|delivery room, last shot of baby in my tummy|
I need to write this story before baby brain completely erodes my vivid memories of one of the most epic journeys of my life. I know that I have only lived 29 years and 5 months of my life and so there will certainly be plenty more adventures to consider for this coveted title, but this particular event reigns supreme until further notice.
Last week (ha, when I first started writing this post) I was 39 weeks preggers, the 29th January due date looming ahead. First pregnancies often carry longer and especially little boys, but I had the most fun watching people’s expressions when I told them I was due that coming Sunday when prompted with the question of the big day.
Late Thursday afternoon, I found a little clue that lodged the idea in my head that this baby was coming very, very soon. The last month of pregnancy is the hardest, filled with much frustration about all the things you cannot change (and shoes you can wear) and the anxiety about the general child birth. I spent a lot of time reading about labour, watching antenatal workshop videos on youtube, attending real life classes on the stuff and started feeling less prudish about the whole crowning situation. It’s funny how once you’re pregnant, anything that you found was distasteful to talk about in public becomes as natural a conversation as one about the damn weather. It’s truly fascinating how everything about this process prepares you to become a mom - nothing is gross anymore. Nothing. More on this later…
So Friday my huzzband is on another shoot and I’m desperately anxious for him to come home. He’s supposed to have wrap drinks/dinner at 8pm and I’m to join him but my thinking is that we should stay home - seriously do not want to recount a story where my water broke in the middle of dinner in Melville, as cute as that story might be.
The evening passes without event and whilst my huzzband slumbers, I read my kindle.. Read, read, read until 01h00 and then I decide, sheesh I should really get some shut eye. Fifteen minutes later, my uterus has other ideas.
Hmmmm, that’s not something I’ve felt before. 01h24, that feeling happens again. Another 10 minutes. Am I imagining this, or am I feeling contractions?! After an hour passes, I decide it’s time to wake Markstry.
“I’m having contractions”
MS: “Should I get dressed?”
During the hour that I have been counting the time between contractions, I’ve been urgently checking all my pregnancy books to see when is a good time to go to the hospital. Or call the doctor. I couldn’t bear the idea of going to the hospital early - especially when my own choice of 3 toilet seats for the ever increasing trips to the bathroom far outshines those of a hospital.
It’s quite hilarious how much packing goes into having a baby. There’s a bag for me, a bag for baby and a bag for huzzband. And then there’s also my separate toiletry bag, my handbag, and the folder containing all the documents. Lots to remember in a time of what could be considered sheer panic masked as excitement.
Eventually, after parking card mishaps in the parking garage of our apartment block, we arrive at the hospital. Casually and calmly we walk to the closed doors of the hospital and make a racket to wake up the security guard to open up for us. Head over to the labour ward, the one floor we didn’t get to visit on the hospital tour due to reasons unknown now that I think about it.
Anyway, get into this ludicrous green gown I’m told, and before the midwife has a chance to fetch a cup (or enormous plastic jug, which was what she actually brought to me) I’m in the toilet, peeing for the thousandth time. No matter, I’m pretty sure I can get you another urine sample quite soon. Although the challenge will be to hold this mammoth plastic jug whilst gripping onto the handicap bar, pissing and dealing with a contraction simultaneously. Again, no matter! :P
Night shift midwife, apologies, I have forgotten her name but you’ll forgive me this in a matter of sentences.. So, night-shift midwife (let’s call her NSM for a bit to save time) tells me she will examine me. Yes! The moment I have been waiting for, to confirm that these contractions aren’t just practice, that I am actually dilating. I am fucking thrilled for this.
Until her fist is half way through my pelvis, doing some unimaginable scraping. To say that I am giving a shrill scream like I am being murdered is an understatement. That examination was worse than any contraction I felt before or after. I have honestly not experienced worse pain.. And I am currently sitting on a donut with stitches that feel like my asshole is sewn in (oh and for the second time round I might add) and writing this recount and I still believe that examination was more painful than the sensations I’m feeling this very moment. (But I have had breakfast and painkillers so this could also be clouding my judgement).
