Dublin, Short story

Why is my name Nieves?

January 2010, once upon a time

Why is my name Nieves?

January Wednesday 6th

Snowy day, the staff were sent home early. The administrator was already in and gone home again by 10.30am! I hung on till gone 12 noon, I still had things I wanted to do!

We chilled out at home, got ready to take kids over to the grandparents. They were going to spend the night there to enable me to take C to the hospital for 8am the next morning to be induced.

4.30pm though C went quiet upstairs. 4.30, 4.35pm, 4.36pm she was getting contractions more and more frequently. She then asked me to get the suit case from the car. She wanted to check some things in the bag. This seemed insane to me, as in we should just be going. So finally after she’d tidied up the bathroom and fussed over a few other things I managed to persuade her to say bye to Alex and get in the car.

5pm we headed off. Driving into town at this time of day could be problematic on any normal week day. The fact that all the roads in the estate were completely slippery and seemed like they were coated in glass, made it a slow start to begin with. She began to wince and say ‘f*ck’ and ‘oh jesus’.

Onto the main roads I could go a little quicker, but barely. It had just been snowing again at 3pm and the roads were pretty tricky. The travel alert was ‘essential journeys only’. When Cath said I needed to take her to Holles Street, I said great I can use the bus lanes then.

‘Is that the first thing you thought of, typical’ she said.

By 5pm we were crawling and less than crawling. Traffic lights were turning green and then red again with no forward movement. As we approached Busaras, Connelly, things were really bad. At Connolly as we waited for the pedestrians to cross I looked at them all thinking at them all living their parallel lives. The woman with the buggy who had already done what C had still to do. So many people living their own stories.

More ‘god it’s not moving’ (the traffic, not the baby inside)

and ‘oh f@@k’.

We saw 6 policemen by the side of the road. I wound the window down and said can you give us an escort. She’s in labour and we need to get to Holles Street? They were pretty useless though. They looked young, trainees almost, asked which Hospital we were going to, and said that they were only walking and therefore could not help. They suggested we call an ambulance.

Through all of this I figured we’d actually probably be ok, because while she was in pain, these things still take a while. To help reassure C I did then call 999. Again like driving in the bus lanes, sort of fun because if you couldn’t do it when you had some one about to give birth in your car then when could you do these sort of things! I put the conversation on loud speaker too. Got through to fire brigade and ambulances. They said this is not an emergency. He wasn’t giving out, more trying to reassurance me.

“This is not an emergency, it is something natural, so please still drive carefully. You can use the bus lanes, no policeman will stop you, and if they do they won’t doing anything to you if you have a woman in labour”.

I have wanted to tell him I had already been using the bus lanes (and generally do, just without having someone in labour in the car with me). They asked was the baby’s head showing? This seemed to be a good indicator. As C still had her trousers on, this seemed unlikely. I didn’t seriously think she would give birth in the car, but what if she had! Oh my god, that would have been a nightmare. Also the car is not that big. Still it’s a tip so a bit more blood and slime wouldn’t have made too much difference. Also if the placenta was left in the car the dog would have eventually eaten it, and any other leftovers.

The emergency call concluded by him saying if it got really bad to call and they would try and get an ambulance out. The problem was that they were really overstretched at the moment.

“Lots of people slipping and fracturing and shattering legs and ankles”.


Then like a wand being tinkled and a spell being cast, a lane opened up in front of us. Blocked to the left and to the right this one, not going northside and not going into town was free. We steadily, though cautiously moved on through. Over the water, across the bridge, round the corner. Got to a car waiting for a green light, so went out and around it and took the left myself – again, lady with a baby time. From there one more set of lights, and then Holles Street itself. Solid slow moving traffic. Pulled the car up onto the curb and slowly stalked a pedestrian. Moved along slowly 5 miles an hour, overtaking the traffic line. Up onto the curb at the entrance to Holles Street.

C asked me to get her a wheel chair. Went to reception and asked for one, he was helpful and obviously quite clear about what was happening. He was old, English and was nice, helpful. When I brought C in, he looked at her, ended a call he was on, and tried to get a nurse asap. He said breathe in, and she was going to be a mother, again, soon.

