Scary stories from a lovely place
(This is the birth story of my newest nephew Charlie, as written by my older sister Jenny.)
Charlie was due to be born on the 5th of January 2011. The lead up to this date was a touch stressful. Our last baby, Siena, was born three weeks early, so from the day I was 37 weeks pregnant with Charlie I expected to go into labour, just like last time. We had planned to be staying down the coast in our caravan until New Year’s Eve, which is a good hour and fifteen minutes back to our hospital, and at least thirty minutes to a hospital on the way. There’s nothing like trying to tempt fate. Added to this was the stress of making it past the 1st of January to be eligible for the Government’s new parental leave payment, but with a due date of the 5th it was always going to be tight.
So no doubt because of the stress, I had a number of false alarms from about 36 weeks on. These involved numerous early morning baths and counting ‘contractions’, but led to nothing more than lost sleep and a big water bill.
The 1st of January (slowly) came and went, and having reached that deadline, I immediately switched from willing labour away to desperately wanting it to begin. I had begun to have visions of being grossly overdue and having to be induced, all after Ian had returned to work. I was obsessively googling “natural ways to induce labour”, in some vain hope that each time I searched I might stumble upon some new and surefire method that would cause a spontaneous breakage of waters.
Without any new answers coming to light, we decided on the 2nd of January to do two things. The first was to arrange a babysitter so we could go and see a movie the next day (to tempt fate, of course) and the second was to have a nice hot curry. I ordered a vindaloo “hot”, but this did little more than induce a glisten on my forehead. I think the curry man doubted that I really wanted it “hot” hot. So I was not optimistic. And sex as a way of naturally inducing labour was beyond my commitment to the cause that night.
I woke about 4.30 the next morning with some pains, no different to the numerous false alarms I had already experienced. I lay in bed timing them for a while and they were about 10 minutes apart, but pretty vague. I decided to hop in the bath, again, because I knew that would be the first thing the midwife would say if I had cause to phone him. To my surprise I had a bloody show, so I was pretty sure this was no false alarm. In a sign of how technology has advanced in the time I’ve been having children, I downloaded an app on the iPhone to time contractions. I got bored pretty quick. The contractions were about eight and a half minutes apart at this point, and I began to freak out as the memories of labour started to come back to me. I decided to wake Ian – it’s kind of a lonely experience labouring alone, even though there were likely many hours ahead of us.
I got dressed and went downstairs. Ian made me toast and tea – the toast hit the floor during one of the contractions, which were suddenly about 4 minutes apart and more intensely painful than I remember having previously. I felt really angry for some reason – why had I decided to do this again? I ate the toast anyway. I was starting to panic.
I asked Ian to phone John, my midwife. In his typical calm and fuss-free way he suggested that as long as I could manage the pain and until I felt some pressure down below, I should stay at home. I reminded him that I had a 20 minute drive to the hospital, and he said I should factor that in. Now I am both a perfectionist, and obsessed with punctuality, so there was no way I was going to the hospital too early, or on a false alarm. I told him we’d stay at home for a while.
In a matter of minutes the contractions were on top of each other, and at this point I thought I might be in trouble based on my previous two labours. Ian called the midwife back, who again wanted to know what I thought – did I feel that I was ready to come in? Please don’t ask me to make a decision!! What if I get the timing wrong? Panic from the pain was overtaking me, though, and I said we’d come.
I stood at the open car door through two hideous contractions and I did not know what to do. I think I was dry-retching. Ian was debating calling an ambulance. I finally managed to get in and apparently yelled “just go!” According to our lovely elderly neighbour, Ian “took off like a bat out of hell.” I think she may have been concerned that sensible Ian had become a car hoon overnight.
I sent a couple of texts on the bridge near our house and from my phone log this was at 7.22am. It all got completely out of hand on the Camden by-pass (a few kilometres from our house, and still 15-20 minutes drive at normal speed, depending on traffic) – I could feel Charlie’s head and the urge to push. I had this weird tunnel vision where everything around me was a blur, except for the agony of the contractions, the sensation of his head, and the speedometer – sensible Ian did the bypass at 140km/h (and for the sake of our car’s interior, aren’t we all glad that he did)!
Ian phoned John again and told him I wouldn’t be able to walk up to the delivery suite – could he please meet us with a wheelchair? I think cool hippie John sensed the panic at this point, so told Ian to go straight to Emergency.
Ian had a minor brain freeze somewhere on Narellan Road – he suddenly decelerated and yelled out “I don’t know where I’m going!” I was no help because I couldn’t speak. Thankfully he finally came to and took off again, only for us to be stopped at a set of lights. That was an agonising few minutes. Ian took a shortcut through Park Central, which for some strange reason increased my panic – I think because I didn’t actually know the way through there myself. The head was coming out and I was absolutely terrified. I think my own head was pushed up against the ceiling as I desperately but futilely tried to stammer “the head is coming” over and over.
We made it to the Emergency doors and Ian ran in to get help. At this point John appeared and I remember him both rubbing my back and trying to get me out of the car. My panic abated slightly with his calming presence. (He told me later that he was preparing to deliver Charlie in the car and had his gloves and one of those plastic backed mats – he was totally fine with this). I somehow managed to get myself out of the car and onto the wheelchair that another nurse had brought out with Ian. (At this point Ian apparently told John that he would move the car. John thought he was just getting the bags out).
I had the weird tunnel vision thing again when I was being wheeled into Emergency, holding myself up sideways on the wheelchair. I remember the shapes of people sitting in the waiting room and I wondered what they were thinking – I am not one to make a spectacle of myself, but a very unglorious spectacle I certainly was!
They wheeled me through to the Resuscitation cubicle. I managed to climb onto the bed and lay on my side. I asked John for some water, and then for some pain relief. Tunnel vision again – his face with a bemused and helpless smile. The pain relief window had long passed – if it was ever there at all! Poor John – who’d be a midwife? The other weird memory I have at this point is the two other nurses in the room standing as far back as they could from the whole thing, with their backs against the curtain. Shame – I guess it’s not an everyday occurrence in Emergency. I did kind of feel annoyed that they were doing nothing but catching the show, but my annoyance was short-lived.
I could fight the urge to push no longer and with that I had the fantastic, hideous, alien-like feeling of him coming out of my body. He came out in one push, with one quick adjustment to his position by John (and one almighty and alien scream from me). It was 7.43am – about 22 minutes after we left home.
At this point I became aware of two things. The first was Ian tearing open the curtain yelling “you’ve got to be kidding!” In my panic and pain, I was unaware that he wasn’t in the room and had missed Charlie’s grand and messy entrance. Having moved the car and then been stopped at reception, he was a matter of seconds too late and I think will always feel a sense of loss in having missed his third child’s birth.
At the same time as, and despite, realising that poor Ian had missed the whole thing, I felt an indescribable sense of relief that it was over and the pain was gone. My previous two labours were reasonably quick, but nothing that compared to the intensity of pain and sheer panic that I experienced with Charlie.
So there he was. A quick check to make sure he was indeed a Charlie (well, a boy one at least), a further irritating awareness of an audience watching me through the observation window (I can only hope they were nurses and not members of the public), and that wondrous sense of relief and thankfulness that he was healthy and whole. There’s really not much more to tell.
As an aside, I have since reflected that Charlie’s birth was a great success for me in a number of ways (in addition to my beautiful baby boy) – I was flawlessly punctual, and after two previous unsuccessful attempts I finally managed to give birth fully clothed. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend it – my punctuality meant that I had my undies reefed off by my poor (but completely unruffled) midwife “just in the nick of time”, and that will not go down as one of my greatest moments!