I was honestly beyond terrified at this point. I look at my huzzband’s compassionate face, trying to remember the excitement I was feeling. Especially when NSM tells me I am 2cm dilated. 2 fucking centimetres. I feel like Rachel Green and I miss my art deco inspired toilet so much more in this moment.
And then I see it. NSM’s hand. And her fucking 1,5cm fucking nails (TALONS) that were just digging around my fucking cervix. And I almost fall unconscious. I’ve read birthing stories, you know, you have a birth plan and sometimes, as it does with nature, things don’t go according to plan. But I distinctly remember reading that if you do not like the hospital staff and you’re feeling mistreated, you should ask for a replacement. I did not think this would happen to me, and it’s seriously the one thing I was not even remotely prepared for. I’ve only ever fired one person in my life, okay, maybe two, but I remember how dismal I was at the task, so I had nothing to relate to this.
But luckily for me, as with many beautiful things that happened on this journey, the shift changed! So I had the wonderful midwife Charlotte take care of me until I met my baby, and she had wonderful clean, short nails and a much gentler hand.
At 07h00, my doctor came and examined me, him too with a more merciful hand and I was progressing well. 5cm.
At this point, he asks the epidural question.
Now, I had wanted drugs from the start. I read about all the options. Gas, pethidine, epidural.. And there are so many cons that far outweigh the few pros, and our family doctor friend (who also happens to be an anaesthetist) strongly recommended that I go without the epidural unless a c section was in order. So I was really hoping to go without it.
But my doctor, Dr Hurwitz told me not to be a hero. He told me my baby was very big. And his head had not dropped yet so it would be his strong recommendation that I do this. “But have your breakfast and decide. We can always call the anaesthetist back”
I didn’t know what to do. On the one had, I had already endured 8 hours of contractions, some easy enough to doze off through (I hadn’t slept since the day before!) and some almost broke (both of) my huzzband’s hands. He was afraid for me. So I gobbled the scrambled eggs and piece of tomato and urged him to get the doctor and tell him we’re taking the “happy-dural.”
An hour passes, 09h30 reads the time somewhere, and now the wait for the happy-dural is implacable. It’s like the contractions have gotten worse. Which duh, they would, as now I am 6cm strong, or maybe further. Panic has not quite set in, but the thought that it’ll suddenly be too late for the epidural has definitely crossed paths in my mind a few times.
But there arrives glorious Dr Mohammed and the beautiful midwife Charlotte has already prepped the tray table with all the goodies needed. The local anaesthetic burns like a bitch and I’m suddenly remembering all the reasons I didn’t want the epidural in the first place.
Oh gawd. Please let us not have a contraction at this time…
And it’s in. Get me into position as I start to feel a strange tingling spreading from my toes upwards. Heaviness takes over my legs and within a matter of moments, complete numbness.
|post happy dural bliss|
I am so peaceful. Oh so very peaceful. Huzzband tells me, you’re currently having a big contraction.
My head is all fuzzy and high and wonderful.
And yes, when I turn my head to gaze lovingly upon the monitor and paper thingy, I do see that I am indeed, having a rather epic contraction.
|contraction tracker and baby's heart rate monitor|
What the hell was I waiting for? This is magnificent! I am floating on a frikken cloud here, no more pain! Only the loving thought that my baby will be here soon and this is magic and why don’t all women do this, and why didn’t my mom do this and oh this is so, so wonderful.
But one of the many disadvantages of happy-dural, other than not having the feeling or urge to push, or knowing that you are indeed pushing, is that it delays labour by at least an hour. So the progress I had been making was delayed. For most first time child births, labour is about 12 hours, so my 13 hour labour was like they wrote about in the books. But another, more drastic disadvantage of the happy-dural is that 1 out of 8 epidurals fail to take. So unless you have the knock out spinal tap reserved for c-sections, the other epidural needs top ups. And when mine came time for top up, I started regaining feeling in my left side. And even after the top up, the left side still remained partially woke. It’s bizarre to feel contractions in only the left side of your stomach. Like, really bizarre.
