Anna’s birth story: dad’s perspective – Ben Harrison

emily harrison picLast week I posted the birth story of Emily and her daughter Anna – a long and arduous labour culminating in an assisted delivery with forceps. I was thrilled when Emily got in touch to say that her husband Ben wanted to write a post about the experience from his perspective as the first time dad in the situation.

Obviously as mums we are often in our own little bubble when it comes to childbirth, with memories clouded by the intensity of it all. Here Ben tells us how he supported Emily through her labour, but with great clarity details some of the things he wishes he had done differently. He raises some really interesting points about how involved birth partners actually feel and how much influence they can have in the delivery room.

Huge thanks must go to both Emily and Ben for sharing their experiences with us. Can any other dads relate to Ben’s post?

Emily blogs at confessionsofafailedbreastfeeder.wordpress.com

Ben does not have a blog but is happy to be known as ‘Emily’s husband’.

When my daughter, Anna, was finally born, my most overwhelming feelings were not related to joy, love, instant recognition or even ‘What Do I Do Now?’, like all the parenting books said they would be. Some or all of those feelings were there, of course, but my overriding emotion was one of relief. Relief that, after 42 weeks of pregnancy and the same number of hours of labour, our little girl had arrived and was healthy.

If you are reading this, the chances are that you have already read Emily’s birth story, so I will not go into details of the birth itself; suffice to say that I spent a lot of time pacing the floor, holding my wife’s hand, getting her what she needed, saying that everything would be fine when I wasn’t sure that it would be, and eating rubbish food.

As Emily has already said, the outcome of the birth – a beautiful baby girl – was more than we ever imagined, so from that point of view, nothing that preceded it really matters. However, as time has gone on and memories of the experience crystallised, I have increasingly felt that the labour could have been shorter and less eventful had I been more assertive. There are three specific points at which this is the case:

1)  When Emily was in the induction suite and we were waiting for the pessary to kick start labour, I was sent home at 11pm and told to get a good night’s sleep, as there was ‘no chance of anything happening for at least eight hours’. I did as I was told, which meant that when Emily’s waters broke at 5am and she was in a lot of pain, unnecessarily having to convince the midwives that she was in labour, I was 20 miles away, failing to get a good night’s sleep. I wish now that I had refused to leave the ward, or at least the hospital.

2) In the middle of the next afternoon, the labour was progressing as planned but Emily couldn’t keep fluids down and she kept being sick. As a result, she became dehydrated and the labour stalled.  When Emily was being sick, I suggested to the midwife that she be put on a saline drip to avoid dehydration but was told that there was no need. Looking back, it was clear that Emily was dehydrated and I wish I had insisted on the drip.

3) After the labour stalled, Emily was quickly put on a saline and hormone drip and things started proceeding very quickly again. However, we had to wait another 4 hours to check to see that Emily was sufficiently dilated to start pushing. This proved to be the case, but things had moved so quickly that I wondered whether it had been necessary to wait the full four hours.  I wish that I had suggested checking to see if Emily was ready to start pushing sooner – had she been, then her exhaustion may not have been so severe and the forceps may not have been needed.

It is difficult to be assertive in this situation – the midwives and doctors are the professionals and they know far more about labour and birth than any first time dad, however many books or articles on the internet he thinks he has read. Many readers will think that me having such thoughts after the event is at best pointless, or more likely utterly self-indulgent, and they would be right.

However, us men are the ones who know our wives or partners best, and are therefore well placed to respond to their needs in any given situation. It may be the case that none of the steps I’ve outlined above would have made any difference and I must stress that much of the care we received in hospital was outstanding, but I still wish that I had been more assertive.

If and when we have a second baby, I will certainly not hold back from saying what I believe to be in the best interests of my wife and child.

Follow Ben’s wife Emily on Twitter @failedfeeder

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Anna’s birth story – Emily Harrison

emily harrison picI was amazed by the resilience and strength that Emily shows in this post about the birth of her daughter Anna. After a long and difficult labour culminating in a forceps delivery, Emily could be forgiven for holding on to some negative thoughts about her experience, but here she looks back on the birth positively and without distress.

