So, here I am at a quarter to 2 in the morning just over a week after our first baby was born finally motivating myself to write about the labour, and the time immediately after it.

Unlike most blog posts that I write, I know exactly where to start on this one so I suppose it’s a bit easier than usual.

After passing the due date of the 28th of September, the doctors decided that it would be a good idea to let nature run its course for another 10 days but after that it would be advisable to have the labour induced. This wasn’t something that we really liked the idea of for obvious reasons but after getting a few different opinions, we deferred to the experience of our medical team. Inducing a labour is quite safe. It’s not as complicated a procedure as you might think but unfortunately, there are a lot of horror stories out there and the contraction pains can be more intense. There is a risk that if the pregnancy continues ten days after the due date, the placenta can start to break down increasing the chances of babies being still born exponentially each day. That’s why in Drogheda pregnancies only go 14 days over the due date before doctors strongly advise that an induction is started. In other hospitals it’s 10 days, in some hospitals they’ll allow the pregnancy to go 28 days overdue. It’s all about monitoring and measuring the risks.

We arrived in the hospital at 2PM on Tuesday the 8th of October. A very friendly nurse led us to Emma’s room and gave us a detailed run down of what to expect during the procedure. They applied a jell substance twice and if contractions don’t proceed normally a drip is attached to administer a hormone called oxytocin. By the second application of the jell Emma was feeling very strong labour pains. By 10 past 12 on Wednesday morning we were reasonably certain that she had gone into labour and that it would only be a matter of time. Unfortunately, reasonably certain isn’t really good enough. The jell can have a side effect of causing pains similar to labour so the mid wife wasn’t able to tell for sure. Too much monitoring can actually lead to complications so a lot of time was spent hoping that the pains were natural and not a side effect of the jell. At just after 2AM I decided that if I was to be of any help for the rest of the day I needed to try to get some sleep so I left the hospital to make the short journey to my parents’ house about 2 minutes away. A lot of good it did me though as by the time I got there got the dog sorted and relaxed and actually got into bed it was about 3AM. Of course I couldn’t sleep either because I was far too nervous, worried, anxious and excited so when the phone rang at 29 minutes past 6 and I heard Emma’s urgent call to come to the hospital it took me no time at all to leap out of bed, throw on some clothes and wake my sister Céataí. I knew she was the best person to call because it would take her no time to be ready to give me a lift to the hospital. I was right! I knocked on her door and was met with the response of “You need a lift?” By 6:44AM the dog had been fed, he had pee’d and poo’d and I was over in the hospital in Emma’s room getting an update from the mid wife. Not bad ay? 15 minutes from bed to hospital room!

Although the mid wife didn’t want to examine Emma to see if labour had progressed, she was quite confident that we’d be down in the labour ward by 8AM. Unfortunately, they couldn’t provide the pain relief that Emma preferred in the anti natal area so Emma needed to wait until we moved down to the labour ward to get the gas and air. For some reason, we didn’t get down to the labour ward until nearly 10AM. Emma was quite anxious to receive the pain relief at this stage but although I could tell how difficult it was for her, she wasn’t very vocal so I don’t think the nurses, doctors or mid wives really understood. In one way this was probably the best thing that could have happened. Another woman in the labour ward was very vocal so a lot of fuss was made of her and Emma was left to one side for about an hour. I actually thought that the other person was further on through labour compared to Emma because of the way she was handling things but it turned out that Emma was quite a bit ahead of her. When the mid wife and doctor examined Emma they were surprised to find that the jell had done a great job and it was unlikely that the hormone drip would be required. Emma was well on her way through labour and I think it really hit home to the medical team how well she was handling the pain. Seriously. This isn’t something I can say enough. Emma didn’t make one sound during contractions or at any stage during labour. She used the breathing techniques that we practised at home and the gas sand air through most of labour. Considering the whole thing lasted a tiny bit under 18 hours this is absolutely remarkable in my opinion. At the start I thought themedical team were boosting Emma’s confidence by telling her how relaxed she looked and how well she was handling things but when our daughter was born and I let myself take in everything going on around me I was amazed at how many women were shouting, screaming, coursing and complaining. Please please please don’t get me wrong. I haven’t experienced labour. Obviously. I haven’t a clue what women go through. I am absolutely certain without any hint of doubt that it is the most painful thing anyone can ever go through. I have more respect for women now than I ever did because honestly, I don’t think a man would have the stamina that women show during this process. Especially when they are as strong as Emma and they refuse the stronger pain relief. I just couldn’t get over the fact that Emma stayed so relaxed throughout the whole thing. Her response to this is “their using more energy by screaming, coursing and shouting. I didn’t have that energy to waste”. In fairness, I think that’s just Emma being modest. I really just didn’t realize how well she was doing until the end. Since then it has been a constant source of amazement for me and I am very proud of her for it. Anyway, getting back to the labour. By about 1PM she was half way there but we had a good few hours left. I made arrangements for Céataí to come down to the hospital while I went off to grab a cup of coffee and something to eat. I asked Céataí to go to the hospital because although she’s my youngest sister at only 18 years young, she’s one of the most level headed people I know and I knew she would be a very calming influence. Not that was needed of course. It was great though because I knew I could go for a half an hour, let the dog relax, let myself relax and be fully confident that Emma was there with someone I could trust and rely on. Not that I couldn’t rely on y other two sisters but you know what I mean.

