Thumper had been the most active baby out of all my pregnancies. He kicked the hardest and pummelled with his fists and would even somersault in the womb. Ever heard the phrase ‘turn my stomach’? It’s not the most pleasant feeling.
At around 34 to 36 weeks of pregnancy, babies begin to sit a little lower in the womb and their little heads start to lower or engage in the pelvis. Locked and loaded, ready to fire.
However, judging from the way Thumper was still performing acrobatics, I knew that there would be plenty of space and amniotic fluid for him to swim around in. I was not surprised to hear at my 39th week checkup that he was so happy floating around in his anti-gravity chamber that his head was not engaged in the weeks leading up to his birth. According to my obstetrician this was more common in 3rd children and beyond – they would start to drop perhaps moments before labour begins.
I was disappointed. I had thought that maybe, just maybe, this little guy would come out early. Waddling around was not terrible or painful, as Thumper was markedly smaller than Little E was, but I was feeling nauseous and sickly all the time. Additionally, I had difficulty turning over in bed at night so I was waking up stiff and uncomfortable in the mornings. All of this was making me tired and wearing down my nerves, making me increasingly grouchy and snappish.
It was time to serve Thumper his eviction notice.
“Are you getting any contractions at all?” asked my doctor.
I shook my head. Apart from Thumper’s calisthenics, I wasn’t feeling anything else. “No, I’m just heavy and uncomfortable and tired of being pregnant.”
My doctor laughed, “Maybe you can try walking around more and drink some raspberry leaf tea.”
“Raspberry leaf tea? What’s that supposed to do?”
“Oh, some women feel that it helps to induce labour. I have no idea if it really has any true effect of hastening labour, but it won’t hurt to try. At the very least you’ll be well-hydrated.” said the doctor, with a little twinkle in her eye.
Raspberry leaf tea it is.
I went to the nearest pharmacy and bought out their entire stock of raspberry leaf tea, then went home and brewed a cup straight away.
I sipped my tea hopefully.
Week 40 rolled around, and nothing was happening. Nothing at all. It was my due date and Thumper wasn’t showing signs of moving out despite the gallons of Raspberry Leaf Tea.
Strangely enough, although I wanted Thumper out NOWNOWNOW, I was also feeling incredibly blasé about the whole thing. In my earlier two pregnancies, I had anxiously prepared my hospital bag and gotten my documents together weeks in advance. But for this pregnancy I had been quite relaxed, only getting out the baby clothes and packing the hospital bag just a few days before my estimated due date.
At the obstetrician’s office, she looked at me and sighed. “Normally I do not like to induce labour before 42 weeks, especially if you haven’t been feeling any contractions at all, because I always think that babies have a good reason why they aren’t ready to come out yet…but I guess we can set a date at 41 weeks if you really want. Now go and walk around more!”
That afternoon, I had three contractions. THREE. I knew what they were at once as they were powerful ones and quite uncomfortable. I had to puff my way through them, but they didn’t last or continue on long enough to be meaningful. I told the Barn Owl about them and he got all excited at first, but when he saw how unaffected I was, he calmed down and tried not to look disappointed.
A few days later, I was still getting the odd run of contractions now and again. Although they were quite strong and painful ones, they lasted only a few seconds and seemed to ease off completely after half an hour or so. I was still driving the kids around, not really bothering to change my schedule too much until the Barn Owl very wisely pointed out that when things got going, I probably should not be stuck alone on the motorway with two kids in the back seat. So we called the Aged Ps up and had them take turns to go on Babywatch Duty, and we stayed over at the Aged P’s place whenever the Barn Owl was working the night shift.
It was two days before our booked in date of induction and I started feeling strangely agitated for no reason whatsoever. Midway through the night, I woke up and looked at the clock. It was around 3am. I paced the floor for a while, and then woke the Barn Owl up.
“You have to take the day off tomorrow.” I told him.
“Why? Are you having contractions now?” he asked, suddenly wide awake.
“No, I’m not. But, you have to take the day off. Tell them it’s an emergency! I need you to take the day off.”
“I don’t know if I can do that!” said the Barn Owl, affronted by my insistence, “I wouldn’t have a good reason! I have to give the office a reason because it’s so last minute and people have to double up at work to cover for me!”
I had a sudden feeling wash over me that was a mixture of despair and crushing anxiety. It was all too much. I burst into tears.
“I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care!” I sobbed hysterically, “You have to call the office and tell them you can’t go to work tomorrow! Just tell them that your pregnant wife is having a psychotic break! You just…you just have to take the day off! You just have to!”
