Monday, 6 September 2010

Diary of an Expectant Father (Part Three)

Well today is the most appropriate day to post the final part of this short series. It is 7 years ago that I was no longer an expectant father and I became a dad.

As in Part One and Part Two things didn't go exactly as planned (but then I suppose they never do).

Mrs S had been regularly attending the clinic during the third trimester because she was suffering from high blood pressure. From about 32 weeks they were starting to talk about a C-Section if the blood pressure problem got too much, but they wanted to leave it as long as they possibly could to make the decision.

As I talked about in Part Two we had been attending the antenatal classes regularly on a Tuesday afternoon. after the 5th class, in the 36th week, we were told that the next week would be a recap of what we had been through so far to give us that extra reassurance.

The regular check up later that week decided that as the blood pressure was still an issue for Mrs S, they would refer her to the Pregnancy Assessment Unit (PAU) at the hospital. This appointment turned out to be on the Tuesday afternoon so I took a half day of work to attend as well. They gave Mrs S drugs to reduce the blood pressure and after monitoring it for a couple of hours it seemed to work. So she was prescribed a course of them and asked to return on Friday at 3.30pm. Friday was to be Mrs S's last day at work before her maternity leave (she had decided that she only wanted three weeks before the due date to finish off the nesting as she thought any longer and she would be going spare and doing the "Get this thing out of me" chants).

So off we went to the last of the classes. We'd become a fairly close group of 12 pre baby couples but as this was the recap night only about 5 or 6 of the pairings turned up. In the group there had only been one baby that was due before we were expecting to greet our new arrival and they did turn up that night. They must have felt the sense of imminence like we did and wanted every last drop of know how that we could wring from the course.

Rather than drag it on for the usual two hours, we quickly went through what we had heard in the previous five sessions and then had a question and answer session. Just as we were saying our good byes and good lucks to each other, one of the other couples who hadn't made it for the start, turned up. I say couple. Actually there were three of them. They had come along to show us their beautiful baby daughter who had arrived over the weekend. Whilst we cooed and ahhhed over the little girl, a realisation suddenly dawned on me. This couple had a due date of at least a week or two after us and yet were parents already. That means.... gulp.

OK, Wednesday was normal, Thursday went without a hitch and Friday was due to be a bit busy. Not only did Mrs S have to have her last morning at work, and we had an appointment at the PAU, but we had also been invited to a 30th birthday party that night. I had it all planned. I would leave work for the second half days leave of the week, pick up Mrs S from work at 1.30 when she was due to finish, take her home and have a quick look at any gifts she had been lucky enough to receive and then casually make our way to the PAU for the 3.45 appointment. After spending an hour or so there (it wouldn't be any longer than that on a Friday afternoon would it?) we would get home, have tea and then spend a pleasant evening with some good friends.

All was going well as I left work at exactly the time I had planned on leaving. That had never happened before so I was overly optimistic. I arrived at Mrs S's place of work at exactly the time she was due to leave and parked the car (a dodgy Daewoo. Don't touch them with a barge pole). Five minutes passed and as I was used to waiting for her in that particular car park, I thought nothing of it. It gave me an opportunity to eat the lunch I had bought for myself and listen to the radio. As the seconds turned to minutes and the minutes crept past an hour I started to worry that something was wrong. I had assumed that there was some sort of send off happening and I know Mrs S is able to talk for England but I was concerned that we wouldn't make the PAU appointment. I was just about to get out of the car when she appeared waddling out of the door laden with flowers, chocolates, presents for the baby oh and more flowers and chocolates.. I helped her load up the boot and the back seat of the car with the gifts and we had to set straight off for the appointment.

We arrived just on time. It was one of those units without a receptionist. You just waited outside the room to be noticed by the duty health professional. We were ushered into the unit and Mrs S was attached to a dazzling array of machines. The blood pressure one was a familiar piece of technology but there were other robots doing all sorts of different things. The midwife in charge of the unit had once again administered a potion of some magical kind which had once again reduced the blood pressure, but this time she wanted to monitor the effects as the drug wore off. The results were unequivocal. The medicine was treating the symptom, but not the cause.

At around seven o'clock in the evening it was decided that a night in the ante natal ward was in order. The consultant was due to do his rounds the next morning so he would be able to make a decision. A decision on what I should have asked, but went along blissfully unaware.

I shot home to get a couple of things from the emergency bag and took them back to the hospital. I was expecting to ferry Mrs S home the next day so she wouldn't need everything that was in the bag.

After making sure she was comfortable, had eaten and I could do no more, at around eleven o'clock I left the hospital, sent a text to the friend who's party we should have been at,and headed for an empty bed. I decided to stop on the way home to make sure I had eaten too. Kebab's without the alcohol first are not to be recommended.

Once home I unloaded the car, put the flowers in the sink, as we didn't have enough vases and I wouldn't know what to do with them any way, and went to bed. Did I sleep much? I can't remember. I may have felt slightly strange in the bed on my own after sharing it with another person for many years, and for the last few months, that person had slowly but surely been expanding to take up any spare morsel of sheet I didn't stake a claim to. So to suddenly be sleeping in vast area of bedding when I was used to clinging onto the side of the bed was quite refreshing.

The next morning, the Saturday, I went off to the hospital at about 9.30 ready for the consultants rounds at 10. As I expected, Mrs S had eaten well and knew everyone in the ward. Mr Ajayi, the consultant, started at the other end of the ward and obviously got to us last. He looked at the charts and all of the data that was available to him and said "I think we'll have baby out today".

