By seven o’clock on Friday morning my sister Jane’s contractions were coming every four minutes. Her daughter, Aimee, arrived in just four hours, and as second babies are faster the hospital had recommended not even trying to move – the midwife would come to her. But four minutes wasn’t critical yet – there was time to get people in place. So she phoned my Mum, who headed over to the house, promising to call me and Dad when things were properly kicking off.
Twenty-five minutes later she arrived to find Jane in full-on labour. This was happening fast. Mum called the hospital, then let me and Dad know to come over right away. And at this point I was full of the joys of life. When Aimee was born I headed to the hospital and after 20mins was taken in to see my beaming sister holding my new niece. It was lovely. So, being male and naive, this time I drove over with a big smile on my face. And then I walked in the door to see Jane in screaming agony on all fours on the lounge floor, and everything stopped being fun. But it got worse: there was no sign of the midwife, and Mum had just spotted the baby’s head becoming visible and dialled 999.
I’ve obviously seen births on tv. And I remember a no-holds-barred video in GCSE science. But these didn’t involve my fucking sister. I couldn’t comprehend the pain she was in, and everything was happening incredibly quickly. But there was no time to think. Mum was relaying seriously important instructions from 999: “support the head”, which my Dad rushed to do, and then “if the head’s in place, she has to push”. I went to help.
Jane later said the instruction to push was redundant – she had no choice. The contractions came and she pushed with everything she had. And the baby’s head was crowning. And nothing was coming. And more contractions came. And Jane’s screaming. And there’s still nothing happening. And then the midwife’s car pulls up at the end of the drive. And the midwife only has to get out of her car and into the house. But it’s all happening now and there’s another contraction and Jane’s in agony I can’t even imagine and the baby’s head comes out. And Dad’s there and in control and holding it. And the head is the colour of ash. And we’re all in shock. And Jane’s boyfriend rushes out to the drive shouting ‘he’s coming out!’. And the midwife is running. And Jane has one final contraction and my nephew, Benjamin Ian Walker, slips out into the world, and I catch him. And Mum’s relaying the biggest, most important 999 instruction of them all: “don’t drop the baby!”. And he’s grey and red and still. And the blue cord is around his neck. And I start pulling it off but I don’t know what I’m doing or whether this is the right thing to do but all I can see is a fucking cord around his neck and then the midwife’s there and we get the cord off and he starts crying.
We lowered him onto the floor, and the midwife took over. She cut the cord (I later found out it wasn’t looped around his neck, just caught from the back) and after a quick check on the baby it’s all Jane, who just gave birth without pain relief in 1 hour and 40 minutes and needs serious attention. But she’s doing ok, if shell-shocked and hurting. Dad and I had been in the room for maybe seven minutes.
We both later admitted that the relief at seeing the midwife’s car arrive was tinged with a slight disappointment. We were both there, after all, and all ready for the event, but it didn’t seem likely everything would happen in the next 10 seconds. But it did. Dad did a brilliant job supporting Ben’s head throughout, which was the most important thing: Ben’s middle name is after his grandfather.
Two more midwives arrived, and Jane was patched up while Ben happily went to sleep in his little white romper suit. Mum made tea and we passed him around – I had a hold, which was nice as I’d been too scared to with Aimee (nowhere to sit down in case I dropped her). He was 3.67kg – about 8 pounds 1 ounce.
I was shaking for quite a long time. And my jumper needed a wash. But it was a hell of a morning1.
Jane was amazing throughout. I don’t know how you come out of that with such poise and elegance. And somehow, unbelievably, she never actually swore. Congratulations, sis – you did good.
- Note: I have read articles in which people get sniffy about women who request c-sections. Other than an aversion to sniffy commentators, I’ve never formed any particular opinion on this matter. Now I have, and those people can, to put it in the politest possible terms, go screw themselves. The evolutionary hackjob that is childbirth is way more brutal than I could possibly have imagined. I mean, holy mother of god. I am now and for evermore entirely in favour of women having any and all help they want. [↩]