Nov 4, 2012

Express Delivery

Of course it's all a bit of a blur now, but as it's only likely to get blurrier, I suppose that I will write the story of Spud II's birthday while it's still fresh.

You'll be aware that Wolf has been cried a few times, but as I said to her the other day, Nicole always has appointments, like the hairdresser or whatever, and as I picked her up from the hairdresser she had a clear diary and it seemed like that would be like a red rag to a bull.

So when she woke me up at 6.30 on November the Second 2012, my first words were to the effect of "So we're on then, are we?"

And she said to me words along the lines of "Well I let you sleep in as long as I could but the contractions are now five minutes apart, so we should probably think about making a move."

So, first things first, get the coffee on, feed the dog, get dressed all that... a fever of half-asleep frenetic flapping.

Then a phone call to Marion to get Eloise taken care of, and it turns out that phones are really difficult to work when you need them to be easy and I hang up on her three times when I meant to do something else, and I'm sure the state of discombobulation conveys more than anything that something is afoot.

Nicole in the background, pacing, having contractions. "Can we get the TENS machine on, do you think?"

"OK, where are the instructions...."

Marion and Hannah arrive to pick Eloise up and it's all high-pitched female coo-ing excitement for a while, and I'm trying desperately to remember whether red is positive or is it black, and somehow Google is unhelpful to the point where we open Marion's bonnet (on her car) to look at the battery and even that's impossible to comprehend!

Anyway we wire up the TENS and Eloise has gone and the TENS is working so I'd better get the baby car seat mounted into the car and all that... and Matilda comes out of the gate with me and climbs into the boot of the car while I'm fiddling, because she really doesn't know what's going on, and frankly who does?

A quick spot of breakfast cereal whilst the last of the bags are packed and then we're off through the sluggish traffic with some nice relaxing Brian Eno to complement the very unrelaxing presence of the labouring woman with the three-minute contractions doubling her over whilst waiting for the lights to change on Newmarket Road.

The best laid plans of mice and men! We'd envisaged a nice relaxing trip down to the hospital, lazily scanning the area for a parking space (to avoid the exorbitant parking fees) and then a gently stroll along leafy streets to the hospital while the Carpenters played in the background.

Reality: straight into the exorbitantly priced multi-storey car park and a slow, heavily laden journey through the concrete cavern, lugging baggage and quiche, accompanied by moans and commuter traffic.

Into bright sunshine and stopping for a pause outside the cafe I offer Nicole a bar to lean against as another contraction comes, but she waves me off and we hurry, if hurry's the word, into the Atrium and into the womb of the hospital, into the lifts, and into the Birth Centre, and to our room, and.... relax.

It's 8am, the contractions are coming thick and fast, and the bath is full, but ignored as a midwife called Jill from Sunderland gives us a quick tour which I think she secretly knows we aren't really listening to, as we nod politely, occasionally retiring to a nearby trolley to lean against as another wave of contraction takes hold.

And it's just like last time, only more intense, Nicole in more pain, and another midwife comes along, our midwife for the day, Kelly, who is a Londoner, with child herself. And I say it's intense but at the same time it's relaxed and low-key, kind of a hum of activity as people do stuff in the background, and offer occasional encouragement and make chit-chat until "There's another one coming" and I man the Boost button and the pain, with Nicole bracing against the trolley then crouching down as though she's winding a spring in her legs and getting ready to leap.

After a while I remember there's an arrangement that I need to make, because Eloise has gone into before-school care her teacher probably needs to know what's going on and who she can contact so I nip outside to send a quick text message with my still-inept phone fingers, and when I come back in there's Gas and Air and loud moaning and things are clearly moving along.

Nicole says she needs to push and the midwife says -- yeah, go on, go for it; I suggest the beach ball but we opt for a large bean bag, and Nicole on all fours, goes for it.

I think, that's a bit odd, I thought the pushing was for stage two, but little do I know, for intensity mounts and the pain is intense, and Nicole lets us know that, and she's pushing down hard. Someone says "It's still in the sac" and I look down to the business end and Bugger Me! there's a head, in the sac, bloody hell! Better get the camera!

Jill is back and she says give me the camera so I do and one last push and there's a gush as the sac goes and the baby slides out, and there it is, grey and tiny, and that moment of dread before it starts breathing, and then it does, it takes a breath and cries, and I have it in my arms.

It's 9.23. And it's a she!

Nicole, flopped down, her face in the beanbag, exhausted, while a hug the baby, complains I'm pulling on the cord, and of course it's still attached to her, and we go through some complex manouevring to get Nicole sat up with baby on her chest. Their eyes meet. It's kind of special.

Image: Nicole, shaking like a leaf, gasping for air, tine baby on her chest looking up at her.

And that's it, aside from the placenta which is collected for research purposes, the trip down the corridor to load the infant into a bizzare machine that goes whoosh to measure her volume and weight etc, the heel-prick tests necessitated by Nicole's gestational diabetes diagnosis, and the marginal fail on one of those tests that threatens a 24-hour stay in hospital.

Hours have passed, and it seems right that Eloise should meet her sister, so I drive up to the school, not even minding the exorbitant parking charge, and meet her as she leaves class.

- We have a baby, I say.
- Is it a boy?
- No, you have a little sister.

Her shoulders sag a bit and she's a bit disappointed because, like every other person who's deigned to offer an opinion, and there's a been a few, she's expected a boy. She's wanted him for rough play, but I say she still has me, and she looks at me and says Yes I do.

We're on the way and I ask her how she's feeling and she says Happy but nervous.

But when she gets to the hospital and we go into the room and see Mum there with the babe and she gets to hold it her heart melts and she falls in love and all is well.

I deliver Eloise to Hannah's house where she'll stay the night then some phone calls and back to the hospital, where the blood tests are passed and we are free to go, back home by eight o'clock, twelve hours after we left, bruised, battered, tired. But happy.

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