Thank you all for your very kind and compassionate messages; we've recieved so much moral support from around the world and we are very grateful to you all.
It’s been a rough ride for us so far; losing JT the way we did and facing the prospect of his funeral and the due date, which is on my birthday. And ironically, a few days before the events that so suddenly and horribly robbed us of our second son, I delivered a little girl to a mother as she lay on the carpet of her front room, screaming like the proverbial banshee.
I couldn’t write about this call for obvious reasons. Until now, that is. Now that I am able to face up to it.
I walked in on the screams after going to the wrong location on what seemed like miles of urban insanity in the form of layer-cake housing. The dad – a young man – shouted at me and the ambulance crew, who’d arrived at the same time. He looked scared and said ‘It’s coming. The water’s all over the place’. Of course, he meant her waters had gone, and she was a large lady, so possibly the contribution to her daughter’s protective swimming pool was matched by her stature and girth. Who knows what nature plans when it comes to who gets how much?
So, I was in first – a little flat with a flight of steps leading to the front room and the screams. Adult cries had given way to those of a baby and at first I was convinced the little one had already been born but it wasn’t the newbie – it was her other child; the one-year-old. He was witnessing his mother’s all-to-convincing panic as she lay there, waiting for the inevitable as if she’d never experienced it before.
I calmed them down and asked dad to take the child away. This wasn’t going to get any easier because it was obvious that things were advanced.
The crew was in behind me; one paramedic and one student para. I took the lead because I was there first… and for no other reason really, and we set about gathering the woman on the floor into a more suitable position. She was about to give birth and lying flat was out of the question, so she needed to be propped up a bit. She was, as I’ve stated, a large lady, so this was no mean feat and it took three of us to manoeuvre her frame into a more appropriate position for delivery.
This, as you probably know, isn’t new to me. Many of us have delivered a lot of children, or, more accurately, assisted in the delivery, since they pretty much deliver themselves. So I don’t flap about it. Not like I used to when it was new and scary and there were complications I couldn’t deal with alone.
She (the pregnant woman) was screaming so loud with every contraction (pain relief or not) that my eardrums ached – and that is a singular miracle because it takes a lot to shake those dull things. But she was very, very loud and I wondered how she managed with the first child. I mean, this one was going to arrive much quicker and would be, as it normally goes, easier to deliver. ‘Why are you making all that noise?’ I asked her. ‘This should be easy for you now’.
It’s a mistake to underestimate a woman’s labour tantrum, so I left it alone while she bore down on demand and sucked hard on a well-bitten plastic Entonox mouthpiece.
The whole screaming-labour process lasted no more than twenty minutes and I watched as the baby’s head appeared. I’d already checked her for dilation and the mucus plug had gone – as had the waters earlier, so there were no surprises expected here. However, as she pushed to squeeze the little girl out of her, she began to deliver something else – something not quite so pleasant. She was doing what most, if not all pregnant woman in labour dread – she was defecating – right there, on the living room floor and right in front of me. This doesn’t always happen and so, I asked for an emergency kitchen roll to be brought in by her mother. ‘Is she pooing?’ asked mother. ‘Yes, I’m afraid she is’, I answered.
Unfortunately, baby wasn’t waiting much longer and as I juggled with the head-holding bit and asked the woman to pant and puff to slow the arrival, I had to act fast to stop the little thing from suffocating when she came out. So, I slipped my hand underneath as it delivered and allowed the neonate to land on my palm, just a few centimetres from the unfortunate mess, which would have caused more than a few problems in its first few minutes of life.
The baby was quite still for a few seconds and this is always the scariest bit… waiting for it to move and breathe. But, after a rub to stimulate it, she started to cry and I laid her on mummy’s belly. Of course, the screams had gone and now the woman was weeping with joy, as was daddy. He was standing there, crying like a child. He would be cutting the cord but the student paramedic, who told me she’d never seen a delivery from start to finish, got to place the clamps. Dad duly cut the cord and I gave him the cutters as a souvenir. He wouldn’t have got them from a midwife because they don’t allow it but I see this gesture as an important part of the dad-baby bonding process - he gets to hold on to the device that separated his daughter from his wife and made them a family.
We’d requested a midwife but (and this is not unusual I’m afraid) we were told that there wasn’t one available to visit. Then we were told, after a long wait, that I could go and collect one if necessary. Well, it was necessary and so I went outside to go to my car and sort this out.
When I got onto the landing outside, I saw two police officers walking around as if looking for trouble. I suddenly realised why they were there and approached them.
‘Are you here for us?’ I asked.
‘The neighbours have reported screaming coming from one of these flats’, the officer replied.
I had to smile; it was such an obvious story for them to tell when they got back to the station.
‘I wouldn’t worry about that’, I said, ‘The woman in number 52 has just given birth. She was screaming all the way through her labour. That’s all it was’.
They stood there looking bemused for a short time before leaving to find a real crime and I tried to call in about the midwife. I had no luck and Control got back to me and said they weren’t going to send one now and that I was to bring the woman in.
When I got back she’d delivered the placenta but there was a problem – it was still attached to her womb, so it was hanging from her. I explained the new circumstances to Control and they relayed them to the maternity unit but I got the same response – bring her in.
Now I’ve never had to deal with an attached placenta before (it’s called a retained placenta), so a plan was needed to move her while the thing was dangling from below. If it ripped, she could bleed badly and I didn’t want any more drama tonight, so I got the student to tie a plastic bag around it and attached it to her underwear (the woman's, not the student's), so that it stayed in place. It looked very bizarre, especially when we got her onto the carry chair. It bulged out from under her and looked like an operation that had gone terribly wrong. I felt sorry for her. Her dignity was already in tatters, especially with the neighbours, but she didn’t seem to care – she had a brand new baby.
Another crew was requested for the lift and transport of the mother and her baby, and they arrived very quickly. We got her out and to the ambulance without a hitch and she was taken to maternity, with her red-eyed happy husband and the new baby girl. We had a photo taken together – mum, dad, baby and her delivery team and then we left them to their lives.
It’s unusual for these photograph to surface again - they usually disappear into the family albums of those to whom they belong, so many of us don’t get a copy to keep for ourselves. I have one photo of myself, my colleague (and friend) Genna, and a mother and baby that we helped to deliver many moons ago, but that’s it. I haven’t seen any of the others.
Helping to bring a life into the world, (regardless of the chemical hazards that are sometimes involved!), is one of the most satisfying aspects of this job. I’ve been scarred by a few bad BBA’s as many of you know, but I still love the feeling of having a hand in the creation of a family by helping to safely deliver a newbie. Even after what Jac and I have been through, and with the utmost empathy and deepest respect to all those who have gone through similar or worse, I am still warmed by the thought of doing it.