Jenny was eleven days late. We had just finished moving apartments in the wee hours of the night before, and the place was filled with boxes, bags of clothes, teetering piles of knick-knacks, computer guts and wires. Still, we could get to our bed, and that meant we could get a few hours of restless sleep before we had to appear at the hospital to be induced. We rushed around in the morning, extracting things like hair dryers and underwear from the various boxes, and eventually grabbed a quick McDonald’s breakfast on the way to the hospital, our poor little hound stuffed into a cage in the back of the Jeep.
Jenny had been suffering from pre-labour contractions for the past month (which, I’m told, are quite different from real ones), and this morning was no exception. She was put on a machine that measured the duration and intensity of the contractions, and the doctor gave her the first “smear” around 9:30 am. The chemicals used are generally given in small doses, so as not to be too overpowering, although women sometimes need several doses. Even then, many of them do not begin labour, and a “drip” is set up the next day which rushes things along.
By mid-afternoon, the doctor had to administer another smear. The contractions continued, but by 8 pm, the nurses told us that labour had still not started. Since Jenny’s mother had shown up, Jenny told me to go home and get some rest, and that they would call me if labour started during the night. I borrowed a cell phone (our apartment phone had not yet been activated), and went home. I spent a few hours unpacking before dropping into a dead sleep around midnight.
At just after 2 am, the phone rang and I lept to my feet. Jenny’s mother said that she was now in active labour, and I should come as soon as possible. I quickly threw on a t-shirt and shorts, grabbed the dog, and sped to the hospital, my heart beating in my throat.
Rushing up to the maternity ward, I found Jenny spawled out on a delivery bed. She had been sucking down nitrous oxide for a couple of hours, and was murmuring things like, “Take those tea-towels down, they don’t belong there.” Her mother told me that she was in a fair degree of pain earlier, but they let me get a few hours’ sleep as long as I could make it in time for the delivery.
I stood beside her and helped talk her through the pain of the contractions as best I could. I told her how very proud I was of her, and that she was handling everything so well. After nearly three hours, the nurse called the doctor.
Jenny’s water had broken, and the nurse was monitoring the situation as best she could and waiting patiently (there was another woman giving birth at the same time just across the hall). The doctor arrived just in time.
What a strange and miraculous sight! The head appeared, seemingly with the crown of his head folded in half. The nurse told Jenny how to breathe, and when to push. Jenny cried and screamed and breathed and pushed, over and over. The baby’s full head started to emerge. I saw cords wrapped around the neck. Another push or two and he was out. The doctor quickly unwrapped the cords while the nurse exclaimed, “It’s a boy!”
Jenny and I cried tears of joy. All I remember saying was, “It’s a boy, it’s actually a boy! We have a baby boy!”
My joy was short-lived as the doctor quickly snipped the umbilical cord, and I noticed that the body was mostly blue, and it wasn’t moving. He rushed the baby over to the waiting nurses, and they began pumping oxygen into him and rubbing his extremities to aid his circulation. I didn’t want to let Jenny know my worries, so I pretended everything was perfect.
A long minute or two later, we heard the first little cry. It was a short, muted, high-pitched cry, like that of a puppy. A few seconds later, and the voice picked up in intensity and tone. He was all right….
We all began to cry again, partly out of relief, partly out of joy, partly out of sheer exhaustion.
Moments later, little Conor took to his mother’s breast and began to feed. I stared into those dark little glimmering eyes, and stroked his arm. The tiny fingers seized my finger and held it strong.
You can find some pictures of Conor in our new online gallery (www.douglasjohnston.net/gallery/).