I tell a lot of people in gruesome detail about my pregnancies and births. I think I may have to join the group, ‘Oversharers Not-Really-Anonymous’. Anyway I had not thought of actually writing any of it down (although Mum said I should) until I was reading a blogpost somewhere else with all the gory detail, and I laughed a lot, and thought, maybe I should do this. I even conducted an unofficial questionnaire on Facebook. The response was ‘Yes’.
Something that is a recurring theme of both pregnancy and birth, in my experience, is slime. I had my first ultrasound, the transnuchal screening, at 12 weeks, and then another at 20 weeks. The sonographer puts a lot of slime on your tummy, after tucking rather a lot of rough scratchy industrial paper towel into the pulled-down waistband of your pants. Then they play slip ‘n’ slide all over your tummy with the ultrasound gizmo. To properly see the foetus in there they have to have one’s uterus pushed up by a nice full bladder of wee, upon which they lean rather heavily. One acquires one’s full bladder by following their instructions – drink a glass of water an hour before, and don’t go to the toilet. Clearly this does not take into account the presence in one’s digestive system or the REST of the water, and the cups of tea, etc.
This prompted possibly the worst thing that anyone ever said to me while I was pregnant…
“Hmmmm – your bladder is a bit full. Do you think you could go and get rid of about 20 mils?”
Did I think I could, while busting for a wee, wipe the slime off my tummy, pull my pants UP, go into the toilet, pull them down again, wee out twenty mils (and how to measure it, one might ask?)…and then stop. Yes – then stop weeing, wipe, pull up pants, walk back out, still busting, get back on the table, pull down waistband and repeat whole paper-towel-and-slime procedure. Apparently a quick count of ten (and not one that slows down in a relieved manner) should let out the required over-fill.
All I care to say more on this subject is that I have pelvic floor muscles of steel.
I once asked my GP whether I would know if I was in labour. She chuckled dryly and said, ‘Oh, you’ll know.”
How wrong she was.
At that stage, my husband and I were doing a market stall in Sydney on Saturdays, which pretty well meant we were destined to have a baby on a Saturday (Which didn’t actually happen until next time, but it was a close call).
That meant that we got out of bed at 4.30 on Saturdays, drove down to Sydney, spent 2.5 hours setting up, spent the day until 4 standing on our hind legs making and selling coffee, tea, milkshakes, cakes and biscuits, iced tea and so on, then spending 2.5 hours packing up and packing the car and trailer and then spending 1.5 hours driving home, then doing some more market washing-up and getting dinner. It was a very long day.
I stopped doing the markets when I was 38 weeks pregnant and still shudder with the memories of the prostrate-in-bed-with-exhaustion-headache every Sunday for weeks.
(Also a number of people asked my husband where I was on the two Saturdays that I wasn’t there before the baby was born – he would tell people that at this stage of the pregnancy, I thought I had better not risk coming to the markets. A few people said, ‘Oh yes, what is she now, four or five months?’ Um, no, nearly nine months actually.
But worse than they were the ones that said, ‘Is Rhiannon pregnant?!”
No, no, just cultivating a large beer gut.)
Anyway the second Saturday that I did not do the markets, I had lined up a couple of other people that could take me to hospital if I went into labour before Craig could pack up the stall and bring it home. As it happened, they were all either in Sydney or drunk that day, so lucky I didn’t.
I did a lot of tidying and cleaning, and made a delicious chicken pie for dinner. I was talking to a friend on the phone who had rung me to tell me that a friend had just had her baby after an agonizingly long labour, so that cheered me right up. I asked her if this odd sort of tightening feeling I was getting across my back were contractions, or just Braxton-Hicks ‘false’ contractions.
She couldn’t say.
By the time my husband got home I was getting these little back pains every 8 minutes, so I asked him if he could do the market washing up in case I needed my strength for some sort of marathon labour event, and also could he ring the hospital and ask if I should come in. Did I need painkillers? No. Were the pains bad? No. Every eight minutes…nah. Come in if they are every 4 minutes. I then pointed out that as far as I could recall, the baby hadn’t moved for some time, so they said, ‘Oooh in that case, come in and have a CTG scan.”
So Craig and I hopped into the car that I had thoughtfully put a large folded-up towel into (apparently not only does amniotic fluid or ‘Lie-quor’ as the midwives call it, smell like a swamp, it also corrodes upholstery fabric)(And it is full of hair) and drove to the hospital, little bands of pain stretching across my back every few minutes.
