The due date had arrived – and passed. In fact 10 days had passed and there was still no sign of baby making an appearance. Who the hell did she think she was? I’m at risk of having to return my Costco flowers here so we have fresh ones when we take you home. Time for a hospital visit so we can pick the lock on that cervical vault and maybe speed this up a bit…
Think about the fun
“Next time you’re at the hospital and you hear the beep, think of all the fun you could be having with a cervical sweep”
The hospital wouldn’t take any action before the baby was 10 days overdue. Ten whole days – this meant I could finally finish Grand Theft Auto 5, something I was certain I wouldn’t be able to do again in the next 5 years. Kathryn managed to get through every series of Breaking Bad too.
Not much can be done in this pregnancy-purgatory. You can’t make any plans, but you go crazy sitting around all day just hoping. They say a watched kettle never boils, well a watched cervix never dilates!
The ten days passed by quicker than we thought. I came home from work on T + 10 after a standard day of doing nothing of any importance whatsoever. Kathryn couldnt take the waiting any more. There was only one thing for it, we decided to go into the hospital and beg the midwife for the equivalent of a maternity-ward battering ram – a cervical sweep.
We got there and the midwife got to work. Apparently Kathryn was already 2cm dilated! She was in stirrups and the midwife was at the business end doing her thing. The 15 year old in me raised an eyebrow and recognised the scene from a distant half-buffered video downloaded on a 33.6k modem 15 years prior. I frowned, suppressed him and made a mental note never to mention this to anyone, ever. Yeah…how’s that workin’ out for you Mark?
Kathryn’s obvious pain brought me back down to Earth with a thud and I stepped forward in support. This was clearly uncomfortable for her. It certainly looked painful – the midwife looked like she was digging for oil, or attempting to pick my unborn child’s nose. Was this really necessary? Apparently it is.
We were told that the sweep may or may not take effect, and that perhaps walking round a lot would aid it. Kathryn had the idea of walking round the Trafford Centre, a huge shopping complex in Manchester. I slung the credit cards like they were ninja stars and headed out the door with her. I slung the credit cards like they were ninja stars and headed out the door with her Click To Tweet
After traversing the length of the Trafford Centre and window-shopping for the next must-have gadget, Kathryn zoned out in the way that she would when I’d mention the word Samsung or Apple. “Rude” I thought, but fair enough it wasn’t exactly her idea of interesting. I soon realised the look of boredom I thought I recognised was actually a more vacant look. “Are you ok?” I asked, she responded with “Yeah, I think I’m in labour”. Finally, early labour was a possibility – could this be it?! The excitement was unbearable. We went for a Nandos. she was in early labour - the excitement was unbearable. We went for a Nandos. Click To Tweet
Very often during the pregnancy Kathryn would have me drive the 10 mile round trip to Nandos to satiate her pregnancy cravings for what was “the Nandos chocolate cheesecake”. Some craving – she had that before she was bloody pregnant, but she knew for 9 months I was unable to refuse the drive.
I had a weird thought one time. The baby is basically being made of what Kathryn eats, right? Her food is being broken down by enzymes into proteins and fats, amongst other things. These would be transported around her body and make up the very flesh that would later become our child. Given that the number of cheesecakes she had consumed during this pregnancy was in triple figures, it’s safe to say Nandos Cheesecake would form at least some part of my child. It made the drives home quite awkward. Should I put a seatbelt on this cake or what?
Mark Thomas at your cervix
So here we were at Nandos. Half way through my much-anticipated butterfly chicken Kathryn started shifting awkwardly and fidgeting. I remember sitting there, fork half way in my gaping mouth thinking “oh shit not now, please!”. I’d got the extra hot one, it was amazing, and I’d only gone up for one refill of the unlimited-refills drink! I know you might be in labour Kathryn but getting my money’s worth is sacred.
We managed to finish up before we left for home. I remember feeling disappointed here that Nandos have you pay before your food arrives – the missed opportunity for a free meal killed me! What better excuse to leave in a rush? I sighed and moved on, no point dwelling on that now, I was soon to be a dad.
We didn’t think this trip through – Kathryn had to waddle her way back through the shopping complex like a penguin with arthritis. I was torn between being sympathetic and hurrying her up. Walking through any shopping complex is a task at the best of times with her as she darts in and out of shops with that “can I just…”, but being in labour meant it took even longer. I sighed and casually looked around for the Wet Floor sign I thought we might need any second now.
We managed to get home and I started timing the contractions like some overly-competitive dad at sports day. We were looking for contractions of one minute duration, two minutes apart. They were all over the place, often ten minutes apart. We were warned this may take a while, so we decided to try and get some rest before the big event.I started timing the contractions like some overly-competitive dad at sports day Click To Tweet
Kathryn woke up at 4am with a particularly bad contraction. She took some paracetamol and managed to sleep again until 6am. When we were ready, we prepared for the hospital to see how far things had progressed. For me this involved checking my dad’s labour kit, but for Kathryn it involved getting a bath, shaving her legs (don’t ask) and doing her damn make up.
