My baby was five days late. Over that five days (of which four were over 40 degrees), I walked multiple ks every day, got acupuncture three times, went swimming twice and ate curry every night. Nothing worked. I was pretty frustrated over those five days - I know I must have been acting weird because people stopped calling me. Nobody asked “baby born yet?” after day two so my responses in the beginning must have been pretty blistering. When people on the street would ask when I was due I’d say “last Thursday” in such a tone that they would often they would simply go “oh” and walk away.
When it all finally began, I felt very calm. I knew it was going to be a long one. It was Sunday evening and I got so uncomfortable a few times that I had to keep getting up off the couch. The hospital told me not to come in because I was only in pre-labour. When I googled pre-labour, I found out it could last for days. And mine did last two days.
I didn’t sleep that Sunday night. I was contracting twice an hour on average and just lay awake waiting for the next one to come.
On Monday morning it all went away and I just about resigned myself to being pregnant for eternity. It was spectacularly frustrating. Mum and I walked that afternoon and things sped up again. Every few minutes I would have to stop and lean against shop fronts or fences. People in the street gave me a wide berth (get it?). I told my husband to come home at 5pm and we sat together, pretty much silently, til 11 when I called the hospital and said I needed to come in. I hadn’t slept in 36 hours.
At the hospital they doped me up but nothing would get me to sleep. I watched the clock and waited for the next twinge. They broke my waters at 7am on the Tuesday morning and I was 4cm dilated at that point.
Things started to get real. I was coping though and walking around, joking with the midwife and using the tens machine for relief. After a few hours I realised I was allowed to use the gas and by god, did I use the gas! This is where it gets a bit hazy. The following are snippets of the hallucinations that ensued:
- I was one of Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band members and I wore a pink suit.
- The meaning of life was revealed to me from going back in time and watching myself as a 14 year old, getting ready for netball and watching Rage. I can’t remember what the meaning was now which is annoying.
- I went back in time a lot. I began to believe I was going to die that day and that my last action would be to give birth to myself. The logic was like a Groundhog Day thing where I hadn’t lived my life well enough and was now going to be given the chance again. Needless to say, coming out of that one and looking into the eyes of my husband and saying “I’m going to die today” did not go down well.
- I revisited moments of my life going progressively further back and came out of these hallucinations either crying or laughing hysterically. I asked my husband about that afterwards and he said that he and the midwife were just watching me with their mouths open with no idea how to respond.
- I was in a Monty Python sketch. This one actually came true later.
- The music that was playing started vibrating in my vision and the sound became colours like some psychedelic acid trip.
Every time I woke up, new people were in the room. Nurses, midwives, doctors, etc. I came to as a drip was being inserted into my arm. At one stage, a plumber traipsed through to fix the broken toilet.
I’ve never taken drugs, so maybe the gas affected me really strongly but I’m not sure. My big brother, who is a psychologist, told me that it’s really common and when I googled it later found a whole lot of people who it’d happened to also.
Around midday, so five hours later, my body was involuntarily pushing and the obstetrician was paged. The room was prepped for delivery and was suddenly a hive of excited activity. The obstetrician checked and I’d only dilated a further one centimetre. Balloons deflated, brass bands stopped playing and the brakes were well and truly applied.
Syntocinon (a drug that mimics oxytocin and therefore makes you contract harder and faster, speeding up the labour process) was prescribed and the decision not to have an epidural was taken out of my hands. I was still blacking out at this stage and when I came to again a man in a tie was telling me the dangers of epidurals. He was the anaesthetist and I remember thinking that he probably shouldn’t be wearing a tie cause it might get in the way. I’d been quite keen to go through the birth with as little intervention as possible and I was a bit flat that my body wasn’t cooperating. I also started to get quite scared that I wouldn’t be able to get through it. As the epidural was injected I held very tightly onto M’s hand.
You know that scene at the beginning of The Sound of Music and the music soars and Julie Andrews comes over the hill and begins to sing, “The hills are alive with the sound of music…”, well, that’s how the epidural made me feel. I wanted to leap out of bed (ironic since i couldn’t feel my legs) and have bluebirds land on my shoulders and sing sing sing. Amazing.
The next three hours were boring. I couldn’t go anywhere and literally just lay there waiting. I was fascinated at this stage to see the relief on my husbands face. As a man of action, he had found not being able to help me in any way really confronting. Since then, a number of fathers I know have confessed that they felt completely helpless and guilty during labour. It must be a tough thing to watch.
Finally, the drugs had done their job and it was time to push. Suddenly it was all systems go again. As I was encouraged to keep pushing, the babies heart rate was dropping which is normal but wasn’t speeding up fast enough again so they decided to intervene. The midwife literally ran from the room to get the doctor so I got very nervous and demanded some information. When the obstetrician arrived he reassured me that all would be well but they needed to speed up the process. his calm demeanour was such a help. The bed was pulled apart, the stirrups were brought in and three extra people entered the room. Nobody could work out how to attach the stirrups and I felt as though I was floating above my body and just watching it all happen. It seemed so ridiculous. Once everything was set up it genuinely was like the scene in The Meaning of Life with the machine that goes bing.
Five minutes later my baby was born. “Look what you’ve got!!” I couldn’t see what I had because they handed it (her!) to me bum first and then immediately covered her up. My husband cut the cord. The baby was placed onto my chest, skin to skin, and my husband and I couldn’t talk for a while. It was like our world had stopped but it was all happening around us. People were in and out, preparing clothes and towels, cleaning up and making notes. She had my nose and was very little. Noisy though.
When they took my little love to clean her up, my husband went with her and I was left with the obstetrician to be fixed up. He asked me about my job and I answered him quite casually despite the colossal experience we’d just gone through together. It struck me as being completely absurd that we were having this conversation but I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
Eventually they all left and our family and friends began to arrive. Someone handed me a champagne and I couldn’t stop smiling despite how wobbly my legs were.
All up it took about 42 hours from first contraction to birth.
No other 42 hours of my life has been spent in a more worthwhile way.