Looking down at my watch it’s just ticking past 4:45pm. I look across from my chair in the birthing suite to Jo who is laying on the bed skimming through her phone. We have been here since 8am this morning and I can see that we are both becoming comfortable with our surroundings. Jo and I talk about the drugs that she is on, and how it is bringing on the labour and reminisce about the birth of BB and how we have been here before and this time will be a lot easier. Jo had an epi last time, and my memories of the birth were faded either from time or I just didn’t want to remember. I will however never forget the next 4 hours.
Jo needs to go to the toilet again, this has been occurring pretty regularly for the last 4 hours. I remind her to keep a sample for the nurse to check her diabetes. Jo’s memory isn’t the best at the moment so I make an effort to remember all these little things to try to help her. I grab the drip machine and help Jo manoeuvre it to the ensuite. It has a bung wheel and makes an awkward job nearly impossible. Jo makes it to the bathroom and I close the door for her to give her some dignity. We both know it doesn’t matter but the little things at the moment are keeping her calm. I go back to my comfy chair which I also found is a recliner, handy considering I have spent the better part of the day just sitting here wondering what the hell to do. I open up facebook again and keep stalking peoples profiles and pics, anything to help pass the time which is now starting to drag.
I hear the toilet flush and up I get again to battle with the drip machine. I will win. Jo says that she would like to walk around for a bit so we spend the next 10 mins pacing the room. Jo looking like she is swaying rather than walking and me doing battle with the drip machine while offering words of encouragement where I can.
Jo lays down on the bed and I retreat again to the recliner. The nurse comes in for another check-up and I ask her how many babies have been delivered today. She says 3 but isn’t sure. I am wondering how big this place is if they don’t know how many babies they have floating around. (I learn later that the nurses are assigned to a patient and aren’t aware of the rest of the birthing suite) Jo and I joke with the nurse that peanut is coming out whether she wants to or not. The nurse talks to Jo about the drugs she is on and how they have the dr’s approval to up the dosage and get the contractions coming along. This sounds great to me and Jo as we are both keen to get this over and done with. The effects take head in about 30 mins or 2 toilet breaks by my new timing system.
Jo starts to breathe heavily. I look at my watch it says 5:32 pm. Excellent this baby will be here shortly and I can spend time with Jo and still get home to BB. I get off the recliner and go over to Jo just as a contraction hits. She grabs my hand and all of a sudden I am holding onto the arm wrestling champion of 2013. I look at her in pain and feel helpless inside that I can do nothing to take it away. I talk words of encouragement to her and continue to hold her hand. I try breathing with her in through the nose out through the mouth. This goes on for about 90 secs I’m looking at Jo as a wave of relief washes over her and I start to feel light-headed from all the heavy breathing. I grab Jo a bottle of water and ask how she is feeling. Still feeling completely helpless and lost I don’t want to get in the way but I don’t want to leave as I know she needs me. I am just not sure what she needs me to do.
This rhythm continues on for about an hour. Contraction, hand squeeze, breathing, words of encouragement waves of relief. The midwife comes and goes but I am determined to stand next to Jo through this whole thing. My back starts to get sore from standing in the one spot for the last hour. Jo decides she needs to go to the toilet. This is welcome relief from me as I can move. But I can’t say a thing to her as I feel selfish even thinking that looking at the pain she is starting to experience. Jo gets to the bath room and I remind her again about leaving a sample. She finishes and heads back to the bed. I ask her if she would like to rock back and forth with me for a bit. I saw it on a movie once and thought it looked like a good idea. Surprisingly she says yes. Even more surprisingly Jo says to me that it is taking some of the pressure off her pelvis. I look her in the eyes and finally start to feel like I am helping. A few more contractions come and go while we stand there. It’s nice just us to experiencing this together. I feel like I am part of the show now, not just someone who bought front row tickets.
I can see that Jo is starting to pull down a lot harder during the contractions and the pain is very visible on her face. The nurse hands me a wet cloth and I pat down her face. Talking softly in her ears trying to keep her calm. The OB walks in the room. She is talking to Jo and I about fitting a clip to the baby’s head to monitor the heart beat as the paddles are dropping out when Jo visits the bathroom. I ask how do they plan to do this and the OB says they have to do it during and examination. I’m looking at this woman wondering does she enjoy inflicting pain on Jo as the last examination looked painful and my hands were still tingling from the squeezing. Jo says no and I back her 100% on this one. These guys are crazy. Paddles look like they are working fine to me.
Ob says we can plant that seed now and check back later. I make a note that we may get the sales pitch again and to just shut it down and let Jo concentrate on controlling her body which is starting to look to me like it’s getting out of control. More contractions come and go. More talking and soft words. More wiping the brow and soft words. Lots of hand squeezing and I’m back to feeling like I am watching a show more than doing anything constructive. Can’t help it, I can’t take the pain away which by now is bleedingly obvious on Jo’s face and I feel flat out useless. The nurse and OB return again and start going through the baby’s heartbeat paperwork thing that has been spewing out of the printer for the last 8 hours. There are a few comments and lots of writing on it in Pen. They then turn to Jo and tell her they are not getting a consistent reading of the babies heart rate and need to put the clip in. I go to speak up but Jo tells them to just do it. I stop for a sec and think what the hell.. then it hits me… we’re all here for this baby. If the baby isn’t being looked after what’s the point. Jo must instinctively know this. I am amazed by her lateral thinking in the position she is in and stare at her for a minute in admiration. Then another contraction comes and knocks me back to reality.
