Those long, painful contractions kicked in, two days before Valerie’s due date. There was an enormous amount of pressure on my rectal area. I could not find any comfortable position. Could not stand, sit, squat, lay down or crawl. Nothing could remove that tension. Just grinding with it. Braxton-Hicks? Or the real thing? I took out the watch and I still have a piece of paper somewhere where I scribbled down the times when the timing started and ended. Those scratchings certainly looked very painful still, almost six years after the matter. Could not eat, could not sleep. Quite miserable. I knew I wanted to wait as long as I can before going to the birth center, but it was really painful and uncomfortable and I will hide in our bedroom and look at the watch and tears will flow out of the corner of my eye. I called the midwife. No, the contractions were too erratic; some seemed to be lasting really long, but still, it was not time yet.
Two days later in the middle of the night I laid in bed, wanting to convulse in response to the contractions; and that darn pressure on the rectal area was still there. dh was sleeping, all conked out, next to me. I think I lost my plug. And I was getting impatient, and I just wanted to be at the birth center to be looked at. I called the Center and told them I felt the contractions were really intense. They agreed for me to come over. I woke Ralf, we gathered the bag, Ralf made his coffee, we packed a box of cookies, left a note on the table for my mum, and we went off. It was about two in the morning.
On the drive over, I kept smiling. This must be it! I’m going to be a mother! We’re going to see the baby! I held dh’s hand and asked how he felt. He was calm, and excited too, he said.
I had a cervix check when we arrived at the center. Ouch! Yuck, I am very sensitive there and hated that. The midwife on duty apologized but she said I was almost halfway there, 4cm! Baby is pressing low on my back, explaining the rectal pressure. She suggested I walk around to help things along. In the “living room” area a family was sitting together in bliss and excitement, all smiles. There was a baby, all swaddled up. I could see that dark mob of hair, those two tiny slits of eyes that were close in peaceful sleep. The mother looked glorious. Oh, baby! Are you coming?! The midwife joked that the baby should be motivation for me. I walked. Up and down, up and down. I was tired. I drank some, I ate a few cookies. Suddenly it seems the contractions have grown much less intense and decreased in frequency. I wanted to just crawl somewhere, curl up and sleep. But I kept walking. I remember setting our things up in the birthing room. Putting on a CD. I recall watching dawn break through that window in that room. Oh, a new day has started. “This is the day, my baby” I whispered to my belly. I think people were coming and going. I had a fellow laboring mum in the next room. But things were not moving along for us. Ralf called in to report that he won’t be coming in for work that day. My legs were getting soft and strength was seeping out of my fingers. I think I started to lose confidence; I thought of the birth plan and the birth visualization in our bag, and they seemed just like a jumble of alphabets on pieces of paper, stripped of power and dreams, just laying in there lamely.
The midwife offered to draw up a bath for me so I can relax with the warm water jets in the tub. Yes, I wanted that. I got in, and fell asleep a little. I had not really rested the last two days. I was really exhausted. I wanted to forget about the pregnant belly and just sleep for a few days. I wished the big, bulging belly could be slipped off, just for a few moments!
After some time, I was asked to get out, becoz the warm water was so relaxing, it could vastly slow down the labor. I was asked to do this, try that. And things were moving along very slowly. I think I heard a baby cry in the next room. Already. Doubt flooded over me. Self-doubt. Can I do it, or not?! Fear consumed me and maybe I was afraid the devil will come and get me and my baby and I would not allow dh out of my sight. If he needed to use the toilet he had to be doubly quick. He was the only other person I knew then, whom I totally trust is going to protect me and take care of me. “Come on, baby! Come on!” I whispered to my belly. “Don’t you want to come out and see me? I am dying to see you, to see how you look like!”
At one point, the midwife broke my waters. I think I went on to 8cm. And stayed there forever. And the room was starting to get dark. Midwives changed shifts. Two midwives got me onto the bed and helped me try several things. One of them asked if I surfed, for she had a surfing technique that really always works. No, I do not surf. I looked down at my belly, my toes, and felt like a dork. Stupid. What am I supposed to do now? I feel like reaching inside and just pulling the baby out. I just want to lay back and ask everyone to get out and have a good cry and a good long sleep. I want to sleep! I am so tired, and I have not eaten much since we got there, just those cookies, that were dry, hard and nowhere near nourishing or delicious. And, things were really just not going well.
