Piece of my heart

Those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter will be aware that my wife Heather gave birth to our third child – and first daughter – on Saturday afternoon.

Kara Isabel weighed in at 8lb 9oz – to the ounce, the same as both her brothers at birth – and, having made us wait for 16 days (or 17, or 18, depending on whose astral calculations you believe), she arrived in a hurry. Heather had popped in to hospital for routine monitoring and to discuss starting the induction process, and it seems that was enough to arouse Kara from her comfy internal crib in search of the light at the end of the tunnel (as it were) and freedom. Waters were broken at 1:30pm. I pitched up at the delivery suite after dropping the boys off at a friend’s house – and possibly breaking (let’s say mildly spraining, shall we?) a speed limit or two en route – at 2:30. Four big contractions and 20 minutes later I was suddenly a father of three. Sorted.

Traditionally, we have always had a birthing playlist loaded on to my iPod which plays on our living room stereo on random shuffle during labour. (The boys were both planned home deliveries, as we had also intended for Kara.) So Isaac was born to the strains of Richard Marx’sย Right Here Waiting – you can tell we’re children of the Eighties, right? – while Toby required only three songs before popping into the world, with that all-important third track being Sinead O’Connor’s cover version ofย Nothing Compares 2 U. With no stereo readily available to plug into, I at least had the presence of mind to set the playlist running on silent in my pocket. Playing at 2:50pm? The original 1967 rendition of Piece of My Heart by Erma Franklin (that’s Aretha’s big sister).

I couldn’t be happier that my iPhone alighted on this particular track at that moment. Firstly, it’s a great song. And secondly, it summed up perfectly how I felt in those first few moments after she was born. As a father of two sons, I’d been looking forward to the possibility of a daughter with equal measures of anticipation and trepidation. But any lingering concerns I had were washed away within seconds as I watched her take her first breaths and initial squinting glimpse of the big, wide world around her. In those moments, she captured a piece of my heart. Now, some 30 or so hours later, I’m still utterly besotted.

For the first time as a parent, I spent last night sleeping alone in our bed. It’s one of the things I miss most about not having a home delivery. A king-size bed has never felt so big. Instead of Heather being within arm’s reach and the baby a metre or so beyond, the other side of the bed was 20 miles away in a hospital ward. I missed both my girls terribly. We texted each other deep into the night – both as lonely as we were excited, I think – before sleep finally embraced me at around 3am.

But, after being kept in overnight for observations and meeting her brothers for the first time this morning, Kara finally returned home in the afternoon. It finally feels like we are a family of five. We are finally a family of five. I couldn’t be happier.