Monday, 28 September 2009

Baby Blue

Nothing could have prepared me for the terror of seeing my child for the first time.  I felt no fear of responsibility.  No loss of freedom.  No unconditional love.  Nothing but abject, total, guts-to-ice-water terror.

Alex was born at 15:35, on the 11th of September 2009.  He was delivered by forceps after a long and painful labour.  Seeing Nicola in unbearable pain was bad enough, but it was just a taste of what was to come.

            “The head’s out, keep pushing!”

            “He’s got his cord tangled.”

            “Baby’s coming up!”

And then they plunked my boy onto my wife’s lap.  His cord was around his neck.  He was silent.  He was limp.  He was blue.  Not “it’s a bit chilly” blue, but the deep, unhealthy, recently-reanimated-dead blue of the worst zombie nightmares.  More pairs of hands than I could count flashed in and out.  The cord was untangled, clamped and cut in the blink of an eye.  I swear, the only thought that went through my head was “oh, we wanted to delay cord clamping”.  Then he disappeared, taken off to the resuss table, still silent.  Still blue.  Still still.

“Is he going to be alright?” Nicola asked the room.  I glanced across at the midwives, awaiting the inevitable “of course he is dear”.

Their silence spoke ominous volumes to me.

*          *          *

An eternity passed.

*          *          *

Then, from the resuss table, a tiny “waa”.  Then another one, a bit more confident, a bit more strident, “waa!”

Nicola and I burst into tears.  The elephant that had settled into my gut got up and wandered off.  He was crying.  He was alive.

*          *          *

In fact, being born blue is not as uncommon as you might expect.  Some blueness, especially around the extremities (hands and feet) is almost de-rigueur.  JRB (my dad and retired GP and paediatrician) remarked that only diabetic babies score 10 on their APGAR, with everyone else dropping a point for colour (blue at the edges).  Alex’s scores of 8 at one minute and 9 at five minutes were totally fine.  He didn’t need any serious resuss in the end, only a little extra facial oxygen.  And he’s totally ok now.  Smashing, in fact.

We’re conditioned by TV and film to expect perfectly plump, clean, 3-month olds to pop out of their mummies and into our arms with barely enough time to rush to the hospital.  I wasn’t naive enough to expect that.  But I didn’t expect Alex to be blue.  I didn’t expect him to threaten to break my heart in two the moment he was born.

Looking back on his birth, I am amazed at the sheer skill and professionalism of the staff looking after us at Borders General Hospital.  From the moment they saw the cord around his neck, no-one needed instructions.  No hands got in each other’s way.  When he was ready to go to the terrifyingly tiny resuss table, that table was folded down and prepped before he got there.  (It’s kept folded away most of the time, so as not to panic prospective parents.)  There was no fuss, just the smooth, competent professionalism of a team that knows and trusts each other.  I don’t believe in a god to thank, but I do believe in humanity, and I am incredibly thankful that people like them exist and were there for Alex, Nic and me.

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