Top 5 Scary Moments – #1April 18, 2007 at 9:39 am | Posted in childbirth, family, scary, scary moments | 50 Comments
When you’re going to have a baby, even if your first reaction is “how the hell did that happen?”, you do your best to prepare for it. You buy the pram, the cot, the changing unit, steriliser, bottles – all the trappings of early parenthood. You paint the room lemon, if you’re a pragmatist, pink or blue if you’re an optimist. You’re tiptoeing on eggshells in the weeks before the due date. You swoop to the phone like a hawk, adrenaline-high; sometimes, it might even be ringing. You read and read and read some more because you want to be the best parent the world has ever seen.
You’re left confused and fearful for your ability to cope, and no matter how much preparation you do, it’s all irrelevant and useless when it’s suddenly real. Still, you muddle on.
Linzi was two weeks past due with Erin. On the big night, she woke me at 1.30am to say she thought her contractions had started, and I, considerate chap that I am, turned over in bed, gave her bump a wee pat and said, ah sure you’ll be grand for a while yet.
I was just settling back to sleep when she administered me a vigorous beating about the face, chest, breast, neck and head area. Snapping alert, seeing her flushed face, I realised that she may have been on to something. I grabbed her stuff and guided her to the car.
3am. I pulled up to the hospital, the hot copper taste of excitement and fear bubbling in my throat, fizzing my tongue as though I’d just had a good lick of a 9-volt battery.
We had to go via the Accident & Emergency room because it was after hours. The sensation of the warm air breezing as I sprinted Linzi down the corridor in a wheelchair while toting her enormous overnight bag will stay with me always. Linzi remembers quite different sensations, ones I’m glad I never had to experience.
We got a bed around 3.10am. Erin was born at 3.39. So much happened in between.
When Linzi tells this story, invariably the reaction is “God, you were LUCKY to have her so quickly, weren’t you?”. It’s all relative, I suppose. However, having been through it with her, I think the idea that a speedier delivery makes a woman more fortunate has dubious merit.
Childbirth’s one of the few occasions where it’s socially acceptable for a man to cry. That, and maybe when your dog dies. I never understood why I would cry until I went through it; I never expected it. Linzi asked me one time if I thought I would cry at the birth. Why would I cry? I wondered. Sure I’d be happy, like.
It’s an emotional bungee jump, is why. Frozen panic masked as calm, driving with jittery, awkward limbs. The rush of the brief heroics when you’re playing the rescuer, flying it down the corridor with a wheelchair containing your bellowing wife and your soon-to-be first-born. The feeling of being absolutely useless to her while she goes through this.
There is nothing you can do, so you mask your uselessness with words of support, while the midwives calmly go through the motions for the tenth time that night. You choke back a fat lump of joy as it tries to fill your throat when you hear the steady thumpthumpthump of baby’s heartbeat fast and clear on their monitor. You are hypersensitive to something going wrong, and so you swallow down the acrid tang of panic, copper simmering in battery acid, as you realise that the baby’s heart rate is slowing, slowing, and almost stopping every time there’s a contraction. You bite back a scream of frustration as you notice the midwives’ nervous glances. You try to remember that this is no time to lose the rag, stay calm, be there for her, but for fuck’s sake, stop looking so worried nurse, and DO SOMETHING!.
Try not to freak out while you watch the nurse pick up the phone and why is she urgently whispering for Doctor Whatshisname to come down here right now? Mustn’t get hysterical but what the fuck is going on? You hear a piercing cry as a contraction wrenches your lover from the inside out and baby’s thumpthumpthump becomes thump…thump…thump and you think oh god please let my baby be okay and then the doctor arrives and they lose the heartbeat completely as he takes over and why is that nurse suddenly so pale and FUCKING DO SOMETHING please please help my baby and four, five, six, seven excruciating clueless minutes later you hear a shout as you grip your wife’s hands and cease your worthless assurances to splutter out oh it’s a girl, god, she’s perfect and you say this even though you can see that she is blue and not just a tinge of blue, but blue like evening summer skies just after sunset and inside you’re desperate to know that she’s okay and the relief you feel when you hear those tiny little lungs take their first breath, the relief as she screams with a ferocity that foretells of a temper like her daddy, it’s like nothing you’ve ever felt and suddenly all the strength is gone from your body and your eyes flood and spill over and yet you’re laughing as you watch the two most important people in your life lying warm and still together as they meet for the first time and all you can think is god we made this, we made this perfect little thing and you blab and snot, just like a child yourself, and you don’t really care who sees.
Four hours later, little baby sleeping serenely, and you’re crying again, tears of agony this time, because your wife has just kicked you in the bollocks with all the force she can muster. Looking back on it, it probably was rather insensitive to complain to your freshly-stitched partner that your arse is killing you from sitting on these uncomfortable feckin chairs.
Parenting, I recommend it. You’ll never be guilt-free again!
Please note: If you’re a guy, don’t ever use the wanky phrase “we’re pregnant”. You’re not pregnant, you impregnated her. You hang around while she has to do the work. Give her credit where it’s due.