Our Road to a New Family Member

The last couple of months of 2017 were a pretty rubbish time for us. As I’ve blogged about before, we lost our first baby not long before Christmas, which would be a shitty end to anyone’s year. But, by the summer of 2018, things were finally looking up.  

A photo of us taken during our holiday to Cornwall at Tintagel Castle - just before we found out the good news
A photo of us taken during our holiday to Cornwall at Tintagel Castle – just before we found out the good news!

We’d decided to relax and just see what would happen. If we got pregnant again then that would be brilliant, but we didn’t want to put too much pressure on ourselves for it to happen. We had an amazing holiday to Cornwall where we simply relaxed and toured some of the most beautiful locations in the UK. Times were good, and they were about to get better. 

Just after returning from Cornwall, I was out in our back garden mowing the lawn that had grown to jungle proportions while we were away on holiday. Alex had gone to the nearby Tesco Express, likely to procure some junk food for the night ahead (we must spend a fortune in that place!).

I didn’t notice she’d returned until she walked out of the backdoors and into the garden. She had her hands behind her back, which wasn’t unusual after returning from the shop as Alex often brings a surprise home for me, she’s cute like that. But, as corny as it may sound, what she had behind her back was our future.  

Yep, that’s as corny as it sounded when I decided to write that. 

I didn’t really know what to say when I saw the positive pregnancy test and the big beaming smile on Alex’s face. I didn’t even want to believe it at first. I snapped out of it as the excitement of what it represented took over, but it was soon replaced by a worry about us going through the same tragedy as before. It was an exciting time and I know that I shouldn’t be thinking about the past, but it’s hard not to when you’ve been through it before.  

Maybe it’s silly, because while miscarriage is more common than you think, it rarely means that a woman can’t go on to have a perfectly healthy pregnancy in the future. But that worry would still stick with us during the next few months; it was always at the back of our minds, that niggling feeling about the worst happening again. But I can’t just say that the worry was there because we’d been through a miscarriage, as a propensity to worry is something most couples have when they’re pregnant, especially the woman who is carrying the baby.  

Our first baby scan photo.
Our first scan picture

Thing progressed and the bump grew bigger. But the worry was still there with every morning, every scan we went to and every time our baby stopped kicking for a few hours. Alex would then worry that something bad had happened. I tried to reassure her that everything was likely fine, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t in the back of my mind as well.  

Then, suddenly, he’d kick and we’d laugh it off as if we’d been worrying about nothing. Our little human was likely just having a snooze. 

My favourite thing to do when Alex was pregnant was to spoon with her in bed while she was asleep. I’d rest my hand on her belly and feel our baby kicking my hand. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever felt and I did it every night during the last couple of months of the pregnancy. It was a shared little moment between us and I felt like our baby was letting me know that they knew I was there.  

I keep saying ‘our baby’ and not ‘she’ or ‘he’ because, at this point, we didn’t know the sex. We had a feeling it was a boy, but feelings don’t always translate into reality. As such, we’d picked names for both sexes, although we did keep changing our minds over the course of 9 months.  

A lot of people told us that the name you set your heart on might not even be the name you ultimately end up choosing anyway, as when you first see your baby’s face you can suddenly decide that the name you wanted just doesn’t fit. It’s like when you meet someone, they tell you their name, but you could never have imagined that’s what it would be. But we did finally settle on two names, we just had to see if we still wanted one of the names once the baby arrived. 

The months seemed to crawl by and, as Alex got bigger and easily tired, we just wanted the magical day to arrive. There was a lot of trouble sleeping for both of us. I can’t in all conscious compare myself to Alex, as I wasn’t carrying a baby inside me and I didn’t have to struggle to do every day normal things that suddenly seemed like they sapped every ounce of energy from you. A large support cushion divided us in bed that gave us less room to move around, while Alex suddenly started snoring to the point where I’m sure the windows rattled at night! It was definitely the pregnancy, as it’s not something I’d ever heard from her before and she hasn’t done it since the baby arrived. But my discomfort was nothing compared to what Alex was feeling, so I can hardly complain about it! 

As we neared the end of our journey, Alex was told by the doctor that her high blood pressure may cause complications if we waited until she naturally went into labour. So, on Wednesday 24 April, with the due date not being until 6 May, she went into the hospital to get induced.  

I was still in work while Alex was induced at 12pm as we didn’t know exactly when the baby would arrive. Work soon told me to leave and be with my wife, so I went straight to the hospital for the long wait to begin.  

While Alex was contracting, her waters hadn’t broken so the induction hadn’t worked. It was only after around 12 hours of constant contracting that the decision was made to move Alex to the birthing suite and break her waters.  

So, at around 1am we moved over and thought it would be all over soon. Little did we know how wrong we were! 

