Aside from being terminally busy, I realised that parts of what follows on in Colt's birth story is not entirely...pleasant to remember, so I've been procrastinating writing it. But nettles to be grasped and all that.
So, where we were? Yes, drugged and snoring. Eventually some time later I wake up, in pain. I am still lying on my left side, clutching the gas and air nozzle, which Knox tells me afterwards I had continued to slurp upon while asleep. The midwives are changing shifts and there are two new ones who arrive to take care of me. I never really learn their names- just an impression of cool hands and a face near mine
I am not doing well. The diamorphine is wearing off, I am disoriented and not able to resume any sort of rhythm with the gas and air. Also- and I have absolutely no recollection of being checked to assess this- but they tell me I am still only at 6 centimetres dilated.
A decision has been taken that I am to be moved up to the labour ward in the main hospital. I wheeze through the gas and air that I don't want to go. I am told, gently but in no uncertain terms that we might be needing some help soon to move things along- that this is taking too long and the drip might be required after all.
I have to get off the sofa and onto the bed- I somehow manage to stagger the few steps between the two and hoist myself up in agony. They throw a sheet over me- since I never managed to get dressed after the birthing pool and then I am being wheeled along a corridor. I keep my eyes clamped shut and mouth glued to the gas and air but the pain is now completely getting the better of me and I hear myself making some very loud moaning noises.
We are in a new, small and dingy room. No flat screen tellys here, sir. I have to shift off the bed over to the new one- I do so, slowly slowly as moving is practically unbearable. A fetal monitor is wrapped around me as I flop onto my left side again. The baby is fine. I am asked if I want more diamorphone and I say yes yes yes with the fervour of a brand new addict. The medication arrives much quicker and soon I am back into floaty space.
I start singing about ham and cheese sandwiches.
Things are garbled in my memory but I am told that the doctor will examine me again in a couple of hours and then if there is no progress, they will augment labour with a drip. If that doesn't work, I'll be given a c-section. It's like the worst kind of deja vu of my life, the nightmare of Botany's birth hanging like a spectre over my head again. I croak through the gas and air that if this is the way things are going, I want an effing epidural. There is no way I am enduring the pain of the drip labour without one. The new midwife nods and says she will get that teed up for me.
Knox is falling asleep in the chair next to me.
I close my eyes and with every contraction I think "open, open, open" to my cervix. Time folds and frays while I float over waves of pain that I can feel but somehow not quite care about anymore.
The midwife comes back and says the anaesthetist is busy in surgery but will be down in awhile. Knox goes off to find something to eat and to alarm everyone with with texts that this is all going to end in a c-section. The midwife goes ahead and puts the vent thing into my hand so that it's all ready as soon as possible for the epidural.
Then a doctor arrives to check me. He says, rather pompously, that because labour is taking so long, it may indicate a problem of some type. Or at least that is what I think he says, because the heroin-addled part of my brain is still singing about ham and cheese. He finishes up his doomsday little speech, then he commences what is possibly the roughest internal exam of my life- it feels as if he is shoving his entire fist up inside me and stirring it about choosing a bingo ball. When he is finished, he announces abruptly that my cervix "is away" and he departs immediately.
Away? My cervix is away? I don't understand. Where has it gone? Have we lost it? I suddenly have visions of my cervix hopping into a taxi with a little valise, on its way to the airport and a nice sunny Greek island.
The midwife translates-I am fully dilated. Huzzah! No drip required! There is quiet rejoicing in my furry head. But I have no urge whatsover to push.
That's OK, she tells me, sometimes that happens. She tells me we can go ahead and try anyway, giving me a quick refresher course on how to breathe. Knox comes back from his food scavenging and is somewhat surprised, to say the least, to find me kneeling against the raised back of the bed, pushing.
I push and push while drawing on the now awful gas and air into my sahara dry mouth. I feel very naked and exposed so Knox helps pull the sheet over my shoulders. I can feel something beginning to happen. On about the fourth push, I am suddenly aware of the most horrid burning sensation. Oh my giddy aunt, it huuuuuuuuurrrrts.
