Ironically, this was to go into town to the doctor’s, not because Martha has any ailments – on the contrary, she has so far slept pretty much round the clock, awaking only for food – but because Lou had some follow up appointments, and was returning to meet with Dr Riche, the obstetrician who delivered Martha.
Currently, Martha has once again stirred from her slumbers for milk, whilst Florence has almost exhausted her daily negotiations regarding a whole number of pre-bedtime rituals. As Flo’s beaker has now been topped up twice, stories have been read, songs completed, and a final pitch for the potty over, the coast feels tentatively clear for me to pour myself a ‘333’ export, and write.
In beginning to describe a few things encountered since arriving in Vietnam 13 weeks ago, so far this blog has been an easy pick and choose affair. Reflecting on events last Sunday night, when Lou went into labour, and finding a suitable foothold from which to now step forward in telling the story of Martha’s birth, is a quite different matter. I’ve therefore quickly just concluded to myself, as much down to the time available as to the question of how to describe events, that the aim of this post will be to record the main facts.
Martha arrived on time. May 23rd had been her due date from the beginning, and 4:31am (local time) was the official recording in the end. 3.7kgs (8.4lbs), 50cms from head to toe, and a 34cm head circumference, are the only other things I recall hearing stood next to the very thorough and friendly nurse who was first to administer Martha once I’d cut her cord, and she’d been lying on Lou’s tummy for two priceless minutes.
It was only 8 hours prior to then that Lou had first, over dinner out with friends, started to feel twinges, different to the stomach cramps and Braxton Hicks she’d been experiencing for several days. On arriving back home from our meal, and me making a dash for bed in the hope of some well needed sleep, Lou offered up the phrase, which no doubt others before me have learnt has an ability, as a set of words, to stop any husband in his tracks, “I think it’s starting”.
As a man I immediately needed a role, and timing the twinges using my iPhone became my sole pursuit for the next hour. Twinges quickly became referred to as contractions, as 10 minute intervals between each were logged (actually, some were a tad over 10 minutes, which I did point out, but Lou seemed less interested than I at this particular nugget of information.)
By this stage, freshly dressed, all previous fatigue was soon forgotten as my role was upgraded from timer to babysitting organiser, and I began to make arrangements for dropping Flo off at a friend’s house for the rest of the night. I’d also realised that these new circumstances would now mean being awake for the result of the Premier League relegation battle, however this particular fact was kept between me and my BBC sport app.
Flo was an angel that night. As we explained to her sleepy eyes in the taxi at midnight what was going on, she took it all in, and was immediately excited about her own hastily arranged “sleepover” experience with her school friends, Jack and Dash. When she kissed me goodbye at their house she told me to “go and get the baby out of Mummy’s tummy, Daddy”. I returned to the taxi with my first proud Daddy moment of the evening, and Lou and I were then left to head to the French Vietnamese Hospital, about a half hour ride to the south east of Saigon.
By this stage, Lou was beginning to feel truly uncomfortable (about every 8 and a half minutes, by my calculations) and it was a relief that the roads were clear so we could soon experience the somewhat reassuring halo of the accident and emergency strip lighting entrance, and talking to our first uniformed person of the night. Blackpool and Birmingham were both relegated by this point.
Even now it is incredible to think it took less than 4 hours from arriving at the hospital for Martha to be born – a mere 20 less than for Florence.
Within an hour or so of us surrendering our credit card at reception – private hospitals are basically run like hotels! – Lou was wearing a hospital gown and firmly in the grip of heavy and regular contractions. Every time she was examined a new look of surprise glinted in the eyes of the examiner (and there seemed to be many different ones of those) at the speed at which things were progressing.
Her obstetrician, as may have been previously mentioned, is a superbly chilled French guy, who appeared on the scene at 2am, with scooter helmet in hand, crumbled shirt and jeans, and face full of stubble, just in time to inspect what was going on and announce to Lou that “you are done”. A more pedantic observer at the time may have queried his use of the vernacular here, but others around us were all smiles and quick to verify that this, in fact, meant Lou was fully dilated, and things were moving apace.
It may have then been the soothing, heavily accented cadence of Dr Riche, but for whatever reason Lou and Martha both responded instantly to his presence, and his reassurances, and Lou was encouraged to push.
The very welcome sound of Martha’s first shrieks when they came, in that instance, stopped everything and everyone in their tracks.
The agony of the final hours of labour for Lou, the weeks of morning sickness undergone, the packing up of our house, the saying farewells, the hypnotherapy for her fear of flying, the meticulous planning of it all, to be here in South East Asia as a family, and all that it entails.
All these things were displaced, and archived to memory, by baby Martha and her beautiful, darting eyes.