My last update outlined the misery and indignity associated with gastro bugs and pregnancy. This post will outline similar outcomes, but from a slightly less violent cause - childbirth. Warnings etc advised to those of squeamish disposition or those currently staring down the barrel of giving birth. Bookmark it and read it later. Or not at all.
I have previously mentioned that I have the gestation of a pachyderm. My two eldest children were born 15 days beyond their due dates, so really I had no reason to expect this time to be different. But you just can't help hoping, though, can you? Especially when well-meaning souls spin you yarns about having 2 post-dated children, then firing #3 out at 37 weeks while sneezing. Needless to say, my due date(s) passed by uneventfully and as the days merged into weeks, my midwife-extraordinaire decided to pull a few strings (and cervical membranes) to get this show on the road.
In the past, I've tried every single method known to mankind (and some lesser-known methods also) to bring on labour. All have categorically failed, aside from an extra 15 days in the womb and / or a dose of prostiglandin gel.
A wee note here for those interested in maternal mental health: an overdue woman does not want to hear about what she needs to do to bring baby on. She has tried it already. She especially does not want to hear about your antics prior to going into labour, as chances are, she knows your husband, and is now not only still obscenely pregnant, but also tortured with unwelcome mental pictures. If you get my drift. An overdue woman balances on a thread between a state of absurd physical immobility and discomfort, and hormonal insanity, and will possibly render you unconscious if not treated carefully. True story. And I love the Oxford comma.
So it was, that we found ourselves on the cusp of 2 weeks overdue, and facing induction at Christchurch Women's Hospital. Based on previous experience, we expected to have Prostiglandin gel inserted at 12pm, go into labour immediately, and leave with babe in arms 3 hours later. However, it seems that the divine powers that be have a sense of humour. Or like to shake things up a bit.
3 days prior to this, Sophie (now 5 years old. FIVE - can you believe it? I certainly can) came down with the flu. Not that 'flu' that people complain about having when their nose drips and they have a headache. I mean the actual flu. Very high temperature, vomiting, chills, aches, runny nose etc. That one that the Ministry of Health vaccinates children free for. Might get that done next year! **steps off anti-vacc soap box and stomps on it** Induction day dawns, and Caleb gets it also. Along with a viral rash that looks like a full-body port wine stain birthmark.
So here we are, facing labour having had very little sleep for the past 3 nights and with a very sick pair of wee cherubs at home with Granny Annie holding the fort. Steve had very kindly let me sleep in that morning, as that spontaneous 3 hour labour might drain me a bit. After all, I hadn't had much exercise of late.
Gel goes in. Nothing happens. Sent for walk to hurry things along. Trek a great distance and climb many flights of stairs. Nothing happens. Wired up to various machines to check if anything is happening. Nothing is happening. Twiddle thumbs. Read many ancient magazines. Nothing happens. Excitedly find newer stash of magazines and become expert on Kardashian family, celebrity weight-gain / loss / pregnancies and the singular awfulness of New Idea magazine. Nothing happens...
During this phase, we were in a ward containing several 'rooms' (I use the term loosely) separated by badly hung curtains. The type of curtain that when whisked closed, promises to fly open on the other side, usually unveiling the patient in an unfortunate state of undress. Whilst there was nothing happening on our side of the curtain to reveal (did I mention that?), there was a great deal of action going on in the space next door. It seems that the thing to do when facing an induction nowadays is to invite your family, friends, and assorted hangers-on to watch. And tell them to bring their kids too. Babies that are mobile, needing a nap and prone to trying to escape from their ancient and barely-holding-together umbrella stroller and dash under afore-mentioned crappy curtain to the cubile next-door are especially welcome. We never got this memo, so our sincerest apologies to any of our family, friends, neighbours or distant relatives that would have liked to have been present to watch my dignity being hurled out the window. Maybe next time? Oh wait - there isn't going to be one!
After many, many hours of nothing happening and the antics next door going from odd to outright and blatantly annoyingly awful for everyone within the general area, we politely requested our own room, as we were clearly there for the night. The midwives on duty took pity on us and showed us to a private birthing room, complete with Lazi-boy for Steve (who by this point was battling sleep-deprived headaches and hallucinations and threatening to do unkind things to the entourage next door) to sleep in. We were terribly grateful, but after a few hours, it became obvious that everything was conspiring against us. Steve's Lazi-boy was made of hospital-grade vinyl. Thus, it emitted shrill and unseemly sounds every time he moved, preventing any hope of sleep for both of us. It was also prone to randomly pinging upright at any given moment, either sandwiching or pinging its unsuspecting sitter upright, just as they were nodding off. It was decided that for the good of mankind, Steve would go and stay with some friends, and I would call him in the unlikely event that anything happened.
