Sunday, 10 July 2011

In the lines of a song

Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
Changes - David Bowie. RCA Records 1971

There have been changes since I last updated this blog. BIG changes.
I am a father, as most of you already know.
I planned to write a lot sooner than this but I have more pressing things to deal with.

Nobody said it was easy
The Scientist - Coldplay. Parlophone 2002

It wasn't!
Here's what happened, from the viewpoint of an not so innocent bystander:
Those of a nervous disposition, scroll on a bit!

As we all know, there are 3 things supposedly guaranteed to induce labour, so on Thursday 14th April, I jokingly suggested that we walk to Wetherspoons Curry Club, to which Karen surprisingly agreed.
I know there's no chance of the 3rd, so I concede that:
Two Out Of Three Aint Bad Two out of Three Aint Bad - Meatloaf. Epic Records 1978

Now, let it be known that there was no way I ever thought that doing the 2 things stated above would in any way have any relevance to the arrival of our baby. Its for this reason that I didn't really believe Karen when, later that evening, she tells me she thinks she's having contractions.
It took a while to sink in.
Was this it?
I remained calm and thought that I should keep the situation as normal as possible.
So I suggested she iron me a shirt for work the next day, whist I carry on watching Celebrity Juice.

If I'm being honest, neither of us had a clue what to do next. We'd been informed by the midwife that we should call the hospital upon one of two things happening:
  1. Karen's waters break
  2. The contractions last 1 minute and are 5 minutes apart.
I didn't think Karen's waters had broken, so I suggested that we get cracking on timing the contractions.
There's an app for that. NO, there really is! I've downloaded it!
The contractions were all over the show. Some lasted a minute, some lasted half that. Some were 10 minutes apart, some were 3.
I was bricking it as I didn't know which data set to pay heed to. Was it the length or the distance?
We put the call in to the hospital about 03:00 and they told us wait until the 09:00 and then call them again.
So, I wired Karen up to the Tens machine and got back into bed.

Friday morning was all systems go. Karen had been in pain for most of the night and was desparate to get to hospital. The call was placed and we were given the green light.
All the prep fell into place and we were off!
We were back home within the hour!!

They call me the wanderer, yeah the wanderer
I roam around, around, around
The Wanderer - Dion. Laurie 1961

The only thing we could think to do was to walk, so we wandered (or waddled) relentlessly around Hillsbourough Park. The hospital had said that Karen was only 1cm and I knew not what this meant, but I knew it meant that the baby wasn't on its way and that they wouldn't admit us to maternity because of this.
All this time, the pain was increasing for Karen and the anticipation increasing for me.
It was at this point I started the slippery slope to uselessness.
I knew this when on Friday teatime I asked if there was anything I could do.
"You could shut up" was her reply.

Another call was placed to the hospital and they told us that we could come back in at 21:00, which gave Karen something to focus on.
21:00 came and off we went. This time they allowed us to stay.
We were on!

You'll be pleased to know that the pictures start here, as I know this text gets a bit much!
Not of the birth obviously, that would be gross (and there plenty of that to come!)

I wish that someone had told me that there is a nomadic element to maternity wards!
We were ushered to our room and I immediately started to unpack, as I do upon arrival at any overnight accommodation. I unpacked our bags, hung the clothes up in the wardrobe then directed my attention to whether this was going to allow me a decent nights kip

Not perturbed by its unusual shape, I made myself comfy, only to be told 45 minutes later that we would now be moved to our maternity room. Bugger!
I packed up, double time, and followed Karen and the midwife down the hall.
This second room had no such comforts, so I had to make do with a chair.
Whilst Karen got a bit of rest, I photographed her. It seemed all very natural at the time but now I'm typing this, it seems incredibly creepy!

The evening of Friday the 15th was all pretty uneventful, with time broken only by nurses and midwives coming in to check on Karen.
Saturday 16th saw us poolside as Karen had expressed a wish to have a pool delivery.
Now, I really wanted to support my wife through this painful and traumatic event but there was no way that I was taking the midwife up on her suggestion of "bring your trunks if you want and you can get in"
Even swimming in piss, verruca socks, sharp toenails and used plasters as a kid at Mowbray Gardens seemed positively inviting compared to getting into a pool where Karen was going to give birth.
This reticence was completely justified when I saw the sieve on the equipment table.

If I'm being honest (which I always am when typing these updates), I didn't like the pool.
Saying that, I suppose it wasn't the pool I didn't like, more the combination of that and the gas and air.
It was horrible.
I lost Karen within 10 drags on the nitrous oxide.
She was incoherent, distant and agitated.
At one point I looked into her eyes and all I could see was abject despair.

She later told me that it was at this point that she had begun to hallucinate and was "visited" by her Mum.

The midwife had made the prediction that we would have a baby by her shift change at 16:00hrs. She couldn't have been more wrong. This particular midwife was wrong in so many other things but now isn't the place for such a discussion.
At the change of shift, our 3rd midwife decided to examine Karen to see what was happening.
This was when things went downhill for a while. Karen had entered the pool at 5cm dilated and at this examination, 6 hours later, she was now only 3cm.
In addition to this, the baby's heartbeat had started to rocket.
Karen was distraught.
Added to this was the stress of having to call our families to say that nothing had happened yet.
Given what had happened before, a call to say we hadn't got a baby was always a tense affair.