"Pardon?" Apparently, now that we were just under three weeks before due date, they were prepared to do what he termed as a "semi emergency C-section". This means that it isn't one of those that they rush you down there and then but give your toast a time to settle before they perform the op. But it is today.

Well that was a turn up for the books. It was decided that two o'clock was the time of the op. So after talking it over with Mrs S and coming to terms with it myself, I called my fabulous in laws. I asked if they could bring the rest of the bag that I had left behind the night before. They did and within an hour, my father-in-law, Mr Ajayi and myself were watching the cricket in the patients room. I was made to eat some lunch from the trolley by the nurses who kept telling me I had to keep my strength up. Luckily, there had been some movement since yesterday's patients had put their orders in so I was able to take my pick of boiled frogs and sprouts or some other gastronomic delight. All of a sudden I remembered fondly last nights kebab.

At about 1.30 we were taken to the delivery ward and my in-laws were shown where the waiting room was. In the delivery suite Mrs S was asked to wear a fetching backless number in NHS bleu  Unfortunately they had no backless garments left for me so I had to put on the paper like overalls and a rather fetching article of headgear. The countdown to 2.00 started. It's strange how you can only say "Are you OK?" so many times without it starting to annoy one or both of you. As the countdown to 2.00 reached quarter to three I had a peep outside in the corridor and heard sounds that you only hear in horror movies. Wailing and screaming engulfed the brightly lit rafters and the reason for the delay became very obvious.

At around 3.30 the midwife came in and explained that the op had been delayed because another baby had decided to make an earlier than expected appearance but that they were almost ready for us now. Ten minutes later Mrs S had been taken across the corridor to the theatre and a minute or two later I was asked to join her.

There were two entrances to the theatre and I was led past one to the second one. This was at Mrs S  feet end and Mr Ajayi was sat next to her exposed abdomen and said "I'm counting to three and then making the first incision". Those shoe coverings can be quite slippy but I would still have beaten Usain Bolt to the chair next to Mrs S and, more importantly, behind the screen. The anesthetist gave the appropriate local anesthetic and the operation began. Within a minute, at 3.55pm on the sixth September 2003, mini me number one appeared for the first time, three weeks early and weighing in at 5lbs 5.5oz. She made a lovely little crying noise (I can say that now) and after being checked, cleaned and weighed she was dressed in the clothes we had taken in. They completely swamped her as she was so tiny and we only had newborn size clothes. Then came the moment she became a daddies girl. As Mrs S was still being sewn back together again, she was handed to me for her first parental cuddle and I haven't really let her go since. She was, and still is, completely enchanting. Her eyes were closed and she looked like a new born mole with a wrinkled nose and furrowed brow.

I do remember telling Mrs S more than enough times how clever she was. I wasn't sure what else I could or should say. I certainly couldn't think of anything profound to say and whether they would have passed the huge grin on my mouth in any communicable form would be debatable.

Once Mrs S was back in one piece, we returned to the recovery room, I carried mini me one, and were left alone. All of a sudden the responsibility thrust upon us became apparent. Here was a tiny human being that couldn't fend for itself that was entriely reliant on what we could do for her. And we didn't need a licence or pass a test of any kind.

After a what seemed like hours but turned out to be a few minutes, Mt Ajayi came to see us and explained what had been causing the high blood pressure. During the pregnancy, mini me one had never became engaged and hadn't even turned the right way until persuaded to by a bag of frozen peas (a little tip I had picked up from Neighbours). The reason for this was that the umbilical chord had been wrapped around her little neck three times. If she had decided to arrive naturally there was every possibility that she would have strangled herself, and ripped the placenta from the womb wall endangering Mrs S. He even drew a little diagram so that we could show her when she could understand.

It was now around 5pm and I realised the only people who knew mini me one had been born were the people who had been in the theatre. My in-laws were in the waiting room, expecting the operation to have taken place at least two hours earlier. I left our precious bundle with her mum and walked down to the waiting room and went to the family. I must say that, for any dad, one of the best moments is telling the family that you had had a little girl. It was an incredible feeling. If we had decided to find out what we were having earlier it may have been infinitely more practical, but these would have been the moments we wouldn't have experienced and I wouldn't have swapped them for a bedroom decorated by Nick Knowles and his DIY SOS team. The tears started at this point. I knew my mother-in-law (or Grandma as she has been known ever since) would cry. I also completely expected my father-in-law (Grandad) to sneak down the corridor to see mini me one without the OK from the medical staff.

I had plenty of phone calls and texts to send so while the family were cooing over the baby I went and did the the ring round. My dad and my grandma were first on the list (more tears) followed by my brother and Mrs S's auntie. Then some friends including the one whose party we should have been at the night before. Then I returned to spend some more time with my family.

Eventually, room was found on the ward for my two girls and we got them settled up there. Nearing 11 o'clock I finally decided that I should go and get some sleep. I had to be up early the next morning to get to Tesco for some tiny baby clothes so that she didn't look like a bundle of rags.

Mrs S and mini me one arrived home on the Wednesday following the birth and Mrs S eventually got to see all the presents that her work friends had given her 5 days earlier.

Today, she became seven and she is a wonderful daughter. She made sure that her 4 year old brother didn't feel left out of anything when she was opening her presents and although she was the most excited I have ever seen her, she was still as polite as ever.

Sometimes, on children's birthdays, the excitement of the child is infectious, but it is always worth remembering that the birthday is also a significant anniversary for the parents as well.

Maybe in March I will tell the less complicated tale of mini me two coming into the world.

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