Most people will have an NHS story.
Usually they are negative. Being stuck in A&E on a Saturday night, as a drunken companion wishes to pass on their wisdom and bodily fluids on a repeated – unrequested basis.
Some are positive. A loved one is supported, cared for and returned in a much better state than was feared.
But what about those terrifying, heart stopping tales that end in the most glorious of fashions?
Yesterday we celebrated HMKing’s 6th birthday. All smiles, cake and softplay. It was as far removed from his first day with us, as you could imagine.
That day started well. I was woken up by A., happy that her contractions had started. Then things moved on quickly. Very quickly. For a child that wants to stay in the same place – on the sofa in front of the TV – for most of the time. On day zero, he was in a rush to get somewhere else.
When the waters break at home, it is quite the challenge to hold your own waters in. The TENS machine had barely warmed up before it was clear that we were going to need a new carpet.
Not to worry, a quick call to the maternity ward and an ambulance would be on its way. There was no chance we would risk giving birth in a Ford Focus on the inner ring road.
This was 10am.
You go through a lot of emotions as you wait for an ambulance to arrive. More so when it doesn’t.
The big hand on the clock in my head ticked round. Slowly, but it kept going. So much so that we had to call back at 10.15. 10.25. 10.30. I paced and paced across the landing – which isn’t very big – looking out of the nursery window (the box room currently full of junk) – for an ambulance that never arrived.
At 10.40 I tried the maternity ward again. Lovely, supportive nurses full of apologies and assurances.
At 10.50 it was too late. The top of his head was in full view.
I ran downstairs. Put the dog in the living room, opened the front door and ran back up to our bedroom, where I was going to have to deliver our baby. Still in hope that the ambulance would arrive and take over.
Spoiler alert: it didn’t.
The nurse/midwife couldn’t have been more supportive. As I placed the phone on the bed, somewhere near a distressed mum and a child’s head, she talked me through everything we needed to do. Which you could sum up with: don’t push until it is time to push.
There are a lot of emotions going on in this situation. Emotions, and lies. I thought the boy was dead at this point. He was a mix of purple and blue that caught me so off guard that my only reaction was to lie to A. Everything was OK. It was all fine. Other than the screaming going on inside my head.
Screaming that had changed from “Fuck, I am delivering my child” to “Fuck, I am delivering my dead child”.
I can only imagine you are not told stuff like this in the NCT Class because a) they assume someone else will be there and b) it might ruin the mood of the group, thinking about all the nights out they will need to organise to justify the cost of the classes.
And then whoosh. When a baby comes out at speed, a lot of fluid follows behind it. The warm towels you see being asked for on the TV, are simply there to protect the last patch of carpet not to be saturated in all manner of fluid. At least the drunk in A&E has the decency to only wee on the lino.
So there he was. Our boy. Caught, wrapped up and in the arms of his mum. All thanks to the amazing team at the Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust who filled the void of the missing ambulance, and talked us through it.
At 11.05 the rapid response unit arrived. He cut the umbilical chord. I made him a cup of tea.
At 11.10 the ambulance arrived and attended to A.
We never left the house. Our minds, maybe, but we stayed in the house even after the clean up operation was completed. We had a home birth.
I would never recommend it. A few of the couples in our NCT class wanted one, but complications meant they delivered in the hospital where we wanted to be. I would even go so far as to suggest taking Adam Kay’s advice in This is going to hurt, and forgetting any ideas of paddling pools or Crime Investigation scenes in the living room. Just maybe don’t read it if you are pregnant. Especially not the end.
It took ages to look at our bed in the same way. We still need to replace that carpet.
I have a story to tell. Which I will do in order to embarrass the boy when the time is right. On reflection, for a moment, it was the most perfect thing – but you have to get past the part where I thought he was dead or my wife could suffer complications as we wait for an ambulance that didn’t arrive in time.
This is our NHS story. The health service I try to help through work every day. That needs more funding, more staff, more support, more attention and a better government running it. Not all NHS stories turn out so well. They don’t all get retold over cake and adoring looks at the child at the centre of the story.
That will definitely be told again in 12 months time. When hopefully our NHS will be in a better shape.