The next few hours are a bit of a blur. I was really cruising though. I didn’t really want anything, I just laid back on the bed, completely relaxed. I think I might have watched some tv, Bren did some Sudoku, I asked Colleen about her kids and she checked on the level of the epidural by doing the ice test regularly. She popped in and out and at one point she came in and said that my Mum was in the waiting room, that she wouldn’t come in and disturb us but that she couldn’t sit at home anymore and she hoped it was alright if she stayed at the hospital to wait. “Tell her to come in! Bren, go get her!” I had told Mum that I didn’t want anyone else in the delivery suite while I laboured but I was feeling very peaceful, quite serene really and was so happy to see her. She brought in a little Beanie Baby that was a mother with baby in a sling. I clutched it the rest of the day.
The hours ticked by. The time came for Colleen’s shift to end. I was sad to see her go. She had been really gorgeous to me even if she had found it tricky inserting the catheter. What did I care? I was feeling nothing, almost like the world was going on around me as I floated in my own little zen bubble. A midwife came in to do the handover from Colleen. Her name escapes me but I didn’t like her. She looked at my chart and noted, “Induced but not very favourable. Hmmm, only 1cm dialated.” A few women were at the crucial stage of their labours so she wasn’t with me consistently as Colleen had been. No loss there. I didn’t need that Negative Nelly on my team. Other midwives came and went. More ice tests. Too much epidural on one side, lie on side. Ice test reveals epidural level just below eyeballs. Hastily turned down. All the while, my baby’s heart rate remained very calm, a brilliant sign.
And then, at 5.30pm, an internal revealed the magic words. “Fully dilated.” Really? The whole 10 centrimetres? But I’ve just been lying around doing nothing. Cool! I am such a birthing goddess. ‘Take that!’ stupid website that said my body wouldn’t respond to induction and I’d end up with a caesarean! What did they know? I was told to have something to eat and drink and that we’d start pushing soon. Oooooh, that sounded exciting! I wasn’t exactly sure how one was supposed to push when they had zero feeling in the necessary parts but hell, I was a birthing goddess, if anyone could do it, it was me!
It occurred to me that I’d done almost no eating or drinking all day. Bren consulted the fully stocked Labour Bag, finding Barbeque Shapes and a juice box. Perfect! As soon as the taste of the Shapes hit my mouth, I was on a roll. I couldn’t get enough of those things. “Don’t eat too many of those. Just eat lightly,” a midwife cautioned me. “Okay,” I said, motioning to Brendon to pass me another handful. While the midwife had her back to me, I crammed approximately 38 biscuits into my mouth, chewing furiously and then smiling beatifically as the midwife turned back to me.
Dusk descended out my window and the room was bathed in the soft light of the television. Romantic really. But it seriously felt great. Midwives came and went. One began to prepare the area where they would place the baby to do Agpar tests and all when he arrived. It was all very surreal. I vaguely recall ‘Neighbours’ being on the television. In the hall, a woman screamed obscenities. Bad hospital food, I supposed? Babies were keen to be born it seemed and so it was after 7.30pm before we met midwife Gemma who would be with us for the pushing stage. She was young and blonde and seemed incredibly sweet. I told her I was having a son. “Baby boys are very cheeky,” she smiled. “Oh my baby boy will be, that’s for sure!” I said.
Suddenly, the room seemed to fill up. There were several midwives and two students. (Maggie was back! Hey Maggie, long time no see! She’d had a full day having just watched a caesarean.) It was all happening. Bren stood to my left and held my hand and the pushing began. I had no idea what I was doing. I couldn’t feel a damn thing. One midwife was touching where I was supposed to be pushing from. Rosie, I think her name was. “From here Angela, this is where I need you to push from, okay? Into your bottom.” We’d all watch the monitor and when the contraction would start, off I’d go, huffing and puffing and making what I assumed were all the right faces. My legs went up into stirrups at some point and that was actually good because I could get some traction, a base to try and push off from. This went on for about forty minutes. I still wasn’t sure how I was going but everyone was being very encouraging. And then, at the end of pushing through one contraction, Rosie said, “That’s it Angela. That’s the way.” and then turned to another midwife and rolled her eyes. I didn’t say anything, the moment just passed but I began to wonder if I was making much progress at all.
Apparently Rosie was sick of me because she handed the job over to Gemma and left the room. Gemma, by comparison, was so beautiful. “I’m going to help you birth your little boy, okay? You’re going to have him in this room, alright?” As I pushed through a contraction, she said, “I can feel the top of his head moving down. Keep going! You’re doing so well.” It was thrilling. I so wanted to give birth to this baby during Gemma’s shift. I wanted her to see my baby. I had a student, Kate, to my right, and she was gorgeous too. I felt a lot of support in the room.
And then, almost like a black cloud, three obstetricians entered the room. I knew what was coming. One of them sat on the edge of the bed and explained to me that the baby was beginning to show signs of distress linked to my pushing. Unfortunately, he was just not moving. He was still far too high up in the birth canal to attempt an instrumental birth (forceps or ventouse) and so, she says, “We need to look at other options.” Well, what a stupid fucking thing to say. There obviously weren’t options. I was going to have a caesarean. I immediately began to sob. The obstetricians swept out of the room, their black cloud sweeping everyone from the room with it. Everyone but the lovely Gemma. The party, it seemed, was over. Gemma held my hand and apologized to Bren and I. She knew I had desperately wanted to avoid a surgical birth. She also knew that the way the obstetricians (all women) had charged into the room and taken over was less than sensitive.
