My baby came early and in a way I did not expect nor was I prepared for. It was not the birth I wanted. It was the furthest thing from it! Six weeks on, I guess that gave me an idea of what the truly unique and fluid experience of motherhood would be like.
I wanted a home birth. My pregnancy was uncomplicated and went as smoothly as these things can. I was hardly sick; just lamented the swollen ankles and feet that hampered mobility in the last couple of months. We had gone to the pre-natal classes and those quelled my fears and questions around what I wanted from the birth. I wanted zero drugs so moving towards giving birth at home seemed to both of us as the most natural and logical step. I was in the middle of writing a post about my relationship with pain, inspired by Rhea Dempsey, to help myself come to terms with labour. My choice to give birth at home, although it took into account, was not for any noble purpose. It wasn’t inspired by wanting to give up my hospital bed to a mother who actually had a medical condition that would result in a complicated birth. The main reason was simply because I have anxiety and being at home would enable me to be uninhibited to let my labour flow. I didn’t want to be watched and monitored. I wanted a water birth.
On that fateful night, six weeks ago, I went into labour. There wasn’t the level of pain I was expecting nor was it that regular. But there was a lot of blood. I had to go to hospital.
While waiting in the examination room, I was overcome with despair. It was around three in the morning and she was going to be born soon as I came to accept the pains I was feeling to be contractions. Everything was out of my control. They couldn’t even turn the fucking TV off! I thought I was going to have to give birth while the fucking Thunderbirds played on the fucking thing while lying in the dreariest hospital room. Extreme melancholy.
During my education about what I can expect to happen, I was told any examination done to ‘see’ how dilated you are would not be done with a speculum. But it was. Twice. Because there was too much blood and they couldn’t see (why and how can you tell by seeing anyway??). Eventually, a doctor decided to do it the tried and true way of using one’s goddamn fingers. I was four centimetres already. That took all of two seconds to verify as opposed to forcing an instrument of cruel punishment up my vagina. I resent them for putting me through such an ordeal, but I hate myself more for not having spoken up at the time. I had already resigned myself to passivity.
They moved me to the birth suite. It was a much nicer room. My original midwife had the day off so I had to get acquainted and friendly with the substitute real quick. I mentioned that I had wanted a home birth and this lovely, bright woman gleaned everything she needed to know about my needs through this birth purely from that. She sympathised with me when my waters had to be broken manually because the doctors were worried about possible bleeding within the uterus. My placenta was abrupting. It was calling it a day and baby had to exit the womb. Much to mine and hers too, I’m sure, dismay. After this point, my baby was born in two hours.
The midwife had strapped a ‘mobile’, ‘untethered’ heartbeat monitor to me. She said I could walk around, take a shower etc. She meant well. It was getting increasingly painful with baby’s head in direct contact with my cervix. Honestly, I didn’t feel like walking around. I just wanted to lay there and grit my teeth through the pain. The midwives, who were also pregnant, hoped they will have an easy labour like mine. It just looked that way because I have such a knack for hiding pain.
My partner had gone home (in hindsight, quite a risky move! He could’ve missed the whole thing) to pack a hospital bag, that I had ignored to do, and make sure the dogs were taken care of. He got back just after they had broken my waters which was good because I suddenly felt I needed to take a massive dump and needed help getting out of bed as both hands had cannulas in. But the monitor cut out. Wireless my arse! The midwife started to worry because they had to get it working, that was priority. The only way it would continue to work was if my partner physically held it in place, pressed to my contracting belly. The annoyance I felt from that plus the contractions coming one after the other, over and over again started to become almost unbearable.
It felt like a long acid trip. My face and jaw felt slack and then tight. Like I had done multiple lines of coke and a gram of meth. Then shot up some heroin to bring me down. All that while being completely out of control and wanting it to end and feeling like the end was way out of sight. It was a fucking trip! I wanted off…
I caved. I remember being angry at being put through so many things that I had been so against having done to me that I thought, “fuck it! Where are the painkillers??” In the seconds between contractions I asked the midwife for pain relief. She heard me, but that darling woman chose not to answer. She knew that was my ‘transition’. A second later, I was ready to start pushing. Thanks to her, I was able to at least have that go my way.
I’m not sure now exactly why the midwife had to push ‘the button’. More complications I suppose. But one moment it was just the three of us and the next the room was full of doctors and nurses that seemed to come from nowhere; like they were waiting just outside the door for the moment that button was pushed.
I was hurried onto the bed, on my back and my feet up. Some lady gave me her shoulder to bear down on and kept yelling at me to push. The midwife was telling me to focus on her. My partner held my hand. The doctor was saying some worrying things! I pushed as hard as I could. He said, “Can I cut you?” I had no choice really, but thanks for asking. They had the vacuum out to extract the baby. Apparently they hardly needed it because I had pretty much done all that was needed to get baby out in a hurry. All of that? Lasted less than ten minutes. And then I was holding a baby! In-fucking-tense. “It’s my first time holding a baby,” was the first thing I said to the midwife when she handed her to me. I was clearly in shock and a tad under the influence of that crazy mix of hormones. And I had to learn how to breastfeed.
Welcome to motherhood, Dil!