Scary stories from a lovely place
(Today’s installment of The Birth Story bears a higher classification than yesterday’s G-rated effort. Part 2 requires a bit more graphic input.)
….By this stage it must have been about 09h30 and Gail decided it was time to check my dilation as my contractions were so close together and I was beginning to retch. That done and Gail reported that I was 6cm dilated, with 4cm more to go. Upon this information I knew it was going to be quick. My shared genes with my sister, who also enjoyed rather quick labour’s, where going to get me across the line.
Ntombi, my midwife, who Stephen and I had been having appointments with and building a relationship with for the previous 9 months was still on her way, or still on the treadmill perhaps. Gail was getting stressed that she hadn’t arrived yet. I didn’t care. Perhaps in Ntombi’s absence, Gail offered us the use of a doula, a birth companion, a Swedish lady named Ingeborg. Gail told me that Ingeborg would help me think of ways to deal with the pain. I didn’t care.
The blonde and very pretty Ingeborg came in to offer me her companionship. Shame, she really should have stayed out of the way. Stephen said that as soon as she introduced herself he knew this wasn’t going to be a good idea. She calmly explained her role, as I paced and dealt with contraction after contraction which radiated down my thighs and made walking almost impossible. I wanted to get in the bath to deal with the pain, so I asked Ingeborg to fill it. Then the first weapon in Ingeborg’s arsenal of companionship was one of those ridiculously large balls they have at the gym. She demonstrated how I could sit and bounce on it during contractions. Whatever. I told Stephen to get the ball out of my way. Then Ingeborg set up one of those oil burning candles, cleverly placed next to the bucket I was using to vomit in. I was in too much pain during the contractions to speak so I wildly gesticulated to Stephen that just like the ball, I didn’t want that damn candle. She calmly explained she was trying to set the mood. Couldn’t she tell I was setting the mood? And a pink scented candle just didn’t fit.
But the damage had been done. The stink filled my nostrils and the nausea overcame me. I had to get outside. One of the lovely things about the Genesis Clinic is the nice little private garden adjoining my room. Out I went. I tried to come back into the room between contractions, but Ingeborg kept closing the door behind me which reignited the stink of the candle. So then I stayed outside. By now there was barely a ‘between’ between the contractions anyway. Outside, under the clear blue sky, I paced, groaned and pushed against the wall. Ingeborg told me to use the pain. It really really hurt. Stephen was very supportive and observant and at one point exclaimed; “love your water just broke!”
“No that’s just wee” I replied.
I was breathing so heavily that I began to hyperventilate. At this stage Ingeborg redeemed herself. She told me to relax ‘between’ contractions or I would pass out. That helped me regain control of myself. I could hear Gail outside my room talking to Ntombi on the phone, and it didn’t sound like a pleasant conversation. “How far away are you? Well she’s moving very quickly. She’s more than 6cm along. You should be here now.” I knew that Ntombi was replying to Gail’s protests characteristically nonchalantly.
I began to feel crazy pressure with each contraction and knew something was trying to get out of me. Ingeborg finally finished running the bath. I was on my way in when Ntombi arrived. It was 09h45. I would end up paying her a lot for about half an hour’s work. She was still worth it. She checked my dilation. I was 10cm and she could feel the head. It was on. I was going to have a water birth which had not been the plan. The bath was great. Thank you warmth and gravity. The contractions continued unabated. Stephen was on my left and I was gripping his arm. Ntombi was on my right and I was digging my fingers into her arm. She deserved it. How dare she go to the gym?
They couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat. They stayed calm, but I could tell they were nervous. I blame their machines. The first they tried was a small, doppler which Gail had to hold together while Ntombi listened. It didn’t work. Then they brought in a machine they had to wrap around my waist. So I had to stand up. Are you serious? I did, but couldn’t for long because of the pain in my legs. Gail swapped places with Ntombi who told me I had to start pushing. That’s fine, the baby was already pushing his way out. She told me I could push even when there wasn’t a contraction if they wanted to. I pushed and screamed like they do on TV. Ntombi firmly told me that was a useless way to push. I had to hold my breath and push. It worked much better. They continued to try and find the heartbeat.
I pushed. There was a tiny kernel of doubt forming in my mind that perhaps they couldn’t find the heartbeat because something was wrong. I knew I had to get this baby out. I pushed really hard. They all told me I was doing really well. I disagreed with them. At one point they were all talking about how fast it was going and how strong I was. I replied “please, just shhh!” I needed quiet to concentrate. Stephen asked them to stop complementing me.
I pushed. It hurt. My water broke with a little explosion that only I saw. Stuff started to happen. It looked really weird. I pushed. I could see a head coming out. It looked about the size of my fist. This encouraged me, I could push that out. But then, bang, out came the head. And it was massive. And it was someone’s head. It looked so weird. The baby turned it’s head from side to side, straining against my flesh. It was bizarre. I pushed. It hurt. Out came the rest of it. Ntombi dumped the baby gracelessly on my chest. It was purply and very very soft. I didn’t know what to do. I thought I should cry or kiss Stephen. But I didn’t care. It hurt. It was 10h15.
We sat there for a moment and I remembered the gender, I didn’t know if I had a son or a daughter. “What is it?”
“It’s a girl!” Ntombi pronounced. It didn’t make sense. It didn’t click in my head. It sounded like she was speaking a different language. Ntombi lifted the baby’s leg “no it’s a boy!” That made more sense. I looked at Stephen. We had a son.
Gail took him away. Ntombi cut the umbilical cord. It was weird. It looked like an electric cable. I asked what was inside it. She let me touch it. Then I had to push out the placenta. Really? Can’t it just come out of it’s own accord. It hurt in a different kind of way. It looked really weird. It was black and had blood vessels all over it. I was done. I wanted to chill in my spa for a while. They gave me a needle in my leg. I shouted as if it hurt more than pushing Silas out. It was funny. I was done with being brave.
I got out. They dried me and I lay on the bed. I was freezing and shaking and in shock. Stephen was holding me and asking for more blankets. I could see Silas lying on a little electric blanket. He was fine, and less purple now.
Thus ends The birth story part 2: losing and asserting control. In part 3: the aftermath, I will apologise to Ingeborg, be stitched back together, be handed the placenta in a zip-lock bag and give a review of Genesis Clinic.
(There are no pictures because no one needs to see them. And because my camera was still in the car. There was no time.)