Posted by: rocketbride | October 23, 2011

labour and delivery

My extended date with Mason continued. Thursday was the sick day. Friday was the funeral day. Today was just for kicking around and being happy. Blake was with his dad for the weekend, so we’re both as free as two adults with crushing headcolds can be. I had planned on going to the Shake Shake Sheikh today, pregnant or delivered, but this cold killed my ambition. (Ever since we wallowed in cable during our honeymoon and I saw a few episodes of “A Baby Story”, I’ve been mentally scripting my own episode. The Shake would have been Act 2, when the pregnant lady does something fun with friends to celebrate her upcoming baby. Since I’m not being filmed, except in my head, I felt free to bail.) I had also considered going to the Zombie Walk today, but my sciatica and Blake’s desperate desire to be in a Zombie Walk pretty much killed that option. Even if he’d been with us, I’m pretty sure that my walk would have been a tad too realistic, especially since my hip weakness would have caused me to collapse at some early point. Thus, sleeping in.

We did manage to get to the city today to pick up a few more baby things. Then, because we could, we drove across town to the Ceili for supper. It was pie night: chicken pie with tarragon and a sweet potato crust for a main and apple raisin rum pie for dessert. The only problem was that it was crowded and I’m bulky, not to mention increasingly short-tempered. Since I’m deeper than I am wide these days, I had to plow through the crowd straight on. I came awfully close to punching an awful lot of Andy Capp-types in my way who, to be fair, weren’t taking up any more room than I was. But mentally I’m not a fat guy in a leather coat, so it was hard to be reasonable.

We went home and eventually to bed. Before we turned off the light, the two of us decided to have a little talk with the Piglet. Rubbing my belly, we asked when it would be coming out? There was a dramatic “pop!” under our hands and I felt a gush. We looked at each other, bewildered: nothing like this had ever happened to us before. Mason asked me what was going on, but I wasn’t talking until the sudden contraction was over. This was my first of the day. Every day for the past week I would get one or two widely-spaced contractions, then nothing. With Blake I had contractions off and on for days, so I was pretty sure we had time while the pattern established itself. When it was over and I could breathe normally, I wondered aloud if my water had broken? Nope, we thought. According to both of our previous experiences with childbirth, labour started slow, with hours of contractions and then the breaking of waters. Twelve minutes after the first, I had another contraction. More fluid gushed out, soaking my new pants. Ok, so probably my water had broken. Now what?

The correct answer was, of course, page the midwife, who would have rushed over to start the penicillin. But we were blinded by previous experience. Still convinced that we had time to spare, and conscious of the most likely response if we paged too early (i.e. just rest), Mason changed the bed to regulation homebirth layers and then went off to sleep in another room while I lay down on our bed and tried to get some sleep. Our alarm clock is across the room right now, and my astigmatism is strong, so after a half hour of getting up to check the time every time I had a contraction, I put on my glasses in the dark. The contractions sped up, but were confusingly inconsistent: every second or third contraction would be so long and intense that I could barely breathe, so I would force breaths in and out while counting how many got me through. Between the big contractions were lighter, shorter ones, contractions that I welcomed like old friends. Within an hour I was down to 6 or 7 minutes between contractions, and I was miserable from the cold wetness pulsing out of me. I decided to page.

I woke up Mason in time for the return call from Rebecca, a student I had come to know quite well. She agreed that I was probably in labour, but needed to consult with Jackie to find out our next step. Ten minutes after that I got a call from Cathie, my other midwife, who gently broke the news that Jackie and Rebecca, i.e. the team I knew better, had to stay at the birth they were currently attending, and that she would be having this baby with me. We had only met twice, once at Week 16 and once at Week 40, and I found her brisk manner difficult to relate to. I wanted warm, quirky Jackie, and Rebecca, the student that had visited in my home for hours while I was pregnant, to see this baby into the world. Still, there wasn’t a lot anyone could do about it, and I was a little too deeply in labour to get worked up about anything else.

When Cathie arrived, she had more bad news: I was Group B Strep Positive, and they needed four hours to get the penicillin in me. Since I was already 4 cm dilated after an hour of active labour, it looked like the baby would be born before the four hour deadline. Given the choice between having the baby at home and then rushing it to the hospital for a blood culture, and having the baby in a hospital where the tests could be run immediately, she much preferred to have the baby where it could be monitored immediately. So no homebirth for me. Again, the longer I was in labour, the less significant my plans seemed. My whole life, the parts in which I hadn’t been in wrenching pain, were feeling more and more like a dream. So while Mason rushed around, trying to throw together a bag that neither of us had planned, I slowly made my way downstairs and put a coat on over my pajamas. We would meet our midwife and another student at the hospital.

I’m lucky enough to live close to a nearly-new hospital where my next-door neighbour and my mother are both nurses; homebirth was never to avoid this place. It only took us a minutes to get there, and then I was back in the place where I had last gone to visit Juuki. Mason went to get a wheelchair and I called my mom. She was guardedly excited and asked if she could come. Since she was there for Blake’s birth, I knew it would be ok, so I said yes just as another contraction washed over me, causing me to drop the phone. Mason wheeled me into Emerg, where a nurse took my temperature and blood pressure before letting me speak.

“What brings you here tonight?”

“Uh,” I thought it was obvious. “I’m in labour.” Her head snapped up for the first time.

