Second stage labour – one becomes two

I’ve already spoke about early labour and the things we weren’t warned about. That was now a distant memory, a lifetime ago, a reflection in a mirror on which the dust of the last few hours had settled. This is our story… 

that foetal invader we had already come to love is ejected from its host Click To Tweet

After the midwife broke Kathryn’s waters, established labour (4 – 10cm dilated) flew by without us really knowing, and second stage labour was an altogether different world. This is the birth, the stage where that foetal invader we had already come to love is ejected from its host and forced to live in the outside world.

alien
Get out and walk!

Gone were the hours of waiting and the contraction-timing. The scream of “CLOTH” was a fading echo resonating from a previous life. Things were getting pretty intense now – Kathryn was 9cm dilated and she was ready to start pushing as soon she hit 10. The worst pain was over – early labour was particularly difficult because of the way the baby was positioned – but the birth wasn’t exactly a stubbed toe either.

Startiiiing from…NOW

Things were how they should be at this stage so we were moved into our own birthing suite. We had originally wanted to have Kathryn give birth in the birthing pool but after a back-to-back early labour the midwife wanted to closely monitor things. We had originally drawn up a birth plan and not having the pool had already thrown a spanner into the works. I say birth plan, but this read more like an instruction manual for a nuclear reactor. In true overkill Kathryn-style it was four pages long, had subheadings and included details of music playlists and how the room should be lit.

In Kathryn’s OCD world of “BUT IT HAS TO BE THIS WAY”, this would usually result in some form of breakdown. 24 hours of painful labour and a limb-wrinkling 6 hour bath later though, I don’t think she cared…

Two hours of hair and makeup. What a waste...
Two hours of hair and makeup. What a waste…

Kathryn’s mum, Shirley, was with us at the hospital and stayed with us throughout the first contractions. It’s not what we originally imagined or had planned, but Kathryn wanted her there due to the pain and confusion in the first stages of labour. Apparently “I’ve taken a cricket ball to the bollocks before, I know exactly how you feel” is wafer-thin comfort to a woman in labour.

Interlude: Caution!

I also think there was an element of fear at play here. Eleven months prior to this day, Kathryn had an operation to remove a particular useless organ that was crap at its job. An hour or so after the operation she was recovering in a ward, looking blurry eyed and feeling sorry for herself. These were the early (ish) days of our relationship and in an attempt to be the knight in shining armour, I attempted to adjust her bed in an effort to make her more comfortable.

Now, any rational person (i.e. me) would assume that all hospital beds in this century had the pneumatic lowering system that would softly lower the bed when the lever was pulled – I’ve never seen one that wasn’t.

That was, until now.

In the time it took Kathryn to stutter and scream in her post-operation haze “WAIT FOR THE NUR…” I had pulled the lever. I had that stupid grin on my face that I have when I think I’ve done something spontaneous and helpful – and that exact expression lasted throughout Kathryn’s entire 0.1 second journey from being sat up to laying flat. The instant I pulled the lever Kathryn seemed to hover there like a cartoon character that had stepped off a cliff but just not realised it yet.

I'll never live this one down
I’ll never live this one down

The whole bed creaked and I felt the impact of the bed hitting its supports. I felt it vibrate through my feet – I heard it echo off the other side of the ward. I had f**ked up. She let out an almighty cry and the nurse ran over with what looked like a morphine overdose and ordered Kathryn to drink it right away.

Understandably, Kathryn wasn’t taking any chances this time round…

The automobile bleep test

Shirley proved her worth within the first few minutes of us being in the birthing suite. See, I’d packed the hot water bottle because I’m thoughtful like that. I didn’t fill it because I wasn’t sure how long we’d be before we needed it. The midwife refused to fill it though, health and safety. Here we were in a room that saw the most horrific of pains, and we were being refused water that was the same temperature as a cup of tea we had been offered earlier.

I stuttered slightly, half laughing in anticipation of this being a shit joke. It wasn’t. “okay” I said, and darted out the room to head to the Costa Coffee that was in the hospital. They wouldn’t do it either. What was it with this place?! Broken Britain.

I jogged back into the birthing suite and asked how much time we had. “It’ll be a while yet, couple of hours” the midwife said. “Okay, I’m going home to safely fill this hot water bottle…”. I worried about burning my bridges with the midwife but quickly realised that burning anything was against their health and safety regulations. I was safe!

danger-hot-water

I briskly exited the room – Shirley went to say something (I imagine she was going to offer to make the drive instead of me) but I was already gone. The traffic light gods were looking down on me and the journey took but 40 minutes. I was back in the birthing suite in the time it takes Shirley to tell a 2 minute story. I made a hero’s entrance back into the room – the swagger of a man who had brought home a handful of gold medals at the olympics. A smug smirk on my face, eyebrows raised and a mock “phew” escaping my mouth.