The Barn Owl looked at me worriedly.
“Ok, calm down. Here, take this tissue. I’ll take some family care leave tomorrow and there’s a guy who said he’d cover me if ever you went into labour. But I can only do this for one day. You can’t ask me to do this again if you aren’t in labour ok?”
Feeling very relieved, I wiped my face with the tissue and blew my nose noisily, mumbling, “Some guy offered to cover you? I’m going to give him a cake.”
“What about me? I want cake! Why don’t I get cake? I’m going to take the day off because my wife’s lost her marbles, I think I should get cake,” demanded the Barn Owl.
“Okokok, you get cake, too.”
The Barn Owl scowled at me. “Promises, promises. You and I both know that the cake is a lie.”
So saying, we both giggled at each other and went to sleep.
The next morning, the Barn Owl called up his office and took a day of family care leave. We both took J to school for 7am, which meant that we had an hour to kill before we needed to drop Little E at school.
Usually, I would go to the Aged Ps house and have a quiet breakfast with Little E and do her hair up in braids. But the Barn Owl insisted on driving to her kindergarten early, parking the car at the top of the hill.
“We’re going to walk Little E to school!” he announced.
So, we all got out and walked Little E down the hill, and wandered around the school compound with her, before dropping her off at class. I was covered in a fine layer of perspiration by this time and had a persistent backache, but the Barn Owl said, cheerfully, “Let’s have breakfast at the little cafe on the hill where we parked the car.”
I knew that it would make no sense to get him to circle the car round for me, so whilst the Barn Owl strode up the hill, humming happily, I trailed along slowly behind him thinking dark thoughts to myself and stopping occasionally to breathe my way through a contraction, but I forgave him soon enough when he bought me a lavish breakfast.
A few hours later, we picked Little E up from school and headed to the public library. I was feeling quite hungry by now, so I sat and rested in the library cafe with a tall drink and ordered a plate of crinkle cut fries. A run of contractions had started up again.
The Barn Owl and Little E found me in the cafe whilst I was concentrating on breathing through another contraction.
“What’s going on?” asked the Barn Owl.
“Oh, I’ve been having a few contractions again. They aren’t very regular, but they seem to be lasting longer now. Relax. I don’t think anything is happening yet.” I said airily, nonchalantly sipping my lime juice.
So we picked J up from school and headed home.
The minute I stepped out of the car, I immediately regretted not being a little bit more cautious. The contractions were much more painful and they were making me break out in a cold sweat.
I lay down on the couch with my watch and realised, to my horror, that the contractions were now 15 minutes apart and lasting a minute each time. I should probably get to the hospital. Now, both J and Little E were happily playing with legos on the floor with the Barn Owl, so I didn’t want to freak out and make them worry needlessly.
I said to the Barn Owl, “I think we need to go to the hospital. Can you call my mum and tell her to come here to take over the kids? I’m going to have a shower.”
I found it very difficult to concentrate during my shower. It helped ease the pain of contractions a little bit, but they were definitely coming every 10 minutes now.
I dressed slowly and emerged from the bathroom to find the Barn Owl sitting in the children’s room, reading stories to J and Little E. “Hi Mummy!” they chorused as I came into the room and started slinging clothes and school uniforms willy nilly into an overnight bag.
“Is the Aged P here? Is she on her way?”, I asked the Barn Owl.
“Oh, I haven’t called her yet.”
I shot him a look and said carefully, ever aware that the eyes of the children were on me, “You have to call her now. We need to go to the hospital now.”
“Ok!” said the Barn Owl, skipping off to phone the Aged P, while I went to the bathroom to gather the children’s toiletries.
Half an hour later, the Aged P still hadn’t arrived although we only live 15 minutes drive away.
The contractions were now 5 minutes apart and getting quite terrible – maybe 8/10 on my personal pain scale. There was a great pressure on my pelvis with each contraction and I was sitting on the couch, squeezing my hands and knees together in an effort to keep myself from shaking uncontrollably, all the while staring at the door and wondering why, why, WHY is the Aged P not here yet?
At last, the Aged P arrived. She breezed in through the door with a cheerful, “Hallo hallo!”.
There was no reply from me. I had my eyes screwed shut as I breathed through another contraction.
The Aged P was indignant. “I said, Hallo Hallo!” she said, sharply.
I looked up at her and muttered, through gritted teeth, “Yes, Yes, Hallo.”
The Aged P was aghast at my sweat-covered face. “Why haven’t you gone to the hospital yet?!” she asked.
