I interrupt the colic wars to bring you a further birth story chapter.
Now, there are two bits of backstory you need for this part, both relating to Botany. The first is that on my due date, her nursery shut for a two week period over the Christmas/New Year holidays. So by the time my labour pains began, we'd been in each other's company for the better part of a week already. The weather being dreadful, we hadn't been out much and it's fair to say cabin fever was setting in.
The other thing is that during this time, Botany had developed a fascination- or more accurately an obsession- with a certain set of DVDs featuring a trio of highly irritating, helium voiced animals. Chipmunks, to be precise. At first it was something of a blessing, because the film could be relied upon to entertain her for at least a solid hour while I took a zombie nap. She watched it once, occasionally even twice, each day.
Then, if she was not watching the actual movie, she began talking like a chipmunk. Constantly.
You know how some women have whale songs in the background as they labour, or the soothing noise of ocean waves? Well, the soundtrack to my extended early labour was...singing chipmunks.
By the time Botany finished the first film that morning, she was in full blown squeaky mode. Perhaps she also sensed something was occuring but she was cranked up to the nines for some reason and would not sit still for a second- or more to the point, would not give me a moment's peace, hanging on my arm or trying to climb on my non-existent lap. By midafternoon, I was in a certain amount of discomfort- bearable but wearying- and in an ideal world I would have excused myself to go out for a walk but it was raining in a kind of bleak sleaty sort of way. I managed to lie down and doze for maybe half an hour before the contractions woke me up, still coming at about seven or eight minutes apart, and not increasing in duration.
It was around 1pm that I began to wonder what, in fact, was going on with the continual trickle of fluid that seemed sort of like waters but not remotely gushy as I had previously experienced. Eventually I decided it warranted a phone call up to the hospital for some advice. I rang the midwife, explained the 8 am pop and the inconclusive flow since then. She muttered something about maybe it being "hind waters" and suggested I check back about 5pm to see how things were progressing. The afternoon dragged by, my chipmunk voiced daughter sang, I contracted with depressing slowness. I finally rang the hospital again at 5, but there was no one available to speak to me. Someone took my number and said they would call me back.
Three hours passed.
Finally, after an interminable saga of trying to eat some dinner and getting Botany to bed (and reading a chapter of the Narnia books with pauses for contractions about 6 minutes apart), I phoned the hospital again at 8.30pm. Clearly no one received my earlier message so I explained it all again. The midwife said I should probably come on up to the hospital and they would take a look.
"Bring your bag," she said, "in case we keep you here".
And so we threw everything in the back of the car, leaving Botany with Knox's mother holding the fort and set off, not knowing if we would be back or not that night. Based on my prior birth experience, I fully anticipated this would be the first of several journeys back and forth.
The hospital is located on the outskirts of the far end of the other side of town, about a half hour to forty minute drive away, depending on traffic. On this occasion, it took considerably longer since Knox managed to get completely lost. Admittedly, the signage is appalling. At one point we ended up driving around what looked like a dark cornfield until I told him to pull over, for effsakes, so I could grab the sat nav out of the bag. Whereupon we realised we had forgotten it. In desperation we logged on to the chronically slow and erratic mobile internet via Knox's mobile, and Google maps with its annoying little pushpin system, following an arrow pointing us in the right direction. Or not, as the case may be when we made turns in what we thought was the right route, only to find out we were getting colder, colder, colder not hotter. Fortunately, the contractions did not choose this time to ramp up, but it was some relief when the hospital- and the maternity wing car park, came into view at about 9.30 pm.
We entered a deserted maternity triage/reception area, where an odd collection of people (none of whom looked particularly pregnant or even female) were seated. By now, I could tell Knox was a bit disconcerted because when he went to hunt down a midwife and hand over my file, he announced loudly that "Mare Maiden Name" was here.
"Knox?" I said, "I changed my name two years ago. You know, when we got married?"
"Oh," he said, "I wasn't sure".
So we sat there for another half hour or so, nothing much happening on the contraction front. Finally, a pleasant looking midwife appeared and without further ado ushered us through to the hospital's lovely new birthing facilities. As we exhanged some initial chitchat, a contraction washed over me and I had to catch my breath for a second. The midwife eyed me.
"That," she said, "is a big bump."
We plonked our stuff and ourselves down in what looked like quite a posh hotel room, albeit with a very large and beautiful birthing pool in the middle of it. It was all subtle lighting, a large flat screen TV on the wall, a pull out leather sofa bed, a delicious mushroomy beanbag chair, a ballet barre for pregnancy plies and a bed with designer looking cushions on it. In short, it was fabulous and exactly where I had been hoping to give birth.
We discussed the 8am pop and the trickling fluid in some detail. The midwife said that it sounded like maybe my waters had broken but the problem with examining me would be that it set the clock running as far as potentially introducing an infection and if things weren't moving along, we would then definitely need to augment labour with a drip within the next 12 hours or so after that. In view of my feelings on the drip, she suggested holding off on poking around for now and given that my contractions were coming about five minutes apart by then, what she proposed is that we make ourselves comfy and hang out in the lovely room for a few hours to monitor progress.
"I want to see your contractions coming every three minutes and lasting for a minute each," she said before bustling out to fetch us cups of tea and sandwiches, "and if not, we'll probably send you home again. Women tend to labour better at home anyway," she added.
Knox stopped fiddling with the tv remote while I paused in stroking the designer cushions. We looked at each other for a second.
"Have you met my daughter, the chipmunk?" I asked the midwife.
To be continued....