OPINION: Ah life. Just when you think things are falling into place, it throws you a curve ball, writes Mark Hotton in And Baby Makes Four.
My better half, Suz, was meant to finish work on November 23. Then she had great plans of getting everything organised, putting tiny pink things in the right place, sorting out a To Do list, spending some time with Zach, and generally doing a bit of nesting. After all, she was "going to be on time".
She signed off work at 4pm, started feeling some tightness about 5pm, had some mildish cramping about 7pm, followed by some stronger cramping about 9pm, which led to us calling the midwife who suggested we meet her at the hospital in 90 minutes.
Sweet, we thought - if she's not in a rush, we're not in a rush. All is good.
We got into the maternity suite about 10.35pm, the midwife did some checks and popped off for some paperwork and returned for a couple of really intense contractions just before 11pm.
It was about then she suggested I should put on some gloves if I wanted to help deliver the baby, and I began the challenging task of getting them on. Seriously now, have you ever tried putting on rubber gloves while your wife is crushing a hand?
It was so difficult I could only get half of one on before the third big contraction arrived . . . and then, bam, much to everyone's surprise, out slid the baby. Just like that. I'm not even sure Suz broke a sweat.
It's probably the least work our midwife has ever done for a delivery. And it happened so quickly she couldn't catch it - the baby just sort of ended up on the bed. (I'm sorry for those who were expecting a challenging labour - but we've ended up having another very fast birth. Almost too quick.)
So Piper Grace Hotton was born at 11pm on November 23, 7 pounds and 12 ounces, just seven hours after her mum went on maternity leave. And nine days early. Needless to say, we were well unprepared. Her bedroom might have a funky new window in it, but it's lacking power, curtains, or carpet. Actually, it's missing any wall linings - it's a building site. But as I write this, Piper's stretched out in her Moses' basket, looking pretty content with the world. Mum and daughter are doing great, feeding and settling well.
Big brother Zach is relatively non-plussed about the whole thing, so far. He preferred to run around the hospital than sit next to the cot and coo over his new sister. But he has given her "knuckles" and "high fives", plus the odd kiss on the head, so it's not too bad. At this stage.
He does like the guitar Piper gave him - he gave her a pink version of his mate, George - and he's helped out a bit when asked, but we don't think he realises that his life has forever changed. We've tried to keep his routine as familiar as possible and tried to share our time equally between them, so hopefully he won't be too unsettled by baby Piper making it four. Now the fun begins.
» Mark Hotton is a journalist, amateur chicken fancier and on the adventure of being a dad of two
- The Southland Times