Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A look back at the experience of a lifetime

Right, fast forward six months and here I am, someone's mom. And that someone is a gorgeous little boy we've called Ezra.

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Before you read on, please be aware that this is a blow-by-blow account of my labour and childbirth. I don't think it's particularly graphic, but think you should be warned anyway. Also, it's hard to fit into less words so a rather long post indeed!
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I can't say that I found pregnancy difficult, I was one of the lucky ones who really enjoyed it. Yes, there was heartburn and sore ribs and a hundred trips to the loo every five minutes. Yes, I wanted to die in the February heat and got claustrophobic in my own body and couldn't sleep for more than a couple of hours at a time. And yes, my body became public property with friends and family and perfect strangers wanting to rub my belly and doctors sticking swabs and scopes and scanners into every orifice and demanding bodily fluid samples every five minutes. But I loved it all in spite of myself. Pretty impressive for someone who won't even get naked in front of her own mom.

Childbirth has to be the most exhilirating thing I've ever experienced. With his lordship determined to stay curled up in my belly and my doctor determined to get me on an operating table, the last few days before Ezra arrived were a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. At 38 weeks my gynae started murmuring about what a big baby I was carrying, how I really shouldn't go more than 40 weeks, and that a caesar might be the best option for me. I almost caved and went for the op, I don't think my doctor could understand why I hadn't jumped at it. But something, most likely my husband's voice of reason, just told me to wait it out. So I did what women do when pregnancy has gone on long enough - I went in for some hard labour! Yip, I got down on hands and knees and scrubbed my kitchen floor. I washed windows and bathrooms and cars, had a glass or two of vino, did the horizontal limbo and drove over every speed bump and pothole in our little town. With absolutely zero effect. A good few days after my due date my gynae told me it was time to move things along. With much reluctance and after a good blubber, I was admitted to hospital to be induced.

Now for the record I need to say that I know my body pretty well and I'm pretty sure of what it's capable of doing. Better than anyone else after all, since I'm the one who has lived in it for 28 years. And I'm really NOT comfortable with letting other people take charge of it. Hence the reluctance to be induced. And then, when the midwife on duty arrived to take my medical history and inform me of the next day's procedures, I got my back up a bit...

Midwife: Right, so we'll wake you up at 5 am with tea and toast. That is all you'll be allowed to eat until the baby is born.
Me: Um, hang on, what if this takes two days? Am I going to starve until then?
MW: No, it's not allowed to take two days, you have 12 hours and then we will give you a caesar.
Me: Like hell you will.
MW: (Smiles condescendingly and writes 'bad attitude' in her notes - or that's what I imagine anyway) So after breakfast you will have an enema.
Me: No, I won't, but thanks for offering.
MW: You have to my dear!
Me: I don't, I have the option to refuse it and I'm exercising that option.
MW: But if you make a mess on the bed when you're pushing you will be embarrassed.
Me: I'm pretty sure I won't notice what with the HUMAN BEING coming out of me at the same time.
MW: (Writes 'check mental health' in her notes) Okay, so after the enema...
Me: So not happening! will be shaved, have a shower and then we go to the labour ward to start the induction.
Me: Okay lady, how about we do this instead - you show me where the labour ward is and I'll prep myself as I see fit and meet you there, say, 6am?
MW: ('This one is going to be difficult')

Once I got over being defensive though, Cindi (the midwife) turned out to be a real honey. I guess she's seen her fair share of scared moms-to-be and knows enough about labour to realise that keeping us calm is better than being rigid about hospital protocol. So, no enemas, no shaving AND she let me take my energy bars and wine gums into the labour ward :) At 6am we started the process that would take a total of 14,5 hours (yip, no 12-hour caesar for me) with Cindi placing a hormone tablet against my cervix. It was an uncomfortable process but over quickly and wasn't as much of an invasion as I thought it would be. Credit to Cindi for that - she kept my bits covered, working by feel and told me exactly what she was doing and why. Then I had monitors strapped to my belly to keep an eye on my contractions (which had started on their own during the night) and the baby's heartbeat and settled in for some serious waiting.

An hour later I was introduced to Tracy, the midwife who would be taking over from Cindi's nightshift. She was a tiny blonde dynamo, sweet and strong and clearly in the right career. I don't know how I would have got through the day without her enthusiasm and encouragement. She had a look at my file, had a quick feel of my belly and unceremoniously kicked me out of bed to 'walk this baby out' with instructions to return once an hour for monitoring. It was important to get his head properly engaged in my pelvis before my waters broke so that the umbilical cord didn't pop out before he did. Although I was having regular contractions already, they were not particularly strong or painful so I paced the hospital corridors with my husband, Shane, in tow, giving gravity a chance to do some of the work for me. Just after 9am my gynae came in to examine me and see how things were progressing. Another uncomfortable internal exam and he whipped out what appeared to be a foot-long crochet hook.

Me: What the hell is that?!
Doc: It's okay, I'm just going to break your waters.
Me: (Backing myself almost off the back of the bed in a panic) Do what? With THAT?! Where is it going to go? Am I even dilated? Has the head engaged? DO YOU ACTUALLY KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING?
Doc: (Pissed off at the insinuated incompetence but managing to stay calm) Just relax please, I've done this a thousand times and...
Me: (Pissed off at the patronizing tone and not managing to stay calm) Well YOU might have but I HAVEN'T!
**Awkward silence whilst doctor and patient stare each other down, husband and midwife find something extremely interesting to occupy them on the other side of the room**
Doc: (Sighs and puts down weapon) Okay. You have dilated to 1cm. I know this because my finger is through your cervix. The head is engaged. I know this because I can feel it. Your labour will progress faster if I break your waters artificially which is done by putting this instrument through your cervix and hooking the amniotic sac to tear it. You won't feel any pain, just a gush of warm fluid, rather like you would feel if you wet your pants. Now can I do this please?
Me: (Sulking) Fine.