At around 1am, and many awful magazine articles later, I was having fantasies about becoming the new editor of New Idea and saving it from a future of certain mockery and death. It was also shift-change time, and a new round of unseemly young doctors entered the room, threatening to break my waters, insert more gel, fire in a drip of Syntocin etc, anything to get this show on the road. By the way, when did medical staff get so youthful? Surely a doctor cannot be younger than me? I am somewhat youthful myself, I like to think, and training takes a century or more, doesn't it? Am unhappy with the notion that I have crossed the line and now have medical professionals younger than me. Just sayin'. Anyway, after a conversation that had me declining offers of intervention and requesting that we wait until morning, they left. I was still wide awake, and cursing having left my e-reader in the car. Jamie Fraser would have been such good company...
Anyway, at 3:15am, I gave up trying to read or sleep and hopped in the shower. I'd no sooner gotten in, when I felt a distantly-familiar contraction. And another. I was startled, and decided to wait and see if I had another before ringing Steve and suggesting he return to his friend the Lazi-boy. 4 contractions later, I managed to stumble out of the shower, ring Steve and get myself wrapped in a towel. Drying myself or getting dressed was very much in the 'too hard' basket at this point.
Steve made a remarkably quick (and possibly slightly illegal) dash across town and was met by a surprised night shift staff, who I hadn't thought to notify about our baby's imminent arrival. Our own midwife was phoned, I was jabbed with an IV line for treatment for Strep B, and we made noises about wanting to go into a room with a birthing pool. Actually Steve made said noises - I had slunk into my silent birthing mode. It seems when in labour, I'm rendered incapable of speaking aloud, yet my thought processes are painfully clear. Thus, I am quite polite when birthing, and seem not to be one of those shrieking, cursing crazy ladies that you see on TV. If only you could hear my thoughts, however...
Induced labouring women are not meant to birth in a pool, according to CWH. Especially if they are attached to an IV. Thankfully, my midwife gracefully agreed to have any dire consequences on her own head, and we were escorted to the very same birthing room that Sophie and Caleb were born in. Something kinda cool about that. The IV had run its course by now, and it was looking like we were out of time to get the next dose in. I had a shower for an hour or so, each contraction searing my insides and leaving me clinging to the handrail. I remembered that counting during contractions had been helpful during Caleb's birth, so I began to do that, deciding that a count of 100 would have me demanding pain relief and / or a surrogate birther. I seemed to lose count around 65 every time and have to start again, so never got up to 100, thankfully!
In the bizarre state of highly-illogical thought-processes that birthing brings on, I also decided that I would have to have given birth by 6:15am, which I thought would mark the 3 hour mark of labour, or I was stopping this whole wretched business. I realise that many (most) women suffer through much longer labours than 3 hours from go to woah, but in my slightly irrational state, it seemed perfectly valid and sensible. Don't ask me what I was going to at this 3 hour point if Baby hadn't arrived, but I was quite determined that I was having no part of these shenanigans beyond then. Hello transition.
I hopped in the pool, watching the clock like a hawk, and evidently grinding my jaw against the side of the pool through each contraction, if the sore bruised patch on my chin the next day was anything to go by. Eventually we got to the pushing stage, and to my utter despair, 6:15am approached and I realised that I had gotten my math wrong. I really had to give matters until 6:30am to resolve themselves, as I wasn't sure whether I had actually started labour at 3:15am, or just hopped in the shower then. To be fair on everyone, an extra 15 minutes had to be allowed, I begrudgingly thought.
Meanwhile, my birthing team of Steve, midwife and midwifery student continued their in-depth discussions about cider brewing, in between the odd "Good job, Miriam" and "That's the way, a biiiiiig push". Having been rendered mute, I was incapable of shrieking madly "I'm pushing out a baby here! Hellllooooo?! A bit of focus, please!" but my thoughts may have been along these uncharitable lines. I started to get a bit despairing of the whole wretched business ever being over, but suddenly all 8lbs of Amelie May Bell wriggled out (literally) into the very capable hands of Bronwyn, our multi-tasking midwife extraordinaire, who was also now qualified to brew a fine cider. It was 6:26am, and our wee pet still had 4 minutes up her sleeve until her eviction deadline. I like a punctual child.
It never ceases to amaze me how the body copes with a natural birth. One minute you are literally being stretched asunder, in utter agony. I'm not sure if the internet meme about labour pain being equivalent to having 24 bones broken simultaneously has any truth (I doubt it) but it certainly is indescribable pain. And then the baby is born, and it all just stops. And you realise that you'd kill for Marmite on toast and a cup of tea. But of course the freaking Marmite factory had the cheek to be quaked, so you'll have to settle for Vegemite **sigh**.
So here we are, 3 weeks on. We have a delightful wee lady who sleeps pretty well and does all of the things wee babies are meant to do and nothing that they're not. She is adored by her siblings, and has survived being sat on, drawn on, smothered with toys and kisses. She's a keeper.