MagicMum's daddy blogger Colm O'Regan on... The Birth
He’s already a best-selling author and a comedian and now Colm O'Regan takes on his most challenging role yet – fatherhood. In his first column as MagicMum's new daddy blogger he describes those hours before and minutes after the big moment…
Making no shapes to move
She was late. Not only late but it appeared she was no hurry to leave her comfortable climate-controlled fully-serviced room. She was like a visitor that had gently been hinted at to leave but pretended not to notice. As if her host had been saying things like: “You must have an early start in the morning” and “that’s the last of the chocolate biscuits now”. But she just tucked her legs under her on the chair and said “Ah now, I’ve tomorrow off” and “Plain biscuits will do me grand. I’m not a bit fussy. Would you ever put a hot drop in that cup?”
As the overdue days racked up, my wife and I had conversations like the following:
“What did they say at the midwife clinic about bringing on labour?”
“She said to go for a long walk and have sex.” I momentarily misunderstood and tried to think where you could walk to that would be a suitable place to…
“Oh you mean after you come home from the walk”
Desperate times called for desperate measures. We even put in new a flower bed together in the hope that the physical effort would kick things off. I dug it – the flowerbed – out while my wife hauled soil through the house from out the back. 41½ weeks pregnant and carrying full buckets of soil, she looked like some sort of poster-woman for stoicism in Soviet Russia.
But still no stir. There was going to have to be an induction. It’s funny how words take on a completely different significance as you progress through the different stages of life. I heard about induction first in Physics in secondary school – the production of force across a conductor due to an electromagnetic field. Then, later in life, induction was the first couple of days in a new job when HR told you about company policies and Tech Support got you your swipe card and hooked you up to the system.
Labour induction is a sort of a mixture of the two: being hooked up to the system in order to produce a bit of force.
While waiting in the Coombe, we tried to pre-empt the induction by getting things going in a natural way. No, wait, not like that. We just tried to do as much walking in the around the grounds as we could. I say grounds but while the Coombe is a first-class hospital, it is not set amongst acres of rolling parkland. In the dark though, nothing is green and we managed to walk a sort of circuit around the whole complex, making it as long as possible by walking in and out of every car park and yard and nook-sized cranny. So much so that the security guards watching us move across their CCTV screens told us they initially thought we were thieves – a sort of slow-moving husband and wife crime spree – Bumpy and Clyde.
We even met an urban fox in the carpark. My wife was having a contraction. I was rubbing her lower back – “up a bit, in a bit towards the centre, ok there, there AAAAAAH, ok stop”. The fox was looking at us as if to say, “Humans, with your big craniums. I just popped out four cubs behind Lidl and still had time to raid the bins for out-of-date chocolate-chip cookies. Evolution? Pah!”
But all the walking was to no avail. Eventually we were brought up to the delivery suite. The birth preferences were gone through. We hadn’t exactly asked for the baby to be delivered in a babbling brook beneath a sacred willow while the sacred rites of Danu were chanted by Wiccans, but we did have a few requests. But as time goes on and wires and machines appeared, a lot of these became moot. And we were fine with that. The main preference now was GET BABY OUT SAFE.
The 'fierce hard exam'
It was a long affair – though I’m sure there are longer – as my wife worked and worked. It was like watching someone do a fierce hard exam and all you could do help was make sure she enough pens (figuratively speaking) and a rasher sandwich (literally; rasher sandwiches proved to be an unlikely hero throughout the earlier stages of labour, although sadly they weren’t allowed when my wife was all hooked up).
After fifteen hours things needed to be escalated. The room filled with reassuring people with job titles. My job was sort of holding a leg and whispering affirmations and reminders to my wife to push. The latter was straightforward, the former was interesting. We’re mad about each other but we don’t necessarily have reams of praise-poetry ready to go for situations like this. But now I had a good few minutes to fill. I repeated, “I love you, you’re amazing, you’re doing so well” for a while but soon I began to run out and started coming up with more prosaic reasons why she was my soulmate. Which is why when push really came to shove, even in the throes of deep, deep emotion my wife was still briefly puzzled as I whispered in her ear “You’re really good at designing websites and coding”. It’s true. I didn’t make it up. She is strong technically but I think none of us expected the last moments of labour to turn into a LinkedIn endorsement.
Ruby makes her first appearance
Thankfully I didn’t put her off her stride and as dawn was breaking over Dolphin’s Barn, Ruby was brought into the world. It was an out-of-body experience for all three of us in different ways. As the non-pregnant partner, I think she had until then remained an abstract concept. I knew she was there from feeling kicks. But I projected motives and personality onto her from outside. I imagined her listening through the wall as I did something inglorious like step on a plug in my socks. I pictured her clapping a tiny hand to a tiny face as she wondered what kind of eejit was outside.
But now she was out, manifested. Slowly pinking up as that extraordinary moment occurred where the eyes opened, the breathing started, like she’d flicked a switch. An actual person with her own motives and personality and … a dirty big roar.
From somewhere, I heard a voice asking did I want to cut the cord but I was too busy forming another one.