And then there were four

If this was a cricket scorecard, it would have read: Liew c Liew b Liew.

Allow me to explain.

Long story short, by the time I got home at 6:30 last night, Heather had been having regular contractions for a couple of hours, so we knew we were in for an eventful evening. Having phoned my parents – who had been on yellow alert for more than a fortnight – and asked them to head westwards out of London, we decided to settle in and have as normal an evening as possible under the circumstances to take our minds off things. Which meant putting Zac to bed, followed by takeaway curry in front of Countdown and Hustle on TV.

So far, so mundane.

The grandparents pitched up at about 9:30, quickly followed by our midwife, Amanda. A quick physical exam suggested everything was fine and we were still several hours away from serious action, so Amanda headed off, suggesting we all get some sleep.

We were preparing for bed at around 11:10 when, without any warning, all hell broke loose. Two huge contractions sent Heather scrambling downstairs while I dashed around phoning Amanda, grabbing towels, firing up our birth playlist on the iPod and so on. Although things had moved on too far too fast to make use of the birthing pool, fortunately everything else was proceeding without complication. Textbook stuff.

The only problem was I hadn’t actually read the textbook. I had literally just been settling down with the book to revise the details I had so studiously memorised when Zac was born when I was suddenly called up to perform my practical exam. And as the contractions came harder and faster, it became clear that Amanda wasn’t going to get here in time. I was on my own.

Fortunately, earlier in the evening I had watched an episode of the American TV drama Brothers & Sisters which – instructively – featured a birth scene. They didn’t actually show the detailed process, but I nonetheless followed carefully as a group of actors in matching, pristine surgical gowns glided purposefully around a delivery room in beautifully choreographed slow motion to the strains of Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’. Surely that’s all you need to know to deliver a baby yourself? (The sequence also featured the father-to-be collapsing in a car park as he rushed to the hospital, with what turned out to be a non-fatal heart attack. I thought it best not to try and replicate that particular bit.)

Anyway, I had enough of my wits about me to project an air of calm reassurance for Heather (in truth, there simply wasn’t enough time for panic to set in), to remind her about her breathing at the appropriate moments, and to be in position as the baby manoeuvred itself into launch position with one contraction, crowned with the next one, and finally with a deft wriggle of the shoulders slithered gracefully out where I was waiting to make the catch with a towel at the ready. A quick glance at the clock to note the time of birth, and a pause to register which song was playing on our randomised playlist – Sinead O’Connor’s classic version of Prince’s ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, in case you were wondering – and job done.

Amanda arrived five minutes later. Which was good, because (a) I got to cut the cord without having to worry about cleaning up the surrounding mess and (b) I really didn’t fancy filling in the paperwork myself.

(Incidentally, I wonder if there is a separate name for the male equivalent of a midwife – ‘midhusband’ doesn’t really sound the part, does it?)

By 1 o’clock, everything that needed to be done was done (including a beer for me to balance the slide down from my adrenalin high). We started the evening as a household of three; we ended it as a family of four.

Toby, aged 15 hours (and a bit)

This entry and the series of blogs preceding it comprise the birth journal of Tobias Alexander Liew, who was born at 11:27pm on Tuesday 19th January 2010, weighing 8 lbs 9 oz. Welcome to your life, Toby. Make it a good ‘un.