A small, Indian looking nurse came. I said the car was outside with it’s hazards flashing and where would I find C. In the delivery ward she said. Whew, we seemed to have skipped a few steps. No pacing around in a dressing gown like the other unfortunate women around us.

Outside the traffic was still bad. I looped the block. Down to the usual parking street. Got one, but it didn’t seem right. Under the ice you could make out a yellow box. Circled the car infront before finally seeing a wheel chair sign in the black landrover. Concluded I needed another space. None in the strange free parking bit. Cross the road spaces, free from 6.30pm. It was 6.15pm, the baby had done good in terms of timing it’s arrival for cheaper (free) parking rates. I looked up and down the road. It wouldn’t help to get clamped. The street was lined with slow moving traffic. I figured it was going to be unlikely to get clamped in the next 15 minutes, especially as I couldn’t see any clampers in the road. Especially with all the snow on the roads, and general car chaos going on.

Got C’s first bag of stuff, and my bag of books. What was I thinking, was I seriously going to get time to read? Well last time yes. However if she was in the delivery ward? So back to the business of her being in labour. Didn’t want to miss the birth, but not looking forward to all the screaming and pain, and more so being a third wheel. It’s a funny one for the partners. Of course the woman is in loads of pain and has been kicked internally increasingly more and more over the previous half year. So it’s all about the woman, she’s the one carrying it afterall.

I’m not too wild on this current etiquette of having the father there. I’d be as happy not being there. But on the other hand if it’s good and reassuring for C then I’m happy to be there. I don’t think she would have wanted me shouting ‘go on my son’ or anything though. Equally I’ve read that doctors and nurses can be a bit wary of the fathers, if they faint or get stressed and difficult, then of course they’re just more of a problem. With this birth they did look at me occasionally to make sure I wasn’t going to faint. I didn’t think I was going to.

I dislike hospitals, injections, and the whole thing immensely, but I can endure it. I’d had an angiogram, really scary. Post op, lying in a pool of my on congealing blood. Is the word coagulating?

Or maybe it’s ‘setting’, eventually it all turned to a jelly like consistency in the end. My femoral artery wouldn’t close for about 6 hours and I was quietly seeping blood onto the bed underneath me. A male Indian nurse finally stuck his digits into the vein, my groin, repeatedly until he stopped the flow of blood. It was intensely painful, but of course better than bleeding to death. I was still slightly amazed at the jellied blood sheet that came out. It was like the jelly from veal ham and egg pie.

Enough about me. I was there at the birth because hopefully it helped C. I know some people, men, say the birth of their child was the most amazing and emotional experience ever, with tears pouring from their eyes. Having been through near death experiences at my two previous birthing encounters I just find them something to get through, like a trip to the dentist. Hoping there won’t be too much screaming or blood.

C was keen on an epidural. The Indian doctor, female, came in. She was going to do it, but then the babies heart beat dropped off. Things got serious for a moment. You know, when they all go quiet and don’t talk to you, or look you in the eye. The baby had already pooed in the water, like the last time too, this is called myconium I think. It means the baby is becoming distressed and the birth needs to happen soon or a caesarian will be needed. They did the scratch on the babies head, you stick a monitor on the babies head. To check it is ok, but the act in itself naturally disturbs the baby. Very much like quantum physics, it is impossible to merely observe without having an interaction upon what you are watching.

The Indian female doctor ambled back in. But already the doctor and midwives had realised C was about to give birth. Ha ha, not funny. It was too late for an epidural. Opps, but good too. We were at 7.30pm and it was looking really unlikely that we’d would even make it to 8pm before the big event.