I had cooked us a multi-grain English muffin to eat on the way as we were leaving the aforementioned delicious chicken pie at home.
Natch, as soon as the baby got a hold of those delicious blood-sugars, he picked right up, and by the time I was strapped into the CTG monitor, I was only getting tiny weak (albeit suspiciously regular) contractions and there was a lively baby jiving on down in there.
“Nothing’s happening- it could be days – nothing’s going to happen for AGES.” they said at 9.30 PM-ish.
So we got home at 10, ate our dinner, went to bed at 11. My husband had been up since 4.30 and done a lot of work and a lot of driving, and he was totally stuffed.
I was dozing between increasingly painful back twinges. Until at about 1.15 I sat bolt upright yelling “FAAAAAAAHHHHHHHCKKKKK!”
My husband blearily said, ‘Wha’?’ as I leapt out of bed like a startled deer (although, you know, a little more ungainly) and raced to the bathroom swearing rather a lot.
I turned the shower on hot at full pressure and while it was heating up (a slow process as our hot water heater is upstairs) I went to the loo.
Um. Interesting. You see, earlier in the day I had had some of what I had thought to be what they call ‘bloody show’, which is the mucus cervical plug that sort of protects everything in there. When the cervix starts to dilate, the plug falls out, or so they said in the books.
So when I had some slimy blood-streaked mucus I thought, ‘Oh ok, this is it.”
Well no. It was some sort of preliminary, let’s-get-you-softened-up-for-true-horror mucus. Remember what I said earlier about slime? Bloody show is, without a doubt, the single slimiest thing I have ever experienced. And there is loads of it. So much…so very much slime. And then a great big huge lump of mucus. Just what you want when you in pain, waiting for the shower to heat up, and feeling very ill. I briefly turned around, vomited up all the delicious chicken pie from earlier, and sat down again. I didn’t really NEED to go, but for some reason I kept getting this feeling like I needed to push something out. (Um, not that I was in labour or anything – they told me at the hospital only 4 hours earlier that nothing was happening and it could be days.)
I got under the shower and realised that now I had all that lovely boiling water scalding my back (actually, not. Our hot-water-heater is set to responsible parenting temperatures) that I would never be able to get out of the shower, ever again, unless I had something equally hot to replace the shower with. SO I was yelling to my husband to get me a hot water bottle, which of course he then had to hunt for as it was December.
I later found out that this stage, transition, was characterised by nausea, disorientation, and irregular painful contractions. However, I thought that this was labour JUST STARTING and I was in for 24 hours more or some such, so was slightly nervous. I had somehow missed the entire first stage of labour, which proved my GP wrong, as I genuinely had had no idea.
Getting dried and dressed and lacing my shoes up, in labour, with a hot water bottle clamped to my back was no picnic. I hobbled out to the loungeroom and thought, ‘Shit. Next time I don’t have a contraction, I had better get down our two flights of stairs or I will be stuck here forever.”
My husband was just thinking of taking a chair down the stairs so that I could have a little sit down on the landing, when he looked out and saw me half-way down, so he grabbed what he could (not including camera or mobile phone) and raced after me.
The whole time it took to get to hospital I was muttering to myself, “They are not sending me back home this time, I’m not going back up those stairs, I’m not.”
We pulled into Emergency and he grabbed me a wheel chair as I could barely walk at that stage – the people on reception wouldn’t listen to my husband, and just kept talking over him, telling him to move the car until he said, ‘YES! I will move the car – if one of you could please take my wife up to delivery, she is in labour now.”
“Oh, well then, of course.”
In the lift I felt something horridly damp and said that I thought my waters had broken.
When the reception nurse had wheeled me into Delivery, the exact same midwife was there whom I had seen 5 hours earlier – ‘Looks like something might be happening now,” she said laconically.
“My waters have broken, and I am wearing a new skirt!” I said, irrelevantly. (Hey, I had taken the admonitions that amnio rots material very seriously!)
When I took my undies off, the midwife could see by the sodden maternity pad that there was meconium (foetus-poo) in the water, so she said that the baby might be in distress and to get up on the bed and have a cervical exam straight away.
I hate cervical exams. I mean, I really hate them. They are worse than pap-smears. I’m sure midwives and nurses don’t much like them either.
So there I am, knees apart, feet soles-together, with a midwife-hand stuck up there, and she says, ‘Oh. Well, you’re fully dilated, any time now.”
Oh-kay. I hope my husband gets here in time.
He walked in and the midwife said, ‘Just in time!”
