It's official, I'm a Dad. Saying it, typing it and even reading it just seems completely mad to me. I've been thinking about that moment for years and months. I knew it was coming obviously, this moment. But when she popped out, I just burst into tears. I wore those tears with pride as I just stared mesmerized at the single most beautiful thing I had ever laid my eyes on.
I've always been somewhat of a sceptical person and never believed in this 'Love at first sight' dribble we are often fed on tv or in movies. But I'm a converted man because as soon as I saw Erin, it was immediate 'Love at first sight'.
'Love at first sight' hit with me an absolute haymaker on the 22nd of March 2021, at 11:54 am, that haymaker weighed 7lbs 1oz and her name is Erin Joyce Armstrong.
The Last Week
So, I'm going to try and piece together as best I can what has been one of the most rollercoaster weeks of my life.
Now for some time, both myself and Ruth thought she might go early. I had noticed maybe 2-3 weeks previous to all this that Ruth's bumped had dropped. I delivered a classic line for the ages.
"You're bump has dropped".
Hits you right in the feels doesn't it? I jest but on Tuesday (16th March) I think I had literally just posted the blog "The Waiting Game" and Ruth informed me that she thought she may have had her bloody show. Due to another ongoing medical thing with my wife, we felt it best to call the GP, who then thought it best to air on the side of caution, as the baby was a little quieter than normal and head up to CUMH to be checked out.
At this moment in time, I had no idea what a 'show' meant. It didn't or I can't remember reading it, or it being said in a class, about how that this could happen and it means X or Y.
So, immediately I went to my default thinking "Fuuuuck"! We're on like Donkey Kong. I was running around the house making sure we had everything, putting the hospital bag in the car and making sure the bag had everything in it too.
Meanwhile, my wife was like. Be grand... I might just have a shower.
A shower? A shower?... Are you trying to give me a banger woman? Get in the car!
She was having none of it. Ruth had her shower and also sent me up to the shop to get her orange juice and a club orange. I'm not going to lie, I was saying "what is she playing at?" all the way to the shop.
Ruth spent Tuesday & Wednesday night in the hospital getting a few tests done while being kept under observation and all came back saying she was all good and that it was her body was just gearing up for pregnancy as we made our way home on Thursday.
After Ruth's stay in the hospital, I had read up about the 'show' and it's basically a sign that your wife/partner's body is preparing for labour. Now, that could happen in a few days or even 2+ weeks and they could still be induced.
Saturday came and Ruth had a little baby shower during the day. We've just started watching 'The Crown' on Netflix (and yes I know late to the party) and were just a bit engrossed and decided to watch one more episode. I actually turned to Ruth and said, "Sure, we'll watch one more, I'll repack the hospital bag in the morning (used it midweek), chances are nothing will happen for another few days yet".
Bed for 11:30 pm or so, which is late for us as normally Ruth would be tired at this point. Lights off. Ruth got up at about 2 am Sunday morning for a wee. A regular occurrence at this point, you could nearly set your watch to it.
I was half asleep and could hear her up and about. Next thing, all I heard is "Rob, my waters broke". Now my wife had wondered would she notice when her waters broke, as from doing the antenatal classes, oftentimes it can be just a trickle or can happen while urinating. They mentioned it's not like what you see in the movies or on tv.
Well, it wasn't a trickle, more like a "gush" as Ruth put it and continued flowing for a good while.
I was actually pretty calm with the whole thing compared to during the week. I just got up out of bed, called the CUMH. Had the number saved on my phone and had rung the number and hung up quickly a day ago so it would be in my recent call lists.
Top Dad tip there lads!
They said for Ruth to have a shower and come on in. So, at 2 am in the morning I began repacking the hospital bag with snacks, underwear, etc. I didn't particularly rush either with it. Just did what needed to be done and just double checked everything in case I missed something. As I had just been dragged away from me dreaming about that time I kicked the winning drop goal in the Rugby World Cup final for Ireland after being a late call up at the age of 34. Good times.
Also, I wasn't rushing for the simple reason as I knew I wouldn't be allowed into the hospital until Ruth was in established labour which is 3cm. The longer she labours at home the quicker I could potentially be in there with her. Also, Ruth wasn't in any discomfort just some mild, what she would call, period cramp feelings. Something she never suffers from so they were probably small mild contractions.
I dropped her off at the front door and waited patiently in the car park. Just in case I needed to go in soon after. 2 hours or so later after all the checks were done, Ruth was admitted, told she wouldn't be leaving until the baby was delivered. I was told I could head home, get some shut-eye as I'll need it.