And it was fine. One minute I was lying in bed feeling irritated, the next thing I was sitting in a puddle of hot wetness feeling amazed. A rather large puddle! I was asked to lift my bum off the giant absorbent sheet under me so they could check the fluid for any signs of blood or meconium (baby poo) that would indicate the baby being in distress. Everything was normal and after a few more minutes of monitoring I was given a gigantic sanitary pad and a pair of underwear and was allowed to go back to stomping my way around the wards.

Around 1pm I went back to the labour ward for my hourly monitoring session while my husband disappeared to scrounge up some lunch, get his nicotine fix and update the relatives (still nothing happening). Tracy examined me again and found I was 3cm dilated. (Are you kidding me? 4 hours of walking for 2cm of dilation?!) My contractions were getting serious and I was battling to walk or talk while they were happening so I gave up the superwoman act and retreated to my bed. Half an hour later (and probably because I was lying in bed focused on it) I could no longer bear the pain. Tracy offered me an injection of a marvellous opiate called pethidine. I bared my bum and 10 minutes later drifted off to join the fairies dancing around in my head. I dozed on and off for a couple of hours, surfacing from my haze to mutter during contractions and babble nonsense in Shane's direction. Around 3:30pm Tracy examined me again and found I was 4cm dilated. The pethidine was wearing off and I was groaning feebly when my gynae reappeared and confirmed the dilation with a very uncomfortable internal exam. One massive contraction (and one not-so-feeble groan) later I agreed to have an epidural.

Lying on my side while waiting for the prick of a needle, I remember giggling at my gynae's comment about what a lovely slim back I have - whether he genuinely meant it or whether he was trying to take my mind off things I still don't know. Needles don't bother me and being a sometime blood donor I am pretty much immune to that particular type of pain, though I was surprised by the 'electric shock' down my leg when the spinal catheter was inserted. And then, a cold sensation, a bit of tingling and blissful nothingness! A few minutes passed, I was rolled onto my back and watched amazed as Tracy inserted a urinary catheter that I couldn't feel. My hand was resting against something warm, I squeezed it, looked down and burst out laughing as I realised I was feeling my own leg. The gynae had waited around to be sure that the drugs didn't halt the progress of labour, and took advantage of my newly acquired numbness to do a 'proper' internal and to move my cervix forward. I laughed at the look of surprise on his face when he realised that I had dilated another 2cm in those 20 minutes! Clearly the epidural had been well-timed :)

I passed the next few hours chatting happily to my husband, Tracy and on the phone to my mom who was sitting in the waiting room outside chewing her nails and watching the proverbial paint dry. When Tracy finished her shift at 7pm I was 8cm dilated and just starting to feel a few twinges as the epidural wore off. They didn't want me to have any more of the anaesthetic as it impairs the ability to push. I was introduced to Gugu, the (next!) nightshift midwife who would see me through my delivery. All talk of caesars was over, Gugu was chuffed to be involved in one of only two natural births that night. Half an hour later I felt nauseous and sent Shane running for help. In came Gugu with a kidney bowl, I emptied my stomach of the winegums I had hungrily munched down an hour before and the gynae was called for.

Things moved pretty quickly once he arrived, he examined me and found me fully dilated and Ezra's beautiful head on it's way out. I felt no urge to push, but was told to anyway, my still weak legs lifted into stirrups by Shane and Gugu whilst the doc got himself scrubbed up. I begged for another dose of the epidural, finding the pain too much to work through. They eventually relented and gave me a dose, and then I pushed like mad while I still had the feeling to do it. His head was crowning when I went numb and the gynae had to use forceps to ease him out. He entered the world at 8:25pm. Gugu grabbed the little purple bundle while the doctor unwrapped the cord from his neck and gave him a good rub down with a warm towel. He started yelling while she suctioned his mouth and nose and wrapped him in a blanket. He was placed on my chest and instantly quietened down, huge blue eyes taking his first look at the real world while Shane cut his cord. I smiled down, all the anxiety of moments before gone and whispered 'Hello gorgeousness' into his ear. The doc heard that and looked at me as if I was from another planet, unable to see the beauty in this little purple person's face. Shane lent over with tears in his eyes and kissed my forehead. We lifted the blankets together and had a peek at our baby, confirming what Shane had always thought - it was a boy :) 'It' was our Ezra.

The next 90 mins passed in a blur. Ezra got weighed (3,66kg - not the 4kg+ monster the doc was predicting) and had his first injections, I got a stitch or two and watched the doctor collect stem cells from the placenta and umbilical cord. Once he was done with that he prescribed some pain killers, said goodnight and left. Gugu tidied up the room, helped me change into a clean gown and snuck the new grandparents into my ward to meet our boy. Just enough time for hugs and kisses, a few baby cuddles and a couple of photos before they were whisked back out. Gugu (THE ANGEL) had ordered us a few toasted sandwiches which we practically inhaled, Ezra got his first meal and was taken to the nursery while I recovered the use of and feeling in my legs so I could have a well-deserved shower. Sixteen hours after I first walked into the labour ward I walked out again, this time to start a brand new chapter of my life. The chapter called motherhood.


  1. Love your birth story... How you remember it all amazes me... Mine seems to be such a blur... I also relate to many parts of your story...
    Well done!

  2. I loved reading this post. When I had my baby girl 4 months ago I'd meant to write the whole experience down straight away but time ran away with me, as it does when there's a baby around (as well as having my mother-in-law fly up and stay with us for about a month or so). Still want to try to write it all down but already some of the details are a bit fuzzy.

    I eventually gave in and asked for an epidural but was too far along, but the pethidine combined with gas & air was quite an experience! ;p