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The following is a birth story from 1978 from Ian’s perspective.

 It also brings up some useful points (see below).

The Birthing of Jenefer Ruth. August 30th 1978. Ian’s Version.

Looking back, it’s now obvious we were in Labour on Tuesday. Cakes being baked, pies cooked, food prepared, (I just finished icing the “welcome” cake I had made for Jeni – in time as it turned out); house cleaned – and irritably argumentative – it never dawned on us that we could be having a baby.

Rosie seemed tired Tuesday night, so we went to bed early, accompanied by Bess, our Burmese pussycat. I slept soundly until woken by the toilet flushing diarrhoetically just after 6 a.m. Rosie came in the bedroom, looking a little lost, not really believing she could be in labour – but the contractiosn were regular, strong, and coming frequently (or so she told me). They seemed to be lasting a minute and three-quarters, every 3-4 minutes. I persuaded her not to take the dogs for the early morning walk in the woods, and ‘phoned Aircall. At this stage, I began to believe we were in labour (the news, when it soaked through to me, gave me galloping diarrhoea too – at times it was a race to see who got to the loo first). When the midwife got here at just after 7, Rosie was 8 cm dilated, to our amazement, and we thought the birth was imminent.

The breathing seemed to be helping her (it certainly helped me), I was very aware that Rosie was deeply into herself, and I enjoyed helping out with effleurage – though there wasn’t time for much – and sponging her. I had wondered (paincially) how I would cope – no problem – things moved so fast I hardly had time to think. We hardly had time to get used to the idea that Jeni was on her way, before she was there with us. I was so busy, doing the traditional things (now I really do know what all that boiled water is for) that I didn’t have time to experience the full impact of being in labour – our friends couldn’t get to us in time, and I really missed not having someone to do all the little jobs I had to do, which would have meant I could have been with Rosie all the time. I remember thinking that our kid had chosen a beautiful day to appear on – the bedroom was filled with soft warm morning light. At 8.30 Rosie had her first ‘pushing’ contraction, which took her totally unawares. She got lost in it, overbreathed, and had me scared stiff for several minutes, she went so white and wouldn’t answer us. I think now that what I could have done then was to really talk to her, to help her come out of wherever she went. But over the next hour the contractions sorted themselves out, and with marvellous support from the attending midwives and me, Jenefer came nearer and nearer. I felt very proud to be there throughout the whole birthing, and very, very poud of Rosie. As I was concentrating on verbally encouraging Rosie all the time, I didn’t pay too much attention to the head which was becoming more and more visible – though I’m pleased I was able to hold a mirror to let Rosie see the top of Jeni’s head when it became visible.

The actual moment of delivery was over so fast that I’ve only got brief impressions – a whole head suddenly appearing, looking very large, and then a white, rubber-doll like body suddenly there. All through the pregnancy I secretly (well, not so secretly) wanted desperately a daughter, and I have a very clear (and smug) memory of noticing that our baby was a girl as she was quickly delivered onto Rosie’s tummy. Perhaps because there were so many people there (doctor, 3 midwives) and it all happened so fast, I have very unclear memories of the birthing. I was certainly too busy to notice how or what I was feeling. And a little disappointed that Sue, Jean and Jeni, three friends, couldn’t be there.

For me, it was the period after birth that will always be precious. My daughter, lying on Rosie, gurgling to herself; having her mouth cleared out; our absolutely wonderment at her; Rosie’s “Love, she’s lovely, isn’t she lovely, Oh Love, I do love you”, and my proudly smug, matter-of-fact reply “But of course!”. Jeni wrapped up, lying in her mum’s arms, the ecstatic looks on their faces; the atmosphere in the bedroom; the slo, questing head movements of our own small baby girl. My own special moment (well, hour) came when Rosie was being cleaned up and Jeni was lying there in her carrycot. We didn’t have time to arrange for her to be handed to me to cuddle (next time) – but I spent the hour sitting on the floor, holding her hands, stroking her face, and quietly talking to her, telling her all about how she had been born.

The emotional high lasted all day (and night) – we were both absolutely knocked out, but didn’t want to go to sleep. And the difficultly of believe our daughter was there – it seems a miracle, and at the same time now, she always has been with us. I had been very concerned throughout the labour as to how I would react emotionally to a new human being.

Well, I don’t know yet – and I can’t be objective about the most beautiful baby girl in the whole world. I’ve spent most of Wednesday and Thursday after the birth bursting into searsing and sobs every few minutes, Jeni’s so perfect, and I really do enjoy lying in bed with her in my arms, just knowing that I’ve got the baby daughter I wanted. It’s now 5 days later, and we’re settling down into a routine. Jeni has started screaming loudly for hours at night, not wanting to be comforted by cuddling, changing, feeding or anything. I’m finding level D very useful to avoid being dragged down by her screams, and we are finding that walking about with her seems to quieten her down. Rosemary was very surprised (overwhelmed I think) to find that the first bowel movement after her delivery brought back all the emotions of the delivery. Jean, a friend of ours, has been staying with us, looking after the three of us.

We’re finding this really beautiful, and would recommend anyone having a home confinement to get someone in to help after the birth – I have certainly found it very tiring over the weekend to look after Rosie and Jeni all by myself.

1) Fathers can be a vital part of the birth experience

2) It can be useful to have a second birth partner, so support the father as much as the woman

3) It is just as much an emotional experience for fathers as it is for the women

4) Having someone in to help out after the birth allows the new family to concentrate on each other

5) Two toilets are a must!!!

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