*Warning - if you're squeamish about poo and icky stuff, you may want to reconsider going any further*
I had a plan. Although going with a hospital birth, I was going to be surrounded by essential oils, dimly lit lamps and gentle voices. My female ob/gyn together with my doula would be the elder wise-women helping me gently and safely usher a new little goddess into the world.
And yadda, yadda, fricken, yadda! Best laid plans and all that? Well, as it turns out, my senior elder wise-woman obstetrician had the audacity to fall down the stairs and break her collarbone a few days prior to my due date, and I was unceremoniously foisted off on her locum. He was very well-known male OB who fit into my little vision about as well as Benny Hill would have done.
I first met with him when I was several days overdue, and had been into the hospital for a routine stress-test, where they just hook me up and listen to baby's heartbeat for a while. Being a dab hand at this whole pregnancy gig I wasn't in the least bit stressed by the stress test, and was a little shocked to discover that my baby was. After consulting with both the midwife and my OB I very reluctantly agreed to book in for an induction the following morning.
To give a little more background, my first birth was absolutely godawful. I don't know if you've heard of the whole concept of the chain of intervention in labour, but basically it says that just one medical intervention can often lead to another, then another and so forth. And so it was with me. I started with induction, and ended up with a high forceps birth with no pain relief. Yeah, that sucked.
My 2nd birth was glorious. Spontaneous labour at a midwife-run birthing centre, huge tub to labour in (but unfortunately not to birth in), and the opportunity to write myself a note in the middle of it reminding me never EVER to attempt this without drugs again! Despite that, it remains without doubt, my best labour and birth.
Anyway, being the dutiful patient that I was, I showed up obediently at 6:30am the following day, all ready to get this all over with. The first stage of the induction was the insertion of some lovely prostaglandin gel to the cervix, in the vain hope that a few well-placed hormones would convince my stubborn baby that it was time to come out.
It was not to be. By lunchtime absolutely NOTHING had happened, except extreme regret on my part for also agreeing to let one of the midwives torture me with an enema. I do not use the word "torture" lightly, and was very reluctant to agree with it purely because "the doctor prefers it". Now, I can see the sense in that, I'm sure it's rather unpleasant to have ladies pooing on your hands all day long, however I respectfully point out that you are being paid upwards of $3000 for the privilege and suggest that you could suck it up, princess.
As it turns out, my memories of the last birth when I didn't partake of the joys of enemas came flooding back (particularly of my midwife friend's description of "snapping off logs") and I decided to accommodate my OB in this one teeny weeny request. FAIL! If you haven't had one of these things before it's hard to explain. The actual, ahem, administering of it isn't quite so bad, apart from being totally and utterly demeaning. It's the effect they have. Imagine the worst case of Bali-belly you've ever and double it. And doubled over I was, half hobbling, half being carried by slightly amused midwives to the toilet.
Anyway, crashing on past the seedy side of labour, still nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing and a side order of absolutely sweet FA was going with my cervix. It remained sealed shut like an Egyptian canopic jar and no application of hormones was going to change that.
By early afternoon my OB stuck his jovial head into the room and announced that it was time for something more dramatic. I was once again the obedient (and somewhat bored) patient, and was happy for him to have a play. Little did I know that having a play would involve him unwrapping this Thing. It's a thing like those rubber thimbles bank tellers stick on their fingers when counting money, but with a sneaky little hook on the end. It's called an amnicot and looked innocuous enough when I first saw it.
I'm sure you can figure out how it works, but oh my sainted aunt, I wasn't ready for how it felt. I quite literally nearly hit the ceiling, which was rather amusing since it had been 2 months since I could get out of an armchair unaided, never mind fly through the air as if shot out of a cannon.
It did the trick, though, and I was soon lying uncomfortably in a warm puddle of amniotic fluid. One quick shower later I was clean, dry and ready for some serious baby action! I should state at this point that the only company I had so far was my mother, bless her, who had driven me to hospital and was planning to stick it out for the duration. Once the waters were broken, though, I started feeling little niggles very quickly, so we called the doula (T) and my best friend (J) and told them to head on in to join us.
T soon arrived, however J was nowhere to be seen. Eventually she came breathlessly into the room, announcing that she went to the wrong hospital first, and had to call my mother to find out where the hell her goddaughter was going to be born! Bless her.
Contractions were pretty slow to get going, but things were progressing nicely when Mr Jovial OB man came by for another visit. He had a bit of a squizz at my cervix (always a pleasure) and announced that he was going home for dinner and casually asked the midwife on the way out to just "chuck in a drip to get things going". I don't bloody think so! Why, in heaven's name, when things are progressing nicely would this man feel the need to stuff me full of labour-enhancing drugs? Fortunately my midwife seemed to agree with me and pretended not to hear him. Again, bless.