Back to the role of the father for a moment, because of course naturally this is all about me! Not. But by the end they were getting me to hold her legs in the air, brace her knee and all sorts. This was of course more of a hands on role than I would have chosen. I think they do it to take your mind off things. C both didn’t want me to look below her waist, which was just fine by me, and yet at the same wanted me to tell her if I could see the head. I was only about sideways on and couldn’t. I didn’t really want to go the whole way round…

Then the nurses got more insistent and you could tell it must be pretty imminent. I did look over, and wow the head looked big. It was covered in shit, literally, blood, red, yellow stuff. But it was also the size of it that was slightly shocking. It’s head was also quite dome like. It looked a bit like one of those Mayan heads. There also seemed to be some movement in it’s nose or mouth. This looked really weird as it was still only half out. I wondered why it wasn’t coming out, but concluded the shoulders must be difficult to get out. Then it all came.

They had warned us that they might need to suck out some of the crap from it’s lungs, due to the myconium in the gloop. Slightly out of site, round the orange curtain, they washed it down. Weighed it, dried it, tagged it. Including the funny one, like the ones you get on clothes to stop people nicking it. Baby CC, 6/1/2010. Cool, and we had just avoided her brothers birthday by one day, 7 years and 1 day older than her! A solid 2 years and 4 months gap for A too.

Then into the famous Holles Street blue blankets. Got the important photo within the first hour of it’s birth. The nurse said 7.44pm, I think it was more like 7.42pm but I guess she had other things on her mind at the time bless her! The next young mid wife ‘Hi I’m Amy’ or something like that. They are obviously things they have been trained to say, but right then just before C gave birth it kinda got lost in the haze. Anyway she then went and got the new mother a cup of tea and some biscuits, and one for me too, again in case I fainted I guess.

Now, now, now, give it to me. They seemed to take a while, a male doctor, African this time came in. Did stuff to the baby. Eventually they put it in the plastic swinging box thing next to C, a cot I guess? C finally got the baby and looked very pleased and happy. A bit more pushing on C’s now deflated belly. To get the placenta out too. C asked to look at it. It is pretty huge. I said we could always take it back for the dog, she didn’t laugh, I did. There was a reason she was looking at it, there is something you can tell, but I can’t remember what. Weird the veins on the outside of the lump of it, a serious, clever, detachable, bit of engineering.

The baby cried, or rather mewed a bit. We both held it, it stopped crying and looked to suck on something. She put it to the breast. The nurses said oh good it’s feeding, though it can’t be yet. Mother doesn’t produce milk that soon, but again nature obviously has it all worked out so I guess it’s fine.

From there it was clean up time, calm down, chill out, for C to recover. I felt her knee click when they asked me to support her leg, and she said she felt like she was going to split into two. I joked and said, it was painful but it was quick, only 3 hours. Next time it might only be an hour and a half. Not funny she said. Within an hour the coast was clear and there was a bed free for her upstairs to go to. 5 so far on her ward. Bedside cabinets, the usual.

I went to get her suitcase and laptop. Gilmore Girls first two seasons if she has the inclination. The pavements had turned to ice and were truly lethal. The road was safer. The streets were pretty quiet. Snow muffling sound and the condition of the roads creating a quietness that I always like, slightly post apocalyptic. I put the suitcase on it’s rollers, opened up the carrying handle  and enjoyed the slight oddness of walking up the road carrying a load of ladies clothing. There were two semi dodgy looking tramps and I laughed slightly to myself about what they’d get if they nicked my bag.

Another birth, never a completely straight forward event, even for something which is so natural and necessary for the continued replication of our dna. I read the sport, held the new baby, wondered at how England had made a bit of a mess of it in the 3rd Test against South Africa, and speculated that the Arsenal Bolton match was probably cancelled, and about if I’d get many more Herzog movies watched while she was laid up in hospital. And thanked goodness that C was safe and alive, and the secondly that the baby was too, and all in such quick time!

When it was finally time to collect the baby and bring it home, Dublin was still lined with snow. That lovely late afternoon property when sound is muffled, and everything in the ‘dirty old town’, actually seems clear and beautiful. We brought her home on the train, again an experience in itself, the older siblings quivering with excitement. Again it was striking to take the northern route, passed the suburbs transformed by the remaining cover of snow. The first winter I’d seen in my 15 years in Dublin, where any snow stayed for more than a few hours. Nieves, snows, seemed like a lovely, apt, poetic name for that temporary beautiful time.


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