God love them, they didn't have a clue!
So there I was, sitting in a pool of amniotic fluid when the registrar (big boss lady) popped her head in to see how we were going. When Colleen mentioned the drip wasn’t up yet she made a little face and indicated it was time to get moving. By now, it was 9am. I was feeling good but of course I was feeling good, the drip wasn’t in and my own contractions were undetectable. “Labour?” I thought, “Piece of piss!”
Bren was hovering around making sure I was okay. He had brought in the thousands of bags of “essential labour equipment” including food, stereo etc. At this point, I didn’t feel I needed any of it.
I started to feel some contractions once the drip had been in for a little while. It’s hard to say how much time had passed – as far as I knew, the world outside had stopped. There was a definite sensation that here in this room was the only true and real thing. It was quite cosy. These early contractions weren’t too hurty but rather inconvenient because each time I’d have one, fluid would gush out. At one stage, I literally felt that the flow would never stop, it felt like I was lying in water with quite a strong current. I called Bren to have a look and he called Colleen to take a look too because we weren’t sure if it was normal. Bren told me it look like my undies were ‘billowing’ with the force of the flow. I pissed myself laughing – possibly literally but who could tell with Niagra Falls between their legs?
Enough time passed that Colleen felt it was time to up the level of Synto. Sure, why not? I was a little soggy (eww) but ultimately, I was cruising here. I had the monitors strapped to me on one side, the drip up on the other but I was still convinced that when the time came, I’d be on my knees or walking around or in the shower as a method of dealing with the contractions.
I think it’s important to mention here that the drip went up for the first time since it had been started. So that’s one level it had gone up by. Which means there were an untold number of levels still to come. Meaning the level of Synto was still quite low. Meaning I was very fucking surprised when the contractions jumped up 1000% in the pain stakes. Colleen had left the room for something and I knew how much pain I was in by the face she made when she re-entered the room – it was obviously a mirror of mine. It was the face someone makes when they say “Oooooooooooh!” Which is the same face one makes when they say “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!” except for the shape of the mouth. My cruisey labour experience had made a very sharp turn into “Fucking painful, I want to die” territory.
Each contraction began with the gushing of fluid and then the pain hit my belly making my whole body rigid. My legs were stiff and I felt I couldn’t breath through it because I was so tense. I felt immediately overwhelmed by the pain. It wasn’t a good sign. I very quickly felt like I needed the toilet and the performance to get me into the bathroom was comical. Off came the monitors, drip disconnected from somewhere so it could be wheeled, get the rigid whale off the bed, stagger to the bathroom clutching Bren’s arm and then sit on the toilet. Bren wasn’t sure what to do but I told him to get out because I was sure I needed to go. I pulled down my undies and the pad I’d put on all of half an hour earlier fell to bathroom floor like it was made of lead. It occurred to me that this might present as quite funny in hindsight – but only in hindsight because right now I was so, so not laughing. I must have sat on that toilet for ten or more minutes and had at least four contractions but of course, didn’t go to the toilet. Sitting on the toilet seemed quite a good position to be in because I was bent over and I could kind of hunker down through the contractions. However, given that labour had been in progress for a very short duration and I was already sobbing on the dunny, I had misgivings about how well I would cope as things progressed.
I couldn’t say for sure how long I sat there really. Maybe ten minutes was actually half an hour? Maybe I had ten contractions? All I know for sure is that the pain kept coming, one contraction seemed to slam right down on top of the last so that I couldn’t get my head straight in between.
After a while I felt pretty sure I didn’t need to go to the toilet – or if I did, it wasn’t happening so I called Bren who helped me very slowly and very awkwardly back to the bed. Was Maggie the student still around? I have a vague memory of being embarrassed that someone would see my bum when I came out of the bathroom…must have been Maggie… ‘Don’t look at my fat bum’, I recall thinking. Vain until the end.
