Every father I speak to says that the best day of their life is the birth of their first child. I cannot say the same. The birth of my first child Matilda was terrifying and bewildering, leaving me feeling completely helpless.
I hadn’t expected the birth process to go on for so long. When my wife Claire’s waters broke in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, I thought, that’s it, by the end of the day we’ll have our little one! Thirty hours later we got transferred hospitals and could no longer have our longed-for midwife led natural birth. We were exhausted and deflated, and it felt like there was no end in sight.
Once everything got going again we felt encouraged and motivated and couldn’t wait to meet our baby. However, watching someone you love in so much pain, and being able to do nothing about it, and being discouraged in your efforts to support them by midwives is frustrating and upsetting. Several hours later, and after two hours of pushing, we were told the baby’s heart rate had dropped and they needed to get her our as soon as possible. The room filled with midwives and doctors and I had no choice but to disappear into the background, when all I wanted was to be by my wife’s side and hold her hand.
Matilda eventually made her entry into the world via ventouse, and the next thing I saw was her head elongated and swollen. This scared me as I didn’t know enough about the ventouse process to realise that her head would return to its normal shape soon. Claire held Matilda for a few minutes before being taken to theatre to be stitched up, and I was left holding this tiny new person, solely responsible for her minutes after her birth. I told Claire I loved her, and in my exhausted and emotional state, irrationally worried about when I’d see her again.
Having barely held a newborn baby before, I was then left with Matilda for two hours, trying to absorb the last couple of days. I didn’t yet feel that rush of joy you expect to experience when you become a parent for the first time as I was just too worried. Claire returned to us and I felt so relieved that she was okay, but was then told I had to leave, which was the last thing I wanted to do – it felt so wrong and unnatural when Matilda hadn’t long been with us.
So, that’s the story of Matilda’s entry into the world. She is now 18 months old and full of energy, enthusiasm and mischief. I realise that my account of her birth is rather negative and glum, but it’s an honest account – that’s how it all felt at the time, made worse I’m sure by sheer exhaustion. Of course it wasn’t long before I saw all the positives of what we went through and feel like it brought us closer together, and I now look back at it with pride and appreciation. That time I had alone with Matilda really helped us bond, I feel, and we have a very close relationship. Witnessing the birth process gave me a new found respect for my wife and all women who give birth, particularly a difficult one. And the best bit of course was our precious new daughter, with whom we were both completely besotted! I hope to share much more about her with you all.