Whilst her labour was highly medicalised, the support she received and the fact that she still felt as though she retained some control over what was happening, means that her story is an empowering and encouraging one.

Emily lives in the Midlands with her husband and 6-month-old daughter, Anna. She recently left a career in banking to return to her passion, teaching music, though is doing more nappy changing than piano playing for the moment.

Emily blogs at confessionsofafailedbreastfeeder.wordpress.com

When I look back on the birth of my first baby, Anna, I wonder how I managed it. People talk about how childbirth has become too medicalised but, even though I needed significant assistance during my labour, I still marvel at what my body (and mind) achieved.

Like most new mums, I waited for the slightest twinge as my due date approached. It quickly passed with no sign of labour. Once or twice I had some lower back pain in the evening, so I decided to go to bed and hoped to sleep through some of the early parts of labour. Each time I woke up in the morning after a good night of sleep and without any further symptoms.

I turned up at for my allocated induction slot (now 12 days overdue) to discover that I was, in fact, already in labour and probably had been for a day or two. The midwife said that I probably wouldn’t need a full induction using a drip and might just need a “kick-start” with a pessary.

She was right – I went into labour at tea-time on the first day, my waters broke and I dilated to 5cm very quickly. The problems started when things started moving too fast: the contractions were so strong that they made me sick EVERY time, so I couldn’t keep any fluid down. The midwives tried two sorts of anti-sickness medication and neither made any difference so I had to resign myself to throwing up until the baby made an appearance.

By lunchtime on day 2, I had been in hospital for 30 hours and in labour for 20. I was tired, weak and dehydrated, but the thought of being so close to meeting my baby kept me going. I was active, I used the pool and generally followed everything I had been told to do in my antenatal classes. The midwives said I couldn’t be doing anything any better but the pain got worse as I got weaker. I used gas and air throughout and then had diamorphine when it just didn’t cut it.

A few hours later – tea-time on day 2 – an examination showed that my labour had stalled and I had not dilated any further in 4 hours. This was probably due to either the dehydration or the fact that the artificial hormones had done their job and my own hormones just weren’t strong enough to keep going alone. The hospital staff acted quickly and I was swiftly hooked up to a saline drip, a hormone drip and constant foetal heartbeat monitoring.

At midnight on the second day I finally started pushing. I had not eaten anything (or at least kept anything down) or slept for more than a few minutes for 2 days. I think what I’m like now after having only a few hours’ sleep with my six month old and wonder how on earth I was still conscious, never mind prepared to give birth. I pushed for nearly two hours to no avail.

I clearly remember the point where I started to doubt whether I was going to be able to do it: I was in the bathroom, one leg on a stool and leaning over my midwife and husband. It was as if the midwife had been waiting for me to say something because she took me seriously straight away. A doctor soon appeared using the words “theatre”, “c-section” and “urgent”. I thought “I’ve been doing this for two days, I am pushing this baby out!”, but like the good patient that I am, I nodded and got on with it. The midwife must have read my mind because she took the doctor aside and all of a sudden we were going for a forceps delivery instead.

And the rest is history? No, not quite! My daughter’s head was delivered using the forceps and then nothing happened. After a few moments, my husband asked if everything was ok. “Yes…”, was the response, “the baby is fine but the her body is going to need some more help to come out”. His reaction was one of relief – the baby was fine! Mine was more one of complete horror that the forceps had to go back in! Eventually, Anna was born at 2.20am on my third day in hospital.

My labour was long and eventful, but it was never truly distressing in the way that some women encounter. If anything, my memories of those days get more difficult as time goes on. Biology continues to do its work, however, because my experience is one that will prepare me for another childbirth rather than put me off.  Though medication and medical procedures saved mine and my baby’s life, I still feel as though my body was calling the shots. It wasn’t the birth I would have planned, but the outcome – my beautiful baby girl – is more than I could ever have imagined.

Follow Emily on Twitter @failedfeeder