Once again, I was strapped to the monitors and it occurred to me that this would make it difficult to try different positions to help ease the pain. I was back on the bed, lying on my back, propped with pillows. Someone asked the question about using the shower for pain relief, was it me? maybe Bren? Can’t recall but I know the answer was no – because of the drip, I needed to be monitored at all times. The truth was, I was so in over my head, the pain so intense and unrelenting, that I never seriously considered getting onto the birthing ball or on hands and knees. The monitors made it tricky, the pain made it impossible. Instead of a slow build to the pain where I might have established a rhythm and found ways to get on top of the contractions or at least ride them out, the synthetic hormones flooding my veins had made my body completely rigid and my mind a blur.
I was starting to feel very overwhelmed and incapable of the task at hand. This labour had been going no longer than two hours and already, I had reached my threshold. Well, that wasn’t strictly true but what I knew for certain was that I was at the beginning of a long labour and that eventually, I would need pain relief. I started to think that there was probably no sense in waiting and thus, enduring several more hours of excruciating pain only to have the epidural in the end anyway.
Colleen was the first to bring the epidural up. I knew in my heart I would do it but I felt so guilty, such a failure. She suggested the gas. I was very reluctant to try it because I’d heard so often that it made people really nauseated and I absolutely wanted to avoid feeling or being sick. That on top of the contractions would have been hell. However, the pain wasn’t getting any lesser so I decided to give it a try. Colleen prepared it and handed me the mouthpiece just as a contraction hit. She told me to suck in the gas with each normal breath but even this required a certain rhythm so I practically threw it back at her as it instantly annoyed me.
Each contraction completely took me over, I wasn’t capable of anything other than quietly crying “Ahh aahhh aaaaahhhh!” I looked at Bren, resigned. “I think I’m going to have to have the epidural.” “Whatever you need, honey, you just do it, okay?” This would probably be where people would argue that I needed a birth support person other than my partner who would be strong and tell me I could do it, that I didn’t need the epidural. But the thing was, at that moment, knowing that I still had a long way to go, I DID need it. I knew I wouldn’t make it to the delivery with no drugs so what the hell was I waiting for? Thankfully, I had the full support of Bren – not a person trying to talk me out of the inevitable.
Colleen went off to alert the anaesthetist while I continued contracting and crying and starting to worry about this huge mother of a needle I was about to cop in the spine. I’d had better times.
At some point during all this, the phone had rung. I didn’t even hear it while in the grips of a contraction but my poor mother certainly heard me as Colleen informed her I wasn’t available to talk.
The anaesthetist arrived very quickly and proceeded to tell me all the awful things that could happen to me if I let her stick a horse needle in my spine. But she was young and pretty and I trusted her to make all this pain go away. Also, this was her gig so she obviously didn’t judge me for needing the drugs. She regarded me with sympathy and said things along the lines of, “You poor thing” and “We’ll have you feeling a lot better very soon.” I was a poor thing, I should be feeling better – I needed that, damn it!
Did I sign a consent form? I couldn’t rightly say but I know that as I rode out another couple of contractions while she prepared, I couldn’t have had that needle in my back fast enough. I was moved into a sitting position and this was less than comfortable. I felt the cold anti-bacterial wash on my back and cried “Ow, ow, owww” as she injected local anaesthetic around my spine. A pause as I had another contraction. “Angela, when this contraction is over, I’m going to put the needle into your spine. I need you to lean forward and round your back as much as you can like you’re rolling yourself into a ball. When I put the needle in, you’ll need to be absolutely still, okay?” I suppose I nodded, I don’t know. What I do know is that the contraction ended, the needle went in, hit a nerve and my body jumped about a foot in the air. “Okay, Angela, that’s exactly what I don’t want you to do, sweetheart. I’m going to go in again and I really need you to be still.” Oh fuck me, I’m paralysed for life! But no, all was well and before I knew it, I was all epiduralled-up and feeling no pain. It was just after 11am.
The conclusion tomorrow…..
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