My wife Nats gave birth to our second child, a son, in the early hours of Tuesday, which was hardly unexpected given all the signs were there that the wee fella was going to come earlier than the date of December 23 we had been given. What we didn’t anticipate was quite how eager he was to come out.
My wife woke up at 1.30am when her water broke. With our first child, Charlotte Elizabeth, we had four hours from this point until birth, plenty of time to drive down to Nairobi hospital, keeping a wary eye for carjackers, who I suspect tend not to moonlight as midwives, so we were a bit casual at first. After 30 minutes, the contractions were coming thick and fast, but we still felt we had time, so I headed round the corner to pick up our friend Zara, who we had woken with a phone call and asked her to come keep an eye on Charlotte.
So far, so good, right? I was gone for exactly 20 minutes, but when I drove into our compound, I heard hoarse, guttural roars from halfway down the car park. Either our noisy neighbour were having another one of their prayer meetings that sound rather more like possession/exorcism than worship, or the labour was progressing rather faster than anticipated. I sprinted up the stairs, and got into the house to find Nats in the guest toilet, announcing rather stridently that “This baby is coming!”
It turns out that while I was gone, Nats had very quickly entered the final phase of labour, and had only Charlotte, who had woken up and was helping her mum, for company. I got to the business end to find out that the baby’s whole head was out, and he was coming whether we liked it or not. There wasn’t even time for hot water and towels, which was probably just as well since I was never sure what they were for.
While Zara sat with Charlotte in her room, Nats gave a final few pushes and I caught the little fella – which was uncharacteristic for me given the one time I played in goals I shipped ten goals. It was 2.40am. He immediately began to cry and was clearly healthy, so I popped him onto Nats’ chest and headed off for blankets and towels. We had to cut the cord, so a pair of kitchen scissors and two clothes pegs were popped in a bucket of boiling water. Charlotte came in for a wee look at her brother before we clamped the cord and cut it. By that point, the placenta had been delivered as well, and was wobbling on the bathroom floor like an evil jellyfish. Nats tells me she poked it a few times out of curiosity before I scooped it up in a plastic bag (which we forgot to clean up before heading the hospital, meaning it sat there stinking out the toilet for a good five hours before I got back to sort it out.)
Zara and Charlotte watched their little brother while Nats showered and got changed, then we headed to the hospital. From then on, it should have been straightforward, but one of Nairobi’s drunk drivers managed to almost hit us when he flew out of a minor road and shot across our path. Then, at the hospital, it took 20 minutes before the midwife managed to get her head around the fact we had arrived with a baby (it was her first home birth) and listen to my requests to perhaps have a look at mother and child to see if they were ok. All was indeed well, and we headed off to our room for everyone to recover, before I went home and began the clean-up operation.
After 36 hours, they were both discharged and are now at home recovering.
Interestingly, we had to put Nairobi Hospital as the place of birth, because if we hadn't we would have needed to find the chief of the area we live in to certify the birth took place. That was hassle we didn't need!
Big thanks to Zara for responding to our emergency and being so calm and supportive, to Charlotte for helping her mum and taking it in her stride, and of course to Nats for being absolutely incredible throughout it all.
A lot of friends have talked about how dramatic it all was, and how they didn’t know how we coped, but to be honest it happened so quickly we didn’t have any choice but to deal. Retrospectively, it worked out rather well, as giving birth in this way avoided the arguments we would have had with the nurses about not wanting an episiotomy and wanting them to wait for the cord to stop pulsing before cutting it. The midwives here tend to stick rather slavishly to their routine.
So, all’s well that ends well.
We called our son Kristian Alexander, after our good friend Kristian Kramer, who died in an avalanche in Switzerland almost two years ago. I hope our little fella grows up to be as good, brave and adventurous a man as his namesake was.