Yes, there are chapters. Yes, it's that long. Sorry, I'm a writer and this is the best story I've ever told – and it's all true…..
It was a Friday like any other. I woke excited about my appointment with the obstetrician. She would be confirming whether I’d be proceeding with the induction or not….which would mean that I could have a baby in my arms as early as next Tuesday. So it was a Friday like any other except for that part. Oh and the part where I was almost 38 weeks pregnant with my first son. So when I think about it more, it was like no Friday I’d ever known or probably ever would again. I knew that but I don’t think Friday did. It buzzed around me like a day normally does but I knew better. The butterflies in my stomach told me that I stood on the precipice of something huge and with one word from this obstetrician, I would be taking that giant leap into that unknown abyss called parenthood. I was quietly shitting myself.
Normally, the wait to see an obstetrician at The Mercy was upwards of an hour – on a good day. So I was quite surprised that my name had already been called by the time I sat down in the waiting room. I had made an earlier appointment with the lactation consultants who were teaching me to express colostrum to freeze for when bub was first born. Since I had been diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, there was a risk of bub having low blood sugar and the expressed colostrum could be used in place of formula should my baby need to go to the Special Care Unit.
So amazingly, I was sitting opposite my obstetrician within 20 minutes of the original appointment time. A good omen. The previous week, my little boy was head down but not engaged so the chance of my cervix appearing even remotely favourable were slim. And if the cervix was indeed unfavourable, then so was the idea of induction. On the one hand, avoiding an induction seemed like a good idea. Letting my body go into labour naturally seemed a better way to have the birth I wanted. However, on the other hand, talk of a “big” baby made me nervous and feeling that maybe the sooner this baby was out, the better. And then, on another hand of this strange three handed dilemma, was my desire to meet my baby. That moment couldn’t come too soon!
I was relieved that the hospital’s policy was not to push on with the induction no matter what. I really wanted to avoid a caesarean and felt that trying to induce me when my cervix was completely unripe would be a disaster.
I jumped up on that table, knickers off and legs akimbo (dignity, dignity, where for art thou dignity?) and lo and behold, the obstetrician pronounced me already a centimetre dilated. What a clever little lady I was! A regular birthing goddess. And just as I was bathing in the warm glow of my goddess-ness, the obstetrician performed a darling little thing called a stretch and sweep. I call it the “try not to scream and wee.” My goodness it hurt but the most uncomfortable part was how much the pain made me need to pee. Such an odd feeling. It occurred to me at that moment that birth was probably going to be really sucky. Hmmm, too late, I wondered? The obstetrician seemed to think so because she went ahead and booked in my induction for Tuesday which would require me to pack my bags and head to the hospital at 1pm Monday where they would insert the gel and I would stay overnight. Okay, now I was excited.
That night I was getting some cramping but I couldn’t work out if I just needed the loo so I spent some time hanging out on the toilet. To my amazement, I had a show. I must have looked a sight peering into the bowl checking out this bloody mucous glob. It was all I could do not to fish it out and keep it as a souvenir. My heart rate kicked up a notch or two then. This was real and I was excited. And then frantic. I’d thought I had a leisurely weekend to finalise all my packing for the hospital but suddenly it seemed I might actually go into labour all on my own! I was up until almost midnight trying to pack everything I would need. I’d had the main things organised for a good month but to look at the amount of shit I was accumulating, you’d be forgiven for thinking I was off on a Contiki tour. I finally got into bed, the cramps still bothering me enough that I made a heat pack for myself. And almost as suddenly as they’d started, they stopped….and that was the last I heard of them for the rest of the weekend. So much for my spontaneous labour. Baby was not keen to be two weeks early. Sadly, it wasn’t up to bub.
Bren and I spent the weekend looking at eachother sideways and grinning. We’re going to have a baby!!! Shut up! You shut up! We were beside ourselves. We sat on the couch together watching tv and trying to comprehend the fact that these were historical moments – the last days that we would do these everyday, mundane things as a couple, alone. It was bizarre and beautiful and the tears flowed because that is what you do when your life is about to change and you can’t believe you finally made it to this place where dreams come true.
I was to stay overnight with the induction to begin first thing in the morning. We hauled my celebrity-load of luggage up to the room which I was delighted to discover was a single. I got settled in and Bren and I were just so damn excited. The midwife on duty came in and introduced herself.
