Not my birth story, that would be weird. No, this is the story of the birth of my son, Archer.
January 28th, 2014. We had the exterminator coming to fumigate our house (stray cats had given our cats fleas, and we needed to be rid of them before the baby arrives). Because of this, we needed to get out of the house for a few hours. We had a doctor’s appointment in a few hours, so to kill time we decided to go to the beach and watch the water.
After some time at the beach, we headed to the pre-natal clinic. We were still way early, but I occupied myself with “The Chase” on the television in the waiting room. During the check, Kayla’s blood pressure was high (compared to a normal reading, two days before) meant that she had preeclampsia. After seeing the confused look on my face, Kayla explained it to me as ‘What Kim Kardashian had’, I understood after that. They kept Kayla in observation overnight, and I was kicked out at 8:30pm. At this stage, We lived very close to the hospital (literally, the hospital was on top of a hill, and we lived at the bottom, about a 1.5km away. I went home, too nervous to eat anything. I sat on the couch and watched family guy re-runs. I opted for an early night, determined to be at the hospital as early as possible to see how things were going. After a while, and a couple of more observations, we were told that Kayla could go home and sleep in her own bed that night if she wished (she didn’t even hesitate to say yes, as she’d had a horrible night sleep in hospital). We came home about lunchtime, with instructions to present at the maternity ward the following morning at 7am to induce labour.
January 30th, 2014. 6am. We woke up, and immediately started getting ready. Kayla’s bags, whilst half packed, still had some last-minute essentials to go in there (Phone charger, camera, etc). I down a large, extra strength coffee and we head to the hospital. We arrive, and are greeted by our midwife (who happens to be working on the ward that morning). We were assigned a bed on the ward (the back right hand bed in a six bed room), and Kaylas blood pressure was taken again. After a while, they came to get us and take us around to one of the birthing suites.
The birthing suites were MASSIVE! With the bed in the centre, a couch by a window that overlooks the coast and the township below, a television and kitchenette (with kettle, tea & coffee, microwave, mini-fridge). Also a massive spa bath, and a shower and toilet in an adjoining room.
The next few hours are long, with not a lot of progress. At one point I go out to meet up with mum, who was working on the psych ward at the other end of the hospital. I also went out to get some food for us to share at lunchtime (chips and gravy, probably not the neatest food to eat in a sterile white room).
By this point, Kayla was 4cm dilated, and indicating that she needed pain killers. The anaesthesiologist gave her an epidural, which didn’t work. He tried again in the same spot, again there was no relief. He tried another spot, another dose. Were we going to get some relief with this one? I crossed my fingers for it to work, I hated seeing Kayla in this much pain and distress. Some time passed, and it was clear that the epidural(s) weren’t cutting it. I found the nurse and we arranged to have another dose given. By this stage, my parents were there, checking in on us (mum had finished work at this point). It would have seemed that Kayla’s case had been talked about in the anaesthetics department, because the head of the department was called to give her the fourth dose. My mum knew the guy (of course! When you’re a nurse for 35 years, you tend to know everyone!), and assured us that he was the best in the business. If anyone could get this epidural to work, it would be this guy. That calmed me a little, and watching him administer the anaesthetic, you could tell he was a pro who had been doing this a very long time. Unfortunately, all the final dose did was make Kayla’s left leg numb. Now she was not only in pain, but couldn’t walk anywhere.
By this time, its pretty late. We’d been there all day and Kayla was still only 4cm. The time had come to bite the bullet and talk about having the C-Section. We knew it was a possibility, but I was still worried as hell. The nurses came in and wheeled her away. I was left to move our stuff back to the ward. Our midwife (who, despite working 7-3 that day, came back in to make sure we were okay and that Kayla was comfortable) came to get me, and took me to the doctors locker room to find me some surgical scrubs. She gave me a run down on what would happen. When Kayla was ready (surgically), I would be allowed to enter, to sit by her head and hold her hand. The baby would be shown to us over the screen separating us at the surgical area. I would then be able to cut the cord and hold him.
It seemed like a lot of information to take in, and I was a little overwhelmed by it. Maybe the midwife could see it on my face, but she offered me a cup of coffee. I gladly accepted, and was taken around to the staff room. She told me to change into my scrubs after I finished my coffee (a wise caution, given my inclination to spill things on my shirt). As I drank my coffee, I read the posters on the wall of the staff room (the midwife had left at that point, with instructions for me on where to wait for her). I finished my coffee and found a large enough bathroom to get changed (I like my space).
