Fatherhood Series

Fatherhood Series: Cutting the Umbilical Cord

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My heart pounded as the doctors explained in no uncertain terms that an intervention was required otherwise a successful delivery may gradually become more unlikely. Heart rate dips and contractions made for strange bedfellows we were told. A fastidious midwife urgently handed me blue folded hospital scrubs which I quickly changed into inside the en suite bathroom, my every motion trance like. There was a second birthing partner but only I, impending father, would observe the next procedure. Procedure? An operation. An invasive surgery. A caesarean.

It appeared as though we got to this moment rather rapidly because at this pivotal juncture, one forgets of the day long labour, the yelps, the winces, the gasps. Dilations may take their time but knife edged decisions as this come swiftly and furiously. No doubt, we acquiesced to the change in birthing plan though this was not the first change to be had from an original plan of birthing pools and water, of gas and air, of bouncy medicine balls, of gentle soft touch, of no invasions. All went out the window as time went, as the plot thickened, as the cord wrapped around its neck: though this we were not to know, not at the time. Hmmn. So contractions and unexplained heart rate dips. A prayer said in haste: Dear God, my child must be born. Alive.

A sharp tongued doctor, file in hand, reeled out all the risk factors associated with a caesarean such that there was a one in hundred chance of this, one in a thousand chance of that, one in a hundred thousand chance of this other thing. I barely followed, not because he was unintelligible – of course he was, he was a fine doctor as they all were. The nurses, assistants, mid wives, senior nurses, porters, all fine people. I barely followed because in my mind I was saying a prayer and I did not care for risk factors. Knowing me, I would have dug for further explanation if I began to care or listen intently and then we would go into a full blown discourse right before the act. And this was no time for that.

She’s wheeled into the theatre. I’m given a cap and then ushered to a bay outside of the theatre as they prepare for surgery. Local anaesthesia. She would be awake through this. A small grace? She would see our baby just after it was born. ‘It’ because we knew not the sex yet.

Later I’m called in. I sit next to my wife’s head. Words of encouragement flew with ease from my otherwise dry mouth. Long day at the hospital, first time witnessing a labour, a day of many firsts, my eyes won’t unsee what it has seen, not that I want them to.

A blue screen closed off my wife’s torso. Beyond this screen the doctors and nurses worked their magic with scalpels and forceps, penrose drains and suction tips I imagine, like a scene from ER or Holby city, take a pick. This was all quite surreal. A baby was to be born under these circumstances. My baby. Our baby. I waited, in this otherworldly room, helpless, hopeful, expectant, nervous yet ready. This was what we had waited for, for nine long moons, and then some. Our baby had been in no hurry. It was as if it knew something of the world, something of the year we had had so far the world over and so took its time.

He is lifted up, cord still attached. I rise quickly and I see a pool of red beneath the neonate. An open gut. I cast my eyes away and set them again on our new born. It’s all quite unreal yet we had just crossed new threshold. It had to be real. I smile down at my wife’s head. We have a son. The cord is cut on one end by the doctors. He’s then taken away and wiped down, the silvery sheen’s now off his skin. There’s joy in my heart, yet there is panic. This little thing. Ours to protect. I reach towards him. I’m handed a scissor. And so I cut, awkwardly at first – every thing here is precious – the other end of the umbilical cord on this night of many firsts. The first time I had seen a brand new child, cord attached, almost alien like, my child.

It’s a new beginning for us three as he lets his first cry just before I present a new child to the waiting bosom of his mother.

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