This whole birthday thing has made be nostalgic. I’m also sick and illness does a misty-eyed Mumma Nadz make. So I’m going to share a story. A story of plans made, intentions dashed, illusions shattered and second chances. Part 1 goes like this:
(A word of warning for readers who have not yet ventured down the baby path: This post contains graphic information that may turn you off all together. The writer recommends that you defer your decisions until you have read Part 2 of The Story where things get a whole lot nicer.)
I have mentioned before that I was a swimmer. A swimmer who competed at Olympic level. This is not a badge of honour I wear proudly, but a fact I mention here to put my approach to childbirth into some kind of context. Pain? I had been to the extreme of it, willingly, twice a day for the best part of my life. Endurance? I had found my limit and gone beyond it, willingly, twice a day for the best part of my life. Emotions? I had seen the most exquisite highs and blackest lows, willingly, twice a day for the best part of my life. Lack of control? Check. Physical mayhem? Check. Facing the unknown? Check. Check. Check.
Childbirth did not scare me. It was going to be like a really long Step Test, a VO2Max set, a ‘Hell Week’ squashed into one day. I would breathe, like I had done in training millions of times. I would be pushed to the point of delirium and convulsion and I would just keep going like I had done in training millions of times. I watched the videos. I read the magazines. I studies the photographs of watermelon-sized heads pushing through cherry-sized vaginas accompanied by shit and blood and lumpy, white goop. And I had made peace with the thought that I was going to disgrace myself in front of a team of doctors and midwives and my darling Mr D. I was going to have a baby.
Instinct had told me that a birth plan was a stupid idea and my obstetrician had confirmed the hunch. “It becomes nothing more than a list of the things that didn’t happen or a list of the things that stressed you out.” So I had no plan. Only intentions and rough strategies and a clear picture of how it would all go down… No, that’s not a plan, okay?!
Sally MacLeland ran the final of the 100m Hurdles at the Beijing games. Mr D and I stayed up to watch it. She exclaimed in breathless wonder “Are you serious?!” in her post-race interview and The Lion popped his sack. Within 10 minutes the contractions started and from that point on they were so strong I couldn’t talk or stand and breathing was the concerted effort I had anticipated in the latter stages. And they were regular at 5 mins apart. And they didn’t go away completely between them.
“I think I’m having this baby soon,” I said to Mr D and he called the hospital, we went in for a check and they sent me home with some Panadine (that did squat) and the recommendation that I rest up and call back when contractions got to 3 minutes apart.
I did everything right. I spent hours in the bath. I tried walking around the back yard, squatting every five minutes to moan a mantra and breathe. I nibbled on jelly and sipped on cool soups for a second or two in the less intense moments. And I did this all day and well into the next night. A very, very long Step Test training session.
When the contractions hit 3-minutely and my moaning pitch escalated to the distressed moo-ing of a cow, we called the hospital and went in. By midnight they had examined me and declared,
“Congratulations, Nadine, you are four and a half centimeters dilated!”
“Four and a what?! I’ve been… AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH…whooo… whooo… whooo… mmm… mmm… mmm… for 24 hours and I’m not even half-way there?!”
It seems the Lion was back-to-back, back-to-front being the way the little suckers should come out. He was jammed in there like a little champagne cork and he wasn’t budging until he either voluntarily turned around or the doctor got the scissors and cut him out of his packaging. I was no longer part of my body. I needed sleep so badly I wanted to die. They encouragingly told me that I could be doing this for another 24 hours and Mr D came to the fore.
“This is the good advice we said we’d take” and I, incapable of holding myself above the water in the bath, let alone coherent speech, said, “Don… car… nee… slee… nee… slee… nee… slee…. i…i…i…IIIIIII-YAAAAHHHHHHHHH ha-ha-ha-ha-ha… ngggrrr…!”
Epidural. “Whoomp-whoomp-whoomp” of the Little Lion’s heart. Fogginess. My leg fell out of bed at one point and I had to call to Mr D to put it back. Another 8 hours and I was ‘allowed’ to push. But push what where? I couldn’t feel anything, so I pretended. And, it seems I pretended good. In fact, I pretended so good that I catapulted my placenta into the doctor’s chest so hard it splattered his crisp, white business shirt and he fumbled it like a muddy football.
32 hours later and The Little Lion stared at his father for 10 minutes while Mr D cried like a baby. I laughed the hysterical laugh of a drunkard, every single one of my intentions laying shattered on the floor. And we’ve been laughing and crying and laughing again ever since!
Olympics? Piece of cake.