Nobody cared.

I handed it to Kathryn and she placed it on her lower back without a word. “YOU’RE WELCOME” I thought – though I was not about to voice that. Nuh-uh, no way. I had a 5 second virtual argument with her in my head. I won, then I moved on.

Wha..wher..wait, hang on!

The midwife hooked all the wires, sensors and tubes up to Kathryn with military efficiency. Then she f**ked off. I’d walked in the room with them thinking “right, this is my moment to be supportive. I’ll be like one of the romantic guys in the crap films she loves. I’ll make her remember me as some kind of brown James Bond”.

As soon as the midwife walked out, I was lost.

What kind of midwife walks out at the start of labour?!
What kind of midwife walks out at the start of labour?!

Being lost was strike 1 and 2 in my books, there couldn’t be another one.

The midwife strolled back in a few minutes later and I exhaled. Apparently she was looking after the woman next door too. Hang on…what? How could that be logical? What if both babies came at the same time? Would she stand equidistant between the two rooms with a mirror in each outstretched arm, shouting support to both? She’s not omnipresent – how would this work?!

Luckily there was another midwife on the way for the gatecrasher next door.

I was flagging at this point too – I’m only human. Shirley ordered me to try and rest and maybe get some sleep and she would wake me up if anything progressed. I didn’t sleep but I felt slightly energised with the rest.

I was sitting next to Kathryn holding her hand. Shirley was at the foot of the bed and then a few feet further. I could tell she didn’t want to intrude but she also wanted to make sure her daughter was ok after the pain beforehand. She reassured me that as soon as the baby was close to making an exit that she would disappear. I was relieved at this, I would never have said it but I would never have had to – Shirley knows these things.

Pain relief

Kathryn only had paracetamol through the IV. She’s deathly scared of needles but aside from the hugely inappropriate “ha, that’s the least of your worries” comment I could have made, there wasn’t much I could say to comfort her. She had the gas and air too – something I’ve always wanted to try.

Paracetamol and gas/air. What a trooper!
Paracetamol and gas/air. What a trooper!

I brought it up casually – “can I try that gas and air?”. “What?” she said, then a contraction would come, I’d look such an inconsiderate arse if I asked again, but my window of opportunity was getting narrow. My curiosity was too strong and I asked again and gestured for her to hand it to me. As soon as my hands gripped it, her hands held on to it like the jaws of a rabid dog. I wasn’t getting it. She was breathing through it so hard it was vibrating and making a noise like a climaxing duck, she was devouring the damn thing like an addict waiting for the last drop of methadone to drip out of the bottle.

I let out a stifled, sulking “ohh!”. Maybe later.

The pushing

This was the moment we’d been waiting for since she went into labour. The midwife was telling Kathryn to push whenever she felt like she needed to “go to the toilet”.

“That’s a bit ambiguous” I thought. “Go the toilet for what? You have to be specific here!”. Shirley stood to leave the room and quickly kissed Kathryn on the forehead. She placed a hand on my shoulder and squeezed before leaving the room. It was good to be acknowledged during the pregnancy. Everyone had rubbed or patted Kathryn’s bump and said “Congratulations”. Not one person had patted my balls and said “well done!”.

The moment was upon us – it was down to me now to be the man my parents and television had brought me up to be.

it was down to me now to be the man my parents and television had brought me up to be. Click To Tweet

I asked the midwife if I could deliver the baby, to be the first to hold my child. She agreed that I could do the “daddy catch” as she called it. She would deliver the head and then I would guide the head out with the final pushes and turn the baby, holding her and handing her to the midwife so she could do her thing.

I wasn't sure what to expect with a phrase like "daddy catch"
I wasn’t sure what to expect with a phrase like “daddy catch”

The midwife would tell Kathryn when to push and when to not push. Apparently this is vital – if you go against her orders then you’re pushing but with no effect whatsoever other than to wear yourself out and cause damage to the unprepared muscle and skin. My breathing was synchronised with Kathryn’s at this point, only I was under no physical exertion. I got dizzy pretty quickly and tried to blink it out while looking gormlessly to the side. I breathed out and held my breath, twitching my legs to use up the overdose of oxygen. It was that exact moment I realised I needed to take a leak.