Our friend R paged to see what we were up to. Mother had called them, worried that we have been away for 12 hours already. Was everything ok? Yes, I was still alive, baby is still alive, but I felt like dying. My spirits kept dropping, and dropping.
Finally, the midwife said we gotta go to the hospital. It was eight in the evening. My waters had been broken for 12 hours. We had been at the center for 18 hours already. Tears welled up in my eyes. Is this it?! Am I being thrown out of the ring, game over? The midwife smiled and told me they could help me better at the hospital, it’s just five minutes down the road, and don’t worry, she’ll be there. dh, bless his heart, he was holding strong, even though I had been clutching on to him, and he hasn’t really eaten either. We got into the car. On the way over, I told him while staring ahead, “I don’t want to be cut up.” “No,” he reached over and squeezed my hand, “Don’t worry, everything is going to be alright.” he said.
We got in. dh went to the receptionist, while I sat and waited. Ominous thoughts flashed into my head. Oh, is this the point where things are going to spiral out of control? Pitocin, epidural, C-section, all that jazz, not being able to breastfeed, etc etc etc?! I wriggled my toes to find feelings in my feet, trying to find strength to stand firm on this ground. They ushered me into a room, it was cold. I was supposed to change into some flimsy gown. I shivered. The room was cold and I was scared. They got me onto the bed and started the pitocin. My feet were cold. “Please get me my socks, Ralf!” He looked in the bag but could not find it. We asked the nurse for socks, she went off and came back with those disposable paper-shoes they wear around the hospitals. Heck, don’t you have anything better to offer to a poor, tired pregnant woman who is feeling cold?! I was feeling angry, annoyed, despaired. I felt like an animal on a chopping board. Thankfully dh looked again and found the socks. Much better! Then the pitocin kicked in, and where was the midwife? She’s nowhere to be seen, and the pitcoin was killing me! Are they trying to kill me?! I clung on to the cold metal sidebars of the bed, pleading to dh to please hug me, please help share the pain, it was too intense! “Please switch off the machine! It’s the wrong thing, they are trying to kill me! I am dying! PLEASE! PLEASE!!”
And I was just a mess. So pathetic. Still cold, and my gastric juices were starting to corrode my insides. I wanted to curl up, but my belly was blocking me. And all those wires that seemed to be everywhere… I think I must have cried. Not loudly. Just the tears. I cannot remember but I think once I bit into Ralf’s knuckles so I would not scream the roofs down.
A nurse came in. “Where’s the midwife?” I asked her. She told me she has gone back to the birthing center; there was another birth. I thought, “There’s a birth right here. I need help. I really need help!” But the nurse also turned off that stupid machine and told me I was 10 cm now, Congratulations. I felt the urge to push. “I want to push.” I said. She informed me the doctor has been called. He was on his way, probably 20 minutes. That sprouted the horns on my head. “BUT I WANT TO PUSH! NOW!!!” She looked at me. “Yes, you can start. I’ll help you.”
I think that was what I did for the next hour or two. Prone, knees up to my ears, people counting and me pushing. My ribs were going to break, I was very sure. I was going to burst. I felt like an animal. The doctor came and I did not like his attitude but I had no choice then. I pushed! I pushed!! Finally I was told the baby had crowned. I reached down and touched her hair. Oh, here comes the ring of fire! “What is that?!” I shouted. I was told to puff, pant. I felt a little bit like a robot, with very delayed response. I had to think, “Pant? ok, pant, like a dog.” A few pushes more and I was pushed over the edge. The baby is here, she is here; finally she is here!! I heard her cry, I heard the doctor say, “It’s a girl!” She’s here. She’s a reality.
I flopped back, tears running down my face. “Baby, baby! Where is my baby?!” The nurse put her onto my tummy. Valerie lifted her head and our eyes met. “Oh, my baby! My baby!” I’ll always remember, those were my first words to Valerie. She had dark hair, and she looked bruised. But she was finally here. Big girl. She looked strong too. The nurse took a picture of us three. I looked worse than shit. I was not radiant and I was not peaceful. I was relieved that the baby was safe. I was SO glad I did not get cut up and she did not give up on us, on this world, to make the passage into this crazy world.
That, was our first birth.
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