The OB and Nurse get their gear together and saddle up at the end of the bed. They wait until another contraction goes by and then they insert the clip. Holy crap it must have hurt because Jo nearly fair ripped my hand off. I wipe her face and stroke her arm trying to will the pain away. In my mind I am thinking that people get locked up for inflicting this sort of torture on people. I am sure it’s against the Geneva Convention.
Ob and Nurse finish and then try for a few mins to get the clip to start reading. It won’t. They change cables and check all the connections….. Nothing. The OB tells Jo they have to go in again and the look on her face makes me want to pick her up and walk her out of the room right now. The OB leaves to get something and the nurse frantically try’s to get it working as she can see Jo is starting to beg no. I am once again 100% with her. The nurse discovers it’s a little grey thing near Jo’s leg. I tell her I will hold it for the whole birth just so they don’t have to go in again and the nurses says no and tapes it in place. Crisis averted.
More contractions come and go. Jo asks for pain relief and the nurse gives her the Gas. I am impressed; I would have been on the Gas about 4 hours ago. They then do a quick look in and ask Jo to start pushing. Holy crap this is it were going to have a baby. Jo pushes with all her might but nothing happens. They get her legs up higher and push again on the contraction. Once, again nothing. I’m looking at the nurse waiting for her to produce this baby I have been promised but it doesn’t come. The OB inspects Jo again, more pain, more hand squeezing and tells Jo that she is still 5. I have no idea what this means but everyone else in the room seems too so I keep shut. Jo says it’s not good news and we have to wait. The nurse says no more pushing as it will stress the baby. I am now aware that 5 is a bad thing in one way or another.
I can feel things starting to ramp up and Jo’s contractions are becoming more of an instant whole body lock up than a gradual tightening and release. My hands hurt, my back hurts and my feet hurt from standing still for so long but this is nothing compared to how much my heart is hurting looking at the pain Jo is experiencing. To me it’s becoming unbearable but I breathe deep and keep going for her sake. Sign of weakness on my part would be disastrous for Jo, I honestly believe this. So I keep going. I give Jo water and Towel her head. The nurse then asks me to move from my current spot on the right hand side of the bed over to the left so they can see the baby monitor clearer. The roll Jo on her side towards me to try to take the pressure off the baby as the heart rate is starting to drop. I’m looking at the monitor thinking great one more thing I am now going to stress about. I start talking to Jo about the heart rates and how her pushing and not breathing is cause the rate to drop below 100 bpm (beats per min). I tell her the resting rate is 145 and that if she breathes during a contraction she can keep it above 100, and that it’s a good thing. She nods but I doubt she comprehended a word I just said. I start to make it a game for me to keep her breathing through the contractions as much as I can to keep that rate above 100. It’s a good distraction for me and I am sure I am helping Jo, though deep down I know I am kidding myself.
This is when things start to get serious. Jo’s contractions from here become 90 seconds of the most gut wrenching pain I have ever seen someone experience followed by 1-2 mins of pain that would still have me curled up like a ball on the floor crying like a little girl. I am looking at her thinking how the hell does she keep going? Jo is begging for pain relief and I tell her it’s all going to be ok. I honestly have no idea what the hell is going on but I feel that it’s all I can do for her. I am starting to freak out at the pain I can see she is in. I keep giving Jo the gas and talking her through each contraction. I am sure she is not listening to me but I keep talking. Keep being positive. I tell her I love her over and over. Jo starts screaming through the Contractions and saying the gas isn’t working. The nurse turns it up but it’s like pouring a cup of water into the ocean. I can see it’s not going to help and even the look on the nurse’s face tells me that it’s all a placebo. The nurse says she needs to check Jo’s levels (blood sugars). I tell her I’ll do it. I am feeling everything else I am doing is utterly useless and I want to try and be helpful. I grab the kit and take the sample. Read it out to the nurse and put the case away. I notice that Jo’s head has dropped down into the pillow and I think poor thing she must be exhausted. I hurry back around to my side of the bed and notice that Jo’s eyes are shut and she isn’t moving. I push her head back up to help her and it falls forward again. I push her over towards her back and her head flops back. I put my hand on her mouth she isn’t breathing……
