As many of you know, my fourth child was born on 5th May. William James John Cookson arrived a few days early, weighing 8lb14oz, and both mother and baby are doing fine. I’ve written before HERE and HERE about William’s impending arrival, but in this blog I’m going to talk about the birth itself as I want to share some of the experience and particularly talk about the perspective of the father.
We were supported throughout by One to One Midwives, which is a service available in our region and supported by the NHS which provides a far greater amount of individual and personalised care to expecting mothers before, during and after the birth. Katie went on a couple of hypnobirthing courses ran by One to One and came back one day to tell me she was going to have a home birth.
I knew better than to argue with her, but when we had Poppy, my 3rd child, Katie nearly died in hospital due to various complications, and the pair of them spent a whole week in hospital after the birth. So I was a bit unsure as to whether a home birth was the right thing, but I went along with it as I could see that it was something she wanted to do, and I could also see how One to One were helping and supporting her.
She also talked me through what the hypnobirthing classes had taught her and I felt reassured that she could do this.
One of the main frustrations with having a baby, as any parent will know, is not knowing on which day he/she might arrive. We were due on 9th May but realistically had to be ready two weeks either side. Katie finished work on 19th April but with me now running my own business it was difficult to pin down a date when I’d “stop” – I took a chance and went to London on 26th April but didn’t dare have any appointments that took me more than 20 minutes from home after that.
Working for myself I was also keenly aware that I’d not qualify for paternity leave – not that I’d really enjoyed such benefits when employed either, but it meant that if I didn’t work, I wouldn’t get paid – the best I could do to balance these various issues was to reduce my workload for the entire month of May to about 40% of what it would normally be, and ensure that all of this was home based and could be done at any time of day or night.
But still it wasn’t and isn’t perfect.
Katie told me on 3rd May that she felt the birth was imminent – I’ll not share the details of why, but she gave it 48 hours and was proved right too. We spent those two days doing various things together like going out for lunch and coffees, conscious it might be a while before we could do so as a couple again.
And on 4th May in the evening I had a sports match to take part in and had to keep my phone on and with me at all times, and got home and into bed at 10.30pm.
By 11pm Katie was up and told me her waters had broke. I was really keen for William to be born on Star Wars Day (4th May) but he’d have had to come REALLY quickly for that to happen, and we rang the midwife to bring the birthing pool (yes we were having a water birth). She did that, and I set about filling the birthing pool via hosepipe and kettle, and this was finally completed around 3am by which point Katie had sent the midwife away as she felt confident enough with her hypnobirthing techniques to manage these stages, though we could ring her at any time.
At this point, 3am, it looked like labour might take a further 5-6 hours. I got my 16 year old son to come home (he was at his mums) to stand by to help out with our 3 year old daughter who would be a disruptive influence if she woke up at her usual time of around 6:30am.
But then suddenly, at 3:30am, things began to move REALLY quickly. Katie was in the birthing pool and could feel the head so she asked me to call the midwife back.
I got hold of the midwife but she was in the middle of another birth and couldn’t come back, but arranged for another midwife to call in – and said she was half an hour away.
But Katie could feel the head and was pushing so if baby came in the next 30 minutes, I was the midwife.
And we were close – Katie said she could feel a head, and I really began to panic – I wanted to ring 999 to get someone to talk me through what I needed to do – I didn’t want to deliver William myself.
The 30 minutes it took for the second midwife to turn up were the longest of my entire life.
She arrived at 4.01am, and Katie began pushing – William was born at 4.11am and I was able to just hold her hands in the final stages knowing that the midwife was handling the delivery.
The birth itself went smoothly and all was well during and after – the support we got from the various midwives who helped us was superb and made me (and us) feel really involved, included, supported and calmed.
Since then again the amount of support we’ve had from One to One has been great – with some kind of contact almost every day.
William continues to grow and develop and we as a family are complete and happy.
We have sleepless nights and there are times when I, as a father, feel powerless and helpless as I can’t do the breastfeeding or soothe him in the way Katie can, and have to just watch.
But I know my time will come. It did with the other three, and I love all my four children equally and am amazed at how well they are all doing in their own ways, and am proud of the contribution I’ve made to that.
Though I’m afraid my work here is done – we are having no more children – I’m getting far too old for this kind of thing.
I want to watch my four children grow up together and keep the family happy and balanced.
It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had or ever will have, but being a father is the most rewarding and satisfying too.
Till next time…
PS in other news, paternity leave is a very weird thing as a business owner – I’m the business, and its hard to down tools completely otherwise I could lose work or clients, but its nice to have such a flexible business model to enable me to do what I want and need to with my family and pick up work in quiet times.