Tim Vincent's birth story

Tim Vincent is a second-generation cattle farmer from the Tamworth region of northern New South Wales. The second of four children, he grew up on the family property and went to school in Tamworth, left at 16 to go to agricultural college and always planned to be a career farmer. He worked on properties in Queensland and then travelled overseas, driving from Texas to Canada, working on cattle properties along the way. Back in Australia, Tim met his wife Margaret, an embryologist working with a stud cattle embryo transfer company. They now run an 800-hectare property with about 500 head of cattle, selling 60 to 70 bulls each year through their stud, Booragul Angus, as well as running a grain-growing enterprise and a feedlot business. Together they have two children who were born almost as simply as a cow births her calf…

When my wife and I got married we were in our late twenties and decided after a year of marriage that it was time to start our family. How easy… Margaret fell pregnant in the first month of trying. We had only just bought our property and at that time it was very old and in need of a lot of work. However, we had to make do at least for a little while until we could afford to renovate, so we did the basics, like a touch of paint here and there. It’s amazing what you can achieve in a short time when a baby is on the way. Looking back, Margaret always says the only time anything ever got done was when she was pregnant.

Although Tamworth is a fairly large country town, it really has an incredible shortage of good doctors and that includes obstetricians. We have one private hospital in town and only one doctor who is able to deliver babies there. In saying that, the doctor was great, the hospital was lovely and the staff brilliant, so we were glad we had made sure that we were well covered by health insurance. 

We did the usual prenatal classes, which I found really interesting. It was fun to meet some of the other couples who were also mainly from farming backgrounds, swapping stories of how they were trying desperately to get their old farmhouses up to scratch in time for the arrival of that special addition to the family. 

I didn’t read any books, but my wife bought every book in Australia on childbirth. I think she still buys them and we finished having kids a while ago! I figured that I’ve watched cows calve all my life, so surely reading a book wasn’t going to tell me anything I didn’t already know about the birth process. 

I’m 40 so I’ve been doing this for 25 years and can spot which two heifers will give birth that day out of a mob of 50. I generally have the heifers all shut in the front paddock so I can keep an eye on them and I get used to spotting the ones who will calve that day. The mob might be gathered all on one side of the paddock with one heifer fidgeting by herself, she may be not be eating or will go to have a drink and then change her mind. They appear to be uncomfortable and restless. Generally they manage things incredibly well and only occasionally do I have to intervene and help nature along a little by pulling the calf out myself. I’m amazed at how quickly and simply a cow can calve. I might take the kids down to the bus and notice a cow fidgeting and by the time I get back, she’s had the calf. 

However, seeing cows calve gave me no help whatsoever in knowing what to expect when my babies were born!

Margaret had gestational diabetes so she was induced on her due date because this condition produces unusually large babies. She isn’t a big woman but her belly certainly had some size to it by her due date. 

It was a Tuesday morning and we had to be at the hospital by 8am, which meant leaving home early and driving fairly fast. (When Margaret was told that her blood pressure was a little high on our arrival at the hospital, she blamed it on my driving.) The doctor arrived shortly after we did and broke Margaret’s waters. It was full-on straight away and three hours later, Amy was born. I would say short and sweet, although Margaret would probably say hard and fast. We had a couple of really good midwives who looked after us, one was the ‘Nazi’ type and the other was the ‘gently does it’ kind. As a team, they worked well.

In the prenatal classes they had mentioned the spa bath, massage machines, music, massage oil, but not much of that was used. Put simply, there just wasn’t any time to spa bath. The labour just seemed to roll on smoothly and quickly; however, Margaret did find that listening to her favourite CD helped her to relax and focus. I just did as Margaret asked. I handed her juice, then the vomit bowl, then the gas, juice, vomit bowl, gas and so it went. I didn’t really do anything, to be honest. My major role was just to be there for support. You can’t really appreciate the huge amount of pain your wife is going through. They say you haven’t experienced pain until you’ve experienced childbirth. 

When Amy was born I felt great relief that everything was all right and that Margaret and the baby were both alive and well. You hear some terrible stories, so I was just so glad that it had all worked out well. 

Amy was born in July when it was freezing cold. It even came close to snowing, so Margaret stayed in hospital where it was warm and comfortable for a good five or six days. I travelled back and forth between home and the hospital, which are about 80 kilometres apart. I’d do what I had to do around the place at home and then try to be back at the hospital by mid-morning. The tiredness is something I wasn’t prepared for. I expected it when the baby came home but didn’t realise how tiring it would be just keeping things going at home, as well as travelling everyday to visit Mum and bub.

Amy was born with a dislocated hip, which is a genetic problem in my family, but it wasn’t picked up until she was about five months old. She had been in hospital for an unrelated illness and while she was there they discovered her hip problem, so less than a week before her first Christmas we were rushed to Sydney for Amy to have surgery followed by a full-body plaster for three months. This was a really trying time. It was mid-summer and stinking hot – 40 degrees or more in Tamworth. When she came out of theatre on a trolley with her legs splayed out in a full-body cast, it was the toughest thing, not being able to cuddle our baby close and not knowing if it would even work. We couldn’t sit her in a high chair, give her a bath or use a stroller. It was the worst thing at the time but it seems minor when I look back on it now. Two years ago she swam in the state swimming titles and we’ve all forgotten that her dislocated hip had ever happened.

We had wanted our children to be two years apart and Margaret fell pregnant again, this time in the second month of trying, so it seemed we had that part all worked out. However, this time she didn’t feel too well and collapsed at the doctor’s with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. I was there within an hour and there were a couple of very ordinary days to follow after that. This certainly slowed down our plans for a second baby. One of Margaret’s fallopian tubes was removed after the ectopic pregnancy and the other was blocked from adhesions, so to have another baby we had to use IVF. Margaret’s background in IVF was the best thing going for us. Our son Hayden was a fresh embryo implanted and it took straight away. The rest is history. Just one round of IVF.

During the pregnancy, Margaret grew very, very large, as she had with Amy. We went in for a check-up two weeks before Margaret was due; the doctor checked her out and said she was already four centimetres dilated! We walked across the road to the hospital, they broke her waters and Hayden was born only about an hour later. Hardly enough time for me to fill out my meal menu! That is a running joke with Margaret and me, as whilst she was trying to get a midwife to help push the baby out I was busy trying to decide if I wanted a prawn cocktail or soup for tea.

Margaret doesn’t muck around when she has babies and I am very glad she has never gone into labour on our property. We were blessed to be in town both times, right when Margaret was ready for labour and lucky to have had both of our babies at a civilised hour, with no middle of the night run to hospital.

I felt a fair bit of relief again, to know that all was well. Hayden was about seven and half pounds and had a really squashed face that required some physio work for a few weeks. We lived on tenterhooks with Hayden for a few years as he suffered chronic bronchiolitis, then asthma and a diagnosis of sleep apnoea, so he had to be on monitors for a fair while. Thankfully, as he has grown older and stronger he appears to have grown out of most of his problems and is now a bullet-proof kid. We blame the very dusty old home for a lot of his breathing difficulties, but that has all changed now and we have just finished renovating the entire house. Perhaps if Hayden had been healthier when he was little, we might have considered having more children.

What do they say? Kids are the best contraceptive? Maybe, but I wouldn’t swap mine for the world. 

Copyright Lucy Bloom. This story first appeared in Cheers to Childbirth, the first edition. Pure Publishing 2010.

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