When I got back at around half 1 nothing had changed so we had to wait until the next scheduled check at nearly 3PM. Unfortunately very little progress had been made so a small dose of the Oxytocin hormone needed to be administered. They had only applied this when much more rapid progress was made. Within an hour Emma was feeling very different contractions. I don’t want to get into too much detail to respect her privacy but by 20 to 6 we were moved into a private birthing room for the conclusion of the labour. This is basically where the pregnant woman is fully dilated to 10CM and she can begin to push. It’s called the second stage. We got in to the room, I got the dog sorted, took out the clothes etc. for the baby and as if on cue, Emma started to get the urge to push so I was needed by her side again. When the mid wife had verified that she was fully dilated, Emma was given the go ahead to begin pushing. This is kind of strange but again, I won’t go into too much detail but it’s not at all what I expected. It’s much harder for the woman than I ever anticipated. Every single muscle in her body was used during this stage but at the same time as it was excruciating, I got the sense from her that it was a much more natural feeling than she had felt all through stage one of the labour. Pushing is made even more difficult because for the majority of the time, the woman pushes but at the end of the contraction, the baby goes back through the pelvis so it probably feels like all that effort was for nothing. Eventually though, it passes around the corner or the lump in the pelvis and much more progress is made. At this stage they say that the baby his crowned. Again, I’m really trying not to say too much here because it’s hard to describe this but also be very conscious of not embarrassing Emma. I have to say though one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard in my life was when the baby had crowned the mid wife was able to show this to Emma using a mirror. Emma’s reaction was priceless. She said without missing a breath “wow that’s mad isn’t it!” Obviously, I couldn’t really laugh because a second later I was needed again but at the end of it I certainly did. The baby was born at 6:52PM on Wednesday the 9th of October. As soon as it was born the baby was placed on Emma’s chest. This skin to skin contact is really important as it helps to regulate the baby’s heart beat and temperature. It will be useful up to about seven months. Obviously after the baby is 6 weeks old its temperature is more regulated by clothes but until then skin to skin contact is very important. Sorry, I’m rambling off topic again. Next, the mid wife clamped the umbilical chord on two ends. She then handed me a scissors and guided my hand to allow me to cut it. I was nervous about doing this of course but when they offered to let me do it I hesitantly said yes. It’s not something that many fathers get to do so I was very thankful to be given the opportunity. Cutting the umbilical chord isn’t as easy as you might think. It’s not a simple cut. You cut a few times before finally getting through it. I thought I wasn’t doing it right after a few times but Emma and the mid wife strongly encouraged me to keep going because they could obviously see that I was making progress. I’m really thankful that I did it now. After this the mid wife gave Emma the opportunity to tell me the sex of the baby. I thought this was really nice because obviously most fathers would be able to tell when the mother checks. It meant a lot that the mid wife gave Emma the pleasure of telling me that we had a daughter. She was then taken away to a corner for a few minutes to be weighed, cleaned up and given a top to tow check. This is a standard procedure for all babies born in almost every hospital. Fortunately, in Drogheda the facility for this is also in the birthing room so the baby is never taken away from its mother. I think this is very important and it takes less time so the baby is returned very quickly.

When all of that was done and Emma was given something to eat and drink, a nurse took Emma to have a shower and I was left with our daughter. This for me was something that I was terrified about for weeks. I didn’t know how I was going to handle minding a new born that had only been introduced to the world moments earlier. Fortunately, it was no bother at all. She had fed a few minutes before but she was still searching for another feed but when I ran out of ideas to get her to stop searching I tried some skin to skin contact. It probably looked really strange if someone had walked into the room to see a topless man walking around with a new born baby but it worked like magic. She curled up in my arms and went to sleep very peacefully. A mid wife that I was speaking to a day later said this was actually the best thing to do. The baby needs to learn that every skin to skin contact doesn’t mean that it’s time to be fed and comfort can be given by me as well. In saying that, for a baby, she’s particularly easy to keep happy. Just interact with her when she’s awake, keep her nappy clean and when she’s hungry, pass her over to her mother to be fed.

