It was roughly 2:30am in the morning on the 17th September 2009 - my exact due date - when I felt the first hint of intestinal cramping. The sensation was very much like a mild period pain, nothing to write home about, but enough to start wondering.... was this it?
How are you supposed to know? After boning up on on all the recommended literature - and then some - I was yet to find a single labor story that matched another. Every woman, it seems, births differently. Go figure Momma? No wonder the Docs don't have the deliveries down pat yet.... I mean how could they?
I laid in bed snoozing on and off trying to read the tingling sensations in my tummy. They were roughly 20 minutes apart at first, but by 5am they were already closer to 5 minutes apart - although still somewhat irregular and random. I couldn't sleep - I was just too excited - so I started walking around our small cabin trying to get a measure of the pain, which was not bad at all really. It could still be my gassy tummy playing up.....
By this time Daddy-to-be was following me around with his notepad and pen quizzing me on the nature of each 'contraction' and noting all my answers down religiously. I answered as best I could, but to be honest it was pretty tricky to decipher the exact start and end point, or to give any accurate idea as to how much 'real' pain I was in....
I actually felt like a bit of a labor fraud. Maybe these teeny twinges were Braxton-Hicks and I was getting the hubby excited and causing a fuss about nothing. I was also starting to feel like I was failing Daddy's 'labor' quiz. My inability to feel the beginning of each contraction meant his number's weren't making too much sense.
He decided to stay home from work and keep on noting numbers down - it was a really important job after all. And I made a tentative phone call to my makeshift Douala, who is also my sister-in-law, making it clear that although I thought I could be in labor - I really might not be...
Stupidly self conscious, I was more worried about looking like a panicky first-timer, and getting overly hysterical about the early labor twinges - and putting everyone else out around me, by raising a false alarm - than I was about making sure I had my full labor crew on board.....
But the pain didn't go away, it got more frequent and intense. Each contraction, however, was still erratic in length and they seemed to skip every now and then too. It was a completely random pattern perplexing my hubby, the minute-taker.
We decided to drive to my sister-in-law's house. Moving in the direction of the hospital seemed like a good plan of action - just in case I was one of those atypical TV Momma's who might push out my baby in the back seat of the car..
|Daddy-to-be taking notes|
I was very chattery and giggly (even more so than usual) - I guess because I was excited (and terrified) - about what might be to come. We walked for a while outside, which was a good call from my SIL. Daddy-to-be never stopped taking notes, and mommy-to-be never stopped talking.
When the walking became too much we headed back inside - it was getting too hot and I needed to change my activity. Daddy painted my nails (great distraction) and I sat on a yoga ball for a while - which I found intensified (rather than mollified) the pain. It was just starting to sting a wee bit...
|What a guy!|
I think that was when we made the decision to head to the Hospital. I was dreading being turned away. You hear about it all the time. Surely I couldn't still be in the very early stages of labor...? It was late morning, so we'd been at it for a while now. I'd been warned, though, that first babies can take forever.. especially boys.
|Swaying with my hubs gave me head space to bare the pain.|
Monitoring is 'for sucks' - (as Daddy likes to say)! Pain management while sitting still, hooked up to a monitor is no easy feat. I kept adjusting position, and standing - oh so carefully - but the monitors would still fall off prompting the nurse to come rushing back in...
My apologies were begrudging. This room was strike 1 against the hospital. After an hour or so of monitoring, two vaginal checks, and blowing chunks twice - I was summarily dismissed as not progressing (hysterical first timer it was then!). I'd only been 2cm dilated when I first came in, and I was still 2cm - so they were sending me home. Strike 2.
I looked at both Daddy-to-be and my SIL a little disbelieving and somewhat discouraged - but not wanting to hog the Triage room - in case a 'real' laboring Momma needed it - I headed out into the corridor. I didn't want to go home. I couldn't believe that I wasn't already close to the finishing line. The pain had wracked up a tidy notch during my Triage torture, and now standing in the corridor shuddering through another contraction I felt my confidence slipping somewhat.
My SIL suggested walking around the ward, and the nurses were happy for us to stay a little while longer. So we took a few turns around the ward, after which I could barely stand up. Somewhat more convinced that it might actually be the real thing, the nurses agreed to check me again....
4-5cm! Thank God for progress! OK - so only half way there - but I wasn't being sent home. I was no longer in the 'hysterical first-timer category' which meant this really was happening..!
That's when the pain-in-the-ass hospital admission stage kicked in. Who the hell wants to fill out bloody forms, and sign waivers in the throws of active labor? I remember being asked what pain medication I would be having - in spite of my Birth Plan stipulating I NOT to be asked this question. To rub further salt in the wound, the nurse's response was a smug and all-knowing '...your first baby, huh?'
She didn't believe I could do it! Strike 3. She was the naysayer nurse that Ricki Lake had warned me about. Still - in spite of her devilish taunt - my brain turned it around into a challenge, and I found renewed vigor to stick with the courage of my convictions...
Only Daddy-to-be knew my 'break point' password, Scooby-Doo...
We were finally put in the room I had coveted from our first hospital viewing. It had a bath, which I was allowed to labor in, but not allowed to give birth in. That rule had been a bit of a bummer for me in the planning stages, ironically not something I remotely fancied in the end....
It took them some time to get me prepped with my IV - another regulation I'd fought fervently against during the planning stages, but been forced to concede to get my hospital birth. Finally - probably only 20 minutes later, but a lifetime when all you desire is to be left to labor in peace - I got to take my warm bath. A midwives natural epidural - so they'd told me.. 'they' were wrong.
It was nice at first, but I didn't last long in the confined space of the tub. I wanted to be on the go, changing positions constantly - but each position was just as excruciating as the last, and I couldn't escape the pain. Then I sat on the yoga ball. Straight away, it was like something moved down a foot inside me, and embarrassingly I realized I desperately needed to take a dump.
