Story by Ben
We love hearing from our Calmbirth dads. Here, Calmbirth dad, Ben, shares with us his endearing baby boy’s birth journey. His memories of the day will have you laughing and crying all at the same time, as it is filled with much emotion, love and drama.
At this point I was amazed at how primitive it became. Everything seemed so natural, so normal, but incredibly special at the same time. I did my best to support her; giving water, rubbing her back and body, applying pressure, encouraging her but being careful to not say too much.
Here is Jack’s Journey…
We took a lot from the Calmbirth classes and really feel they made a difference. Thank you!
Jack Rafferty Clark
Born 20 May 2020
Head circumference 34cm
Here is Jack’s Journey…
Caitlin’s waters broke at 3am on the 19th of May. We went into hospital shortly after and Caitlin was monitored. In the early hours I didn’t think much of it. I assumed it was just a false alarm, as we had one earlier in the week, and there didn’t seem to be much fluid. By the time we were settled at hospital Caitlin was experiencing contractions around 10 minutes apart and our Doctor, Helen, informed us at 8.30am that Caitlin’s waters had partially broken. Due to the partial membrane loss we were told that Caitlin may need to be induced by 8am the following morning unless more active labour started.
We were going to have our baby boy either that day or the following day. It came as a bit of a shock. I was certain he would come late, not 10 days early! Was I prepared? Had I ticked all the things off the baby to do list? It was too late now. Excitement quickly took over these thoughts.
We went home, past McDonalds so I could get a coffee. I was really wired. It was go time! I knew I needed to conserve energy so I could be actively involved in the hours to come. Caitlin calmly went about things, including finishing an assignment in-between contractions. I was too hyped to sit still so I cleaned the house, finished packing the last few things for the hospital bag and got on top of a few work emails. I had started timing the contractions on my great grandfather’s pocket watch (it will be Jack’s one day) as I didn’t want to be looking at my phone all the time. I still couldn’t rest so I went for a walk. I started to feel very emotional and listened to some music including Beautiful Boy by John Lennon.
At 6pm Caitlin couldn’t feel much baby movement, so we decided to go in to have it checked out. By this point I had a huge headache as I had crashed from the excitement of the morning. I was worried how I was going to make it through. The examination showed that everything was fine. At around 8pm I ducked out to get McDonalds (they must do a roaring trade from dads to be). We had plenty of snacks with us, but it was more that I needed some fresh air and to clear my head. After some food my headache had gone. Caitlin continued to labour on the fit ball, in bed and walking around. We listened to Music almost the entire labour and birth and it helped enormously. At this mid-way point I was surprised at how much her belly shape had changed. It looked much bigger and wider. We had the option to go home but decided to stay. One thing I was a little disappointed about was the language used around labour. The midwives kept saying things like ‘when labour is established.’ If Caitlin wasn’t in labour yet, we wondered what the bloody hell she had been doing for the past 15 hours.
Caitlin’s breathing was amazing. I was in awe of how calm she was. I did my best to massage, use the acupressure points, use aromatherapy and encourage her to try the moves we had practiced. Despite this I felt like a warm-up band that tries hard to put on a good show, but really what we were waiting for was the main act to start.
At some point we had to switch rooms, into what ended up being our recovery room. Moving all our things was a little distracting and stressful as I had become accustomed to and set up the room how I wanted it. They needed the current room we were in for a mother who had just come in and was about to give birth to her fourth. It was going to be a quick one!
Over the course of the late evening and night the midwives regularly monitored Caitlin as she continued to labour on the ball, walking around the room and in the shower. At one point, late at night, she was put on the observation machine for what must have been a couple of hours. I was dozing on the fold out chair. If I had my time again, I would have gotten her off the machine. It was too long for Caitlin to be in one position when she could have been up and moving about. We heard it had been a busy night of births on the ward and we trusted they were making the right decisions monitoring her, but in hindsight it was far too long. It did give us some encouragement to hear a couple of newborn cries in the night. It was around this time one of the midwives asked if Caitlin had ‘contraction like pain’. Bloody oath she did and had been experiencing this for hours!