Because of the concerns over the baby's heart, Karen was taken from the pool and moved to yet another room (Queue more frantic packing by me).
I was now officially shitting myself.
Karen was still all over the place, owning to a combination of gas and exhaustion and I didn't know what to do.
It was established that Karen's waters hadn't broken yet, so they did it for her.
Thoughts of tsunamis flashed through my mind. Where was it all coming from?
I had to move my chair back a couple of feet, I shit you not!
She had also been given an epidural and wired up to a drip to help dilate her cervix as this didn't appear to want to do this unaided.

You make me feel alive, alive, alive
I'll take my chance cos luck is on my side
Rio - Duran Duran. EMI 1992

It was time to move again (no packing this time, I'd finally learned by this point) to the place where we would eventually have our baby.
We also moved onto our final midwife. Her name was Rio.........
No! It really was! Honest truth!

I can honestly say that I have never experienced as much stress as I did in the next 8 hours.
It was off the scale.
Karen was hooked up to a baby heart monitor and was monitored hourly

which then worryingly turned to constant monitoring

What happened next was a bit of a blur.
We quickly went from constant monitoring by a single midwife to having the room packed with doctors and consultants. The monitor showed that the heartbeat had started to fall rapidly and further tests showed that oxygen levels in the baby's blood were beginning to fall. In all this emotion and frantic activity, I recall one line:
"Its time to get this baby out"

The first cut is the deepest, baby I know
The first cut is the deepest.
The First Cut Is The Deepest - Cat Stevens. Dream Records 1967

I can only describe it as the sound made by cutting plastic tie-wraps.
It wasn't pleasant.
Vincent was the Doctor who had spoken the line above and he was the one who was most definitely going to "get this baby out"
Vincent was a giant of a man.
With the hospital bed at its highest setting, he still had to crouch.
He reminded me of John Coffey from the Green Mile.
I think you get the idea.

Contractions were no longer necessary.
Vincent was going to pull this baby from Karen's womb all by himself.
The forceps went in and were clamped into position.
What happened next was a miracle, times two.
Miracle one was the fact that Vincent didn't actually pull off the babies head with the force he applied to the forceps.
The bed physically moved with the power by which he was pulling.

One night of magic rush
The start - a simple touch
One night to push and scream
And then relief

Heartbeats - The Knife. V2 2002

And, well, I'm sure you can guess at miracle two.
Here she was. Edith May Roebuck. Born 05:11 on Sunday 17th April 2011 and weighing 7lbs 5oz.

I've been thinking over the last few weeks what I will write when I get to this point.
How will I explain how I felt?
Can it be put into words?
I think the only thing I can say is that when I saw her, I was absolutely overwhelmed with relief that she was alive, happiness that she was here and worry and hope that I'll be a good Dad and that I'll be able to look after her.
But most of all, the feeling of pure and unconditional love.
Nothing prepared me for that.
I now know what people mean when they say that they love something so much that it hurts.
My love for her does hurt a bit.

And my love for Karen changed at that moment too.
How can you not idolise another human being who is prepared to go through all of the things I have described above in order to give you a child.
That gift is one thing that cannot be put into words (which is probably why I've never said this to her!)
Mothers are amazing.

But still I'd rather be Famous
Frankly, Mr Shankly - The Smiths. Rough Trade 1985

We've had some tremendous support throughout the days whilst we were waiting for Edie, and it may or may not surprise you that some of this has been from stars of TV.
I had a obscure chat and a good luck Tweet from Sarah Millican (at 04:21am)

We had friends asking Leigh Francis / Keith Lemon to wish us well

And then my absolute favourite came when we had a personal ward visit by Freddy Boswell from late 80's sitcom; Bread!

I was going to end here but then I realised that there was one thing I forgot to mention and that some of you will be wanting to know.
Did I look / go down the business end / hang about near the goal mouth?
In all honesty, I hadn't planned to but that wasn't the case.
Whist Karen was in the pool, I positioned myself at so that I was face to face, which was fine until the contractions took hold.
It was at this point that Karen's arse started spinning round like a broken compass.
It was hard not to be arse to face but this was early days so it wasn't really that bad.

The same cannot be said for when Edith had arrived and Vincent was "attending" to Karen.
I was at the head of the bed and Karen asked for a drink of water, meaning I had to walk round the foot of the bed to get to the sink on the other side.
As I passed, I looked.

A wise friend said to me that looking "down there" after child birth was like watching your favourite pub burn down.
You know in your heart that it can be rebuilt, but it will never be the same again.
I haven't really had a drink since!


  1. I have cried and laughed. What a lovely post. You both deserve massive kudos for going through all this. Scary at the best of times! It all came good in the end though xx

  2. congratulations! thanks for your comments on my daddydazed blog . I have also added your blog to my parenting directory on my site for new dads - swing by and pay us a visit.