A Surprise Arrival | Part 1 (Fatherhood series)

Author: Iain Schofield

When you reflect back, it’s incredible how your most profound moments unfold. It’s not like a movie. There is no foreboding score to imply impending action. The craziest days often open with the mundane. This was a Monday. We headed our separate ways and started work.

A surprise arrival

When my phone rang that afternoon, I saw it was my wife and didn’t think anything of it. The moment I answered, I knew something was wrong. She was crying. I don’t remember the words that were spoken, but I remember the feeling in my stomach. I can feel it as I type, echoes of that panic.

A colleague had taken her straight to hospital. I rushed to the car and made my way there. I couldn’t find a space and ended up parking miles from the building. I ran all the way. By the time I got there, she had calmed and the tears were gone. She was thirty-one weeks pregnant.

For weeks she’d mentioned a pain, a sort of dull ache. Her midwife had put this down to well…being pregnant. Now, we sat on antenatal as monitors recorded, tests were conducted and results collated. There was a lot of concerned faces, not least our own.  She was admitted.

So, we were separated. In the days that followed, I rushed to see her in the mornings and then straight back to her after work. She was bored but otherwise okay. The pains continued and she was tracking them constantly. Despite this, doctors seemed to be taking the situation pretty lightly. They gave her steroid injections as a precaution (which help the babies lungs develop faster in case of premature labour) but beyond this, they were pretty relaxed.

So much so that on the Wednesday, I was told she was free to leave. I raced from work, waited with her while final tests were run, then packed up the car and took her home. Home was a good distance from the hospital. The pains hadn’t stopped but the doctors, so convinced it was nothing, sent her home anyway.

We finally made it home but she was still really uncomfortable. I ran her a bath. That didn’t help. I popped up to take a shower and left her mulling over what to get for tea (takeaway, my treat). Just as I was getting dressed, I heard a sound. It was quiet, coming from just outside the door. I opened it to find my wife at the top of the stairs. She was clutching her stomach in agony, pain etched across her face. Then her waters broke. She was in a blind panic, convinced this couldn’t be happening. But it was.

I got her onto the bed and rang for an ambulance. The operator spoke calmly. My broken voice told her all she needed to know. This was happening, we had to accept it. An ambulance was en route but would be around fourty five minutes. We didn’t have fourty five minutes. In just under nine, I was looking at my son. He lay on the bed motionless. Silent for what felt like minutes. Finally, he broke the tension with a full-throated cry. My heart could beat again.

The operator stayed on the line and told me what to do next. I fetched one of my trainers and unlaced it. I took the lace and tied off the umbilical with a neat bow. I wrapped him in a towel and called my parents. At this point, it was around 6pm. We’d been home from the hospital for a couple of hours and here we were, the three of us, shocked and alone. My dad answered the phone. Once I’d convinced him it wasn’t a joke, he set off to our house. By the time my parents arrived, the dust had settled and we were both surprisingly calm. My mother was not. The bedroom was feeling crowded by this point, just as the ambulance rolled up.

My dad went out to flag them down and soon the paramedics boots were running up the stairs. The first job would be cutting the umbilical. The job was offered to me but, by this point, I felt I’d done more than my fair share. Once he’d been separated, I was handed my son and told to dress him. Suddenly, I was feeling out of my depth. I took him to the nursery and my mum offered a hand. Finding clothes to fit was the first hurdle. He was so small. We had loads of clothes, but nothing even came close.

Finally dressed in an oversized vest and onesie, my parents took him downstairs and waited. I remained upstairs as the paramedics looked after my wife. I tried my best to help. I felt a strong urge to stay near, not to leave her side no matter what. I helped her through things I would ordinarily have run from. We’d crossed a boundary at this stage and the next several days would be like a free pass for all things. The speed of the labour had caused complications. The sight of a bed swimming with blood is one I can’t readily forget. I stayed with her until she was loaded into the ambulance. Then we had to part company. Mother and son took the ambulance. My parents, unable to help further, headed home to recover.

Suddenly, I was alone. In the wake of the noise, with the adrenaline still surging, I had to make my way to the hospital.

baby milestone cards

Now, please heed this warning. When your wife is pregnant, never leave the car on a single bar of petrol. Yes, after high drama came the stark banality of filling the car with petrol. I observed the strangers in the queue and felt a strange sensation. None of these people knew what had just happened, the scene I had just left. I queued and paid like a regular guy. As though I was just going through my normal routine. It felt absurd, voyeuristic almost.

So, fueling complete, I started on the long journey back to the very hospital we’d departed not 4 hours previous.

This drive was the most profound I’ve ever endured. I was at once elated and terrified to my very core. Shaking hands held the wheel firm and steered my course. I pulled up at the hospital with the ambulance nowhere in sight. I needed to see my wife again. The absence was excruciating.

So, I waited........

...A surprise arrival (part 2)

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