10pm 21st: Deciding that the baby is clearly hanging in until she is induced on the 22nd, I decide to have a few glasses of wine in anticipation of a long day tomorrow.
2:30am 22nd: MBW wakes me up with a struggle. She "thinks the contractions are starting". I manage to calm her a bit and I sleep until 4am solid; MBW has fits and starts and is unsure if it's kicking off or not.
4am: MBW is now convinced it's all go, so we start getting our final stuff together.
6am: We are both showered and dressed and call the labour ward at the hospital. They tell us to come straight in.
6:10 Into the assessment unit, they strap 2 sensors across MBW's belly; one to monitor the heartbeat of the baby and another to measure the uterus. Forms are filled, questions asked and answered.
7:30 We are ushered into the labour ward and are shown to an office that has the door windows blocked out by the oversized kitchen towel blankets they use. A home made printed sign is stuck to the door; "TRIAGE UNIT". I am in a state of mild panic; they haven't told us anything is wrong, so why are we in the triage room?
Turns out they are just very busy and want to give us some privacy whilst they put the monitors on again, and do a cervical exam on MBW. 1-2cm dilated, is the decision.
8:20 There is no room on the labour ward so we are punted to a bed in the Gynaecological wing, along with another lady who's about 2 hours behind MBW in labour, and 2 recent mothers whose babies are in intensive care. On the way out we meet M, one of the blokes we know through the NCT course we've been on; his wife D has been suffering pre-eclampsia and they are to induce a week early. Which must be a double blow to them as they were planning a home birth. I hope all goes well for them but feel bad as there's an inner voice going "be grateful that isn't you".
The midwife that meets us at the ward is apologetic about us not being on the labour ward, and exudes a professional calmness that does both MBW and I some good. The midwife checks in on us every half hour or so.
12:45 Midwife arrives to do another cervical examination; 2cm dilated. MBW a little worried about this as the contractions are now bad enough to prevent her speaking during them.
Midwife asks if we can hang on for another 4 hours before we are transferred onto the labour ward and dispenses a couple of paracetamol. So we are in a little cubicle, with only a curtain for privacy. MBW has space to move around and finds it easier to be on her knees, weight on her elbows on the bed. She's refusing food as she's been sick twice but I try to keep her sipping water as often as I can. Contractions strong enough for MBW to start crying out; I can only imagine what the blue rinse ladies down the ward recovering from their hysterectomies think what's going on.
13:35 I go to the floor above as "you can't use the toilets on this ward" according to one nurse. Happy to oblige, I make sure MBW is OK and nip off up to the gents. On my return I am buzzed back in and a nurse scuttles over to intercept me.
"Visiting hours are only from 2pm onwards" she says. "I know it's not your fault you're on this ward when you should be on the labour ward, but we have to consider other patients when they see husbands on the ward outside visiting hours".
My tired mind is trying to unravel exactly what she is trying to say, exactly. I blink slowly, twice, and say quietly in a pleasant, helpful tone of voice "so, what would you have me do? What do you need from me?"
"I know it's not your fault, you should be on the labour ward, but visiting hours are from 2pm until 8".
I'm tired, fearful of how MBW is and I am currently racing through scenarios in my head - can I get this nurse to make a case to move us to labour ward, seeing as she is clearly uncomfortable with me being around, following their instructions to not use the toilets and generally being quiet?
"Breaker, I need water" - I hear my wife cry, so I excuse myself from the nurse and go to be with MBW. I had already bought a couple of bottles of water from the machine near the loos on the other floor.
Midwife comes to check things and I ask when we are to be moved to the labour ward. MBW is now having more painful contractions and I want her to be near the appropriate equipment as soon as possible. "Labour ward is still under a lot of pressure at the minute" comes the reply. "Do you think that you can bear it to be here until your next examination at 4:30?" MBW feels like she has no choice, so she bravely says she'll see how we go.