The hours crawled by, with every few minutes punctuated with a moan from Alex as a contraction would kick in, after which she would immediately fall back asleep. I was exhausted after over 24 hours of being awake (which is nothing compared to what Alex would be feeling, of course). Every time I felt like I was dropping off to sleep, my mind would force me back awake as if I was afraid that I’d accidentally miss the birth due to snoring my head off. In the final few hours, it became clear that no significant progress was being made and the midwifes and doctor started to talk about the ‘C’ word. 

It doesn’t really matter how much effort you put into painstakingly devising a highly detailed birth plan. Chances are that things will be different on the day and it will quickly end up being thrown out the window. Alex had made a birth playlist on Spotify that she intended to play while in labour. By this point she wasn’t in a state to care about listening to music, so we never actually hit play on the thing. But the birth plan had been constructed around having a natural birth which, sadly, was not to be.  

Not long after 10pm (with Alex having entered hospital at 12pm the previous day), the doctor came in and explained to us that not much progress had been made and they were concerned that the baby would start to get distressed.  

By this point, Alex was completely exhausted and just wanted the whole ordeal to be over. She readily agreed to have a caesarean and to have an epidural. An epidural means that a needle is inserted into the epidural space of the spine to deliver an anaesthetic that essentially temporarily stops the patient from being able to feel pain in their lower body. The doctor can then open you up and deliver the baby through the ‘sunroof’, all while the patient is awake and alert to the fact that a pair of human hands is rummaging around inside their body.  

The delivery ward had been super quiet during the majority of time we were there. Every time I popped out to visit the toilet down the corridor, I barely saw anyone save one or two members of staff (and, sometimes, nobody at all). If you didn’t know it, you wouldn’t think that there were multiple women around you that were about to deliver a brand new human into the world. But when a caesarean section was agreed to, suddenly loads of people appeared out of seemingly nowhere to transfer Alex into another bed that they can wheel down to the operating theatre.  

I was told to dress into scrubs so I could be next to Alex in the operating theatre. Unfortunately, Alex’s mum wasn’t allowed in and had to wait outside. I felt awful for her as she wouldn’t be able to be there for support while her daughter delivered a baby, especially as we’d both been sat there waiting for over a day.  

From the time of being wheeled into the theatre to the baby being out and crying, only 11 minutes went by. It seemed odd that we’d waited so long for it to be suddenly over so quickly, but that’s the miracle of modern medicine for you. I won’t go into the gory details of watching a doctor buried elbow deep inside my wife’s tummy, but I will say that is a very surreal experience that Alex said was like ‘someone was washing up inside my stomach’. 

When the baby was suddenly pulled out and held up for us to see it, I had to half-stand up to confirm the sex of the baby, which I then gleefully announced to Alex. It was a boy!!!  

The intensity of the moment, coupled with my complete exhaustion from being awake for so long, made me turn to the anaesthetist sitting next to me and ask him if our baby was definitely a boy. “Yes, it is!” he said with a little chuckle. I was too overjoyed to even care about how silly a question it was.  

As I said earlier, I would have been totally happy with either sex, but it’s safe to say that we were over the moon that we’d had a boy. My brother already had two girls, and as thrilled as I would have been to have a little girl of my own, it was time for a little boy to enter the family. 

At 11:11pm, weighing 8lb8oz, Noah Isaac Mulrooney had entered the world and changed our lives forever. 

Me holding our baby Noah while Alex is stitched up after her c-section.
The first photo of us as a family. Unfortunately, Alex didn’t get to hold him until we were out of the theatre, which is when she would get her precious skin-to-skin time.

A few hours later I would still be staring down at him as he slept, all thought of sleep having fled my mind. It’s hard to describe the feeling of seeing your first-born child before you if you haven’t experienced this before. It’s pure amazement and wonder at seeing a brand-new human life that you and your partner have created and brought into the world. You just feel an overwhelming sense of love and a need to protect your child from the get to, and that’s just the father.  

I can’t imagine what it must have felt like for Alex. To have carried our baby inside her for 9 months, but it’s now a little individual that’s separate from her. I guess you would somewhat miss that feeling at first, but you can look down at the little human you have created and be filled with a love that you’ve never known before.  

Alex holding our baby Noah while we were still in the hospital.
Alex with Noah while we were still in the hospital.

I always knew that she’d be an incredible mum, and what she had to go through to get here I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I was, and always will be, in genuine awe of my wife. In fact, I’m in genuine awe of every woman in the world who has a child, as it’s a difficult and tortuous road. Luckily, the payoff is well worth it. 

Noah is now approaching two and he’s changed a lot since he first arrived in the world. It’s enthralling to watch him grow and do something new practically every day. Of course, there are bad times where we’d love to just sleep for days, but it’s all worth it as you’re bringing up brand new person and introducing them to the big wide world. It’s our job to look after him and teach him so that he can develop his own unique personality and approach to our world, and no job is ever 100% easy.  

It continues to be a wild ride, and I look forward to every single minute of it. 

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