Meanwhile, as I had had a strep infection way back in the first few weeks of the pregnancy, duty-of-care means they have to stick a canula in my wrist and mainline antibiotics into me in case the infection has randomly come back.
Even though they were saying while they jabbed my wrist with a big fat needle ‘This is too late, of course – the baby won’t be in the birth canal long enough for this to have taken effect. ” JAB JAB.
The fact that I was gripping the edge of the mattress with my wrists twisted around the whole time they were jabbing needles and taping up tubes into my veins made it rather more painful than perhaps it should have been, but it paled into nothing compared to my surroundings.
I had read the sort of baby book that wittered about how ‘these days’ maternity and delivery suites were decorated in a nicer, homier style, friendly, calm – not like a hospital at all.
Well, I guess if glaring bright yellow walls and a big poster directly in front of me with the charming slogan in 3-inch high letters –
“If it’s not Mud in your eye, it’s Blood.’
is your idea of nice and homey, then…well…um…you’re welcome to it.
Anyway, my husband kept looking at the business, end, which I’m glad I could not see, and telling me ‘You’re doing really well!”
I have such a sense of occasion, I merely accused him of reciting the list-of-things-to-say from the ante-natal classes, and went back to groaning a bit and worrying about how would he hold up with so little sleep?
About 50 or so minutes after I arrived at hospital, and when I had a moment between taking off clothes, getting cervical exams, CTG monitors, and canulas, I basically gave a little push, and they said, ‘Oh, you’re crowning, now a few nice big pushes, that’s the way AAAARGH!”
A big push (and realised that the expression ‘trying to shit a watermelon’ is dead accurate) and out came my baby’s head.
“Was that it?” I said, to probably universal condemnation from anyone who has had a difficult labour.
“Yes, that was the head! Argh! We barely caught it in time!”
“Oh. Unnnghhhh.” and out slithered the rest of the baby. My goodness, nothing feels quite as….slithery…as the rest of a baby. It’s like pulling a squid out of one’s lady-bits.
I had a little rest for a minute while they all rushed around hoovering mec-stained amnio from out of the baby’s mouth and nose, and I casually pushed the placenta out as they handed me the baby, or ‘purplish-white squiddy-thing’ as he looked like.
(My husband swears he was beautiful from the first second. I disagree. He was covered in vernix, the white waxy stuff that protects the baby from becoming totally waterlogged in there, and he was purple and squashed-looking.)
Anyway, that whole process took an hour from the time I got to hospital, and he was born almost exactly 2 hours after my first agonised ‘FAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHCKKKKKKK!”
(BTW they said they could tell I was not a smoker from looking at the placenta. Apparently smoker’s placentas are all grainy-looking. Ugh.)
My husband was asked if he wanted to cut the cord. ‘No way!’ says I,’That’s disgusting!” “Of course I do!’ he said, ‘It will be wonderful!”
He certainly got into the spirit of things more than I did. He even asked to take the placenta home. I objected. A lot. He swore it would be buried with tree planted on it before came home. It was. The second one however….
Anyway, they took my as-yet-unnamed baby off my to wrap him up and put him under a heat lamp, as apparently the whitish-purply-squiddiness and the fact that he came out asleep and hadn’t properly woken up yet meant he needed some extra warmth so I gratefully jumped (slowly) up and had a loooooooooong hot shower with loads of soap.
My one objection to home-births (for myself) is – in hospitals you can bleed on as many towels as you like and just throw them in a linen bin, to be dealt with by someone else. And boy, did I.
Baby Number One spent the first 12 hours in Special Care nursery with various indifferent and/or bossy midwives telling me what I was doing wrong, so I was most grateful to escape to Maternity where the midwives were nice and caring. They ALL told me different things though. ALL.
Anyway that was my first birthing experience, apart from having been born myself, and I rate it – not anything like as bad as an infected gall bladder.
Second one in a later installment!
I forgot to mention – when the midwife was cleaning me up after the birth, I asked nervously if I needed stitches, as I had pushed him out as quickly as I could to get it all over and done with. She ummed and ahhhed and told me that I had a little tear, about a millimetre long, and she would check up in a little while to see if she thought it needed a stitch. It didn’t. When I hear the horror stories of nine-month’s vomiting, 36 stitches, emergency caesareans – I am soooooo incredibly grateful that my body just seemed made for all that – almost no morning sickness, easy labour, easy birth, no real tearing issues – it took me nearly a month to really get the hang of breastfeeding but even that turned out to be very uneventful for me. Very grateful.
I recommend bellydancing!