I beg the midwife to bring us gas and air; I am counting the contractions and duration surreptitiously and they are definitely increasing. MBW has a long and painful contraction that she cannot help but yell about. "Aaaaaah!" "AaaaaAAAAAAAGH" followed by some controlled breathing.
The midwife chimes in "oh that's great you can vocalise your pain, and remember your breathing exercises".
I am biting my lip; for some reason I find the "FUUUUUUUUCK" incredibly funny. I can't explain this other than nervous tension; I am hugely concerned for MBW and worried that the birth will progress sooner than a labour ward space is available. Still can't shake the chuckles off which I feel is a betrayal of my care for MBW, though so I bite through my lip a little until it bleeds a bit.
Midwife returns a few times, and each time I request gas and air until finally she tells us that the mobile unit has a leak and is therefore unavailable. I fight the urge to request the broken unit and a couple of reels of surgical tape; I'm a practical chap and can usually fix stuff up. Instead I try to pressurise the midwife into moving us to the labour ward. MBW is in two minds about the gas and air; she feels that if she begins it too soon it'll be useless to her when the pain is ramped up.
MBW's been slowly notching up her TENS unit, a little battery operated bit of kit that has 4 electrodes stucj to her back which she can vary in intensity and pattern - pulsed or continuous. She's been a super trooper with this so far; turning it up during contractions but trying to turn it down in between. I notice that she's at 4 out of 5 though; this is my barometer for how much pain she's in. So I want the gas and air ready for her for when she's at 5 on the TENS.
"I'll see if I can find another Entonox machine for you"; the midwife departs.
3:15pm: A new midwife appears on cover for our previous, who's off having some food. She asks MBW the relevant questions, and refuses to be drawn on the Entonox machine. MBW is up to 4.5 on the TENS. The new midwife advises to take a long hot shower, and there'll be another cervical examination at 4:45 and we depart for the shower.
4:40 MBW is relieved a fair bit from a cranking hot shower for the last hour and a bit. I nearly drop the TENS machine as I remove it from MBW's back before she gets under the water, forgetting to turn it off as I strip the adhesive electrodes from MBW's back.
Midwife examines MBW again, her cervix is 4 cm dilated. We are worried that this is a bit slow for the amount of time we've been at it, but the midwife seems pleased. "We should be able to get you on the labour ward now" she says, and goes off to phone the ward.
Five minutes later it's all apologies; there's a serious crash labour going on at the minute and there are no admissions unless it's another emergency. Once again I am disappointed by my mental charity; half of me worries it is our friends M & D in the crash suite; the other half is wanting them the hell out of our way so MBW can get more medical attention.
I hold MBW tight and mentally give them 30 minutes or 10 minutes contractions before I start asking for senior midwives to explain themselves.
Luckily, we are ushered up to the labour ward at about 5:30.
MBW is now having very painful contractions, and freed from social contact, is now variating her "FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKKKKKKK"s at the end of contractions. I am still biting my lip, hating myself as I shudder with controlled laughter at this. What the fuck is wrong with me?
The birthing pool is clean and ready to go, and I take the midwife aside and ask if I can borrow a mop to clean up the large bloodstains that are in the birthing room's shower unit. She calls a cleaning crew, and the bathroom / shower is mopped. MBW getting stuck into the gas and air and wondering why she resisted it until now. I start filling the birthing pool.
I get MBW ready for the pool "IS THERE GAS AND AIR THERE? IS THERE GAS AND AIR THERE? I'M NOT LEAVING HERE UNLESS THERE IS!!!"
I assure here there is and the midwife puts a new mouthpiece on it.
MBW gets me to remove the TENS machine and I electrocute myself again. I help her into the water and she feels better for half an hour.
A senior midwife comes along with our new shift midwife, and wants a monitor on for half an hour. This midwife is probably the one going to deliver the baby; I eye her suspiciously. She is by far the youngest midwife we have had; for this stage I wanted a grizzled old veteran that has seen every complication and wrinkle in her long and successful career. I am so worried about MBW that I notice the midwife looks like Liz Hurley's young sister only in passing.
