I’ve been neglecting you, TTGTSU, and I’m sorry. Partially due to logistics (spending seven weeks in hell at my in-law’s lovely and grand house in Kew, where internet usage had to be kept to a minimum because of cost, and my FIL constantly needing it and reasons.) But also because I am in a new frame-of-archetype?-reference? As in;
I am a mother now. Stops. Takes deep breath. Yes, I gave birth to an adorable baby boy on March 25th at ten minutes to one in the morning…after a fifty hour give-or-take labour. I’m not including the ‘oohh, that might have been a contraction, oh, wait, it’s gone’ part of labour either. This was every five minutes, grabbing Nat’s hand and saying “gasp..huff…are you..timing..them?” (Just to put that in perspective, the average labour is somewhere between eight and 18 hours.)
My parents, and his parents, were there. Nat and my MIL drove me in to the…well, let’s just call it ‘the hospital’ for now. An extremely brusque English-nanny type gave me two fingers up and said, No, you’re nowhere near far along enough, come back later. Later?
Every five minutes, everything between my ribs and my thighs felt like it was being squeeeeezed by the giant anaconda from the film of the same name. The one that spits up and then re-eats a partially disgested Jon Voight.
Back to Kew. Watched Mean Girls, as the contractions started to get closer together and more and more painful. I could barely smile at Amanda Seyfried’s dumbest-of-the-mean-girl jokes! It was captial P Painful! Then came a less widely known symptom but one that pregnacious women are all made aware of – losing your lunch, your dinner and quite possibly your breakfast. I think I ate some cheese on crackers at one point but it didn’t really seem to make much difference when you know in the next five minutes that the anaconda’s stopped chasing J-Lo and is after you instead. Cue; BLLEERGHGHGHHG. Calls are made. ‘A hot shower can provide some relief’, said or read someone or something. Dashing Nat put a chair in his parents’ shower and washed my back. I had been very contemptuous of the whole hot water as pain relief thing, but, ladies’ and G’s, there was a little comfort there. And…now it’s time for the anaconda.
After the second voluptuous vomiting session, my MIL makes the executive decision that we need to be back at the hospital. (My parents having already left after I was first taken off.) My FIL drives and I am in the passenger seat, feeling every speed bump and hoping that his question; “Is Jayne not wearing a bra?” is something I’ve misheard because of the anaconda.
And I have to admit, it does start to get just a little foggy here. I remember standing behind a row of chairs in triage and stretching my arms over them, and that seemed to dissuade the anaconda just a little. Then I was transferred up to a room, then to another room, and it all gets a bit confusing.
“Could I have some pethidine, please?” I ask and receive a blessed two-or-three hour nap in the arms of Morpheus (anacondas seemingly not allowed.) But, as with all good things, it wears off. Oh but there is a wonderful, magical thing in store for me – the glittering amazement of NITROUS OXIDE.
“You just suck on the mouthpiece here..oh, you’re doing that, good, yes – good deep breaths there, and you can scale up the gas and lower the oxygen proportion with this..oh, you’ve found that too.” Maybe-Mummas, there is relief in the hellish dregs of long, long labour and it looks like this; O2/N2O. That’s also probably what my face looked like when I was on it.
Simultaneously, a little nurse offered to put me in the bath. I had been very skeptical about how this could possibly work, but with nitrous oxide, anything seemed possible. The baths are really more like teeny swimming pools, and your partner is allowed in with you, but – because this was getting towards the 24th hour awake – Nat was occasionally falling asleep sitting up, so we thought it safer for him to act as a lifeguard. So I got my stoned arse and baby belly into the water and, well, it was a revelation. I wanted to love that bath, write poems for it, sing it odes of praise. I’m guessing the technical effect is the way it takes all the weight off your body, but the pain seemed to float away. I was a mermaid brooding on a rock, held gently in a tropical warmth. The anaconda was still there, but he just..didn’t seem all the important anymore. I was talking at this point and all I can remember of the conversation was something about how you couldn’t find good eyebrow pencils, and I wanted some gold L’Oreal eyeshadow. It was only after an hour, when I had started to fall asleep and submerge, that someone came and I had to be dragged out.
Honestly, this part is a bit hazy. I remember someone saying, ‘This is going on too long, you’ll be too exhausted, you need an epidural’ and me saying okay, but isn’t there a specific time window for that? Oh no, she promised, you can have an epidural at any time. (WRONG.)
The sun has set on this labour for the third time. A couple of times, Nat has had to go out to get something to eat but mainly subsisted on Sour Gummi Worms. (I think I had a few too.) I knew a long time had passed just from his weary face and posture, but I wasn’t sure how much. I went to ask if I could get back in the bath again (O My Bath, My Beauty, My Muse!) but was told I was too far along for that.
“So – do I get the epidural now?” I (naively) asked. Oh no, I was far too gone for that, there’s a very specific time window. Ohh. Kay. And this, my lovelies, is where it starts to get a bit darker, literally and figuratively. “Good” labour has set in. (Surely only a man could have called this ‘entrails-going-over-railway-tracks’ bit, “good”. The room was suddenly? Gradually? quite dark, and the only people present were me, Nat, a sweet Asian midwife who looked very experienced and a …work-experience?…midwife of about 12, who seemed a little freaked out by it all. And of course, the baby. And the anaconda.
