This article is a birth story. It is one person's account of their experience of giving birth. It is hoped that being able to read about other people's experiences will help expectant mums and dads feel more prepared.

Note that this is written from the point of view of how I felt at the time. I've since talked to my wife about the whole experience, and have different views on much of what is written below.

Our First Child

Douglas and Dad
One Monday, I got a call at work, to tell me that Jen, my wife, was in hospital. I was assured that it wasn't anything too serious, she had pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure. The doctors wanted to keep her in, but Jen wanted to go home - she reckoned that going home would be the best thing for her blood pressure. I felt torn. I understood that Jen wanted to go home, and thought I should support her in that, but I also thought that the doctors knew more about her condition than we did. I didn't know what to do, and felt helpless, and like whatever I did, it would be wrong. Looking back on it now, I felt like that a lot while Jen was in hospital.

In the end, Jen stayed in hospital, and on Wednesday I got another call at work, this time to tell me that she was going to be induced that evening, that everything was OK, and there was no reason for me to leave work early. My boss sent me home early anyway. I got to the hospital to discover that Jen had already been induced, that she'd told the person that rang me not to tell me that, because there wasn't anything I could do anyway, so there was no point worrying me. Now that I look back on it, I wish I'd been told the truth. I have vague memories of feeling annoyed that I'd been lied to, and telling myself that I was an arsehole for thinking like that at a time when Jen needed my support. I felt like people thought I was a crap husband because I hadn't got there earlier, and that just made me feel worse.

Late that night, Jen sent me home to try and get some sleep, since there wasn't anything I could do, and I'd be more useful if I'd had some sleep. So, I went home and tried to sleep. I set my alarm, and ended up getting about two or three hours sleep. Jen wouldn't tell me what time she wanted me back (she possibly wasn't in a fit state to think that deeply), and when I got back, I got the distinct impression that Jen thought I should have been back earlier. Once again, I felt like I didn't know what to do, and that whatever I did was wrong.

Jen was using gas & air, and wanted me to try it, so that I'd know what it was like. I refused, but I'm not entirely sure why. I think part of me was still trying to keep my distance from the whole thing - I hadn't wanted this baby, still didn't want it, and all the suffering that I could see Jen going through did nothing to change that attitude. I tried to do everything I could to help Jen, because I still loved her and wanted the whole process to be as simple and painless as possible for her.

An Emergency Caesarean

Something like 40 hours after Jen had been induced, early in the morning, the doctors decided that they needed to do an emergency caesarean. My only concern was Jen, and so I was quite willing for this to happen - it would get the baby delivered quickly, and get the whole thing over, which suited me fine. Jen said she wanted to listen to the GP2X (a media player she'd been listening to for much of the labour), but I didn't think they'd allow it in theatre, and got an earful when I said so. As it happened, they were happy for us to have it in theatre, and even said they'd turn their own radio off so that we could hear it clearly. I was then taken away for what felt like ages, until eventually someone came to get me gowned up, and took me into the theatre.

Jen was in quite a state, which upset me no end, but eventually we had a baby, and I finally started to accept that I was a dad. Jen couldn't see much of what was happening, so I had to keep her informed. Unfortunately, some of the time I couldn't tell what was happening either, and got told off every time I wasn't able to answer Jen's questions.

After the Birth

The next several days while Jen was in hospital were extremely difficult. I didn't sleep very well, and I felt that I had to be at the hospital whenever I could, which made it difficult to get jobs done at home. The visiting hours were such that I felt like I spent all day either at the hospital, or travelling to/from it. Jen was having a hard time, and I desperately wanted to help, but felt completely helpless. I don't think I told Jen that I was having a hard time, because I didn't want to add to her worries, but it did make me feel like no-one cared that I was having trouble coping. One day, I got in about 15 minutes after the start of visiting hours, and Jen was really annoyed. I wasn't sleeping very well, and was constantly feeling very tired. I didn't feel like I could tell Jen that, because she was going through a lot more than me. So I didn't tell her, and just got annoyed that she seemed unable to understand that I was having a hard time too.

At some point during this time, a midwife called Jane suggested that Jen might be happier in her own room. This turned out to be a fantastic idea, and just what Jen needed. However, Jen was moved some time after visiting hours ended, and she wouldn't let me leave until she had been moved. This made me very uncomfortable, because I had clear memories of the ante-natal class I'd attended, where they had talked about how husbands weren't allowed on ward except in visiting hours because the mums needed their privacy. Jen didn't seem to accept this as a valid reason for me feeling uncomfortable, and so I found myself feeling like every woman in the ward was pissed off at me, my wife included.

As I was leaving, Jane stopped me, and asked me about Jen. The whole conversation was very much geared to Jane working out how she could help Jen specifically, which pleased me immensely. Jane obviously understood that every woman is different, and she just wanted to work out what would help Jen. We discussed various things, and came up with some ideas to make it easier for Jen. The next morning, Jen wanted to know what I'd talked to Jane about. She seemed really annoyed that I'd talked to her, and that annoyed me - the whole conversation had been about how to make things easier/better for Jen, and now I was getting the third degree about it.

Eventually, Jen was discharged and we started to adapt to having a baby in the house.