MBW is reluctant to leave the pool, but the midwives are insistent that we monitor the baby and uterus. She moves reluctantly but only when she's seen that there is still the gas and air machine next to the bed.
7pm - Finally, cervix is "at least 8, closer to 9cm dilated" and MBW's waters finally break. Midwife sweeps away my concerns about her qualifications and experience with a thorough mastery of the examination, explaining what she's doing and why.
They find meconium in the water and won't allow MBW back into the birthing pool as this means the baby is in distress. Senior doctor type with a gaggle of students in tow comes along to check on the CTG monitor machine; I ask MBW if she's OK with that and she's "whatever!". Contractions are very painful for her now and she's gritting her teeth through them. She's doing really really well and I tell her so, feed her water and mop her brow a bit.
8:30pm - Notice that the contractions are doubling up, MBW is kneeling on the bed, gas and air tube clenched between her teeth. "STRAIGHT FOR C-SECTION NEXT TIME BREAKER!!! FUUUUUUUUUUUCKKKK!!!!!!!". The midwife smiles. The contractions have definitely doubled up and MBW is just about keeping on top of it, the brave woman. I can feel the tension building, the midwife is still wonderfully supportive and informative to MBW and I. I want to hold MBW in my arms and become a lightning conductor for her pain, if only for a moment to give her a break. I'd gladly shoulder her suffering for the day if I could. Instead, I ease out a coil in the gas and air tube.
9:00 We can see the head - only a sliver of hair though. MBW is really struggling with the pain but she is breathing well and controlling it. I am astonished at how well she is bearing up; my beautiful rough tough Aussie wife.
Between contractions the midwife asks MBW how she's doing. MBW starts replying but is interrupted by a contraction.
"aaaaAAAAAAGH!!! FUCKING GAY UNCLES!!!!!!"
The midwife looks at me quizzically; I've no idea what MBW's on about either. I am now having the worst attack of laughing so far and I turn to fill the water bottle and stab my housekeys in my pocket into my leg whilst biting my lip as hard as I can.
9:20 Head is almost fully out, and pops back in again. MBW is panting, and panting through the next contraction. "FUCKING AGUILERA!!!" she bellows, then rides the next contraction which pops the head out. MBW is still kneeling, and I see my daughter's face for the first time. She rapidly turns blue, stuck half in and half out of MBW. I look anxiously at the midwife; my heart is in my throat and my stomach is on the floor. Everything slows down; I study the midwife's face whilst my mind is screaming "MY DAUGHTER IS DYING HELP US PLEASE HELP US". The midwife smiles and tells MBW that the next push is all she needs to do and the baby will be born. A moment of clarity races into y head - if the midwife isn't panicking then neither should I.
A minute later and MiniBreaker slithers out into the midwife's arms. She gives the baby a very swift once over before pushing her through MBW's legs for her to hold. Both the midwife and I watch as MBW cradles MiniBreaker in her arms, and she begins crying, a first experimental effort, then a lusty cry. A huge gout of blood fountains from between MBW's legs onto the bed, and I hear it drip through the bed onto the floor.
The midwife takes hold of the baby, settles MBW on her back and puts her to MBW's breast. On examination of the amount of blood splashed up MBW's thighs, and down her leg and just about everywhere, she gently announces that she'll have to administer the placental accelerrant injection, to prevent further blood loss. It takes about 10 minutes and she is able to pull the placenta free of MBW, gives it a brief examination and presentation to us, before she makes a few final checks and leaves us to it, showing us the call button if we need her at all.
MiniBreaker suckles MBW a little bit, then sleeps.
We sit in silence, as a family. I am offering prayers to all and sundry deities in my mind that the baby is safe and whole, and that MBW is as well as can be expected - a minor internal laceration but no tearing.
An hour or so later the midwife returns and does some further checks. MBW gets into the shower slowly, helped by the midwife. Before she stands, she hands me my daughter to hold.
I cradle her in my arms and feel my heart explode with love for her and my brave, beautiful wife.
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