Now I was in a fairly small, dim room, and I was getting the impression that we were at the business end of things. A couple of clues bothered me though – as my water hadn’t broken on it’s own, they called in an, I guess, Water-breakerer to get that out of the way. If there is any difference between the instrument she used to tear a hole up inside me and an everyday crochet hook, I don’t know what it is. Well, SPLASH.
That’s good, right? Something’s happening – right? Everybody whose watched any TV shows AT ALL is familiar with the next bit. It’s where they say “Don’t Push.” This is…delicately put..MUCH easier said than done. That anaconda has you in it’s coils, you are not in control of anything lower than your chest, it is SQUEEZING, SQUEEEEZING, SQEEEEEEZING, and..’don’t push’?
Interesting sidebar, here; Nat swears I made almost no noise throughout the whole debacle. (I did sing “We Are Family” when they injected sterilised water into my back, because I was told the pain would be a ‘ten out of ten’. When it was over, I couldn’t believe it – a ten?! Four quick touches of a tattoo needle would have hurt more! Oh, but, I was about to find out about what a ‘ten out of ten’ was. My body, my baby and the emergency doctors would spinal tap me all the way up to 11.)
“NOW PUSH! PUSH! PUSH!” The last remaining coherent thoughts I had were jeez, make up your minds. So I pushed. And Pushed. And PUSHED.
Nothing was happening. Nothing was moving down there. I was still in pain, but the anaconda’s outgoing squeeeeze seem to have deserted me. “PUSH AGAIN! PUSH! PUSH WITH EVERY MUSCLE IN YOUR BODY!” (Nat’s thoughts here, obviously more coherent than mine, were ‘why the f**k did they give Jayne her valium and her anti-anxiety meds…those one that make your muscles, gee, I don’t know, RELAX?’ Too late to worry. I was pushing for the world. At one stage I mentally called on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and imagined I was using her Slayer strength to push that little guy out of my body. I could even see a Pulp Ficton-esque light shining out with the effort. But I might have well have been trying to knock over the Statue of Liberty with my bare hands. It felt like concrete.
Nat was gripping my shoulders and yelling at me to PUSH (he later discovered he’d sprained all the muscles in my neck and felt really guilty. Like that was the pain I was worried about!) ‘None of this fifty per cent effort! Push with EVERYTHING!’ I felt like Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby for a second (NB, Nat apologised for saying that later, it was all he could think of to do to help.)
I’m not quite sure when it became obvious that the situation had gone to Defcon 1 in a matter of seconds. Nat saw the older midwife pick up a red phone, and seconds later the room was aflood with fluorescent light and seven doctors in full scrubs and gloves. The emergency obstetrician was quite young and good-looking and I was vaguely embarassed that me, a fully paid up riot grrrl and feminist, had ended up in the most patriarchal of birth positions…on my back, with my feet many feet apart, and in stirrups.
McDreamy spoke to me kindly but firmly. ‘Jayne, the baby is stuck and we need to get him out very, very quickly. [Google ‘shoulder distocia’ if you’re a fan of gory details.] I’ll try the vanteuse first.’ (This is a vacuum doodad they stick to the baby’s head and pull it out like a carrot out of the ground.) ‘You’re going to feel some pressure.’ Even in my sky-high, WTF is happening state, I knew that ‘pressure’ was a euphimism for ‘extreme pain.’ McDreamy tried the vanteuse. It felt as though someone was trying to put a dinner plate inside me, front on. “Forceps, here,” were McDreamy’s next words and I went into a grey world then, seeing the size of this thing, something like an eyelash curler big enough to hold a gigantic roast turkey, and ‘NOW!’ said McDreamy and all five of the doctors closest to me jumped and put all their weight onto my torso. (Nat still swears I did not make a sound. Perhaps it was heard only by the goddesses of childbirth, who it seemed had FINALLY heard my pleas. ) I felt my consciousness begin to lift, to head ceilingward, and it seemed that I was looking down at a black and white tiled floor that was covered in blood. I had been torn apart, surely, and my internal organs must have fallen out. “ON THREE!” I KNOW I made a noise then, something like ”uhh”, a sound you might make if you tripped and hit your head against a door frame.
Something was in the eyelashcurler of torture, a little bloody person who was dumped onto my chest amongst more blood, and I put up a hand and tried to touch him and say “Hello” because tiny, bloody angels don’t often fall out of the sky onto me. Despite the amount of ‘Supernatural’ I watch.
He was just as suddenly snatched away and the next bit was the worst so I’m going to gloss over that. It was all touch-and-go, and I heard Nat say “Maintain your rage!” and then the most beautiful, sweetest voice I’ve ever heard said..something. Not in English. Just something to say, “I’m here and I’m breathing and I’m okay.”
I was partially distracted by the guy who was sewing what seemed to be a complicated macrame pattern onto my lady parts, and the nurses who were topping up my blood like I was a champagne glass; well, I certainly felt fragile. Three months later I still haven’t really been able to connect that excruciating experience with the beautiful baby boy who now lives with us. Like his namesake, it really was like an angel had chosen to fall on me. His name is Malachai, but sometimes I’ll whisper to him that he’s Lucky, and we’re lucky too, to have him.