Sunday, 10 August 2008
how she got here
firstly, thank you all SO much for the incredibly warm welcome that you've given baby mae! shane and i have been relishing every comment and feeling so very lucky that there are so many kind people in this world. i'm planning to grab some time this week to do some blog visiting and email replying but if i don't get to thank each one of you personally, know that every comment and congratulation is so sincerely appreciated. it's been a crazy week (who knew how time consuming feeding and getting to sleep a baby can be??) but tonight i finally found a spare napping hour to write out her birth story...
the good :: a relatively short, natural labour and birth, no tearing or stitches, a beautiful, healthy and perfectly round headed baby and a speedy recovery that saw me walking out of the hospital 24 hours after she was born.
the bad :: um, the horrendously unbelievable pain of labour that i was somehow completely unprepared for, despite having read countless birth stories in the past year. there's pain, and then there's... THAT.
the ugly :: i count myself as a strong character and thought i had a reasonably high threshold for pain but giving birth was pretty much sheer agony that saw me absolutely screaming my heart out. really. "no" (as in "no, no, no, no, no, no, noooooooo"), "i can't" (as in "i can't. i can't. i can't. i can't.") and "oh god" (see "no") were pretty much my mantras to get me through the last stages, punctuated by comments such as "i must be scaring the shit out of every other woman on the floor" and "man, i'm so sweaty" in between.
my contractions started at around 8pm on saturday night. they were small, sharp and erratically spaced for the first 4 or 5 hours, between 20 minutes and 5 minutes apart. by 2am, they were falling between 3 and 5 minutes apart so i called the hospital for advice and they said to come in for a look. we were happy to go, despite knowing we'd probably be sent back home. my mom and grandma both had really short labours so i think both shane and i were feeling a bit anxious about the whole thing, worried that things were maybe happening faster than we were aware of. so we drove to the hospital and i got hooked up to one monitor to check mae's heart rate and another that gauged the strength of my contractions, which were painful but quite bearable at this point. sure enough, after an hour or so of monitoring, the midwife sent us home with instructions to call again when the contractions were stronger and coming regularly at 3 minute intervals, or if my waters should break. we got home at about 5am and the contractions ramped up pretty much right away but stayed steady at about 7 minutes apart. shane got some sleep while i just tried to read, rest or time the contractions. at around 7am, i went to the bathroom and was treated to the start of my "bloody show", which was really more like a super heavy period with large clots - alarming, to say the least. the contractions were getting closer together but i didn't want to get sent home again so took a shower to try and relieve some of the pain. by 9am i was really struggling to stay on top of the contractions, which were regularly 4 minutes apart so i called the hospital and they gave me the okay to come back in. the midwife in emergency took one look at me trying to breathe through a contraction as i came through the door and sent us straight up to the labour ward. we were put in a consultation type room and had a quick chat with the midwife who would be with us throughout the delivery. she left to get some paperwork started and when she finally came back, about 45 minutes later, i was in tears from the contractions and the strong urge to bear down that was accompanying them. truthfully, although the contractions were super painful at this point, causing me to bang my hand on the table to try to distract myself through them, the tears were more from panic and frustration as we'd pushed the button to call the midwife about 20 minutes before and shane finally had to go into the hallway to track her down. she decided to do an internal exam and, when she discovered i was already 5 centimeters dilated, she finally started taking us a bit more seriously. we moved to the actual delivery room and the midwife encouraged me to try the nitrous oxide and to get into the tub to help with pain. things start to get a bit fuzzy from here as i was sucking back quite a bit of gas but i remember being hungry and eating a granola bar and then being in the tub and being irritated that the water wasn't warm enough. i lay in there for about an hour, with shane pouring water over my belly, fighting through the contractions with the gas but feeling mildly terrified by the amount of pain i was in and the fact that my waters hadn't even broken yet. i stated several times to shane and the midwife that i really didn't think i could do this, really and complained that i didn't feel like we were making any progress. i got out of the tub, back into my clothes and curled up into a sort of feotal position on the bed. the gas was doing pretty much nothing at this point but i kept sucking it back so that it felt like i was doing something to help the pain. my midwife offered no other pain options and when i asked about an epidural she said the baby would be born before it could even be administered. she left the room for about 15 minutes and suddenly, at the start of another hellish contraction, my waters finally broke in a huge, weird hot gush. the contraction took on a totally different dimension, the pain was sharp and searing and the urge to push almost unbearable. i started to freak out that i was going to deliver the baby into my track pants and shane rushed out to again find the midwife. things moved pretty fast from here on, although it didn't feel fast at the time. each contraction that accompanied pushing felt like my lower body was being ripped apart, no wait, it felt like it was being ripped apart and i was supposed to help it tear into a million pieces. the midwife suggested i get into a kneeling position and she adjusted the head of the bed so i could cling to it while i yelled, wailed and cried my way through every contraction. i really, truly and completely thought at many points that i could NOT do any more. i was exhausted, in a far more terrifying level of pain than i'd ever experienced before and the thought of adding to that pain by pushing though any more contractions seemed unthinkable. shane told me the midwifes (there was a helper midwife by this point, i have no idea when she came in) were putting on plastic apron gear so the baby must be close and this, at least, gave me some hope that if i could just put all my effort into the next couple of pushes, the whole ordeal might be over. i gave the greatest screams that i could muster and finally, finally pushed mae into the world. she was crying before she was even completely out and, miraculously, the pain stopped almost immediately. i wish i could say i was overwhelmed with feelings of love at seeing my new daughter for the first time, and i was fascinated to finally see her, but really, i was just so relieved that the whole thing was over. the widwife settled me back in the bed, put mae on my chest and got to work on delivering the placenta, which thankfully was painless and required only a very small push on my part. shane and i exclaimed over mae's hair, her feet, her wee nails and i just kept saying "i'm so glad that's over, i'm so glad that's over".
it's been a week now and yes, the memory of the pain is already fading. i can't quite remember exactly what the contractions felt like. the sweet smell of my baby daughter's head and her cuddly little body curled up on my chest seem to have wiped away most of the horror that i felt in the 24 hours after the whole ordeal but i've kept a small part of my brain on reserve, to remember and to book in an epidural early on next time : )