Soon thereafter we were getting to the business end of this whole ordeal, and as my contractions got stronger and closer together I decided it was time to evict Mum and J, as I felt like some freak show attraction moaning and trying not to swear while they stood around watching and occasionally applauding my efforts. Desperately trying not to show their relief, they headed off for dinner leaving me, T and the midwives to get on with it.
I really, really had planned to get through this without an epidural, but when the midwife examined me and announced that I was a whole 3 cm dilated I completely collapsed into a sobbing puddle of defeat and begged for drugs, any drugs, all the drugs and right this minute, please. An induced labour is very, very different from a spontaneous one, something I had been warned about, and was now realising to be absolutely true!
T was being fantastic - rubbing my back when I wanted to and getting-the-f%$@-away-from-me when that worked. She stepped in between me and the medical staff when she sensed I needed to be left alone, and asked questions on my behalf when I couldn't quite get the words out. Again, there really is something to be said for women supporting other women through childbirth. Don't get me wrong, I loved having my ex at my other births, and would have hated to go through it without him, but this was just, well, different.
To be honest, around this time it all goes a bit hazy, which I can only assume is the mind's way of ensuring that women have more than one child. I do remember the anaesthetist showing up, though. Even in my befuddled state I managed to take a photo of him:
OK, so some of that could have been the fact that he held in his hands the Power To Take Away The Pain, but he was actually one sexy Kiwi bloke to whom I shall remain grateful as long as I live!
Sadly I'd left it a bit late, as my daughter decided she'd had absolutely enough of this carry on, and was going to get out a bit faster. Within 45 minutes of the last examination I was now 10cm dilated and ready to push, and the bloody epidural had only just begun to take effect.
The pushing part is never fun. I really wish someone had told me before my first that it feels exactly and precisely like trying to shit a watermelon, which I'm sure you can imagine is not a pleasant sensation. Due to some abdominal muscle damage from my first birth, I was really struggling to push, and was turning into a bit of a soppy and cranky emotional wreck.
My OB had just returned, and was alternating in between keeping an eye on my pushing efforts (and being quite rudely dismissive of them too, might I add) and watching the TV, which was showing the dressage events of the 2004 Olympics. To this day I can't watch dancing horses without wanting to kick someone in the head.
At this point I felt something truly magical. My lovely little girl obviously sensed that I was really over this whole birth thing and decided to take over. I felt her do this full body turn, and in the same movement, somehow wriggle her whole self out in one go. I swear I had nothing to do with it. My daughter gave birth to herself, in a manner of speaking.
She was perfect. Absolutely, 100% totally and utterly perfect. As soon as she was out, the midwife took her and had a quick lookover and then placed her on my chest, pulling up a blanket over both of us. She also said something I found a bit odd at the time. She told me "Ah, here's another one." I must have looked puzzled, so she went on to explain, "I mean another one who's been here before - she has the eyes of an old soul." I looked into her eyes myself and melted. Anyone who has given birth will know this feeling.
As OB took care of things at the other end of the bed I found myself utterly mesmerised by this little person, who was all purple, and squished up and covered in icky gooey stuff. I had never seen anything so beautiful in my life (at least, not since her brother was born 5 years previously).
Mr. OB rudely broke into my dream state to rudely ask me who the hell was responsible for my post-partum stitching last time round. It seems he thought it was fairly shoddy work, and he felt obliged to fix the whole thing. Whatever, I had my baby, the epidural had kicked in and I knew there was a platter of soft cheeses waiting for me in the fridge. The midwives were most impressed, and one of them whispered conspiratorially in my ear that I was a very lucky girl, as Mr OB is renowned for his stitching.
OK, if you say so. Like I cared, anyway. No one was ever EVER going to see or go near that part of me again for the rest of my life, but if he felt the need to realign my nether-regions, who was I to deny him the experience.
Shortly thereafter my mother and J were brought in, and with admiring ooooh's and aaaaah's met the newest member of my family. I had a first name all picked out, but hadn't finalised the middle name. As soon as my mother walked in it was clear that the middle name had to be my mother's name. She was the one who had supported me throughout this entire pregnancy, and it seemed fitting that her granddaughter carry her name.
Well, I'm sorry that turned out to be a bit of an epic post. When I started this I thought it would be quite short, as I didn't think I actually remembered many details of the labour and birth, but it seems it was hidden under there, just waiting to escape!
If you actually made it all the way through, then thanks :-)