It was a Friday night, Matilda (our Daughter) was in bed and if truth be told I was tired and looking forward to watching something on Netflix then enjoying an early night. Monday was the predicted due date and despite being repeatedly told the second pregnancy could be early I still felt we would be waiting another two days. But as it worked out I was wrong.
At 7.30pm Dorota informed me that she had a stomach ache, but wasn't sure if this was the beginning of labor or just something else. In hindsight it seems pretty obvious that it was the beginning of events but at the time it didn't fell as if it would be. This was probably due to her calm demeanor. But only an hour later Dorota had become sure that tonight would be the night. But this was baby number 2, so we had heard before we had some time. We both expected this to last for hours and not be seeing Sammy till the early hours of tomorrow morning.
Still after instruction from the midwives and for Dorotas own comfort the first thing to do was to wake Matilda and escort her by taxi to friends and then return as quickly as possible. Stage one went very well, in fact it was very enjoyable to be sharing a taxi with a very excited little girl. She was old enough to understand that something special was going to happen and a baby would be at her home soon, topped off by seeing the city and night and having a sleep over at a friends. Yes it will always remain a very happy memory for me also.
I returned quickly, by which time Dorota was sitting on the inflatable ball knitting to take her mind of things. I set about making the room comfortable for her, lighting candles and putting Star Wars on as a simple distraction. Whilst all the time thinking we would still have a lot of time, so no need to rush.
Before 10 I called the midwife just to inform her that things had begun and that we would be calling back later when things had progressed.
I then suggested a little walk outside as we had done this before Matilda was born and it seemed to help. Dorota was happy with this idea, so candles out and a little slow walk just around the block. We talked about the time before when she was caryingMatilda as well as simple things that we needed to do over the next few days and weeks.
We returned, candles were relighted and Star Wars was un-paused, Dorota returned to the ball. Still fairly comfortable. Contractions were at this time frequent but not overly intense. We both still thought we would have a few hours of this with the intensity increasing gradually. So we where both calm with some knowledge of what would come.
Dorota spoke of having some trepidation but she knew she could do it, and a part of her was happy it was coming nearer as it would then be over soon. As well of course as having a baby boy in our arms.
The hour from 11 to 12 in my memory seems to have passed very quickly. I have a recollection of only one clear thought and that was of the film. That is until Dorota told me the intensity of her contractions was really progressing fast and they where coming very often, maybe not regularly but often.
Instinctively she got off the ball and moved to all fours in front of our sofa, where I massaged her lower back and spoke encouragingly. Making sure she knew how proud of her I was and am. I reminded her how brave and impressive she was the first time round in the hope that she would delve into those reserves once again.
At 11.55 I called the midwife to let her know that things had advanced quickly, although in my heart I thought we were at least an hour away, probably more till baby time.
The intensity of the contractions was really building up and we were breathing together I hope to aid the pain she was feeling. By now she felt as if the birth was imminent and she could feel it, but I remained calm thinking this is probably how it feels but it is not reality. I continued to massage Dorota's lower back and calm her by telling her the midwife will be here soon.
I myself was feeling very calm still at this stage, after all I'd seen this before and I knew the calmer I was the better for the mother. So I spoke slowly simply, encouragingly and lovingly.
Over the next 20 minutes I can only recall Dorota asking me how long it would be till the midwife arrived a number of times and her repeating that she thought he (Sammy) was coming now. My answer to the first question was always very soon, not long now. My answer to the second was it probably feels that way but I think we have still time.
Dorota, in full labour by now, repeated he's coming now. So I removed her underwear with the purpose to just check and hopefully reassure her that he (Sammy) wasn't coming yet. And for about a second I was right. No baby yet. But then one second later his head appeared. No face, only dark hair. My immediate reaction was surprise, quickly followed by concern in case he couldn't breath, so I ever so gently cradled his head in my hands. Then very gently rotated his head a little, not by any force on my part but only with gravity. Then for the first time I saw the face of my baby boy. Sammy.
The enormity of the situation hit me at this point with probably a thousand thoughts going through my mind simultaneously. I can recall the wonder of seeing my sons face for the first time, and the huge sense of responsibility I had at this moment. Some fear must have been there too, but I didn't allow myself to see it, the prevailing thought that came through was to slow my thoughts, stay calm as this would be the best thing for mother and child I can do.
So I believe my words were "OK he's here, I can see his head. But it's OK I'm going to need you to push again alright".
I removed one hand from the baby to rub his mother's back but had to bring it back swiftly, as Dorota pushed and Sam was out. A whole person, arms and legs were already here. I caught him in my lap and hands. A tiny slippery soft little person. For what seemed like seconds but was probably half a second there was silence. I remember thinking is he alright, will I need to do CPR, can I do it? But before I could finish my thoughts he gave out a scream which was swiftly followed by me saying he's here. And a perfect little boy was in my lap. A little bit slimy but perfect none the less.
I said something to Dorota, I don't remember what. Then I reached for my phone to call the midwife to tell her he was here, and I believe her response was yes I can here that.
Dorota adjusted herself so she could see him, cradled him while still attached by the umbilical cord. I called the midwife and she was outside by then, I ran to the door and let her in leaving Dorota kneeling with Sammy in front of her.
So now looking back, things did go fast but not with a sense of panic. It was a simple birth, and although Sammy didn't enter the world quiet as planned I wouldn't change a thing.
Dorota and I have two beautiful children now, and both have been born at home. I'm still searching for the words a month later, but to some degree I understand when I was told that the process is natural. As a man I can't get any closer to the experience of childbirth. I have the up-most respect for mothers and the experience they go through, and while the decision is always with them as to how they would like to do it, I would advocate the joy of keeping it simple and as little medicalisation as possible.
I have two great children, and they have a brilliant mother, we have very happy memories of when we got to meet them both for the first time. I'm pretty sure one day in many years when I'm even wrinklier I'll still be able to recollect them all and draw a smile, I think that makes me pretty damn lucky.