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Minutes read

PJ Douglas: Our Birth Story

What’s it like being an onlooker in the delivery room? Dad PJ Douglas shares all.

Author PJ Douglas
Categories   Pregnancy

It is three years and eighteen days (depending on when you read this of course) since I stood sobbing in the labour ward as my child took their first few gulps of air and I imagined that I, in my panicked state, had done much the same.

But let’s go back a bit…

With the delivery date looming and my partner growing tired of me rubbing her belly and telling the fully formed ears inside it that football was coming home (spoiler alert – it didn’t) we had our bags packed, the labour ward number in our phone and a small mountain of baby clothes ready for the arrival!

The delivery date arrived and immediately my partner went into labour! No. Of course she didn’t, we knew this was unlikely having done some research and noted that only 4% of babies arrive on their due date – the maths behind the due date science being composed by a man way back in the 1800s and not updated since.

It’s very odd waiting for the birth, the most I can liken it to is waiting for your case at the airport, you know it’s probably there somewhere but why hasn’t it arrived? Is it ok? Why is everyone else breezing through?! But a few days later, watching a Netflix show about the world’s deadliest animals (we were on Lion Vs. Cobra if that’s any help to anyone) my partner said she could feel contractions, so we sprang into action and after calling the ward and confirming we were at the right stage to go in we drove over for the long night ahead.

As soon as we arrived we were taken to our own room on the labour ward and the midwives explained that we now had to play a waiting game until my partner was dilated enough to give birth. It still didn’t feel very real at this point, and I remember walking down to the canteen to buy us both a drink blissfully detached from the fact I was going to shortly become a parent as I played Pokémon Go on my mobile in the queue and considered if it was too late at night to buy a jacket potato with chilli.

My partner had packed me a bag as well as herself and mine contained an energy drink, two packets of sour sweets and a yoyo (she was clearly prepared for toddlers with her choice in men!). Sadly and probably due to nerves, I consumed all of these very quickly while the midwifery support workers offered my partner toast to keep her going.

My partner had decided early on that she did not want any kind of pain relief during the labour. While I wasn’t against this, after some reading, I did suggest a ‘code word’ which she could use if she felt it was all too much so that I could confirm she would like to go for a pain relief option – as apparently asking for pain relief is common but I didn’t want her to give in if she was determined unless she was certain. We never used that word; I think it was a kind of biscuit for some reason! And given that she couldn’t take gas and air as it made her throw up, she did the whole thing pain relief-free which left me both in awe and terrified of her. An incredible woman.

Waiting for dilation took a good few hours however I was reminded of my dad’s method of breaking up car journeys into ‘scoobies’ which was the length of an episode of Scooby Doo (around 20 minutes for the uncultured!). So I broke the hours up into segments where we would focus on one thing at a time, be it breathing, baby names, what we were looking forward to or foods my partner couldn’t wait to eat.

All of a sudden things became very real for us both when my partner started to push and the midwives were putting in calls for a doctor to help. We were rushed into an operating room and it was dumbed down enough for me to understand that for every push our child was slipping back a bit, essentially stuck in a U bend.

They had both heartbeats on monitors and I’m sure it was the adrenaline and nerves and years of watching House and Casualty but I was convinced the heart rates were slowing down or stopping (I’ve since been informed this didn’t happen) and time seemed to slow to a crawl as the blissful calm of before was wrenched away before my child arrived. Beautiful (well crying and sticky but you overlook these things!) perfectly formed and remarkably calm – given that me and their mother had just endured the most terrifying fifteen minutes of our lives.

If there is one thing I would advise you about birth and labour it is that you should be prepared to adapt your best laid plans. Things change very quickly, and you do not have time to perhaps do things as you would like (which is a handy feeling for when your child becomes a toddler!). The nursing staff during our stay were incredible, no question was too stupid, no request too much, they really are absolute heroes, and you should certainly pop back with a box of something chocolatey or a few pizzas, depending on your budget, for them to say thanks as we did.

But it was all worth it. We were told we were having a girl, a beautiful girl who we knew would change the world someday, we were torn between the names Leia and Daisy but both of us being geeks we leaned towards the former. I even had the Princess Leia graphic novel I had bought for my partner in the delivery room as they handed me my baby and I glanced down to note this was clearly a boy…

Remember what I said about adapting your plans?!

Good luck!

Author PJ Douglas
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PJ Douglas is the head of content at Dadnatal – online platforms providing support, advice and help for dads and expectant dads. Having travelled and lived across the world himself, PJ considers becoming a dad his biggest adventure yet!

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