Being the amazingly thoughtful wife that we all know that she is, Emma suggested back in August that we call our baby Méabh if we had a girl. This means a lot to my family as my granny’s name Is Maeve. As I have said very publicly on this website, Facebook and Twitter, my granny is a legendary woman. She is one of a kind. More people in Drogheda and Ireland have benefited from her work than will ever understand. From working for the elderly, to campaigning for better facilities in hospitals, getting houses built for those who need them and being instrumental in the creation of a woman’s refuge she has been involved in hundreds of efforts that have had a tangible and long lasting positive impact on our community. It’s a shame in a lot of ways that she continues to be a very private woman. She refuses to allow us to publicise all of her accomplishments. Calling our daughter Méabh is our little way of honouring what she has done. We’re just glad that my granny said yes and allowed us to use her name!

There you have it. I hope I’ve given you enough information without offending or embarrassing Emma.

Failte Méabh You’re keeping us up until all hours but we’re glad you’re finally here.

Before I finish, there are a few people I really want to thank. They will never read this but I want to have their names written down so we don’t forget who were the most helpful. Thanks to Deirdre, the main mid wife during labour and Catherine her student who may have actually done more work under Deirdre’s direction. She certainly did more of the paper work. The two of them were calm, very descriptive, respectful and informal. They also loved Nama and they went out of their way to ensure that I was comfortable having him there. Not once during the labour did anyone in the hospital even so much as speak to him but when I wasn’t sure if he should be there or not they assured both of us that it was absolutely fine. I also need to say another very special thanks to Emily. Emily was the mid wife on the post natal ward. Unlike some of the doctors and consultants she took the time to talk through all of our options with us. When I challenged a decision of a doctor or consultant she explained to me in a very un patronizing way why I might want to reconsider or if I was right she gave us good reasons as to why we shouldn’t take the standard advice. I strongly believe in not taking everything that doctors or consultants say as hard fact until I have heard it from at least two people. People like Emily agreed with this and took the time to describe why decisions had been made. I may not have always agreed with them but once I was given the facts I was happy to go along. In my humble opinion, it would have been irresponsible to blindly accept recommendations just because one consultant had that particular opinion. Because as I’ve come to understand, most of the conclusions reached by medical practitioners is based on theory and trial and error. This is obviously based on a great understanding and in most cases a lot of experience but our baby is no test subject. Just like we are not test subjects. I don’t believe in medicating every problem because that doesn’t solve it in all situations. It just cures the symptoms. Take the vitamin D tablets that parents are advised to give to babies for the first year. I believe this is an one for all fix. Vitamin D helps calcium get absorbed into the body. It is naturally created when the body is exposed to sun light. The theory is that in Ireland we don’t have enough sun light so children don’t have enough vitamin D. I firstly asked how then have children had enough vitamin D for the past few thousand years. One person finally told me that it’s because children don’t spend enough time outside now so to fix this problem the tablets should be administered. Simple answer to that? Stop medicating the problem and fix it by encouraging society to spend more time outside and assist with this by promoting community activities and investing in outdoor hobbies such as walking and cycling. It was also pointed out to me that Ireland is now a malty cultural society so babies who have dark skin may not receive enough light from our sun for vitamin D to be created as the pigment of their skin requires more light in order for this to happen. Obviously because in countries that receive more sun during the year their bodies don’t need as much vitamin D to be created when they get a glimpse of the sun.

I was going to end it here but its 9:30 in the morning. No, I didn’t write all through the night. I fell asleep for a few hours about two paragraphs ago. Méabh actually slept for six hours! Before you start jumping up and down with happiness, she fed for about four hours solid before that. I think Emma thought she was never going to get some sleep but feeding and all that kind of thing is a topic for the next blog post. I was reminded to say how well Nama handled labour, the birth and the day’s just afterword. So, to keep this brief, he was absolutely brilliant. The days were long, the routine went all over the place and I couldn’t really give him the attention he would normally receive. It was the kind of work load that you’d give a guide dog that was four or five and well able to handle really different situations but for Nama, although he needs a lot of play time, for about a week he had very little and he did exceptionally well. I can’t explain it adequately really. He learned his way around the parts of the hospital that I needed to find, he gave me the confidence and independence to get to the hospital within minutes of getting a call, he got the occasional rub from Emma while she was in labour and then he sat under a chair or a table for another few hours while I attended to Emma and patiently waited for Méabh to arrive. It’s not something that I’d recommend for every guide dog user because it’s a fine line between having the dog as a mobility aid and keeping the dog out of the way of the meidcal staff and of course. Out of your way as well. When your trying to be by the side of your wife the last thing you need to consider is how your guide dog is keeping. It worked for me but it may not work for me the next time and it may or may not work for you as well. Just be warned.