Sunday for me was sleep 3 hours, up and do a few bits, drop a TENS machine off, drop Indie over the in-laws, sleep some more, get up and eat and sleep some more. I was getting updates from Ruth and was told that had she not progressed by 2 am Monday morning they'd be giving her something to help her move along as her waters would have been broken 24 hours at that point.
I told Ruth, I'll be at the hospital at 2 am regardless. I set my alarm and told her my phone was on loud and right next to my ear. Time to try and get more sleep.
11:45 pm-ish I got a call to say, it's time to come in. She was at 3cm dilated and was heading to the delivery suite.
I was straight out of bed, dressed, teeth brushed, placenta pack in hand and in the car within 5 minutes I reckon. Next stop, CUMH.
As I drove to CUMH, there wasn't a soul to be seen except an urban fox who gave me a nod. I was experiencing a whole new level of excitement and anxiety. Your mind is going back & forth between the excitement that it's happening 10 days early and I'm going to be a Dad, to it's just starting, we're not there yet, you can celebrate once the baby is out safe and sound.
I parked the car underground and sprinted up the steps to the reception. I was pointed in the right direction of the delivery suites and 2 minutes later I was in hugging and kissing Ruth and introducing myself to the midwife Norma. A fine Tipperary woman from Cahir.
Now, I got into the delivery suite just after midnight. Erin didn't arrive until 11:54 am which is nearly 12 hours later. Without detailing every single thing that happened I'll do my best to summarise the labour.
Throughout the whole labour, we used the breathing techniques we picked up in the hypnobirthing class. We also had the tapes on a speaker in the room but switched between those and the 'Guardians of the Galaxy' movie soundtrack. A brilliant soundtrack by the way.
Ruth was using Gas & Air when I got in at 3cm or so. As the contractions intensified, Norma the midwife, suggested we use Pethidine to make them more manageable. Now, this was something we discussed beforehand on our birth preferences that we weren't sure about Pethidine but we did both agree we'd follow the advice of the midwives as they've delivered a hell of a lot more babies than us. We had a code word should we want to deviate from anything on the birth preference list.
The code word was... "Bananas". Ruth absolutely hates them by the way. The thought of them alone turns her stomach.
The Pethidine worked a charm and made the contractions more manageable coupled with a few different positions like using the CUB and a pillow between the legs.
We spoke about wanting the epidural but understood the risk involved and that it couldn't be taken after a certain point. Ruth had been awake at this point 26 hours. Norma felt that it was the right thing to go with, it would allow Ruth a chance to sleep and rest a small bit before childbirth.
Ruth got through the epidural like an absolute champion. It's not a nice needle lads. She was at around 7cm they said when she got the epidural. I'd say she was asleep 5 mins afterwards. Out for the count.
I got a mat off the midwives, a blanket and a pillow and slept on the floor next to the bed. I was delighted and I'll sleep anywhere.
Before Ruth got the epidural, she was, how I can put this. A bit loopy from the Gas & Air and Pethidine. She was repeating herself a bit and I know my wife well enough to know when she's out of it.
Ruth went to sleep at about 5:30 am and woke up at 7:30 am, I was up just before her as Norma's movements woke me. When Ruth woke up, it was like she was a new woman. She fell asleep at 7cm and woke up 2 hours late at 9cm with a clear head and all she could feel was pressure as opposed to any pain.
The power of modern medicine.
Ruth's labour and childbirth was almost textbook stuff. 1cm dilated an hour once in established labour and relatively short childbirth. When she woke was checked at 9cm, this was about 8 am-ish, (trying to remember the exact time is a bit of a blur), so we waited another hour. She was 10cm about an hour or so later, we waited another hour to allow for a bit more dilation and then it was time to get to childbirth.
All the while by the way, the baby is being monitored and you as the Dad can see the heart rate but also the contractions. So, you can see they're getting closer, how long they lasted and if it was a stronger one than the last etc. It's class to watch gents.
At 8 am, Norma was relieved and as her shift was over and Coleen (I hope I'm spelling her name right) took over and would be our midwife through the birth. On her first examination, she said wow, there is some head of hair on this baby.
She wasn't wrong and maybe that old wives tale of heartburn is a sign of a hairy baby is true. Because Ruth was munching on so much Rennie and eventually had to be prescribed something stronger during pregnancy.
Coleen and I got Ruth into a few different positions to help the baby move into a better angle for birth. (Legs not all there with the epidural). Tried a few pushes in positions that do not look like you're giving birth like that. There are technical words for it, that a few midwives spoke to each other about, but the baby was basically not lining up straight and these positions along with contractions would line up the putt, I mean baby.