Toilet break!

Of all the times, it would have to be now. I had a choice – I could either do it on the bed and blame Kathryn, or I could excuse myself and rush to the bathroom that was in the birthing suite. I chose the latter. It wasn’t very well received, understandably.

I could either do it on the bed and blame Kathryn, or I excuse myself and rush to the bathroom Click To Tweet

“Have I got time to go the toilet? I’m bursting” I said. I instantly regretted it, if anyone was “bursting” it was Kathryn as she was quite literally pushing another human being out of her nether regions. “You’ll have to be quick” the midwife said, a bit too abruptly if you ask me!

“Okay” I said. I was moving so fast that I said the “O” to her face and the “kay” from the entrance to the bathroom. I rushed in, unzipped, closed the door (in that order), and let loose. When the stream started I thought I’d hurry things up a bit and push harder to empty my bladder quicker. This was by far the worst idea I had in 2013. Worse than the time I microwaved my xbox controller for two seconds to see if it would still work (it didn’t), even worse than the time I touched the exposed mains wire while on holiday in Mexico to see if it was live (it was).

I was still dizzy from that stupid breathing exercise I was trying to do in support for Kathryn, and any guy reading this will know that if you try and push hard to speed a wee up, you get light headed. The two effects compounded and I stumbled slightly, the world around me turning a slight yellow hue and my balance was quickly leaving me. I was at risk of passing out, pissing all over myself and missing the birth of my child – what kind of a father figure am I?!

Pain of the strain
Pain of the strain

Kathryn screamed as a contraction hit. I heard her shout “YOU’RE GOING TO MISS IT!!”. I managed to stay upright, finished, washed my hands with speed that couldn’t have been hygienic, then ran out to witness my first child being born.

The feline and the foetus

As I approached Kathryn again she was in pain, or pissed off with me. Most likely both.

I couldn’t just sit there in silence as she was going through this. I was to be this woman’s husband. She was to depend on me for the rest of her life, as I was her. We had to be a team, for better of for worse and this was probably as bad as it was going to get.

I could tell the pain wasn’t as crippling as it was during early labour but Kathryn was still screaming and shouting “NO NO NO NO”. I have to say, that noise she was making was f**king hilarious. I’m sorry – I know how it looks, but it’s just chemistry, it’s not my fault! If it makes you laugh it makes you laugh no matter how inappropriate it is, like an old person falling over, or that time my pet budgie flew head first into the mirror and broke its neck (RIP unnamed budgie).

This isn’t just for effect here, this is exactly how she sounded:

The athletics coach

I moved on from this. It was helping nobody. I tried my best to say some words of encouragement to Kathryn as she was screaming and pushing.

COME ON KATHRYN!“. Oops – no, that was far too aggressive.

“Come ON Kathryn”. Nope again, that sounded impatient.

“Oh come on Kathryn!”. Too sarcastic. How f**king hard can it be to just sound supportive? I felt like a lead singer with a band that had gone off key. I was trying my best to harmonise again.

“Come on sweetheart, you’re doing really well!”. Nailed it! I committed the vocal stretches to muscle memory and played it on loop. Good recovery.

The crowning jewel

“You can see the head now if you want” the midwife said. I’d been waiting for this, my first glimpse of my beautiful child! I wonder if she has hair – what colour will it be if she does? I excitedly made my way to the business end to take a look.

What...the hell...is that?
What…the hell…is that?

“What the Jesus Backpacking Christ is that?!” I thought. “That’s not a baby. My fiancé is giving birth to a f**king Walnut Whip!”. I didn’t voice this of course. My actual words were calmer: “erm, what’s wrong with its head?”. It looked like a bunch of hairy knuckles clasped together in prayer, I was concerned. I reached out to touch it – it even FELT hard and rough. From the immediate waist down my fiancé looked like a half-eaten peanut M&M!

Accurate depiction
Accurate depiction

The midwife looked at me, shocked that I didn’t already know this. “The head contorts to fit out of the birthing canal, it normalises in the hours after birth”. Great, I felt stupid – where was that one in the antenatal classes eh? I imagined all the other fathers in that class at the birth of their child, all wondering the exact same thing. I secretly hoped they all handled it worse than I did.

“Just a few pushes now that she’s crowned” the midwife said. “Great!” I said, and prepared myself to get into position for the daddy catch. I was all over this, I was going to ace it.

