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27 Hour Labour - A Fathers Perspective Part Two

Yesterday our daughter was born after 27 hours of labour, This is part 2, the middle of labour trying to convince Clare she didn't need pain relief.

Clare had obviously been suffering a lot of pain. Here is where I'm going to be hated by every woman on earth and a lot of men also, apart from Tom Cruise who probably thinks I'm too soft. I'd advised Clare not to take pain relief, and we had discussed this very early on in the pregnancy. It's my view that you can cause damage to your body if it's compromised with pain killing drugs or relaxants. You need to listen to your body, I also think that mother nature may have other tricks up her sleeve such as the pain helping with bonding with the baby and moving into motherhood.

We had planned to use the Tens machine for sure, gas and air if she got along well with it, Pethidine as a last resort, and if she just couldn't stand the pain any longer, an Epidural although we would do anything we could to avoid it. She had started using the Tens machine very early on, the whole way through the 27 hours the contractions were between 5 and 10 minutes apart. I know they tell you they get closer together and more regular but this was our experience.

The Tens machine was broken, there is a red button you press at the start and end of a contraction. As this didn't work I had to get up every five to ten minutes and set it all by hand. Now and again the electrodes came out and stabbed Clare in the back so this was another job for me.

Clare took a bath after we started to settle in for the night. This seemed to make her much more comfortable but the contractions still came and I had to hold her hand and operate the Tens. Soon the pain ratcheted up and she needed gas and air. She sucked that in as if her life depended on it, so I now had another job. I timed the contractions as I'd been doing since we had woken up at home, I knew before she did when they would come so was ready to pass her the gas mask, turn up the Tens, and hold her hand. After talking her through the contractions I turned down the Tens, took the gas mask off her and sat down again until the next. This went on for hours.

At one point the midwife told me that my chair turned into a bed, and she offered me a blanket to sleep. How I wanted to take that offer up and catch up on days of missed sleep, but I knew I had to be there for every moment. It was torture to know I could take a nap at any time if I liked.

They had placed what looked to me like a giant tea bag under Clare to soak up any gubbins, you know blood, mucus, fluids. The midwife had come in and decided to break her waters, I can't remember exactly but I think I was required to hold Clare's legs. I expected the midwife to use her hands but she produced a huge needle thing and was in there like a shot. I think I said something like 'what the dickens ! You could have warned me love'' She asked if I was squeamish, Clare said that was an understatement. She commented on how clear the waters were and I needed a sit down for a while, so retreated to my chair.

It was about this point that Clare asked, well actually demanded Pethidine. I felt like Hitler, Goebbels, Mengler, Tom Cruise, all rolled into one. I tried everything I could to talk her out of it. I managed to keep her off it for hours more, she had gone through so much pain already it seemed crazy to give in now.

Then disaster, she dropped the mouthpiece to the gas and air on the floor. I picked it up and ran to the sink to clean it. Ran back, plugged it in, just before the contraction but it didn't work. She had to tough it out without the gas and air she had become so used to. It had a filter inside which I'd got wet. I ran out to find someone and asked for another mouthpiece, they saw how panicked I was and just gave me one.

I got back, plugged it in, and gave it a test. I sucked in a lungful of nitrous oxide when in came the midwife catching me red handed and asking why we needed two mouthpieces. It looked like we wanted one each and I don't think she bought my story which was actually the truth.

At this point our midwife was on a break for what seemed like two or three hours. During this time Clare asked me to change the giant teabag thing, well the midwives used gloves and stuff. I picked it up bare handed and the contents went all over my trousers, I shoved it in the bin and got another one out of a medical cabinet I'm not sure I was allowed into. I was feeling pretty grim by this point.

Eventually the midwife came back and Clare was insistent she wanted Pethidine. She was asking the midwife for advice and it was obvious she thought she had got through the lions share of the pain and didn't think it was a good idea. She was pretty diplomatic and said she couldn't give advice. It was me who caved in and suggested she take it.

Five minutes later Clare had taken a shot of Pethidine and was completely out of it. Even managing to sleep between contractions. Her face seemed so strange, and she looked like my mum looked when she was in the late stages of liver cancer, spaced out on morphine. It really frightened me to see her like that but I kept smiling. I felt we had lost communication at this point, I just focused on timing the contractions, operating the Tens, and passing the gas back and forth. I was also massaging her back and holding her hand at this point.

This lasted about an hour, as she said the odd very slurred word to me. The effects of the Pethidine lasted even after the birth but the pain was starting to get worse and bring her round. She started talking about an Epidural which I was dead against but in my heart I knew I wasn't going to be able to talk her out of. We were moving into the final stages of labour which I will continue in part 3.

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