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27 Hour Labour - A Fathers Perspective Part One

Today our daughter was born after 27 hours of labour, here are my thoughts and memories of the experience. It's a long one, so have split it into separate articles. This is part 1 the start of labour.

what happens in labour

Firstly I have to get this out of the way. I am pretty squeamish when it comes to hospitals. I have dodged blood tests and hospitals for years, I have fainted at the vets, and when my mum was in hospital suffering from Cancer I had to crawl on the floor at times to get to her room. I had always thought that whoever did eventually carry my children, would have to give birth without me being there.

When Clare did get pregnant there was never any doubt that I would in fact be there during labor. Although I did suggest I steer clear of the 'business end' if we ever wanted a chance to resume our sex life in the future.

Clare was well overdue, she had a membrane sweep, and I'd made her drink about 2 and a half pints of pineapple juice which apparently can help bring on labour. She had been complaining of stomach cramps for 2 days, and the membrane sweep had caused her to bleed for a few days. I was getting pretty fed up to be honest as I had had 48 hours of her thinking she may be having contractions. I had probably managed only 3 or 4 hours sleep in the last 3 days as she pretty much kept me awake with her tossing and turning and trips to the bathroom. It was Summer so it got light very early and if I was awake when the sun started to rise I couldn't get back to sleep.

She woke me very early to tell me about her cramps again, and told me to rest and go back to sleep. I was just so annoyed that she had woken me up for nothing and told me to go back to sleep. Just as I was drifting off again she started talking to me. This happened again and again until I finally lost my temper. It felt like some kind of torture to be woken too many times.

As soon as I started timing the contractions I started to feel useful and had something to focus on. I had bits of paper everywhere with start time, end time, duration, frequency. For hours I was the expert on Clares contractions, I could tell you anything about them. I spent the day giving Clare all kinds of different stats on her contractions like I was some kind of labour expert.

The day seemed so strange because I had not really slept for a few days, and we had not been eating good meals. Clares pains had got worse so many times I did not know if she was for real or not. A friend had come round to visit but I was not really concentrating, the whole experience was very surreal.

I saw a real change in Clares face so told her to call the midwife and check if we should go to hospital. She came back looking like she was fighting hard not to cry, the midwife had said we had better go to hospital. Our visitor seemed oblivious to the gravity of the situation, he was talking about what he was going to cook that evening (salmon if I remember correctly) and we were trying to explain that labour had started and we needed to go to hospital. He said it was probably Braxton Hicks, but by the look on Clares face, the fact we were 10 days overdue, and the midwife telling us to go to hospital I assumed this was for real. We gave him our house key and asked him to check on the dogs for us while we were away.

As soon as our guest left Clare fell into my arms, she seemed so concerned that it was just some kind of gastric flu as the pains were more like that than what she had read about labour pains. Within a few minutes we were in the car, we decided to leave our overnight bag in the car as we expected we were going to be turned away when they realised it was a false alarm.

As soon as we got to the maternity ward there was a sense of calm. Every time I have been to that place everyone has been so impressive, no matter who is on duty at the time. Clare was hooked up to the baby monitor, contraction monitor, and blood pressure monitor. We were used to this by now from our previous visits.

After a couple of hours they said we could go home, or Clare could be admitted into the ward for the night but I would have to go home. We did not really like any of those options, I did not want to leave her but at the same time she seemed much more at ease in hospital than at home. They checked her cervix and it was about 1cm dilated which is not very much, the midwife gave it a bit of a rub to irritate it in the hope that may speed things up.

There was a change of midwife after a while but she was just as nice as the first one. The first one was caring but at the same time quite matter of fact and tough but in a good way. This one was all heart and was treating Clare like a teenager rather than a 33 year old woman.

Before we made the decision to stay or go we asked for another examination of Clares cervix. The midwife started to nod her head as if it was good news, 3cm. All I really knew at this point was that 3cm was better than 1cm. A long time passed until we realised we were in the delivery room for the long haul, we still expected to go home or for Clare to go to a ward.

When we figured out we were here until the baby was born it was the first time since Clare got pregnant that we did not feel like 'fakes'. All the scans, baby shopping, doctor visits, hospital visits, it never felt real until that point. I went out for something to eat, to call Clares parents, and to bring in our overnight bag. When I returned I found Clare talking to the midwife with the lights down low as if it was some kind of slumber party.

The baby was now definitely on the way, I had survived the first few hours without passing out, but I was not prepared for what was to come. More details to come in my next article about labour.