Well, it’s been a while but what better reason is there to come back to blogging than the birth of a son?
On August 27th, 2014 at 0324am my son, Arthur Atticus Thompson, was born by emergency caesarean section. I remember the moment vividly.
My wife had been in labour for thirty-one hours and although she had her heart set on a natural birth, it was the consultant’s decision that enough was enough and our baby was to come out whether he wanted to or not.
The wife had struggled through every minute of those thirty-one hours. Contractions began at 2am on the Monday morning. By 2pm she was in so much pain we contacted the hospital to discuss coming in. Naturally, as contractions were only about eight minutes apart at this time, the hospital staff were not keen on having us turn up. Come, they said, but if you’re not ready then we’ll send you straight home.
We live an hour’s drive from the hospital so we were always planning to start travelling in the direction of the hospital early, although we had hoped to wait until contractions got down to about 6 minutes apart. An interesting thing about the timing of contractions – I didn’t know this but the apps that you can download for your phone, the ones (and we used several) that the wife and I were using, time your contractions from the beginning of one contraction until the beginning of the next. This is not how out hospital does it. Instead, they count from the end of one contraction to beginning of the next. The wife and I were twenty hours in to her labour and we never saw her contractions get closer than eight minute apart until we discovered that little gem. As it turns out, her contractions were actually four minutes apart and had been for some time.
The midwives knew I was recording the contractions and so took my word (or the apps word) for it every time I updated them as to our progress. It was only when a student midwife walked in and commented that she thought the contractions were closer to three minutes apart that things started to get a bit exciting.
Enter the Registrar – the senior doctor on shift. The wife was assessed again and found to be only two centimetres dilated. Ideally, they like for the mother to be ten centimetres dilated and to be having three to four contractions every ten minutes. It was suggested at this time that we should go home.
I took a short break at this point and telephoned my mother-in-law to update her on the wife’s progress. My ear grew hot as her threats to murder me should we be discharged blistered my eardrum. I actually had to hold the phone away and I could still hear her. Caesarean sections, it would appear, run in the family and both mother-in-law and sister-in-law had already been through exactly what I was now seeing with my wife.
I walked back in to see the Registrar begin her discharge speech, saying how it would be beneficial and promote more rest for mother if she was at home and not taking up a bed in hospital.
The wife became frantic at this point. Whilst under the care of the hospital staff she had been on Entonox (or gas and air) constantly and the thought of being discharged without any pain relief was terrifying for her.
Now I can understand both sides of this argument. The wife is not progressing; therefore the hospital staff can do nothing. Yet, we have no pain relief out side of hospital and we live an hour away. That’s a two hour round trip if we are ejected. I did the only thing I could do which was to look stern and say nothing. I did not want to get into an argument with the staff, as doing so would mark us as ‘difficult’ and likely improve the odds of being discharged. Instead, I said nothing, looked at the registrar with my sternest ‘I disagree yet won’t voice this,’ face, and allowed my wife to seal the deal with a well-timed howl of pain. The midwives attended at once and remarked that a two hour round trip with no pain relief might be a bit harsh. Credit due, the Registrar considered her underlings opinions and then offered an epidural. This, I knew, was good news. An epidural, once given, must be monitored; hence I knew we would be staying.
An epidural is a truly horrific thing to watch. I observed the kindly anaesthetist insert a foot of metal (okay, slight exaggeration) into my wife’s spine, with a smile. To say I felt light on my feet would not do that feeling justice. I definitely swayed, not because I am unfamiliar with the procedure (I am a paramedic and see some pretty gruesome stuff), but because the wife had no say in the matter. She was either so intoxicated on gas or blinded by pain that making a decision for herself was simply not possible. The anaesthetist explained the possible side effects and risks (one of which included spinal cord damage) and asked me to sign on the dotted line. A howl of pain from my wife produced the most frantic and unintelligible signatures I have ever produced.
My God, what a drug! The pain virtually vanished after about twenty minutes and my wife was returned to me once more as one who is able to hold a conversation and is, more over, recognisable one more as my wife. Watching her cling to an Entonox cylinder, half in half out of bed, dribbling and screaming is not something I ever want to see again.
Part of having an epidural is that the patient must be monitored, or more specifically, the baby must be monitored. The wife was hooked up to a machine called a CTG, or Cardiotocogram, which allowed the staff to monitor both foetal heart rate and also the length, duration and frequency of the wife’s contractions.
It quickly became apparent that something was not quite right. The duration of my wife’s contractions were lasting up to ten minutes and rolling straight from one into another. A normal contraction might last up to a minute, sometimes two and you would normally have a little gap in between which would allow both mother and baby and chance to recover before the next assault. Small wonder then that my wife had been in so much pain for so long.
Once more the registrar was called and once more it was discovered that, despite the intense contraction activity, the wife had not dilated further than 4cm. It was some improvement but the Registrar was not happy and made the obvious decision to pass the case up the chain of brains.
Enter the Consultant, who as I said, was not messing around. Baby will be delivered tonight, she said, by c-section. Enough is enough, she said with finality and that was that. She scribbled some notes on our care record and handed over to the registrar. I go now to prep theatre, she said as she left.
It was something of a relief to be honest. We could have struggled on in the hope that my wife would dilate a little more but I think it would have been in vain and potentially dangerous for both wife and child.
Furthermore, Arthur is a big boy. I cannot imagine that my wife would have pushed him out without causing some serious undercarriage damage. Sometimes I wonder if she would have survived at all. My wife is quite petite. Perhaps then, this is nature’s way of saying that children should not have been an option for us. Arthur is an IVF baby. I wonder if the reason we were not blessed with a natural conception is because my wife would not have survived to deliver without the intervention of modern medicine. I guess we’ll never know.
To say I’m proud of my wife is not enough. I was by her side every minute and although I can never understand what she really went through, she will never understand what I went through either. To see someone you love in so much pain, to worry if they will even live, is a most sobering and terrifying experience. I may be over playing things a bit but at the time, during those long hours of listening to her cry, I can only say how it felt to me.
The wife and I have discussed our time in hospital and agree that although it was hard, we received excellent care and there will be more than a few thank you cards leaving here in the morning. The bottom line however is that we are pleased with the end result.
Arthur is worth it.
For her he is worth the three days of pain. For me he is worth the intense feelings of uncertainty and fear as she laboured so hard, struggled for so long for a natural birth that ultimately did not happen.
We love our boy very much. I may well remember every detail of the struggle to bring him into this world, from the initial IVF consultation to wanking in a cupboard, the anxiety of waiting for the test to show positive, the initial three months of hormonal imbalance, the labour, the birth, and now sleepless nights, shitty nappies and dodging projectile bowel movements but I would not change a thing.
He’s here and it’s great.