By Gary Dodd
Amanda and I were patiently waiting for our baby to arrive (well I was) during November 2007. We had both become well acquainted with Emily by feeling her movements and watching her respond to noises, namely my laughter, while Amanda was pregnant. Three days after the due date, Emily made her intentions clear to Amanda that she was ready to meet us in the flesh.
Our day started at about 5am on 18 November 2007. Amanda said to me at that early time that she was feeling something completely different to the braxton hicks that she had been experiencing. She was certain that she was in labour.
With that we started preparations for the arrival of our child. We alerted our mid-wife (Julie Richards) at a more reasonable time of the morning to let her know that Amanda was in labor and I started on erecting the birth pool. This made me feel useful early on. I also prepared the car with an overnight bag with Emily’s first clothes and some comfortable clothes for Amanda just in case we needed to transfer to hospital.
The first 12 hours were fairly non-eventful with Amanda having steady, mild contractions. We sat and watched movies for most of the day having a relaxing time together on our own. Amanda’s sisters and mother could not stand to be away any longer so they joined us early evening. The best thing was that Amanda’s best friend just happened to fly in from Australia that afternoon and also came to be a part of the support team.
Amanda’s contractions became more and more intense and by 11pm she was in “full swing.” The support crew were all working hard doing hot towels for Amanda and I was there to be Amanda’s emotional support. Amanda used the pool for relaxation during this time as well.
This was the routine until approximately 4am when Julie asked whether she could conduct an examination to see how Amanda was progressing. The news was not so great. After all the hard work that Amanda had done in the 6 hours preceding that moment we were told that she was 3 cm. We all thought that she would be much further on than that and the news was a little hard to swallow. We discussed with Julie our options and we agreed that at 6am we would re-assess the situation with another VE and then, depending on progress, discuss whether a transfer to hospital should be considered. 6am arrived and upon examination Amanda had gone backwards, now only 2cm. We decided to transfer to hospital for the purpose of an epidural to allow things to settle and also allow Amanda to get some well earned rest.
We were in hospital within 10 minutes. I must say that coming from our home to a hospital environment was a little bit of a shock to me. Going from a place where I felt comfortable to an environment which did not seem terribly conducive to child-birth was a little off-putting for me so I could only imagine what it felt for Amanda. Another thing that added to the shock was the willingness by the hospital to offer other methods of pain relief. Amanda had barely parked herself on the bed when she was offered gas! At this point I was thinking “What have we got ourselves into?”
We had our birth plan with us and we were insistent that the hospital staff that attended to Amanda read this plan and understood what our intentions were. I was quite surprised to hear one of the hospital staff blurt out “Well I bet this was not in your birth plan.” We quickly pointed out that she should turn to page two where there was a heading called “Transfer to hospital.” This quickly made the said staff member remarkably quiet.
After a short time the anesthetist arrived to administer the epidural. I have heard a large number of people jokingly say “Give me an epidural and call me when it is over.” I can say that watching my wife have an epidural was the worst thing that I have experienced. I could see the pain that Amanda was in and there was nothing I could do about it. Amanda was in a very difficult position of having to stay still during contractions while the anesthetist inserted the needle into her spine. This was the lowest point for me in the birth.
The purpose for the epidural was to allow Emily to turn from her posterior position. As Emily was posterior the machine used to monitor contractions could not pick them up very well. This meant that Julie spent the rest of the morning and the greater part of the afternoon manually feeling for the contractions. A superhuman effort I thought.
Come 4pm on 19 November, Amanda had a VE and was told that Emily had turned and she was 7cm dilated.
That was all Amanda needed to hear and she was away. She had let the epidural wear off and was able to get on to her knees. All of the support crew was still with us and we kicked back in to home birth mode. We were very lucky that Amanda’s friend had brought in a flask for some tea and we were able to use that to bring in boiling water for hot towels.
It only seemed about 10 minutes, but 2 hours had flown by and Emily was on her way. In our birth plan I was to catch Emily. As a father to be watching my child arrive into the world was something that I will never forget. As the head appeared I could see the hair and then her eyebrows. Emily was purple in the face and as the shoulders appeared I could see that her torso was blanched white. I was somewhat concerned that the chord may have been around Emily’s neck, however a glance over to Julie made me reassured that this was fine as she did not seem too concerned. Once Emily was finally delivered she took a short time to take her first breath. When she did her, colour flushed right through her body and Emily had finally arrived into the world. You could use all the clichés under the sun really. It was something special.
Emily Florence Dodd arrived at 6:01pm on November 19, 2007 weighing 7lbs 13.
Unfortunately for us the birth story did not end there. After Emily’s birth, Amanda suffered a hemorrhage and was whisked off to surgery. I stayed with Emily while Julie accompanied Amanda into the surgery room. It was about 2 hours before we could see Amanda again and we were a family.
That night we spent together in the recovery unit. The following day we headed home.
Emily is now 9 months old and is a wonderful and happy child. She is full of giggles and it is hard to imagine home life without her now.
Although Emily was born in hospital, Amanda and I felt that we were in control of all the decisions at every stage of Emily’s birth. We were actively involved and I believe that having a comprehensive birth plan was something that assisted us to explain our principles and needs in order for us to have the birth we wanted.