Who the hell does their hair and makeup before going into labour? It’s not a black tie event, it’s the one chance in your life where you get to purge yourself of all bodily fluids whilst shouting at the top of your lungs in a room full of people, and it’s totally normal! She was acting like she’d soon be sitting at the maternity ward choosing her first course.
We got there and they did the usual checks of mum and baby heart rates etc. We were sent home at midday because she was only 2cm dilated. It was a sunny but cool day, I remember it well. The warm fuzzy excitement contrasted with the cool crisp air that day, I’ll never get the feeling. This could be the last day where it was just Kathryn and me.
When we got home I ran Kathryn another bath and she got in. I didn’t think she anticipated being in there for 6 hours.
The bath of pain
Each time she had a contraction I would put a cold cloth on her head. This does nothing medically but it served to distract her slightly from the pain. She would groan slightly, then louder, then almost burst with shouting “CLOTH!”.
This went on for hours. “CLOTH, CLOTH, CLOTH”. I was two seconds late with it at one point and I swear her nails grew an inch in anticipation of ripping my throat out. I still have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder triggers when I hear that word now.
The contractions were getting worse at this point but with no real pattern to them. Was this normal? It seemed to be a bit extreme. Come 6pm I persuaded Kathryn to get out of the bath. Her pain threshold was high, I knew this, but she seemed to be struggling. Actually “Struggling” is an understatement here, she ended up on the couch in her pyjamas, gripping the cushions, face like a weight lifter, growling like a bear with threatened cubs.
I stood at the end of the couch with wide eyes and a furrowed brow. What in God’s name was happening to her?
It soon dawned on me that she hadn’t eaten since the extra-hot butterfly chicken the night before, and this early labour was zapping her of her energy. I tried to get her to eat something but really didn’t want anything. I thought I knew better, I held some chocolate under her nose thinking that primal feminine instinct would kick in and she’d snap it up like a starved animal. She turned her nose at it. I insisted that she eat it to keep her energy up, that it was in her best interest. She took it, ate it, and she threw up minutes later. Good work Mark!
Right before she threw up she warned me about it. I ran into the kitchen to dig out the bucket I use to wash the car with. She shouted with urgency that she needed it, and needed it now. In all my wisdom I decided I needed to rinse the bucket out first. Why? What? As I was doing this she threw up all over the carpet. Here’s my fiancé on all fours, leaking from both ends now, and you’ve just created another patch you’ll have to clean off the carpet!
Antenatal classes did not mention any of this shit. This is the stuff I could have done with knowing! I had that superhero moment though when she came back downstairs minutes later to a completely clean floor.
Hospital ride 2.0
At around 19:30 the pain was so unbearable so I suggested we go back to the hospital. Kathryn agreed, using every single surface from the couch to the car for support. At one point she was hugging the brick wall outside the house as I was trying to pull her to the car. I expected a visit from the police any second.
The journey to the hospital was interesting. Kathryn was screaming every few minutes and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t irritate me slightly. My ears were aching and I had to watch the road! In front of us was a large truck, crawling by at sub-walking speed it seemed. I used the first opportunity to overtake him – except it wasn’t really an opportunity, it was an idiotic move. He beeped me, flashed his lights and probably swore at me for 5 minutes straight. At the red lights I told Kathryn I was going to get out the car and tell him that she was in labour and that was the only reason for my stupid manoeuvre a few minutes earlier. Kathryn let out a polite “WHAT THE F**K, JUST DRIVE, FOR F**K’S SAAAAAOOOOUCH!”
Ok, no problem, he didn’t need to know. I did the 1-2 hazard light flash and tried my best to wave an apology anyway. I’m not going to be rude, am I?!
The traffic lights were against us and at every red light we hit Kathryn would be screaming. I side-glanced awkwardly at other drivers in the next lane, just using my eyes and not turning my head. It looked like I was driving around with a drugged up 20-something woman in my car.
We managed to get to the hospital without me being arrested. The midwife checked Kathryn again, despite her contractions remaining sporadic. “You’re still only at 2cm” – WHAT? We couldn’t believe it, surely the whole thing wasn’t supposed to be this painful?
After more checks the midwife discovered that the baby was back to back (Occiput Posterior). This explains the severe back pain and prolonged early labour at least. Essentially the baby was stamping relentlessly on Kathryn’s spine. At this point the midwife recognised Kathryn’s pain and broke her waters for her – Kathryn’s release was palpable and instant. So much so that she even managed to sleep between contractions.
The waters breaking wasn’t how I expected. Think more “slow trickle” than “damn-busting flash flood”. Despite Kathryn’s relief this was a slight disappointment for me, I was expecting a dramatic Super-Soaker 2000 demonstration and all I got was some water-ban broken tap.
An hour or so went by and the midwife checked again – 9cm! Nine…centimetres! Incredible – let’s get this baby out! More to follow!