Talk about bad timing. It's not like I hadn't pooped in front of the hubby before (yes - we've actually crossed that line) and I needed him now for physical support - so he followed me in and helped me sit on the pot.
Bad call - and I jumped up quick - as a bone shaking contraction came hurtling through me. My brain made the horrifying connection that what I'd thought was a dump was actually my baby, and I was about to drop him down the lav.
Standing unsupported was impossible, and I confess I was on the brink of calling Scooby-Dooby-do.. where the f**k are you? Desperately afraid that it was too late anyway and I was going to have to push out a real human being with ALL my pain sensors activated. What kind of crazy masochistic idea was that?
But, I didn't call for Shaggy's dog. With my mind set, instead, I staggered out of the bathroom in search of my sister-in-law. She pushed the button to summon the nurse who, after having checked me only minutes before my poo panic, and finding I was still a measly 5cm or so, was probably relaxing on her tea break....
With both my SIL and the hubs supporting me, I remember slightly lifted a leg in order to sit my cheek on the side of the bed when my poor baby came hurtling out of my vagina at full force. I watched in horror as something hit the floor maybe 6 feet beyond our feet, seeming to explode on contact. All three of us were frozen in shock- I think we all went 'woah.!' at the same time.. in spite of the terror and pain I was feeling - I was awed by what had just happened - it was pretty fekkin amazing!
Thankfully it wasn't my baby, it was my water sack exploding full force. I'd heard of a more civilized water breaking - more like a public pants wetting, a constant trickle from your vagina, or even a gushing tap - but not a military canon style explosion! The Secret Services could do wonders with my vagina....
The pressure relieved instantaneously, and I thought for one millisecond that there was to be a reprieve, but then the relentless force heightened to an unimaginable level - and I felt real panic rise within me 'Oh God, oh God, oh God!' It was like the wrong wire had been cut during a bomb diffusal and the countdown was accelerating to breakneck speed. Nothing was going to save me now - I was going to have to push this baby out of my vagina - seriously MY VAGINA, a cavity barely big enough to accommodate a cucumber........ let alone a cantaloupe....!
This was it. I knew then that the baby was coming. I was yelling 'I need to push!' and squeezing my legs together so tightly I wouldn't drop my poor kid on the hard floor. But the bloody nurse still hadn't responded, and when she finally did, I was writhing about on the bed like the possessed girl in the Exorcist. It was nigh on impossible to stay still for her to check me - and when she finally got a measure the shock on her face did nothing to alleviate the horror of it all.
From then on, it was a crazy haze of madness. A fast and furious blur of faces prepping the room for delivery. I was aware of a LOT of faces, but uncomfortable missing that all important one, the Doc, who was apparently 'on her way'.
Oh Great. Just hold you knees together and don't push - she'll be here in a jiffy....
It's f*****g hard not pushing when you've really got to push. I tried, though, and finally a scrubbed up stand-in Doc came rolling into position ready to 'catch'. She summarily opened a bottle of oil, squeezing the entire contents over my vagina - then mercilessly she put what felt like all 8 fingers inside my wholly dilated hole and stretched the living s**t out of it...
Holy f**k did it burn! That, right there, was the pinnacle of my pain - so far.
It put the hubby's nightly one finger massage - and my wussy 'too much' objections - to shame. It was on my birth plan - massage my perineum - still, some friggin' massage that was!
Then the surreal movie moment came - and everyone started shouting 'push!' altogether. It would have been comical if it all wasn't so terrifying and painful to boot. But most mortifying of all, now that I'd been given the get go, and my body could finally go ahead and squeeze the little eager beaver out of my beaver, I froze...
In spite of all, I recoiled at what my raw instincts were trying to tell me, and in the midst of all the suspense and chaos I hear myself crying out 'I don't know how to push!' It was a nurse behind my right shoulder that spoke into my ear, gently encouraging 'Push through your bottom...'
Very politely she was confirming what my body had been saying .... it's OK Momma - you can shit this baby out now!
So that's what I did. I pushed like I was trying to push a great big stonking turd out - riding the next contraction wave for as long as I could. Even so - my first push was pretty pathetic, like the first long jump attempt - or trying to hit a piñata. The second go is always a bit better. Practice makes perfect, right?
I was also just that little bit self conscious about screaming - at first. Silence had been my savior throughout my labor (Tom Cruise would have been proud of me) - but what was required now was a bit of oomph. And once I got over myself - I screamed my lungs out for the next push (or two) until my little boy crowned - AGGGGHHH! - then popped right outta there!!
Holy Jesus Mother of Mary - he was here. And so amazing, and tiny, and wriggling on my chest. Skin-on skin - chord still attached. My legs were shaking furiously, and I know I was bawling more than my baby was. The post natal phase transpired like a dream. I was floating on cloud nine, euphoric, and yet humbled by the experience (which had felt almost out-of-body at parts). I rode that all natural 'high' for many hours afterwards, somewhat oblivious to everything but the incredible creature that was no longer inside me.
|One of my favorite shots - ever.|
Strike 4 against the hospital, but I didn't give a monkeys anymore - all was forgiven - they had helped me bring the most wonderful being into the world.
That room became a sanctuary for first-time-Daddy and first-time-Mommy and firstborn baby boy. We didn't want to leave that room now riddled with romance. How soon the seeming horror scene had transformed to utter bliss - and magical memories enshroud our hospital stay. Plus the food was top nosh - boy was I starving after that labor of love!
Our wee man was born at 4:03pm, weighing in at a surprisingly tidy 6lbs 9.6oz. What a guy!
Straight from the horses mouth....!