I can proudly say that as of 9:00am on Sunday 17 June 2018, I am now the father of two children, both boys. Rafferty James Cornick made his way into the world with relative ease.
Over two years ago I documented the lead-up to, and the actual, birth experience of my first child Finnley Joe (you can read this account here).
This not being my first rodeo, I was certainly less anxious this time, but was consistently surprised at how little worry I felt leading up to the birth, despite the anxiety that riddles most other parts of my life.
But there were some similarities to the events that we experienced with “Prince Finnley”. Firstly, the sudden wake-up in the early hours from my wife Carolina, nudging me and whispering as calmly as she could, “Tel, we need to go to hospital”.
I barely moved. Surely I could sneak another 30 minutes in bed? I even risked having two beers and taste of wine the night before watching the Socceroos in the World Cup, 90% certain the baby was not going to arrive that soon (10 days away from due date, whereas Finnley was born 21 days before).
Despite my clothes being pre-laid out, I had slept in my trackies and hoodie and went into autopilot, splashing my face and by the time I had left the bathroom I could hear my in-laws downstairs, in a far too a chirpy and excited mood for me at this hour (I did notoriously used to be an early bird, but parenting has changed that fairly dramatically).
The short drive over to the hospital in the cold and pitch black dark was punctuated by the familiar stops every 5 minutes, as Carolina somehow religiously timed every contraction on her iPhone app whilst in some fairly intense pain. I dutifully learnt my lesson from last time and stopped every time she requested.
Not a soul was around when we got to the hospital and we ended up back in room 2 of the birthing suite, the same as last time. As I alternated between pacing leisurely, helping myself to the free biscuits and lying on the couch with my feet up, desperately wanting a nap, Carolina lay in the bed with wires attached and noting the contractions getting closer.
By 7:00am Carolina wondered where our Obstetrician was. A father of young children himself, and having been out for his birthday the night before watching a trio of sport (Rugby, Soccer, Cricket), I could cut him some slack this time. It was also a Sunday morning.
As the pain started to intensify talk of epidurals increased. I joked (but half-serious) that we would save money on the Anaesthetist (especially on a Sunday) if Carolina clenched her teeth and got through it like a champion. I was met with an invisible, icy-cold force. There is no need for words when eyes can express them so intensely.
Eventually, our ridiculously helpful, knowledgeable and kind nurse suggested a hot shower, and directing the two shower-heads onto the pain points, particularly the lower back.
To feel useful, I jumped into action and grabbed the shower-head and hose from the midwife and aimed at Carolina’s lower back. Within ten minutes the contractions closed in and a blood-curdling cry followed by “It’s coming!” had me running back into the bedroom to press the call button for the midwife.
This was quickly followed by “I can’t do this!” and some other “colourful” language not suitable to print. But I could sense the panic and it to see your loved one in pain, no matter the circumstance, can feel like a swift punch in the stomach.
For a moment the midwife contemplated whether we wanted the baby in the shower but the aggressive grunt in reply told me otherwise.
Helping her back to the bed as quickly as I could, the Obstetrician appeared just in time to declare “this baby is ready”. Losing circulation to my hand and wrist on account of Carolina’s grip on me, I attempted a deep breath.
But that calm, rising inhale of breath brought with an unexpected feeling. Oh sh*t. I was about to pass out again.
For those that know me closest, I have a still undiagnosed condition that means I faint fairly regularly, sometimes the collapse is minor, other times (such as at a mate’s wedding when I was best man last year) it can feel intense, once I thought I was having a stroke. Jet lag, a sudden increase in intensity in a workout, or more often than not, a virus, can bring it on.
I have seen every specialist that ends in “ologist” and had every test and scan under the sun, but now it’s a case of being prepared if it happens, less as I have got older.
The dizziness and nausea peaked when the baby’s head was half visible, but I dared not try to release myself from Carolina’s vice-like, pain-induced grip. So I casually rested my head down on my forearm. The nurse noticed immediately something was up and asked me to sit down.
Just moments later, I am opening my eyes slightly to the sound of a crying baby but all I can see is the underside of the birthing suite hospital bed as the midwife jammed a pillow under my head.
Although concerned momentarily, our Obstetrician and my wife joked and dismissed my predicament. He even suggested he had almost taken a photo and in telling other patients’ my story he promised not to mention my full name. Every ounce of me wanted to get up to see my son but my legs were jelly.
Then another midwife appeared with a can of lemonade and a straw for me and encouraged I drink. Five minutes later I got up, and saw my son properly for the first time, overcome with emotion, trying to congratulate my wife, who defiantly claimed when we have a third child she is pre-booking an epidural. Let’s just say despite the easy labour, words failed her when describing the pain of childbirth.
In my head we had saved at the very minimum $1000 on the epidural and Anaesthetist (probably more considering it was a Sunday). I did mention this but our Obstetrician then suggested Carolina could squander that “saved” money on a handbag. Not on my life I thought through gritted teeth.
As the adrenalin subsided, peace descended on us. Rafferty clung to his mum and I watched in a daze, desperate for the nurse to come back to do her checks so I could hold him.
And when I did I almost melted, taken aback from how light he was, how delicate he appeared and holding my breath as I gripped him tight to my chest, petrified I would drop him.
Later on the suite the perks of concierge service came flooding back. Dinner, drinks and every possible request you needed, you were catered for. A feeling of pure comfort and relaxation washed over us. But for Carolina that may have just been the Voltaren or Endone, as she buckled, curling up on the bed in agony when her after-birth contractions returned every half-hour.
As Rafferty’s first day on earth came to a close, we had our first visitors. Grandma and Grandpa fawned over the little lad, as did my sister-in-law, but truly I was anticipating Finnley meeting his brother for the first time.
A determined (read stubborn) but gentle soul, we introduced Finn to his brother. He gave him a kiss, cuddle and then inspected Raffy’s tiny hands (and then went back to excitedly playing with his new Cars toys we bought “from Raffy”).
In that moment time stopped. I scanned the scene, watching my own little miracle family being showered with love by my extended relations.
I could feel the shivers down my spine and rush through my body, my eyes welling up.
Several times daily I debate internally what this life and existence is all about. But in those few seconds, the confusion, anxiety, searching and uncomfortable feelings of my mind doing cartwheels, vanished.
Until Carolina signalled her intentions for a third member of the clan…