I was strapped up to the monitors and then Bren and I chatted and watched a bit of TV. The obstetrician then came in to see how I was going and do a second lot of gel if needed. “Wow,” she exclaimed, “You’re having regular contractions. Brilliant! No need for a second lot of gel then. We don’t want to over contract you. Well done!” I was thrilled. I felt really positive about the labour and was hoping that it would begin overnight.
Bren finally had to leave so we kissed and cuddled and then I was alone. That felt wrong but I thought it was an opportunity for me to have a good night’s rest as at home, I would no doubt have run around like a mad woman. I knew I needed all my energy for the birth. But of course, I was too excited and anticipating labour starting that I slept quite fitfully. The nurse offered me a sleeping pill which I initially declined but after tossing and turning for a few hours, I took one. I still didn’t sleep very well, the cry of babies seeping into my dreams but before I knew it, it was 6.45am and I wondered why the nurse hadn’t woken me at 6.15am as she said she would. I put the telly on and the nurse came in and told me to get organised as the labour ward had called to say they were ready for me. I wanted to shower first but the nurse told me I could have one once downstairs. I started to panic as Bren hadn’t arrived yet. I’d been told to take only those things I wanted for labour and also, to bring a singlet, wondersuit and beanie for bub. It was such a profound experience taking out those tiny little clothes in readiness for my son’s arrival. It was surreal. It was thrilling.
I was sitting on the bed, had my labour bag packed and ready to go and Bren still hadn’t arrived. He had promised to arrive at 6.30am. I was fretting now. I called his mobile. Switched off! What the hell? I called home, terrified he had slept in. We have an answering machine where you can hear the message being left. “Honey,” I was calling into the phone, “Are you there, honey? It’s almost 7am and I have to go to the labour ward. Where are you? Your mobile is off! Why is your mobile off?” The truth is, I left several of those messages, each one escalating in panic and proximity to tears. Finally, a panicked looking Bren rushed in. I practically leapt into his arms sobbing, “Where were you? I thought you weren’t coming!” He had been told to go directly to the labour ward as I was already there and of course, when he got there, found that I wasn’t. And he’d dutifully turned his mobile off as per the sign he’d seen at the entrance of the labour ward! Never mind, he was here and all was well. I relaxed……sort of.
It was around 7am when we entered the room in which I would labour and hopefully, deliver my baby. It was gorgeous. The sun was just rising and streamed through the window, casting the room in the most beautiful yellow glow. Being a very new hospital, the room was lovely, everything sparkling and modern, floorboards and a balcony! I felt very comfortable. Bren and I were introduced to our midwife, Colleen. She was in her late thirties and had a lovely, gentle manner. I was feeling great. I asked if I could shower and she mentioned that given the obstetrician would be in any moment to break my waters, I might want to hold off. I’ve never experienced breaking waters before but I figured she probably had a point.
The obstetrician arrived and did a quick internal. I was disappointed to learn that I was still only 1cm dilated. I thought with the gel and contractions overnight that things may have been more favourable. She began attempting to break my waters but was having trouble so up into stirrups went my legs. I figured I’d be waving my vajoots around all day long so I tried not to be self-conscious. That was a little tricky, especially since Maggie the student had come in to watch. I was quite uncomfortable as the obstetrician went to work with her crocheting hook. I felt quite strong pressure and then that unmistakable warm gush. But when I say gush, I think I really mean torrent. There was sooooo much damn amniotic fluid. An earlier shower would have been a huge waste of time. I was amused at the tiny little mat they put underneath me to catch the fluid. They call them “pinkies” which is a cute name and appropriate for something that might catch a little trickle but far out, I think I lost half my belly size with the outpour!
Before the obstetrician left, she put in the shunt for my drip. I closed my eyes for this bit as I’m absolutely terrified of needles and sharp, pointy things being stuck in my veins. Maggie obviously wasn’t keen either because she shook her head quite vigorously when the obstetrician asked her if she’d like to do the shunt. Thank the lord for that because I think I might have passed out if she had attempted it.
Of course now, I was desperate for a shower. I hobbled awkwardly to the bathroom as one is wont to do when liquid is pouring out of them and had a lovely shower. Things were feeling good and all seemed to be progressing nicely. Colleen changed my bed linen and I hopped back onto a nice, dry bed. She’d told me to pop a pad into my undies to catch any further fluid. Ha! Almost as soon as I hopped back on the bed, the torrent began again. I can’t express enough how shocked I was at the amount of fluid and how hideous it felt to have to sit in it, wet undies and all.
* This is the edited birth story of my first son – I wrote it for myself and close family and friends so it's long but I promise you it was even longer. So here it is, in stages.