Figuring Out Fatherhood: The obligatory birth story
Ben Wakeling is an award-winning blogger, author and regular writer for Parentdish. Today we bring you the first in his new column, Figuring Out Fatherhood.
They say time flies when you're having fun. Of course, the other side to this is that when you're not having fun time goes very, very slowly.
It's thoughts like this that go through my mind as I sit next to my wife, Jess, on the labour ward of our local hospital, looking at the flimsy spotty curtain which separates us from the adjacent beds.
After two months of being in and out of hospital with pains and bleeding, she was finally being induced at just over 39 weeks, and it couldn't have come sooner.
As we wait for the midwife to arrive, we do what all British people do: eavesdrop on other people's conversations.
"Are you allergic to anything?" asks a midwife to the mum next door who is awaiting a C-section.
"Yes," she replies. "Cats. And horses." I smirk to myself as I imagine the look on the midwife's face.
As we were entering the ward at half past seven in the morning the team of midwives were counting down the minutes until the end of their night shift - and it showed.
They shuffled between the beds like zombies, faces drawn and eyes sunken with the rigours of yet another night delivering babies. One midwife even laughed at us as my wife waddled past, wincing in pain. It was like being in some kind of low-budget horror movie.
Our midwife finally arrives, and administers the Prostin pessary with such force that she looks like she's pulling the giblets from a turkey. As she leaves, my wife winces in pain, and I feel just the tiniest bit guilty that women have to go through nine months of pregnancy and hours of childbirth when our part took 10 minutes at best, including warm-up stretches.
In an effort to get things going, and with the midwife's warning that the first signs of labour could be as long as 24 hours away, we set off for a wander around the hospital.
We walk past the cafeteria, past the renal ward, past every other ward, my wife yelping with almost every step and me wondering whether I've ever walked this slowly in my life before, ever.
"I think it's started," she says through tightly closed eyes and gritted teeth.
"But the midwife said -" I begin. Cue a look that could make Phil Mitchell cry.
"I don't care what the midwife said." she scowls. "It's started."
We make our way back to the ward, stopping every now and then to allow another contraction to come and go. With our two sons Jess was in and out of the delivery suite in a matter of hours, and the last thing I want is for our daughter to be born by the car park ticket machine. Calm on the outside, but more than a little flustered inside, I guide her back into the hospital as quickly as the contractions allow.
Back on the ward the midwives refuse our request for an examination, instead putting Jess on a monitor. I watch as the green numbers rise with each contraction as she breathes through the pain, gripping my hand so my fingertips turn a deep red.
They're coming thick and fast now, and the trace line on the paper slowly creeping out of the monitor climbs up and down like a mountain range.
This continues for a few hours, and at around five o'clock we're ushered past a row of beds filled with contracting and breathless mums into a delivery suite, the walls painted in a garish Olympic-style pink. This will be our home, the midwife says, until the baby is born, so make yourselves comfortable.
An anaesthetist enters to give Jess an epidural - something we had been promised by a consultant the week before. Jess' constant abdominal pains in the weeks until now had left her exhausted, and the baby was already estimated to be around nine pounds in weight.
Having had both of our other children without any pain relief, Jess has nothing left to prove. This time, she's getting every ounce of drugs she can out of the NHS.
My wife has my right forearm in a bear-like grip as the epidural is administered. It hurts, I won't lie, but it is but a speck when compared to the pain Jess is in.
To see someone you love so much in that amount of pain - and being completely helpless to relieve it - is not a pleasant experience.
Epidural taking effect, my floppy-legged wife leans back in her bed and we play the waiting game as the midwife writes a few notes. Then Jess turns to me.
"I need to push," she says. I'm all like, well push then, and I grab her hand as she buries her chin into her chest, screws up her face and pushes with all her might.
This continues, interspersed with a few seconds of panting, for 10 minutes, by which time my daughter's head is out, covered in goo, and face up.
She looks pretty cheesed off, which is understandable. It's like someone rudely getting you out of bed by forcing you through a drainpipe.
I blink back tears. I'm not sure why I'm almost crying. The midwife comments on my baby's head of dark hair and I pull it together, and continue to allow the back of my hand to be squeezed into a pulp by my wife, who by this time is working on getting the shoulders out.
And then it happens. My daughter, Jemima, is here. The midwife exclaims at the size of the umbilical cord as my violet-blue baby is placed onto Jess' chest.
A baby's cry is the only sound which makes you jump for joy when you first hear it, and then makes your heart sink on every subsequent occasion.
I cut the cord, which takes a good few snips, as my colour-changing chameleon baby slowly turns a healthy shade of pink. We wrap her up in a few towels, and then it's my turn to hold her.
I stand by the window with my daughter as my wife exhales in relief and the midwife continues to mop up.
I put the tip of my nose on the tip of hers, and give her a kiss, breathing in the air she is breathing out.
After nine months, eighteen nights in hospital, 74 co-codamol tablets, 1 shot of Pethidine, 5mls of morphine, one epidural and 40 cups of tea, my beautiful baby Jemima is finally here.
Congratulations Jess - and Ben!
More on Parentdish: Dad's Pregnancy Diary