If you were to tell me two weeks ago that I would today be posting P.'s birth story, I would likely think you were cruel and unusual for forcing me to face the prospect of labour and delivery. To say I was terrified of the gore and mind-numbing pain it would produce would be a vast understatement.
Luckily, I hadn't much time to ponder these issues. I woke up last Tuesday at 3.30am to pee for the third time that night, and as I have not yet abandoned my infertile sensibilities, I looked at the toilet paper when I wiped. I hadn't expected to see anything, but this is now an ingrained behaviour that I can never see myself abandoning, so hats off to you infertility! There were spots of blood on the toilet paper, which confused and frightened me. There wasn't enough blood for it to be the mucuous plug (or "show"/"bloody show"- as if this is entertainment to be viewed for all ages), so naturally I was imagining certain fetal death.
I walked into the bedroom to tell The Dude, unsure if I should start the conversation with, "Uh, I'm bleeding" or "I need to call the hospital", knowing both would throw him into a frenzy of wide-eyed panic and anxiety. I decided to go with the rather ominous "I'm bleeding", and as predicted he shot out of bed and started to fret while I tried to remain calm and rational.
I called the hospital, and the midwife advised me to simply go back to bed and check the bleeding in a few hours' time. If I was still bleeding, I was to call again and they would advise me further. The Dude, somehow assured by this, went back to bed and had a fitful sleep. I, on the other hand, knew something had to be wrong and got no further sleep. At 6.30am I checked again and this time there was a lovely mass which could have only been the mucuous plug. I phoned the hospital again, and despite their reluctance to go along with my assertion that I had indeed just lost my plug (ew), they instructed me to come in.
Once at the hospital, we just sat around for a few hours while the baby's heartbeat was monitored. I had a lovely internal exam that took me back to the heady days of my liaisons with WHYBAML and the much-loved wand, and damn...was that shit painful. Who knew? As I tensed at the insertion of the speculum, I thought how utterly screwed I was going to be in labour if I was uncomfortable during a routine pelvic exam. The doctor told me that my cervix was closed, and that the huge clot of blood and stuff that I passed earlier may or may not have been the mucuous plug. Uh, yeah. Labour does some fucked up stuff to your body, but with my limited knowledge I doubt there are many occurrences of big ol' clots that aren't mucuous plugs. I'm just saying...
At about noon I was taken up to one of the labour and delivery wards for even more monitoring. The Dude and I sat up there either waiting to be sent home, or told that this ship was about to sail. I started to have mildly painful contractions which originated in my lower back, though at the time I didn't acknowledge them as such given my complete and utter cluelessness. Hours passed with the contractions slightly picking up in frequency and severity, though labour still seemed as if it could be ages away.
The Dude was sent home at 9.30pm under the advisement that labour was unlikely to occur until sometime the next day, if at all. Imagine my surprise when the contractions soon became immensely painful, with the most powerful of them acting as the force which broke my water. I was writhing in agony when all of a sudden there was an exodus of fluid. Now, I once read that the volume of fluid you lose when this occurs is vastly less than what is generally shown on television or TV. Liars. I could have had my own paddling pool and invited the neighbourhood round for a swim with all the fluid that came out. I was simultaneously repulsed and fascinated with this physiological occurrence and was afraid to call the midwife to clean up the mess that was forming a puddle on the floor.
They never tell you that the stuff keeps coming out with each contraction. I would view this as important information, but apparently having constant streams of amniotic fluid running down your legs during contractions is pedestrian and expected. Now you know. This also becomes rather humiliating when you need to use the bathroom two doors down and you leave an amniotic fluid trail in your wake. The midwife actually had to get a mop and follow me to and from the bathroom since it was located off the main corridor in the ward. For health and safety reasons I don't imagine it would be wise to have expectant mothers slipping on other womens' amniotic fluid. Every time I left the bathroom I had to call a midwife to clean up after me. Yeah, it was a proud moment.
The contractions continued to worsen, which found me in my little isolated corner of the room, alone, writhing as if possessed with every one. The midwives offered pain relief in the form of two tiny pills which did exactly fuck all. I'm not convinced they were any more than the strength of Advil, and I'm not sure what pain they were supposed to kill. I gave it another 45 minutes and then asked to go upstairs to the ward where they could administer proper pain medication.
It may be that the midwife offered me a wheelchair and I refused, since I'm in the habit of being stubborn and believing myself to be tougher than I really am. However, I ended up walking up to the next ward, which was not an entirely wise move on my part considering I had 5-6 contractions on the short trip there. I had to ask the midwife to stop periodically, while I propped myself up against the nearest wall and braced down. Of course there were people walking by while I was doing this, but the pain was too great for me to realise that I was squatting while leaning against walls wearing a hospital gown and fuzzy socks. Funny how little pride or modesty labour allows you.
Once we got to what would become the delivery room, it was decided that The Dude should make his way back to the hospital despite only having left a few hours before. I started on the gas & air as soon as I arrived, and it was divine. When The Dude arrived 30 minutes later, I was ready to start pushing despite the protestations from my midwife. I quite boldly told her that I was now at a point that not pushing was certainly not an option, and to my amazement she conceded.
When watching birth shows, I always rolled my eyes at those whiny women who insisted that they had to push, against the advisement of their caregivers. I would often think "Suck it up bitch - get tough!", believing that you could control the need to push if need be. I admit I was wrong. To all those women, I apologise. I don't think it's an urge to push, I think the baby decides to push its way out regardless of what you want to do. I never felt that pushing was within my control. For me, P. was going to find her way out, whether I assisted her or not. Sure, it would take a little longer and prolong the delivery, but she would have found her way out.
I pushed for 20 minutes or so before she was born. I was coping well with the delivery aspect of things until she crowned and I felt the delightful "ring of fire" that I didn't know about until Molly mentioned it post-delivery. When the midwife excitedly told me, "Her head is right here - it's nearly out!", it took every diversionary tactic I had to focus on something other than a melon visibly emerging from my vagina, stretching it beyond recognition. With one more push, she was out.
The feeling of your baby's entire body sliding out of your own is inexplicable. Throughout all of the labor you know the end result is a baby, but you don't think of what the actual moment of birth will be like. One minute this being is inside of you, relying solely on you for its health and wellbeing, and the next, it has entered the world and a separate life has begun.
P. Was put straight on my chest with her cord still attached, and despite going through the trauma of birth she was amazingly serene. She looked up at me with her big blue eyes, studying my face intently. I would like to say that it was at that moment I fell in love, but I was in such amazement that my embryo Enid was now a real, live, breathing baby that I didn't have the capacity to realize that this was my daughter or that I was now a mother. I stared back at her, as much in awe as she appeared to be with me.
From the time my water broke to when Piper arrived, only 4 hours passed. This would lead some to classify mine as an "easy" labor, which I find irritating. Is any labor ever easy? It's childbirth for fuck's sake, and that shit ain't easy regardless of the circumstances. The day following the birth a series of midwives would tell me how lucky I was to have such an easy time of things. At the time the memory of toe-curling, near vomit-inducing contractions were fresh in my mind, and the painful snatch stitches would indicate to the contrary as well.
The real fun began after the birth, culminating in many a lonely night stuck in a small room with a screaming baby with jaundice that wasn't feeding properly. I'll cover that traumatic period in another post or two, along with relating a little comment from a midwife which almost lead to her being bitchslapped into next week. Trust me, the statement is priceless.