Author: Iain Schofield
(if you havent read part one... then read that here first)
I sat in the dark of the car, eyes darting back and forth, desperately searching for any sign of the ambulance. Suddenly, there was a knock at the window. I jumped out of my skin, adrenaline suddenly surging once more. It was my mother-in-law; she’d set off for the hospital on hearing the news. I got out and we stood by the entrance to wait. The cold air bit at my face but did little to rouse me from my trance. Conversation was tough. I could barely convey the circumstances that had led us here. We fell into an uneasy silence. We stood, peering through the failing light.
After around ten minutes, the blinding lights of the ambulance drew close. Mother and baby were wheeled out and a wave of relief broke over me. But relief was pretty fleeting. On the prolonged drive, the bitter cold had taken its toll on baby. He murmured, fighting for breath. Something wasn’t right.
We took the elevator to the maternity ward and were quickly escorted to a small room. From here things became blurred as panic erupted. I stood as a spectator as alarms sounded and the room swelled with medical staff. Rows were breaking out, different departments jostling for control of a situation rapidly unravelling. It was here that I began to fall apart. Having taken the evening to this point in my stride, this was where I stumbled.
Miscommunication had caused confusion. We arrived at maternity so that mum could be treated when really, it was baby who was hanging on. He’d become too cold. They rushed him into an incubator and did a million things that I could barely compute. This was when a thought occurred to me, one that I had ignored to this point. Our baby could die right here. This could be all we get. My head swam. I kept everything inside, this thought was too heartbreaking to share. To this day, I’ve never told anyone that this passed through my mind. And, to this day, remembering that moment nearly breaks me.
With time, the situation calmed. Slowly, the room cleared as our baby’s condition stabilised. Eventually, baby, safe and sound in his incubator, was taken to SCBU (special care baby unit) to be cared for. For the first time, mother and baby’s paths diverged. I was asked where I wanted to stay. My mother-in-law quickly offered to go with baby, so I stayed with my wife. This would have been my choice. The urge to stick close to her side was more powerful than ever. I felt confident baby was okay now. The thought had passed and I had regained some composure. Now it was my wife that needed me. She was still bleeding.
I sat by her side and offered her my hand, which she duly crushed. The whole process didn’t take long and gas and air made for the first laughter in hours. I was a little in awe of my wife by this point. She had taken everything in her stride and shown a strength I could only sit back and admire.
Once everything had been sorted and the doctors had left, my mother-in-law returned. She told us everything was okay with baby and that he was now sleeping soundly. But then, she broached a subject we weren’t ready for. We wouldn’t be taking our son home. Looking back this is so obvious but in that moment, it hurt. Like everything else, we had to swallow it for now. We brushed off the pain and carried on.
Someone arrived and offered to take us down to SCBU to see our son. I couldn’t tell you how long it had been since we arrived or how long we’d been separated. What I can say is, we walked really fast. Well, I walked. My wife was still wheelchair bound and was dragged backwards through hallway after hallway.
We arrived at SCBU and were instructed to sterilize our hands. This would become habit. We were met at the door and led through to intensive care. This was a small room with around six incubators spread out. Finally, we were all together again. Time had evaporated. By this point, it was past 11pm. We sat by his incubator and watched him. He laid bare-chested, a host of wires snaking through the sheets. I don’t know how long we sat like this.
The steady beep of monitors provided gentle background noise to an otherwise silent room. Eventually, we were told we could touch him. We were suddenly in a position where permission had to be granted, but there was no time to feel bitter. We opened the small windows at the front and laid our hands on him. He was warm and delicately soft. He murmured at our touch, sending pangs of pain through each of us.
This was all we had, a hand through an incubator window. Sometimes a taste of something makes you hungrier than no taste at all. The arrival had been so fast, we didn’t even have a definitive name to offer the nurse. He would be Baby Schofield, at least for now.
After a while, as midnight drew close, someone approached. A room had been found. We withdrew our hands, savouring one final touch, before closing the incubator and leaving.
On the way, we were told that the search for a room had been laborious. We were led to a small single room and advised that strictly speaking, I should leave. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. There was no way I could have left my wife alone after the evening we’d just endured. My face must have conveyed my pain because, at last, the nurse said they would make an exception. So, we pressed against each other in a bed barely big enough for one. I was exhausted but sleep was going to be optimistic.
Before I knew it, it was morning...
Read more posts in The Fatherhood Series:
- Fatherhood (Part 1)
- “I’m pregnant” | The 3 Stages of Understanding (Fatherhood series part 2)
- Spreading the News (Fatherhood Series - Part 3)
- Preparing to be Unprepared (Fatherhood Series - Part 4)
- Pregnancy Pitfalls (Fatherhood Series - Part 5)
- Making Room – The Big Nursery Project (Fatherhood Series - Part 6)
- A Surprise Arrival | Part 1 (Fatherhood series)