J came along about a week or so before his estimated due date.
I woke up around midnight when my water bag burst – that is, I felt a warm trickle of fluid and waddled to the toilet, where I managed to spill most of the water, observing that the fluid was slightly cloudy and didn’t smell at all like urine. I had no idea whether I had just lost control of my bladder or if the amniotic sac had just erupted, so I waited for a while and realised that I was continuing to spontaneously leak small amounts of fluid, and I was developing a very mild backache that seemed to come and go.
Was that contractions?
I looked at the clock. Yes, the backache came every 10 minutes, hung around for a minute and disappeared. I guess that’s what contractions feel like, I thought, they don’t feel so very terrible.
I headed back to bed to wake up the Barn Owl. “I think my water bag burst,” I said, shaking him awake, “I think I have to go to the hospital.”
The poor guy had just gone to sleep a few hours ago after doing a ridiculously long 30 hour shift after which he attended an extensively long formal dinner with my extended family, so he sat up slowly and looked at me blearily. “Uh-huh,” he yawned, nodding his agreement before laying back down and shutting his eyes.
“Hey, HEY, don’t go back to sleep! You have to take me to the hospital! I think I’m having contractions!” I shrieked, smacking the Barn Owl repeatedly on the arm.
The Barn Owl got out of bed, wandered about the room a little bit, and then sat back down again, blinking at me as I flew about the room packing up my toiletries and stuffing them into the hospital bag that I had packed earlier that month.
“What are you doing?”, he asked, looking very confused.
“I’m getting ready to go to the hospital! Weren’t you listening? THE WATERBAG HAS BURST.”
The Barn Owl inspected me with unfocussed eyes. “Are you sure? You don’t look like you’re in labour. Isn’t it supposed to hurt? Are you sure you didn’t just lose bladder control or something?”
“I have no idea, but I’m getting backache every 10 minutes and the water is still leaking out, and it doesn’t feel like urine. You better wake my parents and tell them we’re going to the hospital.”
We were staying with the Aged Ps then, so the Barn Owl shambled across the hall to their room and tapped furtively on the door.
“Debs says her water bag has burst and she is having the contractions.”
The Aged Ps looked at me, still bustling around the room getting stuff together. Then they looked at the Barn Owl who was barely managing to stay standing. Then they said, “You are NOT driving Debs to the hospital. We’ll drive you.”
The Barn Owl blinked.
“But I can drive,” he protested, words slurring together.
The Aged P was unconvinced. “You look like a wreck. You need to rest too! You have a long LONG day ahead of you. I’ll drive.”
We got to the hospital at 2am and the delivery suite staff hooked up the monitors to see how strong the contractions were. Apparently, the contractions were looking pretty strong and regular on the monitors. I wasn’t feeling anything, though. I must have nerves of steel!
Feeling proud of myself, I gave the midwife a pain score of 0/10.
The midwife glared at me. “You are having contractions. How to have pain score of 0?!”
Fine. I gave the midwife a pain score of 1/10.
The midwife then sent me out of the delivery suite to the ward. I was supposed to walk around to strengthen the contractions but I was pretty tired so I ended up dozing on and off until 7am. The doctor came round to check on me, and I was 3cm dilated.
3cm is pretty respectable, I thought to myself, this is going to be a cinch!
Fast forward to a few hours later later, my pain score had gradually increased to 7/10 and I was getting tired and grouchy. The doctor came round to check on me and cheerfully announced that I was 2cm dilated.
I was horrified. I’d been having contractions for more than 12 hours by then and instead of progressing, things were going backwards. I knew that if things continued on their current course, I’d be too exhausted to push when the time came.
So I asked for an epidural.
This was for 2 main reasons:
1. An epidural would allow the doctor to also speed up the oxytocin drip which would also increase the strength of contractions, generally getting things moving a lot faster.
2. Being pain-free would allow me to rest and save my energy for the active stage of labour.
The anaesthetist breezed in and a minute or so later, I was floating away on a cloud of painkillers, feeling blissfully happy.
Where was the Barn Owl at this stage?
The Barn Owl was curled up on an armchair in the corner of the labour suite, valiantly fighting sleep and trying his best to be energetic. Poor guy. If not for the Aged Ps who came round at midday with a brown paper bag full of Wendy’s, he would have had nothing to eat.
Once I had the epidural in place, the midwives mercifully turned out the lights in the suite and both the Barn Owl and I drifted off to sleep.
Five hours later, the midwife and the doctor bustled in to check on how things were progressing. I was feeling full of beans after having had a much-needed nap, so when I was told that I was fully dilated and it was time to push, I was ready.
But my epidural was so effective, I was feeling nothing at all. Which in my case, was a good thing because the one thing I was really scared of was so-called “unbearable pain of labour”.
“PUSH!” chorused the midwife and the doctor.
I screwed up my eyes, held my breath and imagined myself pushing whilst the midwife and doctor counted to ten.
“Is anything happening?”, I gasped, after a few rounds.
The Barn Owl nodded.
“Don’t worry! The baby will be out by 7pm!” promised the midwives, cheerfully.
Midwives? I thought there was only one of them. Now there seemed to be about 7 or 8 of them.
In fact, the whole room was swarming with people. Where did they all come from? Confused, I looked at the Barn Owl, who smiled encouragingly at me.
“Last Push! Last Push!”, they sang at me in unison.
One hour later, I was still pushing. I was getting very tired by this time and I was nauseous from exhaustion, so I started vomiting after every contraction.
Everyone was being so encouraging, I felt like I was letting all of them down. In between pushes I started crying, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”
Barn Owl was holding my hand, looking very concerned. “It’s ok, you’re doing great!”
“I’m trying!!!! I’m trying!!!!”
The Barn Owl nodded, “I know! You’re doing very well!”
“Last Push!”, carolled the midwife choir.
“You keep SAYING that, but it’s never the Last Push! It’s all lies!!”
“The baby will be out by 7pm”, they said, consolingly.
I wanted to believe them, but I was also worried that what they said would not be true. So I carried on pushing, vomiting and apologising to everyone until…
That was how it felt when I managed to push J out.
I looked at the clock.
I burst into tears.
Updated: This is the first post in the Birth Stories blog train hosted right here on Owls Well.
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