Sam's story began over 6 years ago, in the middle of the night in early Spring. Cat and I were celebrating because I had just finished university and she had decided to buy us a night away in a hotel. Just the two of us, in the middle of nowhere, with no phone signal.
Romantic as this first appeared it was not to be the night either of us had planned. Cat had spent a couple of days feeling queasy and as the night went on things only got worse.
Imagine the scene. Really old fashioned, proper posh hotel - 4 poster bed and everything! Breakfast included. I was living it large, wondering who knitted all these posh throws the bed was covered in. The night was young and things were going well as far I was concerned.
Yet what's this I hear, a noise from the bathroom? Is it the call to join my love in a romantic bath... no it's the crying wretches of her throwing up instead. As you can imagine, I'm a classic, caring boyfriend:
"You alright, love?" - of course she wasn't, what kind of idiot was I to even think she might say, "Yes of course, this is how I brush my teeth."
Anyway, as we were in the middle of nowhere, with no signal and no idea what was going on, we decided the best thing to do was ring for an ambulance from reception. Which was a pity as I was really looking forward to that breakfast.
What happened next is quite surreal though. We end up in A&E, and as you might expect in a triage facility you spend most of your time sitting around waiting for something to happen. We were in the 'Majors' section; which is the bit between 'Urgent care', where your broken bone people tend to get stuck forever and a day, and 'Resus' where the cast of shows like Casualty and ER scream things like "Clear", and "GOD-DAMN-IT!"
It's the middle of the night at this point, so we're tired and running on adrenaline as it is, when a doctor arrives to check on Cat. Now I will never forget what he said. He gave us three options to choose from as his potential diagnoses. They were:
"There is a chance that you've got acute constipation."
Brilliant, I thought, I've taken my girlfriend to A&E to have a shit.
"The smart money says, it's a UTI infection."
I didn't realise I could place bets. Is this hospital so short of cash they've turned it into a casino?
"And the third option, which we only have to check because it's compulsory, is that it might be the beginning of an ectopic pregnancy."
I still really hope it's the first option.
So the doctor goes off to run some blood tests or whatever, and we're left on our own once again to mull the time over. Meanwhile, Cat's stomach pains are getting worse and she's holding my hand tighter and tighter, when all of a sudden she stops and cries, "GET ME A DOCTOR, NOW!!!"
Without thinking, I oblige. I open the door to find an unsuspecting nurse walking past. I ask her, in a polite, not so mild panicked sort of way to, "Please-help-my-girlfriend-she's-in-a-lot-of-pain-and-I-don't-know-what-to-do." You know, like a real man.
This is where it gets weird. She opens the door, takes one look. Goes in and drags Cat out on her bed down the corridor shouting, "I NEED A MIDWIFE!"...
Time kind of stopped at this point.
I'm in the casino, I've bet on the smart money.
Yet all that's floating around my head is,
"Do midwives do other stuff?"
Eventually I realise that Cat and the nurse have disappeared from view and I'm still stood in a corridor, staring into middle distance like a coroner on Silent Witness. I ask a nurse for some assistance as I don't know what's going on. They got me to gather the remnants of stuff in the now old room and let me sit on a chair outside the dreaded, 'Resus'.
Now I'm scared. I don't know what's going on anymore. I'm praying that everything will be okay for about 5 minutes, when suddenly yet another nurse appears. This time she already knows my name, "John is it?"
"Yes," I say, standing up tentatively.
"Can I just ask you, how long has your girlfriend been pregnant?"
She didn't get an answer - well not verbally. Before I knew it, she was propping me up under one arm and marching me toward and even more terrifying place: the 'Family Room'.
I've seen this before, this is how it ends on TV. There's no good news coming out of this because at this point, all I can connect the dots to are the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy.
I spent an eternity in that room. Wondering. Praying. With nothing to do but sit and wait. There wasn't even a deck of cards - some casino.
What felt like an eon later, a nurse came in an said, "Oh, your John aren't you?"
I managed to whisper, "Yeah, is everything al-"
"Congratulations!" they announced, and walked off.
"What?" I said to myself.
The rest is a blur. A couple more nurses came in and I tried to get some clarity, but all they kept saying were weird things like, "You're a dad now," and "You must be so happy!"
It took 6 of them in the end to drag me round to Cat, passed a couple of other 'Resus' patients, one with a tea towel wrapped round a head wound, the other getting CPR.
All I really remember is walking round, seeing Cat as she, having had an obviously far worse time of it than me it must be acknowledge, said, "We have a baby."
A curtain was parted, a bed was put into our view, parallel to Cat's, and for the first time I laid eyes on Samuel.
What followed was an incomprehensible flood of emotions, which I can only describe as a combination of fear, panic, horror, panic, alarm, panic, agitation, trepidation, dread, consternation, did I mention panic? All wrapped up into one.
We were parents. A mother and a father. We had no plans, no home (as we were both still living with our parents), and I had no job. What the hell were we going to do?
Never bet on the smart money at least, that's a start.
To be continued.