Friday, 11 August 2006
birth stories and other gore
I put my arms around her waist
my hands can hardly touch
we'll be needing lots more space
I feel its tiny feet
now I'm terrified of making a single mistake
but I'm overcome with joy
this voice from the love we made
I've been working overtime
and practicing my part
though I'm slightly past my prime
don't feel old and grey
now I'm holding back any doubts I have in my mind
cause I'm overcome with joy
this voice from the love we made
I can hardly wait...
I remember listening to this song, expecting by the Clouds, about a million times when I was pregnant with Amy. I just loved the dreamy beat, the lovely emotional sentiments. I wish I could play it for you now. There's something about the overwhelming joy combined with fear and doubt that so captured how I was feeling. And I loved the line about the voice from the love we made. Before a child becomes its own person it is just like an echo of the union.
So tomorrow Amy turns 4 and I'll be way too busy to post so here it is a day early. I love the way Suse celebrates each of her children's birthdays with birth stories - it's so important not to forget - and I've been looking forward to the chance to tell Amy's.
Let me begin by saying it's pretty text book for how things go wrong. I say this because if you are easily grossed out, stop now. But I also wanted to say I felt great about her birth. Despite all the things that went so much not according to plan I felt completely untraumatised by the experience. Lots of women who have spectacularly 'good' births don't feel as good as I did about mine. I had a great obstetrician, a really really great obstetrician, and I felt at every turn like the right choices were being made.
So anyway. Amy was fully engaged and perfectly positioned but overdue, and while I been in excellent health and spirits in my second and third trimester I started getting very tired after a week past due. I was booked in to be induced at the 10 day mark, but my cervix refused to ripen on cue, so we delayed it for another couple of days. On the Friday (day 11) a scan showed that all the amniotic fluid was pretty much gone so we entered the first of many debates - bring forward the induction due to lack of fluid, stall it to increase the chances that my cervix might come to the party. We decided to wait, have daily fetal monitoring and set induction for Sunday night.
On Saturday morning D and I lay in bed and felt as the contractions started. After months of Braxton-Hicks I knew they were the real deal, not exactly painful at first, but certainly letting me know they were there. They were good and regular, but not coming close enough together to require any action. So after some breakfast and more lying about we got up and went in to the hospital to check on the baby.
By about lunchtime the contractions had stopped. The hospital was overbooked and in chaos when we arrived so we hung around for ages waiting for a heart monitor before we were given the all clear to go home again. Because we're overly social people (see previous post) we invited a friend around for dinner and I immediately set about cooking an elaborate roast dinner with sticky date pudding - two recipes I'd never cooked before. Because you know, this is fun, right?
By mid afternoon the contractions started up again, this time much more painfully, but again they failed to meet the regular and close together criteria that was the signal to head to the hospital. So I kept cooking, stopping every now and then to breath through a contraction. Our dinner guest was in charge of timing the contractions and writing them down on a piece of paper that once dinner was finished became the scorecard for a card game.
I went to bed quite late because although I was tired I couldn't possibly sleep through the contractions, and lying down did nothing to ease the pain. So I tossed and turned and complained a lot until at some point D rang the hospital. They advised Panadol. Yeah, thanks for that.
By mid Sunday morning I felt totally wretched, exhausted, in pain and like things would never end. I couldn't string a sentence together, I couldn't think, I was completely overwhelmed. The contractions remained maddeningly erratic so the hospital didn't want me until my allotted induction time. My sister out law advised a hot bath which actually slowed the contractions down quite a lot and meant I got a couple of hours sleep in the afternoon. Finally it was time to go and get started.
So they gelled my cervix with a hormone designed to kick start the whole process and we laid around in the hospital waiting for action. When nothing more happened they sent me home to try and sleep some more. Seeing my panic and sheer desperation they gave me some better painkillers and a short acting sleeping tablet and assured me everything would be alright until morning when I would come back for stage 2.
Of course as soon as the drugs wore off about 4 hours later I was back in contraction hell, watching the clock and willing it to be 6am so we could go back to the hospital. And while I had planned a birth involving as little intervention as possible, I was well past my tolerance for what was happening to me. It wasn't so much the pain as the total lack of progress that was killing me, the sighs from the staff who looked at my uncooperative cervix and said we'll just have to wait a bit more. I was really done with waiting.
Monday was day 14 and time to get serious. Another lot of gel and a few more hours of waiting, a few more hands of cards and counting contractions and my obstestrician came for another visit to ask how I was going. And then, quite surprising myself, since I'd been holding it together quite well to this point, I completely lost the plot.
"I need a plan!" I almost screamed and then started crying hysterically. Actually not just crying that way, I became the full personification of hysteria. A mess, incoherent, irrational, unhinged. And although there was a little part of me watching myself and thinking how bizarre and completely over the top I was being, I was helpless to wrest control back. I had gone to the edge and failed to return. As I went to the toilet my obstetrician asked D how he thought I was doing, to which he hastily replied, she really needs a plan.
So the problem was this - Amy had slipped forward (and actually done a full turn to become posterior, although we didn't know that yet). This meant that instead of pushing down on my cervix to open it, she had pushed my cervix back, putting a lot of pressure on bits of me not designed for such pressure and in no way helping the birthing process. It also meant that my obstetrician couldn't reach my cervix to break my waters, which was the next stage of intervention for labor induction.
It seemed the only way was for her to try and pull my cervix forward, something that was going to be way too painful to contemplate. So in went the epidural and blessed relief. The next few hours passed by with drips and needles and monitors telling us the contractions were happening and at last progress was promised. I was dozing on the bed, D was dozing in the chair and soon it was getting dark and my obstetrician was calling in to say goodnight as she headed home. She looked over the monitor printout and asked for a better reading and then she was gone.
Before she had even made it through evening traffic, the midwife called her to say the baby's heart was dipping and she agreed with the midwife that it was time for a C-section and suddenly everything started happening very fast. The room was filled with people introducing themselves to me and topping up my epidural, shaving my public hair, gowning me up, making me drink something really disgusting so I wouldn't vomit and inhale in the operating room. D disappeared to get sterile and they wheeled me off to the lift. The whole thing took about 10 minutes.
And then in a comic interlude the midwife accidentally pressed the down button in the lift and instead of going up one floor to theatre we went down to the lobby to be greeted by the families flooding in for evening visiting hours. We all had a brief chuckle and then headed back up to the 12th floor.
I was totally terrified - terrified of the emergency and that we'd be too late and something terrible would happen to Amy. I was also completely terrified of being cut open and complications and something terrible happening to me. There is something very unnatural about being conscious through surgery and my fears for my baby were in large part overshadowed by my fears for me. Lying there feeling them pick me up off the guerney and put me on the operating table, feeling them yank and pull my innards till they became outards, all I could think was that it was all wrong, that I should be stopping them doing this to me, that things were long past reasonable.
But in barely a blink there she was, all squishy and bloody and freaked out to be free from me. It was 7.27 pm.
I retell the story of Amy's birth so I don't forget, and because that night as I lay and held her I was overcome by the miracle of new life, and I hope I never lose sight of that. It's so easy to be dragged under the stream of everyday difficulties, annoyances and frustrations and forget what you witnessed on that knife edge between life and no life, what was so clear then. That I let people cut me up to get to you, that I look back with full cognisence and say despite how terrible it was, it was the closest thing to pure joy I think I will ever experience.
So live life baby, and have an absolutely wonderful birthday.