“Because we are waiting for you!” I said, irritably.
(Turns out, I found out later, that the Barn Owl had rung her up and, lulled into a false sense of security by my calm demeanour, had said something to the effect of, “Debs is having contractions and we need to go to the hospital, can you come? She seems ok, so take your time.” So the Aged P had blithely and unknowingly gone on to have a long shower and do her hair before coming out.)
The Aged P went to the children’s bedroom, where, for some reason beknownst only to himself, the Barn Owl was still sitting there reading stories. Meanwhile, I managed with the strength of my will to walk to the door, all the time leaning on the wall for support.
I was reaching that stage of labour where everyone becomes too slow, too stupid and they talk like the teacher from the “Peanuts” cartoons. Where was everyone? Most importantly, where was the Barn Owl?
“WE HAVE TO GO WE HAVE TO GO NOW!” I bellowed to anyone who would listen, all semblance of calm completely gone.
I heard some muffled sounds coming from corridor. I looked up and saw the Barn Owl floating slowly down towards me.
“Kwa kwa kwa kwa kwa kwa” he said.
“Aaaargh now then you want to go to the toilet NO IT IS NOT OK AT ALL ARGH HURRY UP!”, I howled at him as he drifted away.
By the time we got to the car, the contractions were 3 minutes, maybe 2 minutes apart. The whole world was shaking and I felt as if all my innards were going to drop out onto the floor. To our utmost horror, the motorway leading to the hospital from our house was completely chock-a-block full of unmoving cars. Turning on the radio, we realised that there had been a huge car pile up and there was no choice but to take the small back roads.
My heart sank.
I knew that the Barn Owl would have no hope of navigating there on his own and need me to give him directions, even with our GPS chirping in his ear. The Barn Owl was already very tense, driving with his nose nearly resting on the steering wheel.
However, talking at a normal volume was an impossible task for me at that moment, as I was feeling a tremendous urge to push and fighting it, knowing instinctively that the timing was not yet right. He would just have to put up with me hollering driving instructions in his ear like a banshee. Too bad for him! I thought, unrepentantly.
At one point, there was a police van in front of us, and they were crawling along at no kilometres an hour for some reason. I really wanted to tell the Barn Owl to overtake them by driving on the sidewalk, or maybe even hail them down and get them to escort us to the hospital with siren on and lights flashing. Fortunately, they turned into the McDonald’s before either of us could do anything stupid, and the Barn Owl zipped off towards the hospital, with me clinging onto the door yelling things like “KEEP RIGHT NOW TURN RIGHT I SAID TURN RIGHT NOW NOW NOW!”.
Although the journey to the hospital seemed interminable, we actually made it to the hospital in less than 20 minutes. I gasped my name to the porters and insisted that they tell the labour ward to page the anaesthetist on call straightaway.
The porter practically ran with me in a wheelchair all the way to the labour ward. By this time, I was in a world of pain and I didn’t want to be there anymore.
“Is the anaesthetist on the way?” I croaked at the nurse.
“You have to wait to see the doctor first,” she replied, much too slowly and carefully, wearing a carefully practiced smile meant to pacify unruly patients. I was not to be so easily deterred so I had to do something to make that smile Go Away posthaste.
I put on my best Medusa impression and hissed venomously between my teeth, “Sure, I will see the doctor first, but there is no reason why the anaesthetist cannot be alerted at the same time. Call the anaesthetist NOW, please.”
As soon as I finished speaking, the smile disappeared, the shoulders went up towards the ears and soon after, there was much silent scampering around the room, with the occasional petrified glance at me from time to time as I crouched on the bed feeling like a giant, angry ball of nerve endings.
The junior doctor came round, did a quick check and announced that I was 6cm dilated. She asked me what my pain score was.
“8outof10whenistheanaesthetistcoming?”, I gasped in one breath, frowning at her in between contractions.
The Barn Owl gave me a questioning look.
“I haven’t reached 10 out of 10 yet, and I don’t intend to let it go that far. I’ve had enough of it!” I explained.
There was a little bit of a commotion outside (I later found out that it was my obstetrician berating the junior doctor for withholding the epidural and delaying the call the anaesthetist), and a moment later, the anaesthetist scurried in accompanied by a bevy of nurses and all of them with their shoulders up around their ears. After reading out the bill of rights to me, she deftly flicked the epidural in. As the icy coldness of the anaesthesia trickled down into my legs, the crushing pain and pressure eased off to a dull backache. We all heaved a collective sigh of relief and all the shoulders in the room immediately relaxed.
