Mark Ferguson's birth story
Mark Ferguson is a country boy from Tamworth who started out in regional television over 25 years ago. As a news and current affairs reporter, he’s reported everything, from cattle prices to cricket, country music to armed conflicts, eventually presenting the national news bulletin for Nine and Seven. Mark met his English-born wife Jayne on a trip to the Whitsundays to follow a story. Then a five-year stint as a foreign correspondent in London with his new wife saw Mark covering major stories such as the Rwanda massacres, the Palestinian Intifada, the ongoing troubles in Northern Ireland and the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Mark is the national ambassador for Good Beginnings, a charitable organisation that helps young families adjust to parenthood – an adjustment that Mark refers to as the steepest learning curve of his life.
The birth of my first son Jack was the most amazing day of my life.
I was a London correspondent at the time, covering the Ashes. We were told by lots of people, including a London cabbie, that we were having a girl. We were also told by the midwives that our baby would probably be coming early so with three weeks until our due date, my wife Jayne needed to keep off her feet and get as much rest as possible. I took time off work and missed one of the cricket tests so that I would be around for what we were assured would be an early arrival. Jack was born eleven days after his due date. That was 32 days of waiting for him to hatch. Over a month of waiting that became very wearing.
When Jayne went into labour, at last, I was uncertain and nervous about what was to come. We went into Chelsea Westminster Hospital in London in the early stages of labour. After about six hours it was game on and we were moved to the birthing unit.
We had arrived at the hospital at midday and Jack was born at 4am the following day. At one point, I was starving so I went across the road to get some chicken and chips. I came back to the birthing unit and was eating my take-away when Jayne’s waters broke. I wasn’t very popular for that chicken and chips moment.
The system in the UK is very different from the set up in Australia. It’s very midwife-driven in the UK. The midwives were absolutely fantastic when we had Jack. They were caring and nurturing whilst maintaining control. Jayne’s best mate from school was with us but she stepped out right at the end and left us to it. I was holding Jayne’s hand, helping her to remember the breathing techniques that we had learned in the classes and staying close.
What amazed me most was Jayne’s strength through it all. The tougher the labour got, the tougher she got. She was amazing, incredible. Seeing her in pain and not being able to save her from that was hard for me. I was worried that Jayne didn’t have a high tolerance for pain but I was stunned by her determination, tolerance and resilience in labour.
Pushing out a nine and a half pound baby was hard work for my wife. I found it difficult to watch Jayne go through that, to push through the pain. Part of a husband’s job is to be the protector but I just had to hold her, support and comfort her. Those last few moments before Jack was born were some of the rawest moments of my life. Memorable, staggering and emotional.
I’ll never forget that moment. Throughout the pregnancy I had watched Jayne’s belly grow and had been involved in preparing for the birth but the reality of it didn’t actually hit me until the moment he was born. The emotion, the shock and the surprise were just incredible! For a start, we were expecting a girl and here I had a son staring back at me. He was perfect.
Nothing in my professional life could really prepare me for the role I had to play when I supported Jayne through the birth. I’ve been in some tense situations, reported from war zones and managed the pressure and stress of deadlines, but none of that was as nerve racking as our first birth.
When you go through this with your partner for the first time, you are stepping through a door into a world you really know nothing about and it’s a sharp learning curve. It’s a powerful bonding experience for you as a couple, to create this little human being together and be there as your child comes into the world.
The first few hours with Jack were the most magical moments of my life. I roamed the corridors of the hospital holding Jack to my chest, promising him the world. It was like a scene from a movie. I was totally besotted with him.
When we were preparing for Jack’s arrival, we must have visited every pram shop in London. It was like buying a new car. The first day we took Jack for a walk in our brand new pram, I am not exaggerating when I say that we were worried that the sky would fall in. We were worried about everyday things – the dog a hundred metres away, the car that could mount the pavement, the odd-looking man across the road. The drive home from hospital was nerve racking too. I guess if I could have my time over, I would try to be a bit more laid back, perhaps take a few more deep breaths.
I think your first child paves the way for the second in a lot of ways. The birth was much easier with Ted, even though he was a ten-pounder. We were also a lot more relaxed as parents.
We had Ted in Sydney at North Shore Private after we had come back to Australia and I was working on Good Medicine [a TV series on Nine]. Ted was born only about 40 minutes after we made it to hospital. His birth was completely different – much more intense and so much faster. I was blown away by what Jayne could handle.
When we were preparing for Ted’s arrival, we did some ‘Second Child’ classes at North Shore Private Hospital. They gave us some great advice on how to welcome our second child so that out first child didn’t feel left out. When I arrived at the hospital with Jack, Jayne wasn’t holding our new baby in her arms. Instead she gave Jack a huge cuddle with lots of special attention. When he was curious and ready to see his baby brother, he went over to the crib and looked at our new family member. The baby had also brought with him a huge Buzz Lightyear, which made the adjustment easier for Jack.
We thought long and hard about having a third child and with two boys, the pressure was on for a girl. Somehow I knew it was going to be another boy. Sure enough, Paddy came screaming into the world four years after Ted was born. At eight and a half pounds, he was our smallest baby.
It was a very special time. Both Jayne and I knew this was our last baby and that really added to the emotion. Jack and Ted were just that little bit older so they were so excited to have a baby brother. To see my three boys together for the first time was unforgettable!
One of the best moments was taking Paddy and Jayne home from hospital. There were now five of us and it really hit me that I had a lot of responsibility. It was up to me to try to provide for and guide these boys as best I could.
I remember putting Paddy in his car seat and the older boys in their boosters. Jayne slowly got into the car. Then I hopped behind the wheel and I turned around and had a good look at my boys. I said to Jayne ‘Look at that. Three boys in the back. How the hell did that happen?’
Copyright Lucy Bloom. This story first appeared in Cheers to Childbirth, the first edition. Pure Publishing 2010.
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