I then went around to the entrance to the surgery. I read the posters on the wall. I flipped through the pamphlets on the little table. I waited. And I waited. And I waited. With each second, I got more and more worried. What was going on in there. Surely it doesn’t take this long. Maybe it does take this long. I haven’t got a clue. I’m not a surgeon. All of these thoughts racing through my mind. Had the midwife forgotten about me? There was a buzzer on the wall near the door. Should I press it? No, I’ll wait another 10 minutes. The 10 minutes passed. I pressed the buzzer. I waited some more. It seemed like half an hour, but was probably only about 5 minutes, when the midwife appeared at the door and brought me in.
No amount of heads up and mental preparation could prepare me for what was the other side of that surgery door. I was expecting to be brought into the room at Kayla’s head, but no. I walked in and there was my fiancé, cut open. All I remember seeing is the colour red. I don’t know if I saw any of her ‘insides’, all I remember is seeing red. I was walked around to Kaylas upper half, and sat next to her. They had given her a spinal, and she was out of it. I was glad to see her not in pain, but she was not very coherent at all.
Then, in no time at all, the moment we’d waited for all day was here. This tiny little baby appeared over the top of the privacy screen, held by disembodied hands. He was perfect. The amount of joy and relief that flowed through my body felt like a cool rush compared to the heat of tension I’d been feeling up until that point. They took him over to the weigh table and cleaned him up a bit. I was then invited over to cut the cord (they had cut it lower down, it wasn’t still attached to Kayla). The cord was surprisingly tough to cut. It felt rubbery and soft under the pressure of the scissors. I returned back to Kayla, who still had no idea what was happening; while the nurses cleaned and wrapped my son. It was time for me to go back to the ward, and I was handed this tiny bundle of blankets with a face.
Walking out of the surgery with my son, I couldn’t help myself, I bawled. Like I hadn’t cried in ages. Proper tears of joy and relief. The nurses were very supportive, I remember our midwife saying “It’s always the men that will be the best dads that cry the first time they hold their child”. I was taken back to the ward, where I sat in a hard backed chair with my son in my arms, and I just stared at him. He stared back. Quiet as can be. He looked at me, and I looked at him. And in that moment, we had a bond. Its something that can’t be described. He cried, twice. Just two small cries, each time. I lost track of time, but could tell that it had been a while since I left the surgery, yet Kayla wasn’t here. I started to worry. My mind was torn in two, between worry for my fiancé, and pure joy and pride for my son. Eventually, the worry took over. It had surely been an hour, maybe more. Something was wrong. I’d seen Jersey Girl, I know what could happen. I was fully expecting a solemn-faced doctor to come in and give me the worst news imaginable. I sobbed quietly for a moment, certain that my fiancé was dead. It was just too long for it to be anything else. When I could take it no more, I carefully stood up and pressed the nurse call button. The nurse working the night shift came in, expecting me to ask her to take the baby away for a while. All I wanted was to know if Kayla was alive. She told me she’d page the surgery, and get back to me.
About 10 minutes later, the midwife appeared at the door. She had an apprehensive smile on her face, but it was a smile nonetheless. She explained to me that the spinal that was given to Kayla had gone too far up her spine, and she was having trouble breathing. Apparently it was a tense few minutes in the theatre, as they tried desperately to regulate Kayla’s breathing and heart rate. She was okay now, resting up in recovery, and I would be allowed to go in and see her soon. A second flood of relief flowed through my body, and I cried again. After working myself up, and convincing myself that I had lost the love of my life while she was giving birth to my son, it had all worked out.
Another half an hour passed (by this time it was about 11:15pm), and the midwife came to take me to Kayla. After a short walk around to surgery, I opened the door to see her sitting up in bed, coherent and happy. The theatre nurses were standing around her, about 5 in total. I walked over to her and handed her our son. She broke down, the tears of happiness and love that flowed down her face made me happier than I had been in the last few hours, possibly ever. She cried with such joy and pride, that she made the biggest, butchest looking nurse break down and cry too. She cuddled him, while we wheeled her back to the ward, and we sat together as a family there, in silence, just looking at this amazing life we had created.
I was forced to leave at midnight, as the night security guard had finished his shift (and apparently I couldn’t be trusted). I didn’t want to leave, I would have stayed there all night, sleeping in the hard backed chair, just to be with Kayla and Archer. But I knew that we both needed some rest, so I figured a decent sleep would do me good.
I wrote this blog for two reasons. To give expectant first time dads an idea about what it can be like. Hopefully no one will have to go through what we went through, but its good to know what can wrong. My advice for first time dads would be, when it comes to the birth: don’t expect anything, but expect everything. You will also feel more useless than you ever have before in your life. But that’s okay. So long as you’re there to hold your partner’s hand and reassure her that you’re there for her, you’ll be okay.
The second reason is to keep this story as a keepsake for my son. I want to be able to tell him one day about how he came into this world, and by writing it down, I won’t forget it.