“I thought…you’re so small!” she said accusingly. “Go straight to labour and delivery on the third floor.” Cute, I thought. I knew there was a downside to all those ‘you look great!’ compliments.

The room we entered was dim and relatively quiet. Tamar, a student midwife I hadn’t met, got ready to put the I.V. in my hand while I settled on the bed. When I laboured with Blake, I distinctly remember lying on my side, trying to burrow through Gila & Loftwyr’s couch cushions rather than use any of the more active positions to speed up labour. Although Cathie wanted to see if we could slow down labour and get the penicillin into me, I seemed unable to lie down. I was still counting breaths, closing my eyes and rocking cross-legged as I prayed that each contraction would be one of the lighter ones. I had to stay up, because lying down make me feel out of control, like the pain was going to finish me off, like I would start screaming and not be able to stop. Sitting up moved labour along faster than Mason or I would have dreamed possible, and we all knew that my second dose of penicillin wasn’t going to come.

My parents got to the hospital quickly (although they would have been faster if my dad wasn’t compelled to check the locks on my house before they could go see me). I’m always a little nervous introducing my mom to my midwives as she’s part of the mainstream medical establishment and there’s some prejudice against midwives in some quarters. Turned out that the same brisk manner that made me so disappointed with Cathie was exactly what my mom liked in a medical setting, plus, Tamar used to be a nurse herself, so there was a lot of medical joking right away. Mason and my mom sat with me during contractions, letting me mangle their hands. We sent my dad back to the house to grab some of the laundry Mason had thrown into the wash right before we left, so that the baby would have something to wear home. At first he was reluctant to leave, but when I started throwing up the cottage pie that had been so delicious 7 hours before, he was more than ready to leave. (Those kidney buckets are useless! I went through half-a-dozen of them in no time, and still got puke all over my pajamas.)

At this point I was still in the deluded hope that all of this would stop and I could rest for awhile. Then things got a lot worse, and it got a lot harder to breathe. In addition to the tightness of the contraction, there was a tingling pressure that made me fear the worse. “I think I’m going to die,” I said between waves. Everyone disagreed, but I was sure.

And then the pushing, the uniquely horrible pushing. I started yelling, trying not to, but being unable to help myself. Cathie told me that I was going to hate what she was about to do; she then flipped me from my right side to my left and pulled my left leg straight under my bent right leg. For some reason, it worked: a few more horrible pushes while my mom and Tamar pulled apart my legs like a wishbone and my back threatened to crack apart, and then the horrible burning as the baby came down. The baby’s head was out for a few pushes while Tamar did something that I neither noticed nor cared about, before the rest of it slid out in its own good time. Whatever she did worked, though. Unlike the last time, when I tore a bit and was so swollen I disassociated from the lower half of my body, there was no tearing and no swelling.

They put the white, shivering baby on my chest. All I could think was to ask if it was a dream – labour had been short and to the point, but every contraction had felt like an eternity and I was sure that it would never be allowed to end. My mom laughed. And she told me that this baby was a girl.

The end of labour made everything sparkle. Pushing out the placenta: a breeze! Eating a crappy turkey sandwich so that I was strong enough for a tylenol: fantastic! Waiting for hours for a recovery room to open up: not boring at all! Mason phoned his parents, who cried, and I phoned the Boy to arrange a pickup of Blake instead of a drop off at church. Talking to the Boy, who did that fake solicitous thing he does, was sweet albeit petty. (Not as petty as when I refused to tell him the sex of the baby, although I relented quickly.) Most of the time I got to hold my bird-fragile daughter, who stuck her tongue out a lot and made an occasional attempt to breastfeed. When she was out of my arms, I got to watch her with a steady parade of family, all of whom loved her almost as much as Mason and me. Maybe it’s just the hormones, or the cessation of pain, or that I really like babies, but I can honestly and unsentimentally say that it was one of the best days of my life.

blake meets maggie

Eventually everyone went home and it was just Maggie and me. Everything is so simple in the hospital when you’re not seriously injured. All you have to do is bask in the joy: your meals arrive uncertainly but at least you don’t have to make decisions about them and by the time they get there, that cup of tea is the best in the world. Maggie was like Blake in that they were perfectly calm for the first day, making a good first impression and not doing anything to dispell that perfect happiness. Every squawk she made was a joy; every dirty diaper a new discovery. We napped with her in the bed with me, tucked into my arms (and often with my lips pressed into her face). I bled, and nursed, and basked.

We tried to get a discharge before morning shift change, but the night nurse wasn’t having any of it. Mason, who hadn’t slept that night either, was more than ready to take us back home and try resting again, but we were out of luck until the day nurse arrived. Maggie was declared Strep B negative, I was given a rubella shot, and Maggie’s ears were tested before we were allowed to go. And then, because we’re dumb and excitable, we went to the school instead of going straight home, and let our co-workers take a look at the newest Bat Masterson baby. When we could tear ourselves away, I made Mason take me to a greasy spoon; I wanted a full fried breakfast and I didn’t want to cook it at home. And then, full of grease and good wishes, we settled in at home.



  1. […] I sing to her. She’s a person. And although it’s silly, it’s hard not to long for the huge excitement of her birth, and of her being so new that no one can believe their eyes. After the breakup visit, we had dinner […]

  2. […] life? Selling veg at farmer’s markets, belly dancing, going to rock concerts, adrift in the bliss of my baby? Would I trade the righteous ping of happiness when Mason snuggles into me at bedtime for the […]

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