She’s here! And she’s beautiful. In 10 minutes she will be exactly four days old, and before I forget (people keep telling me hormones magically take the edge off the birth experience, otherwise women might never want a second child) I want to write about the day she arrived.
We went ahead with induction at 40 weeks and four days, on Friday, August 3. I was scared, to be honest. We went to the clinic at 7.30am where Dr E put a prostaglandin tablet in my cervix to start the softening process. When he examined me I asked him how far it had effaced and he said “Not at all”, which was not the answer I wanted to hear.
As we left, Rufus suddenly slapped his forehead and said, “What about the tablet?”
“Um, it wasn’t the kind you take by mouth,” I said, laughing.
So we checked into the clinic, managed to fight off Peruvian democracy in the form of hospital admin and nurses who wanted me to go to my room right there and then, and waddled off to a French bakery nearby to buy some snacks 🙂
Taking a gentle stroll around the park behind the bakery, the air seemed sweeter and the roses prettier. I had on a new green alpaca wrap my dad had bought me the day before, and even though I was scared I felt very happy. Rufus was nervous I think, because he kept saying inane things. Like, “That’s a tree, and that’s a flower.” Seriously.
We took a taxi the few blocks back to the clinic with our baguettes, mini quiche and lime tart and surrendered ourselves to the medical staff there. We left our things in our room and were transferred upstairs to another room inside the surgical wing. I was given a hospital room and a rather fetching silk robe, which I teamed with my own pale blue fluffy slippers with pom-poms. Never too early to start embarrassing your child, I say.
Thinking we would have time to go home before being admitted, we didn’t have my birth ball with us. But I did have a lavender burner and my yoga and prenatal belly-dancing DVDs. Monitoring showed the baby’s heartbeat was strong, at around 154 or so.
We called mum and dad to let them know it might be a good time to come in and sit with us for a while, as we weren’t sure how hard or fast things would progress later in the day. Also, I was pretty certain I wasn’t going to want them right there when things got tough, physically.
I started pacing the corridors, and had flashbacks to the One Born Every Minute episodes I had greedily consumed months before. Only in this case I was the only woman pacing the floor – everyone else seemed to be having caesareans! I bumped into the doctor who did my marsupialisation surgery a month ago, and he wished me the best. And I begged some hot tea off the nurses a few times – Peruvians are a bit bewildered my by tea dependency.
When mum and dad arrived it felt quite festive – mum tried out my belly dancing moves with me and they started a little picnic with the bakery booty. A nurse brought me in some chicken broth and something else that I’ve already forgotten about.
I think about 1pm they hooked me up to a Pitocin drip, which ramped up my anxiety as I’ve heard so much about women being slammed by fast, suddenly strong contractions out of the blue on this stuff.
I don’t remember if the contractions began before or after the drip but I felt like it was manageable – breathing and rubbing my tummy did indeed help the feeling pass, even as it built up. I kept walking with Rufus, up and down the corridor, pausing to breathe out the pain every now and then. It helped to hug him and have him rub my lower back until the contraction passed.
We evicted mum and dad, saying we’d call later in the day to give them time to get back when we had a better idea of how it was all progressing.
Dr E came by, looking incredibly happy and pumped, and checked my cervix… we’d progressed to about 3cm by then and he asked if I’d be having an epidural.
“You’re going to think I’m crazy if I don’t, aren’t you?” I said.
He laughed and said, “Yes, absolutely!”
Getting from 0cm to 4cm was the slowest part, he said.
I said I wanted to wait and see how things looked a bit longer, and kept breathing.
All the while, the pitocin drip in my arm was ticking over, ramping up the dose bit by bit. Not long after Dr E left the contractions started coming faster and lasting longer. They also felt different – more of a circular clamping down, radiating around my whole pelvis, which I guess is to be expected.
This is when I started swearing.
I said “fuck” a lot.
It wasn’t an angry, “Damn-you-to-hell-Rufus-for-making-me-pregnant” swearing though – the kind you see in all the movies. It hurt, and it was hard to breathe deeply or serenely through it, but this was it! After everything, she was on her way.
Rufus was being great through it all, rubbing my back, reminding me to breathe, keeping his cool and helping me maintain some humour. The only “are you fucking kidding me?” moment came when he actually answered a phone call during one of my contractions.
I think it was around 4.30pm when I pressed the buzzer for the nurses and said “I want an epidural!” In about half an hour they were there, having me curl into a ball and sticking that needle in my spine. It’s amazing how unsqueamish a person can be about something like that when the contractions are really coming on hard and strong.
The epidural was magic. I know I’m supposed to be all Warrior Woman, I can do this without any drugs at all, but … why? I’d made it halfway without any drugs and it bloody hurt. It was only going to get rapidly worse with the pitocin dripping into my system.
The epidural going in felt like a cold, electric current down my spine, and the effect was greater on my left side, as my left leg felt very heavy. I could still feel the contractions, but not the pain. We put Bach’s cello solos on and I kept up the deep breathing, and thought a lot about my mother and her 48-hour labour without anything until they knocked her out on pethadine near the end so she could find the strength for the final push home.
Things went pretty fast from there on in. Dr E returned and said the baby would arrive within hours. We called mum and dad and got them back in a taxi heading our way. I tried to wrap my head around the fact that this was really, truly happening.
It’s already getting fuzzy, how things unfolded. At one point Dr E said I was fully dilated we’d go into theatre in about 10 minutes and it seemed like the most ludicrous thing to me. I was expecting the pushing phase to go on for hours.
Rufus went off to be scrubbed and dressed up like an ER extra. I found myself on a table with my legs in stirrups (unexpected surprise! but too overcome to quibble), and there was Dr E grinning at me in surgical greens. “Now you’ve got you labour face on,” he said. We talked over how he wanted me to push and the nurse said she’d count me in and tell me when to stop. I really thought we’d be in there for hours.
Rufus came in and I just wanted to keep looking into his eyes. I can’t say how I felt. Excited, scared, overcome, surreal, incredulous, very in love with him. All of those things. I went in around 6pm and she arrived ay 6.34pm.
Dr E told me to hold my breath when pushing and direct the effort into my butt, not my face. Of course my first push I puffed up my face like that fat kid from Charlie and the Chocolate factory and almost burst a blood vessel. I got the hang on the second. On the third he said he could see the head and I asked if she had hair – yes! On the fourth or fifth, she was there, being gripped upside down by the ankles in front of me!
Dr E had used a vacuum, and done an episiotomy, amid all of that – at the time I didn’t register any of it.
Just her, hanging upside down. In the world, with all of her fingers and toes, a little person. They put her on my chest and I could hear Rufus crying behind his mask as he leaned in to kiss her. Dr E had tears in his eyes too – he has known her since she was an embryo and without him we would not have her.
It wasn’t until right then, with her there, that I could let myself believe that this motherhood malarkey was really going to happen. Right now I am staring down at her as she feeds and I am still stunned by every little detail.