For the second coming we wanted to try out a new style of birthing. Bored of the debate about hospitals v homes we thought we’d throw everything in the air by trying out our unique idea – I’ve christened it the Yorkshire dash. It’s got everything that modern birthers want – potentially limited medical intervention, the bloke can play a pivotal role, no chance of pain relief and depending on the vagaries of the British road network the opportunity to have your baby in a highly individual setting – in our case, the hard shoulder of the M40.
Shell (also known as wife and birthing vessel in this blog) was working away in Yorkshire and I was at home part time single parenting with the precious one. It was her final week of work before returning home to beach herself on the couch and get ready for the second coming – we needed to pack the bags, dig out the birthing plan and generally prepare ourselves. So when the baby decided to come three weeks early, and we were on opposite sides of the country, the Yorkshire dash ensued.
When the precious one was born, my role was really more cameo then central. For a start I was up the home end all the way through. I read my paper and listened to Germany v Italy when it was all quiet in the first bit, then I went for a walk, then I had a little nap, and made a few cups of tea, but besides that I was pretty solid when having my hand squeezed, back rubbing, flannelling and giving the odd “you’re doing really well. Keep going.” But I’ve always felt that the trained professionals have tried to make up stuff for the man to do. A bit like I do for the precious one when he wants to help put the washing out. The men are an appendix in the birthing process. “You do that bit and I’ll take over for the next few years,” I said to the midwife when she held the scissors in my direction for cord cutting. I’m not sure why I have strong feelings about this symbolic act of cutting the connection between child and mother. I think part of it is that I’ve always seen it a bit like a children’s school nativity play. There are only really a few central characters and then they have to make roles up for the others – “this year, Ian, you can be Shepherd number 5, or Wise Man number 7.” It’s a tacked on role. So with the second coming I got to be a major player and I found out that Shepherd number 5 is more where I’m at.
On this occasion the first step was for the child vessel’s waters to break over three weeks before the due date while in her office 172 miles away from where her partner (ie me) is residing with the precious one – this is 5.30pm. She must make the call to travel across the country – in this case from Dewsbury to Oxford via Holmfirth, a four hour trip. After a little cajoling it’s decided that it’s probably best not to drive herself. It could be argued that this would add an extra layer of fun, and that denying her this chance to have a literal and metaphoric journey with the impending child is merely highly gendered PC gone mad. I’ve not met anyone who thinks this but there are a lot of pretty crazy self indulgent ideas floating around about birth so it seems plausible.
Shell began the dash by approaching her reasonably new work colleague and making the awkward announcement. He kindly offered to give her a lift back to my sister’s. Some forty minutes away. I get a call to let me know that we’ve got a situation. Now, with the second coming we were a bit more laissez fair than our first birth. With him, we’d been to NCT and read books about hippy-birthing with surges and the noise of dolphins relaxing. We’d discussed the idea of home birthing although this never really appealed to me. It turns out I’m somewhat of a traditionalist who thinks that when you have a procedure that can be loosely defined as medical then going to where the experts are with their expert equipment rather than messing about in the front room is the best solution. I guess I’ve always been more focussed on the end result then the journey. This made the Yorkshire dash a slightly ironic situation.
Once I got the call, as well as feeling a little numb with shock and trying to frantically pack bags for me, her, the new baby and the precious one, my main priority was to manage the precious one. This meant settling down to a calming session of In the Night Garden so that I could keep things fairly normal in order to get him to bed before I can start my leg of the dash. At the same time the child vessel heads south through the M1 roadworks ably supported by my sister’s fella. My heart rate is pounding, I’m wondering if I need to reproach myself for the fact that we’re at opposite ends of the country and I’m bricking it as my mind zooms through all the intriguing possibilities that might unfold in the hours ahead. I’m sat on the sofa feigning wonder at what that crazy Ninky-Nonk is getting up to. “Will Shell be safe? Will the baby be born safely? Will I see the birth? Will I deliver the birth? Have I got enough petrol in the car? Is Iggle Piggle in bed?”
Once I’ve read Bob the Builder and the Central Heating System to the precious one I put him down and then it’s all systems go. Reinforcements have arrived and I can start my role in this active birthing process – it’s 7.30pm. I get my foot down and surge up the fast lane of the M40. All the while hoping that we can either get back to the local hospital or that the baby will be born before I arrive at the Murco garage on the A46. I can’t change a plug let alone deliver a new entity into existence. We make the baton change at 8.30pm. Now as well as trying to get to the hospital as quickly and safely as I can – after all I’m now worrying that I’ll be having a go at delivering a baby on the hard shoulder of the M40 – I’m expected to be a birthing partner. “How are your contractions?” I ask. “All over the place. Some are a couple of minutes apart some a bit longer.” “Oh.” I apply pressure with my right foot and take a swig of caffeine. “Don’t pass me the Coke and expect me to put the lid on. I’m having a contraction.” She was riding shot gun, I didn’t say. I was feeling fairly calm but pretty sure that I wanted medical intervention.
We approach Junction 12 – the Banbury turn off, the last spot that has qualified medical assistance and medical type machines. Stick or twist onto the JR? “Do you think you can make it?” “I feel OK, we could go home and I could have a bath.” “Let’s go to the hospital shall we?” “You’re not being a very good birthing partner. You’re not very chatty.” “I’m trying to focus on my key tasks.” Not crashing and not delivering a baby. Finally we pull up into the car park – still just two of us and a third inside a tummy. It was 9.55pm. Just over two hours later the second coming arrives, 3 weeks and 2 days early at 12.13am, weighing in at 6lb 9oz. That was just under two weeks ago and now we’re all safely home and well.
I should sum up my learnings but we’re not having any more so it doesn’t matter.