Waiting, worry, and Angry Birds. One dad explains the realities of sitting on the sidelines during his partner’s difficult labour.

When my partner told me she was pregnant, it was one of the best days of my life. We had been waiting for IVF because of problems conceiving, so a natural pregnancy was like a miracle.

The (almost) nine months that followed were full of excitement and anticipation. But sometime in week 36, near the end of December, my partner said couldn’t feel the baby moving or kicking, and we were sent to the emergency pre-natal service at the local hospital.

Ultrasound tests were followed by echocardiograms and lots of questions. We were understandably distraught at the thought of losing our son at such a late stage. I did my best to calm my partner and be the brave one, but I didn’t feel that way inside.

Because my partner had gestational diabetes we had been told our son would be a large baby. The tests showed that he was anything but. He was much smaller than predicted and there was a lack of amniotic fluid in the womb. Tests were repeated, examinations carried out, and more questions asked.

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The staff were brilliant. They told us what they were doing and why, and that we shouldn’t worry. But we did, of course. The hours we spent there, with my partner hooked up to various bits of kit, were incredibly tense. When the consultant reviewed the test results she decided that my partner needed to be induced. It wasn’t a bit deal really but it would be better to have the baby delivered a few weeks early rather than risk any further complications. My partner was admitted and we sat in the room on the ward thinking about it not being a big deal. It was a big deal though.

The birth of our son – our one and only child – was not going to happen as we had planned. It wouldn’t be the natural, life affirming, zen experience we wanted for the first moments our child’s life. It was going to be clinical. And it got worse.

Over the next few days the doctors tried to induce my partner a few times but it didn’t work. I went home every night and came back every morning while the mother of my child stayed in the hospital’s sterile surroundings, wondering what she had done wrong to be in this position. We fretted about the health of our unborn child and waited.

After three days the consultant said we had to do something else: my partner needed a caesarean. It had been scheduled for the next day. Christmas day. Our miracle baby boy was to be born on Christmas day. As the news sunk in I made far too many jokes about the second coming.

I didn’t go home that night, I stayed at a friend’s house nearer to the hospital. I’m not sure his daughter will ever recover from seeing me sprawled out on their sofa as she bounded into the lounge on Christmas morning.

My partner and I spent Christmas morning trying to ignore the Salvation Army’s attempts at forced celebration, as they marched through the ward, trumpets and tubas parping in our ears. When the doctors were ready we made our way to theatre. I was given scrubs and crocs to wear, which I was very excited about. Sadly, they didn’t transform me into Dr McDreamy from Grey’s Anatomy.

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The operation went perfectly. The epidural worked and I sat at my partner’s head and held her hand as our son was brought into the world. I made too many jokes again, this time about sunroofs. As I reassured her that she was doing great I saw everything. I saw the incisions. I saw the doctors at work. I saw them bring our son into the world. I made too many Alien jokes.

Oliver was born just after 1pm on Christmas Day. He didn’t cry. He lay on the scales in perfect contentment as I cut the umbilical cord. After a quick clean up, he was passed to his mum and they met for the first time. I took too many pictures. The doctors and the operating theatre seemed to melt away in those perfect first moments of family life.

Oliver had some trouble warming up in the first hour after birth so I held him next to my skin and walked around the ward as his mum was attended to. I talked to him, kissed him, and marvelled at him. I will always be grateful for that chance to bond so deeply, so quickly.

The only disappointment was being kicked off the ward at 10pm that night. I offered to sleep on the floor but it wasn’t allowed. I had to leave my partner and our son and go home alone. It was the last thing I wanted to do. I was so elated to be a dad but the house felt so desperately empty that Christmas night.

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Because Oliver was three weeks premature and small, both mother and son stayed on the ward for a few days before coming home. It wasn’t how we had planned it but it didn’t matter. We had our miracle baby.

When I think back to those days nearly six years ago I don’t immediately think of the hospital, or the operating theatre, or the fact that it wasn’t what we wanted. My first thoughts are of my partner and I eating too much mint Aero because that was the only thing from the hospital vending machine that she wanted. I remember playing Angry Birds on my phone for hours as my partner slept. I remember laughing about the Salvation Army’s terrible tunes. I think of meeting my son for the first time. I think of the unbridled joy on both our faces and in both our hearts. And I wouldn’t change a moment of it.

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