To her credit, the Registrar appeared again and was exceptionally lovely. She explained that another woman was currently having a c-section and that I would be after her but that they would reassess things closer to that time and if anything changed, I could have another go at pushing. This gave me some comfort.
I lay in a bit of a daze but started to feel very uncomfortable. With each contraction, I could feel the most immense pressure in my bum. The epidural meant there was no pain involved but it was still a horrible sensation. I asked if they could turn the Synto off – I was going to have a c-section anyway so what was the point of induced contractions? The midwife (Mrs Rolly Eyes – yep, she’d popped up again) agreed to turn it off but explained that labour was well and truly established and that turning it off wouldn’t stop the pressure. Did I want the epidural turned up? Well, the whole thing had gone to hell in a hand basket so why the fuck not, I thought? Dose me up!
Time passed. I had a fleeting thought about all those Barbeque Shapes – wasn’t there a no eating before surgery rule? ‘Ah, I’m sure it’ll be fine,’ I reassured myself. The Registrar arrived again and apologetically performed another internal, confirming that yes, we would need to go ahead with the caesarean as bub just didn’t appear to be able to fit through my pelvis.
Gemma was needed elsewhere and so wouldn’t be present during the c-section. She said goodbye, assuring me that I was in good hands with the midwife who took over. I don’t remember much about her. I was just scared. People buzzed around me as I was wheeled to the OR. Everything suddenly felt very sterile and cold. The anaethetists went through a checklist of questions (can you believe the small matter of the Barbeque Shapes came up?) and people continued buzzing around me. I was aware that people were chatting away, throwing in-jokes back and forth and generally having a great time. Me, I was quietly crying and worrying and just feeling like this wasn’t how it was meant to be. I felt tiny and scared and where the hell was Brendon? What had they done with Brendon?
I was finally taken into the OR itself. The lights were so bright, everything was so cold and clinical and again, I just felt that this wasn’t how a baby was supposed to be brought into the world. Suddenly, birthing this baby had NOTHING to do with me. And that lack of control felt wrong. Who knows from where but suddenly, my beautiful Bren appeared in his medical gown and pink hat. The green sheet went up to separate us from the gore. It was all very surreal and out-of-bodyish for me and I had no concept of time but soon enough, there was a flurry of activity and someone telling Bren to get his camera ready and then a sound that I will never forget for the rest of my days. That magical cry. My baby was in the world. My son was finally here. They held him up for me to see very briefly before whisking him away. “He’s beautiful!” I cried, genuinely surprised. People had warned me how freakish newborns can look and frankly, Bren was funny looking as a babe but for the love of God, this child was BEAUTIFUL. Knock me down gorgeous.
They did the Agpar tests and then wrapped him up and brought him over to me. They lay him over my chest and Bren sat beside me as we stared at this tiny little person we had created together. Luca Daniel. Did I say his name aloud? Did Brendon? I don’t recall but I remember how big his hands seemed and how blue they were. And blood. I remember saying to Bren, “You’ve got blood on your face!” They must have flicked him as they pulled Luca out because he had tiny spatters on his face and glasses.
And then, the Barbeque Shapes. Those damn Shapes, like a bad omen hanging over my head! “Bren, you’ll have to take him away. I’m going to be sick.” Someone rushed over to me with a tiny kidney-shaped bowl which was kind of like asking me to vomit into a thimble. But I didn’t care. I just spewed while someone held the ridiculous bowl and someone else used a suction to try and catch it all.
I had wanted Luca and Bren to be with me in recovery but that wasn’t possible. They left to go up to the nursery in the maternity ward and once I was all sewn back together and finished vomiting, I was wheeled to recovery where I rambled away to the nurse there about who knows what. I do recall her mentioning she had six kids and to be honest, I might have called her a straight up lunatic but who can really say? These were crazy times. I know someone came down and said that my mum was asking how I was and if she could come and sit with me which I thought was a great idea but again, they said no.
Finally, I was taken upstairs by a lovely orderly named Luke and I told him my son’s name was Luca and that I hoped he’d grow up to be as lovely as him. What can I say, I was on some kind of high. They wheeled me into my room and I asked where my baby was. Bren walked in with the most tiny bundle in his arms and handed that tiny little bundle to me. “He needs his Mum,” he told me. I cradled that beautiful little child in my arms and Bren and I just gazed at him in absolute wonder and then gazed at eachother through tears. We kissed and said I love you as though it was the first time we had ever done that. In that single moment, Bren and I have never been closer.
Mum was waiting very hesitantly outside. She had sat with Bren in the nursery but she hadn’t held Luca or even been told his name. Bren had wanted me to do that. As she entered the room, I said, “Mumma, I’d like you to meet my son, your newest grandson, Luca Daniel.” We all cried and continued to stare at this beautiful little man who had been named after Daniel Healy, my mum’s father.
I wanted to begin breastfeeding right away and the nurse helped me get Luca latched and it was as though we were both born to it – which I guess we kind of were!
It was so strange because here I was, at the end of one journey and at the very beginning of a brand new one. But lying with my baby son at my breast, I felt completely at peace.
I wonder if it is possible to feel more love than in those first moments with your tiny newborn child in your arms……I doubt it.