Aidan Charles Ballesty
Son of Damien and Felicia Ballesty
Born on the 18th of January 2012
At Chelsea and Westminster Hospital
Weighing 6lb 15oz
vividly remember the first time that I saw Damien – I had a job interview and Damien was one of my interviewers. He strode confidently into the room where all the nervous candidates were waiting and called out my name.
Three years later we were in Dublin, Damien’s home town, with my parents, who were visiting from Australia. I told Damien about a journey I’d once had with an Irish taxi driver. It was before I met Damien, but the driver had tried to convince me that I would marry an Irishman – apparently he’d said the same thing to another Aussie girl, and a year later she was engaged to a Dublin boy! He was convinced that Aussies and Irish make great long term partners. Damien said, quite casually, “so, would you marry an Irishman?” Then he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I’m still hoping I’ll run into the taxi driver so I can tell him that he got it right twice!
We both wanted children and being in our late thirties we knew that we wouldn’t be able to put it off for long. We’d seen friends and family have difficulties falling pregnant, so we made a promise to each other that our marriage would be complete whether we were lucky enough to have children or not.
I bought an ovulation test kit, but the whole process was awful – it completely took the romance and excitement out of things. We decided to take the advice of a friend, to spend a year just enjoying the marriage, and the process of trying to get pregnant. Within a few months, the magic two lines had appeared on the stick.
Having been a confirmed workaholic, I wasn’t renowned for eating, exercising and relaxing appropriately, so I made a concerted effort to look after myself during the pregnancy. In my third trimester I fainted while I was rushing for a train, which made me realise that I couldn’t do everything that I’d been doing. I decided to take maternity leave from five weeks before my due date.
We were keen to have as natural a birth as possible. Not just because of the impact on the baby, but also because I have a history of reacting badly to anaesthetic and certain pain killers. I also have a near-religious obsession with long baths, so a water birth appealed to me.
I was worried about going over my due date, so I had some reflexology eight days before. I felt quite groggy afterwards and went to bed early. In the morning I woke up with a strange feeling. I told Damien that I thought something was happening.
I had a doctor’s appointment that morning, and I said that I thought I was having contractions. The doctor checked me, and told me to go home and rest. When we got home we strapped on the TENS machine and settled in to time contractions. I had a few baths to relieve the pain and we called the hospital. We were told to wait until the contractions were two minutes apart before coming in.
We were a bit panicked, as it was getting late and snow was forecast. We called again when the contractions were two minutes apart and were told to wait for them to be one minute apart! I was in a lot of pain by this point, so we headed off anyway. My mum, who had flown over from Australia a week earlier, came with us.
Shockingly, when we got to hospital we discovered that I was only 3cms dilated. I was tired, in pain, and I couldn’t believe there were 7cms to go. We were moved to a birthing suite to wait but by the time we got there I was 5cm and we were officially allocated the room – with a birth pool.
Things progressed slowly throughout the day. Aidan had lodged his head in my hips and was struggling to move any further. By early afternoon we were still only 6.5cm, and our midwife was concerned about the lack of progress – she said that we could have a maximum of three more hours to get fully dilated or she’d need to bring in the doctors. I was pretty determined to go the natural route and Damien jokes that this deadline set off something in my brain. My waters finally broke and we went from 6.5cm to 10cm in an hour and a half. I had an incredible urge to push, and Damien called the midwife.
I put absolutely everything I had into the pushing – it was only six minutes, but it felt like a marathon. The midwife held Aidan up, he gave a good, loud yell, she told us we had a son, and placed him on my chest. Damien wrapped his arms around both of us and we lay there together, as a new family.
The next morning we were told that we could go home. My parents had prepared the house for our arrival and it was lovely to settle into the nest that we’d created for our family.
We had a tough first few months – Aidan had reflux and colitis which was traced to a number of allergies, and also episodes of apnoea, when he would stop breathing. We were prepared for the sleep deprivation but we weren’t prepared for the emotional upheaval. One night Aidan screamed for nine hours straight, and everyone took it in turns to try to calm him.
Things have gradually improved and though sometimes it can be upsetting to see other mothers who can feed their children whenever they want, whose children will go to sleep on their backs and don’t need upright time, I know that this is temporary. We have seen an amazingly energetic, determined and smiley little boy emerge out of it all, and Damien and I have come through our first year of being parents as a stronger couple. Damien does much more than many other dads I know, and Aidan beams with recognition and happiness every time his daddy comes through the door.