It was Friday, April 25th, 2003:
DaddyH and I had rented a couple of movies for the weekend, from the local Vietnamese video store. We were watching Session 9, not the best movie for a new mom to see (check it out, if you must know why). I remember sitting on the edge of my seat for the full 2 hours, not because it was engaging (though it was a little freaky), but because I had this dull ache in my back that wouldn’t go away.
So I sat there rubbing and watching and rubbing and watching and then the movie was over and we went to bed.
At 3:30 in the morning, I woke up with back pain – not what I would have called “a contraction”, but then, what did I know? The ache would last about a minute, then dull a bit, then fire up again about 10 to 15 minutes later. I paced a bit, but after the third ache, I figured I should wake up Daddy.
- I think I’m having contractions.
– You sure? (dumb question)
- No, I’m not sure. (obvious answer) But it’s bad enough that I can’t sleep.
So, Daddy got up and went on the computer to announce to our CS buddies that I was in labour. He played a little CS, I had a shower – at which time, I truly knew I was in labour – and we started setting up for the midwives. I got out my Homebirth Bin with all the old sheets and towels and plastic coverings for the floor and couch – things I had been asked to accumulate over the last few months. I tried to eat a little but was too excited.
I held out as long as possible before calling my midwife, Anita. I wanted her to see daylight when I woke her from her bed, just in case I was wrong.
By the time I called her, I knew I wasn’t wrong. It was about 6:30 am. The contractions had been intensifying, and were still pretty irregular, to my meticulous mind, but at their worst, were almost 5 minutes apart, 1 minute in duration. Anita said she was scheduled to see another mom at the hospital (down the street) first thing, but she would come immediately after. She would also call Janet – my second midwife – to give her a heads-up.
I don’t know when, but certainly within the hour, Anita called from her cell, on the way to her appointment. She timed my contractions over the phone and said, “I’m coming straight to you.”
When Anita arrived – oh the relief! – I was in my skivvies, leaning over Daddy’s desk, unwillingly sucking on some oranges. It had to have been about 8:00. We lived in an “open-concept” (remember when that word was cool?) condo – essentially one big room with an alcove for the kitchen, a nook for the bed and crib, and a big area in between for working/playing/loafing.
We had decided to set up the “birthing area” right in front of Daddy’s computer; a strange sort of offering to our friends on ventrilo.
The contractions were intense and all in my back. I rubbed and rubbed, more because I needed to focus on something, and not because it actually provided relief at this point. Although now and then, between tasks, I felt Anita’s strong expert hands taking over, and wow, whatever she did worked.
By 8:25, according to my file, I was at 7 cm.
At 9:35, and 9 cm, she broke my waters; the weirdness of that experience actually distracted me throughout my next contraction.
By 10 o’clock, I was fully dilated and on the floor, leaning on Daddy. I remember very little of the actual pushing except, at one point, telling everyone “I can’t do it, I can’t do it” to which Anita replied, “you’re doing it“, so I decided she was right. On with it, then!
Janet arrived 20 minutes later, when the head was just visible; 19 minutes after that, the baby’s head and his right arm were delivered, followed, a minute later, by the rest of the body.
“SVD of live male infant; cried immediately” was noted at 10:40 am on Saturday, April 26th, 2003. He weighed in at 7 lbs 12 oz.
I stayed there on my knees for a bit, while Daddy told me it was a boy. I was stunned, I didn’t want to move – I thought I would shatter the moment. The little rainbow-coloured dude was placed in my shaky arms and I held him to me. WOW.
It turns out we both had had a rough ride. The hand pressed to his head at delivery, meant that his right ear was a little flattened, and the right side of his face was bruised. His right foot was bent up so his toes touched his shin. The poor little guy had been squished in there. These were minor concerns, it turns out, but had to be noted, just in case.
The next hour or so was a blur, while I moved to the couch and “The Boy” (as he was called for the next 6 weeks) was placed next to me to feed. I don’t know how long we lay there, just the two of us – me, watching, drinking him in; the babe, well, just being. It was amazing. Around us, there was this silent flurry of activity – like a scene out of Koyaanisqatsi – as the midwives flitted about, tidying and taking notes, doing the things they do to ensure that, once they are gone, there is no sign that a birth ever took place there – except for the extra human, I guess. Occasionally they would swoop in to check our feeding or hold a straw to my mouth, and I vaguely recall them checking my blood pressure several times, but hardly a word was spoken; they were so unobtrusive. At some point, I delivered the placenta, and at some point, Daddy cut the cord – “@#$% this thing is hard to cut through! What did they do before this tool was around?” Eventually they took the baby away to clean and swaddle him, while I sat up to have some food. And then the REAL fun began.
I had moderate bleeding and I was only able to sit up long enough to snatch a few grapes, before getting really dizzy and really pale. Anita didn’t want me to lay down again, but I insisted I had to. A second examination of the placenta confirmed that it was intact, so they knew that a piece had not been left behind. Anita looked at me and judged that during those tender moments with the babe, the blood was probably pooling inside me and forming a clot.
So, I got what I wanted: I got to lay down. But it wasn’t pleasant. Daddy held the baby in the chair beside me, and watched while Anita reached in and pulled out the cause of my problem: a small plum-sized clot.
NOTE TO ALL WOMEN CONTEMPLATING NATURAL CHILDBIRTH: The birthing ain’t half bad. Not when comparing it to the excruciating fire of delivering 3 clots.
Did I say three?
Well, after the “plum”, I sat up. I still felt dizzy and my colour wasn’t returning. Daddy could hardly stand to watch me light up like a Christmas tree again, but it had to be done. I laid down again. Anita went in – oh, the pain – and pulled out a “peach”. I knew before sitting up again that I didn’t feel much better. Anita said there had to be more. I said I couldn’t do any more; it was horrible, awful pain. This was serious. Anita knew it was time to speak my language: ”Christine. If we don’t get all of it out, we will have to go to the hospital.”
She had said the forbidden word, so I laid down again. This time Anita asked Janet to try. And Janet did. I beat my fists – I’m not really a screamer, but I may have done, this time – while she reached in with her big man hand and pulled out a large “grapefruit”. I was spent.
I was also cured. The worrisome wooziness had been replaced with a exalted exhaustion. I sat up and could see from the look on Daddy’s face that my cheeks were turning pink again.
Anita and Janet had done a mindblasting job of navigating me through my physical and emotional deliverance. Amazing. Is this something that is taught or learned? Or does it simply surface in the right individual(s) in the right situation?
We were back on track, but they wouldn’t leave until I had “voided” on my own. Well, it turns out I couldn’t. (Hey, give me a break; my hoohah had been through a lot that morning.) So, I had to be catheterized. Remind me to add THAT to my cv. . .
At 2 pm, the midwives said goodbye and left Mummy, Daddy and The Boy sleeping in a blissful heap on the couch. Amidst all the activity, Daddy had found time to call the families with the news. We knew we would have a few hours to snooze before the grandparents arrived with supper, groceries and lots of loves for their latest grandchild. We knew we wouldn’t get to see the rest of our rentals, but that was okay.
The next day, Daddy returned the movies and told our little old video store guy that we had had our baby – yay! – and that we hadn’t been able to watch the second one; could we keep it another day?
“Yes. Five dollar.”
Oh, the memories.