The contractions began to build and the pressure to push increased. So, Ruth would do a round of "pushing" which was taking a deep breath in, chin to chest, hold her breath and push like she was going for a poo. She would do this 3 times in a 'round' as I was calling it.
These rounds coincide with a contraction coming. She and the midwife would feel a contraction coming, allow it to build for a bit then a round of pushing.
The childbirth itself felt quite short, perhaps it's because so much was happening. I just focused on helping Ruth with her breathing etc. But it flew. The obstetrician Sophie, who had a wonderful accent, was called in to use the suction cup but 2 of them failed as Erin had too much hair for it to stick properly.
It was decided then to help the baby to come into the world was to have an episiotomy and also use the forceps. Otherwise, Ruth may have had to go to the theatre for an emergency C section.
Now the forceps look more daunting than anything lads. But the team of midwives and doctors move so quickly with them it was like an F1 pit crew. In they went, 1 round of pushes, Baby's head is out. Another round of pushes, shoulders were out and then short panting breaths and Erin was here.
I'd say from when the forceps came out, to when I was telling Ruth it's a girl was no more than 2 minutes.
Throughout labour and childbirth. My stomach had so much anxiety in it. It was the same feeling I would get before a big event, I had a similar feeling the morning of my wedding. I was calm and collected on the outside because I had to be for Ruth, but inside my stomach was churning and I had this nervous sweat and a little shiver. No one knew but I had this internal thing to deal with that creeps up on ya during briefs pauses when you're not rubbing Ruth's back or counting for breathing.
That all went once Erin arrived. This calm came over me as I fought back the tears at the sight of her head. We weren't there yet, so still needed to help Ruth. But as soon as they showed me it was a girl, the floodgates opened and they didn't stop for 2 hours.
Even typing this I can feel myself welling up. She was just the most beautiful thing I had ever laid eyes on. And I'm sure that's the same for every Dad or parent that sees their child for the first time.
I was just so completely engrossed by love for my wife and Erin. I was just in complete awe of them both as Erin grabbed my pinkie while laying on Ruth's chest. I knew immediately she was an Erin, after much debate over names.
You just lose yourself in that time lads as you just stare at this little tiny thing that you helped bring into the world. When I got to do skin to skin, while Ruth got seen too, I was over the moon. Erin cried a little bit as she was being moved. About 5 seconds after lying up by my chest, just instance silence and she was just a happy little baby with the warmth and went back to sleep.
My heart gents, christ, I was crying so much I thought my tears would land on her and wake her. Lads I'd highly recommend, if you can, to do skin to skin. You'll love it.
Saying our Goodbye's
I got to spend probably 3 hours or so with Ruth & Erin after the birth. We took some time immediately for just the 3 of us. Feck phones, texting, social media. It was all about being in the moment and soaking it all in.
After about an hour I text the family's the news and pic. Phone away again. Just us three.
Then as time drew closer for me having to leave with Covid restrictions. We face-timed my parents and my brother so they could see me holding Erin. We then face-timed Ruth's parents too. Ruth decided to wait until a little later to face-time her sisters as she was going to be with Erin all night.
Leaving happened kinda quicker than I thought, we knew it was coming but when the time came it felt like it just caught us off guard. It just could have been us lost in looking at Erin and forgetting we couldn't spend all day together. We had our hugs and kisses goodbye. We walked out of the delivery suite, Ruth turned right towards the postnatal ward and I turned left.
Within 90 seconds I was standing outside with a placenta in an ice bag slightly bemused that I was outside. It just felt so unnatural to leave, especially then. I knew even without Covid I would have gone home at some point to sleep. But it just felt so odd that I was outside walking to my car after all I'd been through with Ruth & Erin over the past 15 hours.
Also knowing I wasn't going to physically see them for 3 days minimum, it was a serious comedown. I was tired but awake. Didn't want to talk to anyone because I felt a little out of it but wanted to talk about it at the same time and share the excitement.
Can't Wait to Get My Girls Home
Now it's just waiting for the phone call to come to collect Ruth & Erin from the hospital. I'll be a big emotional mess when I'm pulling into CUMH. I can't wait to introduce Indie to Erin and then text the families to say we're home safe.
After that my plan is to turn off our phones and just enjoy the first night at home uninterrupted as just a family. Lads, I can't wait to hold Erin again.
Finally, thanks so so much from myself, Ruth, Erin and Indie for all the messages and well wishes. I've read them all and I hugely appreciate it. And also big thank you to all the midwives and staff in CUMH that helped us. Ye were amazing.