Morning came and Helen observed Caitlin at 8am. Her cervix was at 4cm and paper thing. It was getting close to go time! We were moved to another birth room, one that overlooked the helicopter pad. We could also see our house from the window. A part of me wanted to be at home where I felt more natural. Even knowing she was being well cared for there was a lot that felt out of my control. Despite labour being long, decisions seemed to be made very quickly and I wasn’t aware sometimes of exactly what was going on (for example, breaking her waters) despite being completely invested in every moment. Caitlin carried on labouring, taking the pain like a champion. Contractions were around 3 to 4 minutes apart and had been so for quite some time. After examination Helen broke the rest of Caitlin’s waters. After this the contractions got more intense and Caitlin had a couple of big gushes of fluid. She was greatly helped by our Midwives Anna and Tegan.
At this point I was amazed at how primitive it became. Everything seemed so natural, so normal, but incredibly special at the same time. I did my best to support her; giving water, rubbing her back and body, applying pressure, encouraging her but being careful to not say too much. The gas and air helped a lot and she could use it in the shower. There was a point when Caitlin felt stuck in the shower so I helped by encouraging her to slam the little massage ball on the wall to distract herself.
Caitlin asked for an epidural at one point. We had discussed it as an option. At the end of the day all we wanted was the safe arrival of our baby boy. Still, we wanted to try and avoid an epidural. The midwives offered Caitlin a bath in the birthing suite across the hall. After a big night of births, it appeared Caitlin was the only one labouring at that time. Once Caitlin was in the bath and somewhat relaxed I decided I needed a break and rang Libby (Caitlin’s mum) who works at the hospital (only 500 metres down the hall) and despite the grumpy administration woman not wanting me to just ‘come and go’ (I hadn’t been out in about 25 hours) I was allowed out. We sat in the cafeteria and Libby bought me a meal of salmon and chips. I gave Jess (Caitlin’s sister) an update when she called Libby. To sum up the labour, it felt like a test where you study all the possible questions but you have no idea whether you have studied for the right questions and you only end up being asked a few of the questions, mostly the ones you hadn’t prepared for. We did a lot of preparation and practice for birth and I am glad we did, even though nothing really prepares you for the real deal.
When I got back Caitlin was due for an examination. She was 10cm and told she could push in the bath if she wanted. We had originally wanted a water birth but didn’t give it much more thought. Perhaps it was meant to be. Caitlin was so strong and powerful through this time as she was led by Helen’s kind, thoughtful and strong manner.
When she got back in the bath after the examination I had a huge rush of emotion. It might not be long now until I get to meet my son, but I needed to compose myself and prepare that the pushing may take a while. 45 minutes to an hour later, and after what only seemed like a few pushes he was here. His pink body was plucked out of the water by Caitlin. He looked so big! How had he just been in Caitlin. The feeling when I first saw him was indescribable. I was in awe of what Caitlin had achieved and the new life that was now in the world.
Caitlin and Helen knew straight away something was wrong. A Code blue was called. Helen cut the cord and he was whisked back to our room across the hall. About 20 doctors came in and it was like the scene of a movie. I was too beside myself to think. I didn’t want to think the worst. I couldn’t. The Doctors were so calm and kept telling me things would be alright, but I was frazzled, helpless and scared. Caitlin was still on a high and still had a job to do, birthing the placenta. She wasn’t worried at all. I did get to cut the cord, even though it felt a little tokenistic. I also went back to the room to get our phones and speaker, which I feel embarrassed about now. Who cares about that stuff with everything else going on, but there was nothing I could do. I was so helpless.
He was struggling to transition to breathing and was given air and taken to the neonatal ward. I followed the swarm of Doctors, with Catlin close behind in a wheelchair. The next few hours were strange, with trips back and forward to establish feeding and to see him. He didn’t look sick, so it was hard to see him covered in cords and under the heat lamp. We went from being very worried to realising he was in good care. We had been really keen on skin to skin contact and I wanted so desperately to see him lying on Caitlin in bed, eagerly awaiting my turn for a cuddle, but it didn’t happen. Caitlin had a successful first feed in the neonatal. It wasn’t until at 7.15pm that I had my first hold, almost 6 hours after he was born. It felt so amazing to finally feel his little body.
He spent his first night in observation. I went home to sleep. I really needed it, despite feeling like I should have stayed. Caitlin was tired too. The day had felt like a long-haul flight, when you are so exhausted from the journey but when you arrive all you want to do is stay awake and explore.
I have to say Oxytocin is amazing. It really keeps you going. The lack of sleep really didn’t affect me as much as I thought it would. I was so high on love, everything tasted better, sounded better, felt better. And days later, it still does. We have created this little miracle and I could not be more elated.