I've had to clench my teeth and get over quite a few things today. I was clever enough to dress my extremely enterprising toddler in white tights, white T-shirt, white jumper, mostly white dress. And then cleverly take her to the playground. And then let her play with coloured chalk outside. I'm smart that way. My idea was to not let all the lovely clothes she has rot in the wardrobe. Live for the moment. That kind of thing. We're back to denim dungarees tomorrow.
Anyway, if I can get over that, I can get over finally sharing the story of Jack's birth. I've been meaning to do a miniseries on the births of my children - a two-part miniseries, not surprisingly - for most of my blogging life, but I've had this mental block. I suppose it's because I feel a bit embarrassed. I would like to be able to say that I had them, floating in the surf of the North Sea, breathing through every contraction like the earth woman I want to be, after which I ate the placenta and breastfed them for three years. Which would be cool. Or at least hardcore.
I had none of that. In fact, I'm a huge chicken, and one of the things that scares me the most is the birth of my children. I'm terrified that something will go wrong, either with them or with me. I'm scared of the pain and panicking. I'm scared of all the unknowns, of the what-ifs, of the could-bes. In theory I love the idea of natural, unassisted childbirth. In practice, I'm the first to ask for medical help. So if you're hugely opposed to the medicalisation of childbirth, you may decide not to read any further. If you do read on, feel free to leave a comment, though. I'm always happy to hear from the other side.
Another reason I've been putting off writing these stories is because it's still so raw to me, I'm not sure if I can write about it prettily. Pretty or not, here I go. Because I've read some of yours. Because they help me. Because that's why I'm in this blogging lark. You know, for the sharing and the oversharing and then some more sharing. And for the funny, of course, but I doubt you'll get much of that just now.
We'd been told to go into the hospital on Monday night. The induction would be started around ten, and the birth would follow sometime on the Tuesday. My gynaecologist at the time was "flexible" about inductions to say the least. She once told me that she'd had both her children three weeks early, because this "fitted better in her schedule." I have always been scared of going overdue. My mother had all four of her children after inductions at 42 weeks. She told me my grandmother had all hers late. My nephew came late as well. All my childhood, I'd been told about the horrors of being over term, including the devastation it would leave on my body. So when my doctor seemed so liberal-minded about this, I asked her if I could have my baby two days past my due date. There has never been any doubt in my mind that my children would and will stay inside 42 weeks and longer, given the choice. I didn't want to hang around and wait for the horror to start. And my doctor was happy to fit me into her schedule.
So there we were, Babes and I, on a Monday evening. The assistant started my labour with a tablet-thingy (yes, I get very eloquent discussing gynaecological procedures) and oh my fucking god it hurt like a motherfucker as soon as that went in. Now this was in my pre-mindfulness days, when hyperventilation and panic attacks were still my firm friends. I demanded an epidural straightaway. There was no way I was going to go through that kind of pain all night long. I can't blame my mother for this decision. She's always been firmly in the tough-it-out camp when it comes to induced births. I still don't know how it's possible, but she did that four times. Anyway - my new best friend the anesthesiologist arrived very quickly and transported me gently to cloud nine. I will love that marvellous man for the rest of my days, just for making that pain stop and not paralysing me in the process.
After the epidural, the night in the labour room was odd. I stayed in labour, but because of the epidural I wasn't in pain. Babes and I actually played some Scrabble. Both of us slept a bit. All things you wouldn't necessarily associate with labour. The epidural at one point worked only on my left side, so I had to lie on my right side to spread it out a bit.
Around lunchtime the next day, we seriously got going. Of course, this being a hospital I wasn't allowed to eat at all. They even didn't really want me to drink much water. Around two o'clock, my own gynaecologist dropped by and told me I was ready to give birth. She just had to do something and she'd be right back to get me wheeled into the delivery room. This is when the trouble started.
She stayed away for a whole two hours. After telling me I was 10 cm dilated and ready to give birth. Soon after two o'clock, a nurse asked me if I needed my epidural renewed. I told her no, as the doctor would be right back and I'd be giving birth. I'd read that I would be able to help more if I was drugged less. When the doctor wasn't back after an hour and I was getting to be in more and more pain, I got a little upset. When she wasn't back by half past three, I was seriously panicking and begging to have my epidural back. I lost the plot ever so slightly there.
In hindsight, I should have taken charge. Asked for a midwife, an assistant, another doctor - even just gone ahead and pushed him out myself. For some reason, I had such faith in that woman that I lay there, waiting for her permission to finally give birth. I'm sure she had some important medical emergency to deal with. I'm sure she wasn't just having lunch or chatting to her colleagues. I bloody hope she wasn't. But she should have let me know she had decided not to come back.
When she finally did get back, I was a ranting, crying, gibbering mess. I was still demanding a top-up for my epidural. I was scared and panicking and just didn't know what to do any more. They wheeled me to the delivery room. And then the perfect cherry on top of this messy pie arrived. Another anesthesiologist. Not the god-like creature I had encountered the night before. More like his smaller, uglier, and no doubt less well endowed, evil counterpart. This piece of work came into the delivery room and started to shout at me that I was a liar. Oh yes, he did. This was the first time I'd ever laid eyes on this man. I was trying to have my baby, after more than two hours of being ready to do so. And he was furious with me, for some idiotic reason. Apparently, somewhere in the Chinese whispers going from me to the the nurse to the midwife to the doctor's assistant, via the temp and the cleaner, he'd got the idea that I'd complained about not getting an epidural after not asking for one in the first place. Or something. I'm still not sure. The astonishing thing is that no one there - not the midwife, not the doctor, not any of the people there - did anything while this guy stood there, lecturing me and shouting "liar" at me. I ended up calming down enough to tell him "Look, even if I did lie, can we please leave this argument be for fifteen minutes so I can give birth first." Thankfully he gave me the top-up and left soon after that.
I could now finally get on with having my son. I pushed and pushed, but apparently I was too tired or drugged by then because the doctor had to use the sucky thing (like I said - eloquent), giving our little newborn boy a bruised sausage-like head. But there he was, all perfect and wonderful, and it's true what they say - you forget everything that went before. (I remembered again later.)
In the end he was born at five o'clock. 52 cm long, 3.600 grams (-ish). He never cried. Just came to lie close to me and was content. And so was I.