Just the three of us
Complications and an emergency caesarean turn a birth into an ordeal.
In the end, the birth of Ira Farrell-Green was reasonably traumatic, in a way that we didn’t expect and which was quite upsetting, except for the fact that it is no doubt so very common.
It was, frankly, terrifying. When they say the words “foetal distress” and “high temperature” and “fluctuating heart rate”, they say it in a way that is both urgent and caring, but you don’t really take it in, not really. You just sit there in mild, numb shock knowing your wife is about to have invasive surgery for the first time in her life and that this is surgery she really didn’t want to have.
A nurse took me off to a little room to get into green hospital scrubs and chatted brightly as we went, and I remember the strangest thing was that they let me wear my own shoes and they gave me a hairnet to wear but nothing to cover my beard.
The scrubs were huge: they only had Large. I sat on my chair under the bright lights and cried at the sheer terror of what was going to happen and the fact that the first thing our son would see would be doctors with plastic visors over their faces and that this was really what we didn’t want to happen.
We walked down a corridor and into a lift and because the corridor was a bit narrow, I couldn’t hold Hannah’s hand, and that was the worst bit, at least until they ushered us into theatre and sat me on a rolling office chair in the corner while they prepped her with iodine-stained fluid and then inserted an epidural into her spine while she sat on the edge of the bed and looked frightened and bewildered. They did this even as her contractions continued, which was possibly the strangest part of it. Turned out, Ira’s cord was wrapped around his neck. We’ll never know what complications this might have caused but we’re grateful we didn’t have to find out: instead, he’s perfect. He has grey eyes, for now, and he weighed a sizeable 4.05kg and was 55cm long, which was all the more noticeable because we wound up on the ward for premature babies so they could keep an eagle eye on him and he spent the first two days of his life with a lure in his hand for intravenous antibiotics, which was our first lesson in parental guilt. All the other babies were tiny: one Brummie midwife called Ira a “choonky moonkey” and I had to stop myself whenever I talked to the other fathers on the ward because their stories were entirely more distressing than ours.
All that was to come, though. In the theatre, he yelled a bit when they brought him out: he has good lungs, which is possibly not surprising. They took him away to clean him up and count his toes and everything else, and I was faced, again, with having to leave Hannah, because he was two minutes old and I really, really didn’t want him to be alone at this point. He held my finger and I was racked with concern for him and the fact that Hannah was still on the operating table, until they finally reunited the three of us behind the surgical screen, him squished up to Hannah’s face and resting on my hand. Then they took us out of that awful room into the recovery room and then into our own room with a view of Mt Eden and the villas of Grafton far below.
They put Ira into his hospital bassinet, a Perspex box on a stainless-steel trolley, and they gave me a mattress for the floor and then, finally, everything was quiet. For that night — though not for many nights since, it has to be said — he lay still, except for the occasional hedgehog snuffle. Then, finally, we slept, because outside it was very late.