I look at the nurse and tell her Jo isn’t breathing she is out cold. The nurse says what I say it again. I grab Jo’s face and wiggle it…. Nothing… I call her name repeatedly… nothing….. I slap her hard…… still nothing. I grab her hand and drive my thumb into the nail bed of her thumb (a trick I was taught in the army to bring people back)…… nothing….. I start freaking…… my world slows down. I say to the nurse what the hell should I do she says to me “ I don’t know”…. A million thoughts go through my head, “what do you mean you don’t know?”, “you’re a nurse”. What the hell is going on, holy shit she is out, how long has it been, thirty seconds??, is it her brain or her body, I run my knuckles down her sternum (a very painful experience if you have ever had it done, another army trick to wake people up)….. Nothing. The nurse sees me do all this and I can see she is starting to freak out.. She lowers the bed flat and rolls Jo on her back she tells me to hit the emergency alarm on the wall. I do but I don’t hear anything, my world is running on super slow mo. I grab her face again calling her name she’s still not responding, I start to think about CPR, should I start? Should I give it another min? Is she dying? Holy crap is my whole world about to collapse in an instant? All of a sudden the room fills with people, 2 nurses appear either side of me and I tell them all I have tried, I then back up as far as I can to the other side of the room and try and stay out of the way. I am watching this whole scene unfold in front of me, it’s still going in slow mo and I am sure that Jo has been not breathing for a minute now. The nurses start to move around her and do things but I can’t see properly, my eyes are full of tears. My heart has stopped and I have a lump in my throat. I am in shock. I am frozen to the spot. I feel more helpless in that instant than I have all day. I am watching the love of my life lying on the bed not breathing and I have a million thoughts running through my mind. In literally 100th of a second I think my god she is dying, I am losing her, how do I explain it to BB? How will I continue on tomorrow? My god people HELP HER, were in a bloody hospital!!!!!!!!! By this stage they have disconnected the gas and have hooked up the oxygen, it looks like they are going to start CPR when Jo all of a sudden comes back and screams in pain as if nothing had happened and she is continuing on from the last contraction. I am still glued to the spot. A nurse grabs my arm and says are you ok? I am sure the look on my face is utter horror. She asks me do I want a drink but it’s like she is a million miles away in a dream, I just shake my head and try and move towards Jo, I am still glued. I make a conscious effort to pick my feet up and move. I have to get back by her side and help her through the contractions, that’s my job, that’s why I am here. I get back over to her and swallow away my shock, I think to myself I’ll deal with this on the drive home I need to be here for Jo now.
Without missing a beat the contractions continue. A nurse who has stayed in the room explains to me that Jo had too much gas and I must now work the gas machine between contractions. Yep I can do that. Anything to not allow the last 4 mins of my life to ever happen again. Now the contractions get really bad. Jo is crying out in pain and tears are streaming out of her eyes. I have never heard her scream this way before and I am getting cold chills down my spine. My legs are going week. She begs me for an epidural. I tell her as soon as the nurse comes back I’ll tell them to give you one. I look up and around and think “where the hell has everyone gone?” “Why is Jo not the centre of their universe right now?” “Why are they not taking the pain away?” The nurse returns and I tell her to give Jo an epi. She tries to ask Jo; Jo just starts to beg to take the pain away. The nurse leaves again, I am praying they organise the world’s fastest epi to take this pain away as I honestly don’t know how much more Jo can take. OB comes in and asks the same question. She gets the same response from Jo and leaves. 4 – 5 contractions pass and both the OB and nurse return. They tell Jo the Dr is on his way but he may be a bit as its busy tonight. I am thinking how much could I pay this guy to make Jo his top priority? The Ob and nurse look at the printing machine again and talk for a sec. They tell Jo and me she needs to get on her knees to take some pressure off and try to help with the pain. I think Jo would do cart wheels down the corridor if she thought it would help. I help Jo get to her knees and another contraction comes. My god these things don’t let up. Jo grabs the bed and I try and hold her hand. Another contraction. Jo is begging me for the pain to stop, I start crying as I can’t take her in pain any more. The nurse then tells us to start pushing but stop on her command. Jo hits the next contraction full on and pushes so hard I can see her face going purple and her knuckles turning white. The nurse says to stop but Jo keeps going like a freight train. I look back and all of a sudden the nurse has something in her arms.
Then I hear it. The sweetest sound in the entire universe. I have heard it once before but had forgotten the effect it had on me. Jades voice for the first time. It was like fresh silk sheets. It’s all too much for Jo and she bursts out crying. I grab her head and cry myself into her hair. I say to her we did it baby we made it. She is out and alive. I am exhausted, mentally physically and emotionally. I have nothing left. I look at the clock and its 7:40pm.
I cut the cord and Jo turns around and lies back on her back. They put Jade straight to her chest and I feel an overwhelming sense of relief. She is here. I look at Jo and she is glowing, she looks fine. In fact she looks amazing. My world is once again balanced.
I never expected this experience to affect me the way it did. Two tours overseas with the Australian Army I thought I had seen it all. I was wrong. Even my experience with BB wasn’t anything like this. It will take me a while to deal with the visions of thinking Jo was dying on the table but looking into my two daughters beautiful eyes melts everything away and nothing else matters. I feel that Jo and I are truly one now. To go through that together has given us a bond that nothing will break. I am the happiest dad on the planet. That was my experience of childbirth.