Not. Enough. Hours. in a day.
Anyway, where were we on the birth story?
Post-chipmunk check in, Knox settles in with the tv remote and I commence to what I term my "contraction circuit". It goes something like this: lie on the bed for about three minutes on my left side, turn over for a minute, stand up, lean against the bed, squat down... annnnnd contract for about 45 seconds. Then walk around the room for a couple minute, stand by the ballet barre, squat down... annnnnd contract. Head back to the bed, repeat. Sometimes there is a longer pause before contractions but mostly this gets things ticking along until I am regularly hitting the four minute mark. However, it's not quite the goal we have been told to reach and so I am not exactly unpacking my bags just yet.
The midwife comes back later- by this point it is after midnight. We discuss my progess and she tells me that they will send me home, but that we will need to come back at 8.30 in the morning, and then they will check me- since it's still not clear what has happened with my waters breaking (or not). Sitting on the leather sofa, I sigh and say ok- but before I am done speaking, I have a particularly long and intense contraction, so much so I have to stop and grip the side of the seat. The midwife watches me and I can see her face grow speculative. She asks us how far away we live from the hospital and we tell her about half an hour to 45 minutes (or longer if Knox gets lost again).
Right, she says decisively, I think we should just go ahead and examine you now to find out what is going on with your cervix and the possible waters breakage. She explains it will possibly set the clock ticking earlier as far as needing to put me on the drip to augment labour- but we all agree that things do seem to be moving in the right direction and it's a bit silly to send me home only to have us turn around and come back again. And I contract my way onto the bed, whereupon she checks and announces that I am 3-4 centimetres dilated and my main bag of waters has not, in fact, broken at all. It appears that I've had a hind water break, with a small hole opening near the baby's head but the flow mostly being plugged up as a result of his position.
This is considered good, apparently. It is decided that since things are clearly progressing, we are staying put and then depending on how things are going, she will break the waters in a couple of hours time to fully to ramp up the labour. As I am becoming fairly uncomfortable, she wonders if I would like to get into the birthing pool?
Would I? Oh yes. I thought she would never ask! She fills the beautiful birthing pool with warm water and I climb into the most glorious bath of my life. I bob there quite happily there for some time...and the contractions slow right down. So I eventually waddle out, reluctantly get dressed and resume my now wearisome circuit.
At 4 am, the midwife comes back again and we decide its time to break my waters. She produces the world's largest crochet hook ("don't look" she recommends, then leaves it unmissably in the sink afterward) and with a painless pop, the fluid flows. It's lovely and clear, she announces happily. I am now at about 5 centimetres. And since things are now apt to get speedy on the contraction front, would I like to talk about pain relief now?
I tell her I would prefer to start with gas and air and take it from there. She nods and suggests she hook up the equipment, so I can use it in the pool if I want. I am given a quick tutorial to remind me how it works (inhale at the start of the contraction, bearing in mind it will take some seconds to work, exhale, imitate Darth Vadar if confused.) She hands me the mask/tube/funnel thingie.
From here on in, my memory of events starts to get more than little hazy. I remember stripping off and getting back into the pool pretty much immediately while slurping gas and air with amused pleasure, telling Knox "it's like that feeling you get lurching home from the pub, when you've had exactly one drink too many".
I remember asking him to turn off the telly and to put some music on. For awhile I drift along listening to a Rachmanioff piano concerto, blissfully removed from my body. Then the contractions get stronger and longer and I start to lean more heavily on the gas. It is becoming difficult not to lose the place with my breathing, not to space out completely with each inhalation.
I urge Knox to keep talking to me. Actually, what I say is "be my ground control to Major Tom." I think this is so completely hilarious and witty, repeating it to the midwife when she returns. She sits on the edge of the bed and says encouragingly that I am doing very well- and that she expects the baby to be born by the end of her shift; that is to say, by 9am. If possible, she suggests I deliver him in the pool. I say yes, great idea, although if she'd asked me if I wanted to give birth while dangling upside down by my heels from the rafters, I likely would have agreed right then.
She nods and leaves again. Knox pours in more hot water.
Time passes, in folds and wrinkles. I don't know how long I've been in the pool. The gas and air is now making me very thirsty and a bit nauseous. The contractions are coming every minute or two now and I am becoming very, very uncomfortable. I'm also now getting very tired- I've been awake for over 24 hours, with only four hours sleep the night before. I don't breathe properly during every contraction and the pain is becoming overwhelming. The gas and air is no longer touching the sides. I find myself leaning over the side of the pool, moaning uncontrollably. I decide, suddenly and urgently, that I need to be lying down on my left side to endure this. I ask Knox to help me get of the pool. I stagger unsteadily up the steps, whimpering. It feels like nine naked miles to walk the two steps over to the pulled out leather sofa bed.
I collapse downwards, saying weakly to Knox that I don't want to do this anymore.
The midwife appears again and there is a short discussion, somewhere above my head, about getting me some stronger pain relief in the form of diamorphine. She had mentioned this earlier during our little pain relief talk, describing it as an option of an injection which would possibly make me somewhat sleepy but "just take the edge off". What I don't realise- and Knox explains to me with amusement later on- is that diamorphine is basically medical heroin. But no matter. I am in no position to refuse anyway- I am so, so tired and rapidly coming unravelled with the pain, panicking through the wave of each contraction.
The midwife goes away to find a doctor to prescibe the drugs. She is gone for what seems like six days, then finally comes back and injects me in the backside with the diamorphine. Afterwards, I lie there, floating somewhere near the ceiling and totally disconnnected from my body and the pain of the contractions- though certainly not letting go of my grip on the gas and air. And I then fall asleep, snoring.
To be continued...