That's the head, the midwife tells me. Easy does it. And then this lovely, calm voice from a woman whose name I never even learned properly, talks me through the next couple pushes- gently, just a little, little more, little more and it's burning but bearable and oowwwweee.
His head comes out. And the contractions stop completely. I lean against the bed, waiting while the minutes tick by. Knox and the midwife are muttering to each other and then Knox is helping me turn around as the midwife says something about getting a little help in here.
The next thing I know there is an alarm going off and about two seconds later the room is FULL of about fifteen people who have appeared from nowhere, unless they had been hiding in the bathroom that whole time. I am flung onto my back and somebody grabs my legs on either side and they press roughly up behind my ears into what I am later told is the "MacRoberts position". And all I can think is "oh my god I AM SO NAKED" as I finally have another contraction and I am pushing and someone is pulling and oh my god.
And he's out.
They put him on my chest for about two seconds. I can't see properly, being flat on my back, so all I have an impression of something small, dark and sticky. Then he is gone, whisked away. He's gone for quite awhile and I think nothing of it, since the same thing happened with Botany. I kind of assume they are weighing him and wrapping him in a cute blanket.
I am immediately euphoric. Whoo hooooooo, I say to anyone left in the room. I did it! I did it without the goddamn drip! Knox goes off to see what is happening with the baby. The midwife gives me an injection to deliver the placenta which comes out without any problem. I want to know how badly I have torn and she tells me that I have just a very minor tear which won't require any stitches.
Whooooooo hoooo, I practically shout ! I am SUPER WOMAN. Knox comes back and I am grinning like a loon. I did it, I did it, I say, I defeated the dreaded drip. I am awesome. Yay me.
"Um, Mare," he says gently, "the baby is not very well, you know".
Well, no. Turns out, I don't know quite a few things about our baby's birth- specifically:-
1. The cord was wrapped twice around his neck.
2. In the minutes when the contractions stopped, he was slowly turning purple, then black.
3. His shoulders were stuck, hence the need for an ER-like intervention with the cast of thousands.
4. His initial APGAR was a five, followed by a seven after being revived with some oxygen.
5. The first picture ever taken of him by Knox as the doctors worked on him is possibly one of the ghastliest images I have ever seen- a small pale fish baby looking very unwell indeed, lying splayed naked, red around the eyes, mouth gaping with the oxygen pump next to him, wearing an incongruous cheery pastel green hat.
I have no idea. While I am now slightly embarrassed at my unseemly show of self congratulatory delight, at that point I am so delirious with glee at being finished with the pregnancy and the birth that I cannot understand what on earth what poor Knox (who is completely freaked out) is talking about.
I have the messiest abattoir shower of my life and then I ask when we can leave, thinking we'd be headed off later that afternoon. It is only when they tell me that they want to keep us in for the night to observe Colt that a tiny seed of worry begins to penetrate my brain. Something? Was? Is? Wrong? What?
There is not much left to tell now. They finally bring Colt to me and I hold him. He is small and sweet, with a very squashed nose. He's still groggy from the stunned shock of his birth and maybe from the diamorphine too because I cannot get him to latch on for a feed. We are moved up to the main ward, Colt being wheeled in the little plastic bassinet as I walk beside him. Knox goes home finally to get some sleep after being up for 34 hours and says he will see us in the morning. I share a room with a sixteen year old girl whose baby is in NICU and who stays up all night talking to her boyfriend. It doesn't matter so much since Colt screams most of the night. I lie in bed next to him, trying to get him to nurse. Colt is checked every couple of hours. He seems pretty pissed off at being born but other than that nothing much seems to be wrong with him. The nurse finally comes in about four am and asks if I have had any sleep. Not in about three days, I tell her, so she takes the baby to let me have for a couple hours of rest. I wake up when she comes back with Colt.
He's got quite a set of lungs on him, hasn't he, she remarks dryly.
Yes. Yes, he has. And I will be grateful forever more that he has lived to use them. Thank god, we've had a happy ending.