My obstetrician popped into the room. “Four of my patients have turned up at the same time!” she exclaimed, “It’s a madhouse out there! How are you feeling now? More relaxed? Good, good. Just take some time to enjoy the epidural and we’ll be back in an hour to rupture the membranes, pop the water bag and see if we get things moving quickly. Okay see you later bye!”
She left the room, but before the door had even fully closed behind her, there was an almighty…
My water bag had burst with such force, the liquor sprayed out the bottom of the bed and my belly collapsed by a third. The Barn Owl and I started laughing. It sounded exactly like how a water balloon would sound if you chucked it against the wall. The Barn Owl quickly stuck his head out of the room and told the obstetrician what had happened.
She popped back into the room, took one look at the bespattered bed, and exclaimed, “Oh gosh, that looks like it was rather explosive! Well, looks like things will be moving along rather quickly! I’ll let the nurses tidy things up and I’ll be back in half an hour and perhaps you might be ready to do a bit of pushing by then.”
The nurse helped me move around the bed whilst she changed the sheets. The anaesthetist had very wisely given a slightly lighter dose, as she knew that labour would progress very quickly for me. So although I wasn’t in any pain, I could still tell when the contractions were by a vague tingling sensation in my lower back and I had fairly decent control over my legs and lower body.
This made things much easier than in my first two childbirth experiences when I had to imagine myself pushing and place my trust in the phrase ‘mind over matter’. I could engage my muscles without feeling any pain and that took away most of the stress and anxiety that I was feeling.
When the obstetrician breezed back in, she had me lie down on my left side as Thumper was not optimally positioned for labour even though his head was engaged. She was hoping that his head and body would turn as he progressed slowly down the birth canal so that he would be facing the right direction (i.e. facing my spine).
I had been pushing quite well for about 15 minutes and my obstetrician had just turned around to reach for something on the trolley behind her when there was an almighty…
Out shot Thumper, as if he had been fired from a cannon!
“AIYAH!” exclaimed the midwife, reaching out like lightning to slap her hand to the side of his head, pressing it against my thigh to stop him from slithering over the end of the bed into the steel bucket.
“Oh GOSH!” exclaimed my obstetrician as she quickly gathered him up in her arms. He was wrapped up in his umbilical cord like an egyptian mummy.
“…..” said Thumper, opening his eyes and surveying the room with an expression of acute distaste, lips tightly pursed.
The midwife picked Thumper up by one of his ankles, dangling him unceremoniously in the air. We all watched in fascination as the umbilical cord unwound itself from his body.
“….” said Thumper, blinking and looking thoroughly disgusted by the whole situation. He opened his mouth, thought the better of it, and closed it again.
“Oh GOSH!” exclaimed my obstetrician as Thumper slowly turned increasingly more purple with anger and lack of oxygen.
The midwife, still holding Thumper as if he were a plucked chicken, shook him up and down a little bit to disentangle the cord a little bit faster. The cord unwound itself from the baby but somehow the midwife and I both got tangled up in it. We all seemed to be festooned in never-ending loops of umbilical cord. My obstetrician quickly clamped the cord and the Barn Owl cut it, freeing Thumper who was immediately whisked away by the nurse. The nurse began vigorously rubbing him down with a towel to stimulate him and get him breathing.
“YAAARRGGGHHHHHH!!!!!” screamed Thumper loudly and indignantly, flailing his arms and legs in protest at the midwife. He quickly turned a healthy looking shade of red, then stopped screaming and mumbled irritably to himself.
Meanwhile, my obstetrician was still busy delivering the rest of the umbilical cord like a magician pulling ribbons out of a hat. “Oh GOSH,” she mutters to herself. There seemed to be yards of it and it was getting tangled everywhere but she managed to deliver the rest of the cord and the placenta.
Before I know it, Thumper is finally placed in my arms.
This post is part of the ‘Birth Stories’ Blog Train hosted right here on Owls Well!
To read other exciting birth stories please click on the picture below.
Karen is a mum to 2 wonderful children who muses over at Mum’s Calling. She believes it is almost every woman’s calling to be a Mum.
While fulfilling hers, she finds the journey truly rewarding and enjoyable. She is convinced that Motherhood is life changing and full of surprises.
May is a Stay-At-Home Mom of two little ones. She survived two complicated pregnancies and while each time, she announced with conviction that that will be the last, she wanted more!
Head over to her blog next Tuesday (27 Oct 2015) when May’s husband, The Daddy, takes over as guest blogger for this special series and recounts his fears and worries over the births of their children and the dangers that entailed over each.