But I chose to look at it this way: I would still choose an epidural, it doesn’t make me any less strong as a woman, this child birth thing is fucking hard. And my left hand side that came back to life, well, it was just nature and my baby’s way of helping me know when to push. Because the nether regions still remained numb.
And friends, my baby was a star gazer that needed much assistance so I am beyond thankful for that numbness.
|See, the interior design of this room..|
When it was time, we were taken to the delivery room. My poor huzzband. The set up of the room was not conducive to avoiding the "pub burning” when the baby arrived. He stayed as much near my head as possible..
My legs had to be strapped into the stirrups and this had to be done by several people as I still couldn’t feel anything - although I did have very small feeling in my left foot, which really helped to gauge whether I was pushing or not.
I wish I could describe in greater detail the experience of trying to push but since I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, and I’ve already taken up so much of your time already.. Well, it just didn’t feel like I was doing anything. And I was in agony. I could feel these weird half contractions *by no means am I saying half pain here, it was full on torture but limited to the left hand side. The doctor kept telling me that he’s going to help me, and suddenly he’s holding onto some bizarre contraption.
And then pop. Contraction comes off and there’s blood squirting but there’s no baby and I don’t know what’s going on, I’m just trying to push when they tell me to push and remembering to pant when I’m not supposed to push. And to hold my breath when I do push and my huzzband is luckily remembering all the counts and I feel like nothing is going on. And suddenly Dr Hurwitz is telling my huzzband to look, baby is crowning and I’m thinking oh my fucking gawd, he is only crowning!? And I’m screaming because the contractions are almost killing me, and the midwife is not telling me to push but I’m so fucking sure I’m supposed to push because I can feel the contraction and so I keep scream-asking if I can push and nothing is happening..
AND THEN HE IS OUT.
THERE IS A BABY IN FRONT OF ME. ALL OF A SUDDEN.
AND HE IS COVERED IN GOO AND HAS BLACK HAIR AND HE IS SCREAMING. BEAUTIFUL.
AND HE IS PLACED, LIKE BANG, ONTO MY CHEST. AND HE IS SCREAMING.
|He was not keen to come out really, check that grip on his cord!|
And I just start to cry. This is the most incredible thing that has ever happened to me. I can’t believe I did this. I have never seen anything so beautiful. My baby is in my arms!
Screaming incessantly, I am so thrilled. He has beautifully formed lungs if he is screaming this hard.
Okay yes, you can clean him now, fine.
“Markstry, go with him.”
Again, I must mentioned the bad interior design in this room. Dr Hurwitz is pushing my stomach to what I can only imagine is to encourage the placenta to depart from my jol, and directly opposite is where baby boy is getting weighed, and measured and cleaned. My poor huzzband.
|35cm head circumference, 56cm length, 3,730kg weight - our very big boy Maksimilian Pablo Strydom-Micic|
And I am bleeding. There is blood everywhere. And I am exhausted. And I don’t think it’s from the blood loss. I think it’s cuz I didn’t sleep at all, I’ve given this 13 hours and he is here and I really just want to have a quick nap. No, no, wake up! Huzzband is next to my head, holding baby boy all wrapped in a blanket with a little hat, huzzband has panic stricken look on his face. Wake up!
Mmmmm, still bleeding. Still so keen for a nap.
But eventually, it’s all okay. Possibly 1000 units (?) of blood lost. But baby boy is in my arms again. Time to give him my boob. Oh my gawd this is weird. But such a good weird.
The overwhelming feeling I have, is that this is a right of passage. I’m not trying to promote anything here, I know that the world these days leaves much to be desired about bringing new life into the world.. but as a woman, this was the most exceptional expedition I have ever had the privilege of undertaking. I don’t want to say that I wasn’t that woman who judged people that applaud having children as some great achievement, because before it all, I may just have been - but. After this, well damn, this was fucking hectic and I sure as hell am proud of my damn self for creating life and bringing it into the world and survived it all. The 9 months of pregnancy and the 13 hours of hard labour and now the three weeks postpartum including labia repair which sets back recovery once more. Yes. I am amazing. And I don’t care if you judge me, naysay or hate. I would do it a million times over if it meant that I could have this baby boy in my life.
|post breast feeding bliss|