - endure much, much MORE pain but for it to end quickly? OR continue on with the intense pain as is but possibly extend the time till birth?
Nervously, she agreed to have them break her water and the most intense hour and forty minutes of her life began. I cant imagine the pain she went through during this time. Literally I can't. Even 'accidental zipper-age' (you know what I'm talking about) doesn't even come close.
I don't think Angela remembers much of this time. I remember every second. Watching the person you love writhe around looking, in vain, for a position just fills you with a mix of extreme sympathy and intense admiration. You just want to help!
At this point, Angela stated she was 'too hot' and needed to cool down. Thus, I was giving the job of fanning her with a hospital pamphlet entitled 'Oh Baby!'. Finally! Something useful to do! and boy did I take my job seriously. I worked out things like 'optimal fanning speed' and 'fan to face distance for maximum coolage ratio'. I was very proud of my fanning service.
At around 2:15pm, after just over an hour of intense pain (and, dare I say it, Olympic winning fanning) a bar was attached to the end of Angela's bed so she could sit on her knees to ease the pain and let gravity do it's work. The problem was - getting Angela from a laying down position to up on her knees to hold on to said bar? The solution was for the nurses and myself to time the move between contractions to get her up as smooth as possible. It was kinda like those war time movies in which the parachute regiment, having nervously sat in the dark fuselage of the airplane flying over enemy territory, are suddenly told by their commanding officer to 'Go! Go! Go!' having reached the drop zone. At least that's how I saw it.
No sooner it seemed that we had got Angela up on the bar when it was time to lay her back down for the final push. During this time the baby table was unpacked and, to paraphrase Sherlock Holmes "The stage was set, the curtain rose, we were ready to begin".
I took my position by Angela's head and held her as much as I could. Doctor Woodall went from 'PUSH! 1...2.....3...." to 'I see her head' to baby in arms in what seemed like no time at all. Compared to the boys delivery, it was shockingly fast. And just like Henry's birth the experience was amazing to watch. My favorite part was seeing Charlie appear for the first time with her left hand across her right cheek. Vogue-ing.
Charlie, of course, was placed on Angela's chest who was beaming with joy. Trying to hold back the tears of joy myself I was asked to cut the cord. I don't know why I didn't with Henry and I really wanted to this time around. I do remember thinking, as I was handed the scissors, 'Wait! I'm left handed!!!! We lefties are rubbish with scissors!!! What if I mess it up?' . Thankfully I made the cut. Took me two attempts.
So...at 2:31pm, on April 11th 2016 I officially became a father of two. I'm happy and proud to be so. I can't imagine life any different. Every time I look back on both this day and the day we first met Henry my heart literally fills with joy. A new family member, a whole new experience, a whole new life. And I discovered my skill for fanning. Epic.