The birth

With that, and as if in punishment for my earlier inappropriateness, Kathryn let out an almighty Herculean roar and pushed like a sumo wrestler taking a stand. With this one push the baby quite literally shot out of her. I mean literally shot out of her. In one push from crowning! I half expected the cord to act like a bungee rope and for the baby to end up right where it was 10 hours ago.

Luckily that didn’t happen – but my daddy catch wasn’t how I planned it. I was already there when she shot out though, and I managed to half guide her out with the midwife and stop her shooting through the wall and bumping heads with the gatecrasher next door.

She’s beautiful

I was holding my baby girl. My actual child was in my arms (well…my hands to be precise). The midwife took her and placed her up Kathryn’s top for some skin-on-skin. It was wonderful, my two girls were right in front of me, meeting for the first time but with all the grace and affection of lifelong friends.

meeting for the first time but with all the grace and affection of lifelong friends Click To Tweet

The midwife invited me to cut the cord – I jumped at the chance. It’s symbolic and traditional I know, but I love stuff like this anyway. It was tougher than I imagined, very tough in fact, and I had the world’s shittest scissors. I got the job done though and it was at this point that the placenta was born. Like a less attractive twin, we weren’t as excited about this event. Still – I managed to inspect the placenta with the midwife, counting the nodules and being fascinated by it all.

The midwife eyed me, then looked at Kathryn and the baby, then back at me. “Right. Of course” I said as I made my way over there. I wasn’t thinking straight at this point, it’s a bit fuzzy a memory but I remember thinking it was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. The midwife did her thing – I can’t remember what that was exactly, but the next thing I knew the baby was wearing a nappy (diaper for our friends across the pond) and lying on a pile of blankets on the trolley.

The midwife left the room after taking some pictures for us and Kathryn was told to grab a shower in the bathroom that I nearly flooded with urine not 30 minutes earlier.

The first daddy-date

One of those moments I'll never forget
One of those moments I’ll never forget

It was just me and Evelyn in the room. Me and my daughter, my first born, my child. She was lay in front of me and I stroked her cheek softly. She was staring right up at me – I knew she couldn’t focus on me but she was looking right at me. She was everything I hoped she would be and more – and Evelyn, if you’re reading this at some point in the future – I love you so much, and you’ve been the apple of my eye since this very moment, I hope every single memory you have of your early years to reading this is a happy one. You deserve it.

I spoke to Evelyn for a good five minutes. A pointless task conversation-wise, but she knew the sound of my voice – I’d spoken to the bump for a solid 9 months and she’d reacted. We were now a family.

This is what unconditional love looks like
This is what unconditional love looks like
She found her comfort spot quickly on my arm
She found her comfort spot quickly on my arm

Still facing Evelyn in this otherwise uninhabited room, my eyes glanced at the unattended gas and air…

Do you have any stories from the big day? I’d love to hear them – leave a comment below.

7 thoughts on “Second stage labour – one becomes two

  1. The shitty scissors are universal, I’m sure they don’t trust us dads! Though probably for good reason, I cut the cord for our third child (I’d done it twice before, I was a pro) and spotted a blob of fresh blood on his foot, of course I panic and assume I’ve done it with the scissors and he’s going to have a permanent scar on his foot thanks to his ham handed dad. The student looked at me, grabbed a tissue and calmly wiped it away, I must have just touched it and brushed some blood onto it. Yes I felt like a tit.

    I thought exactly the same thing as you about the head, though the thing that got me the most was how it just “popped” into shape once the head was pushed out.

    1. Ha! In the heat of the moment though, I can see why you thought that!

      Evelyn’s head stayed like the front end of a vintage car for about half an hour, it was really strange!

  2. Oh I do love a birth story! It must be so strange for the fathers/birth partners… my husband kept falling asleep and then when the consultant was talking about using forceps I had to be like ‘you really need to wake up, if they use forceps the baby will be here soon!’
    I adore your photos, just beautiful. What special moments for you all. Ellen

    1. Thank you Ellen! 🙂 It’s really good that he managed to get some sleep in – I would say I managed to relax a bit but not sleep, I think I was too wired and with the initial complications I wanted to be awake. I had to leave shortly after the baby was born though, so I got a good night’s sleep at least 🙂

  3. This is a brilliant read! Loved to see it from the dad’s perspective. And I proper lol-ed many times – especially the talking cat and Walnut Whip descriptions!!! And a beautiful baby at the end, lovely photos 🙂

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