Dear Genevieve…

Genevieve

Hi Baby,

Just a quick note before you read the below. The following is an account of your labour which is really long and in retrospect, kinda boring. I therefore later tried to write a shorter version which is here. I technically succeeded because the alternate version is actually shorter…but only by a third…

Dear Genevieve,

It was great to finally meet you. I know it hasn’t been the most auspicious of beginnings to our relationship as you are currently still experiencing laboured breathing in the special care unit and I am back on the ward. I did get to hold you already for which I am truly grateful but then they had to take you away to give you care that I could not.

When I saw you again, you were in an enclosed crib with 45% oxygen and I understand that this has now been turned down twice as they bring you back to standard air so you can be with your dad and I (who is currently at home with the puppy but he’ll be back tomorrow, I promise).

So despite the fact that you were there, I thought I’d fill you in on your birth. It was…exhausting, beyond my expectations and on the whole, a positive experience that right now, I cannot possibly fathom ever wanting to do again. Obviously the forgetful hormones haven’t kicked in yet.

Things sort of started last night. They checked that you were still a happy camper and then inserted some tape into me to soften my cervix so they could break my water the following morning. It was a remarkably uncomfortable experience that apparently did bugger all. I didn’t get much sleep that night either, despite the sleeping tablets. I had another crying jag though for about 20 minutes (obviously I’m quite hormonal at the moment and I wasn’t as fine as I thought I was) and they’d warned me that I might feel some cramping but…nada.

The next morning, one of the midwives tried to break my water and put a Sintocinon drip in my hand but was unable to do either. Apparently I have great veins at the elbow but not so great in the hand. Bummer. Also your little cocoon was still shut up tight. So things didn’t get kick started at 8am like planned but rather 9am when one of the other midwives managed both the drip and the breaking of my water. Then we waited.

It wasn’t long before contractions started at about every three minutes. The initial ones were merely uncomfortable and distracting but gradually they moved to ones I had to breathe through slowly. Over the next couple of hours, the contractions moved through to the feeling that started in the uterus, crept up the sides of my belly and peaked at the sensation of a fist gripping me at the base of the pelvis. Kind of like when you’re exercising and sustaining a lift or a plank and your muscles are really working hard. I could mostly leave my other muscles relaxed through these but then of course, things progressed.

Early Labour

They increased in frequency to every two minutes or so and became a more intense sensation that was akin to holding a lift or a plank too long so the muscles start to burn. The scrunched fist that was there before was now pulling at me as well. Every time a contraction would hit, I needed to consciously relax my shoulders and my hands and my breathing was a lot heavier. I was eventually inhaling and exhaling through tight lips to control the airflow.

While all this was happening, they did put a wire on your head to monitor your heart rate a little better. Sort of like having the tape inserted, it was not an overly pleasant experience. At one point, they also tried to get me on my side to try labour in another position but that was totally not good at all. I much preferred being propped on my back which made it much easier to sag like a rag doll between contractions. They’re kind of hard work! The lovely midwife I had with me however was always cheery and full of praise at how well I was handling things and she was also constantly encouraging. And I was handling things well, that is till about 1pm.

Shortly before this, I think I had a conversation with the midwife about an epidural. The contractions were getting harder and knowing other people’s experiences of hours and hours spent in what I assumed was that stage of labour, I was starting to question whether I could do it. Or whether I wanted to. The midwife told me that the anaesthetist was in the birth unit right then and she could call them in but I decided to wait a little longer to see how I went – I could always get them called back later. At 1pm though, my hands were tingling (apparently due to over breathing), I was tensing quite hard on each contraction and using all my concentration to breathe and not fight it. The other midwife who came to see me however suggested a shower as the water should help the pain and getting up and about for a change of scene might also be good for me.

The shower was ok but I can’t say it really helped me. It was not an easy time. It took me a couple of contractions whilst sitting up before I was ready to stand and hobble to the bathroom. When I got there, they told me to kneel on the mat with my arms braced on a chair while your dad held the shower head spray over my back. All modesty was out the window as I was on the floor naked and sitting on my backside because I was too tired to kneel and support myself on my legs. I was in there for about a half hour in total but after the first ten minutes or so, I just couldn’t relax my body through the contractions. I started to moan, not just breathe. I would also move up into a kneel during the contractions to make them slightly more bearable – and I really wanted to push. The sensation of the contraction washing over me and moving up the sides of my belly was now more akin to a tsunami rather than a wave. I became totally tense and felt like I was squeezing you “in” (on yourself perhaps as my belly tightened in front of me or maybe that was towards my spine as in a way I also pulled you into me) rather than squeezing you down (and therefore out). I was however also starting to feel pressure in my rear. When I told the midwife this she said we’ll get you back on the bed and check you out in about 5 minutes.

In the brief window between contractions, I slowly shuffled back to the bed on legs that were shaking. I didn’t realise how tired and weak my body had become till I asked it to support its own weight as well as deal with contractions! My mind was still switched on because I had a lot to deal with but it was like only the vital parts of my body were working properly, the strength and energy from non labour essential parts of my body were being drained to compensate. I did get back on the bed under my own steam though and when the midwife checked me, she said honey, you’re fully effaced and dilated. You’re ready to start pushing now! So my first reaction was holy crap, I went from nothing to ready to push in 5 hours. I could have sworn I was going to deliver you late Monday (if not early Tuesday), not in the afternoon on Monday. So I got ready to push.

Oddly enough, the beginning part of this was a little easier than the previous hour or so. Once I was allowed to push, I could tense muscles on purpose and therefore didn’t feel the contractions as strongly. Every time I felt a one coming on, I would take a deep breath, hold it and bear down pushing towards my rear end. Three times. I would do that quick expulsion of breath and try to rapidly inhale so I could push again and sustain the pressure. I started making some pretty interesting sounds too. It’s hard to push hard and not get air mixed with vocal chords coming out of your mouth. Well, for me anyway. The midwife kept telling me to push deep though and not in my throat so I tried to focus on this with my eyes squeezed tightly shut. I didn’t quite manage it a lot of the time but the midwife was a huge help throughout the whole labour. Your dad was also right there, letting me push against him with my foot. Until he nearly passed out and had to lie down.

Sparky

Now I have to tell you that your dad was great through my labour. Through the middle bit when it was starting to get hard, I didn’t want to be touched or patted and he didn’t. I didn’t want music or TV or conversation and he sat there silently. He got me everything I asked for and at one point in the middle of two pushes, a somewhat inhuman sounding “more pressure” (which probably sounded more like the Lord of the Rings’ “my precious”) came out as a command and he did that too. I needed his strength to brace against when I pushed. I was pushing so hard however that I did get a tear which apparently bled a lot and that was a bit too much for your dad who had to spend the next 5 minutes lying on the floor while the other midwives that were called in made him stay down, got him water and helped put his feet up.

The rest of the pushing just got harder and harder. I was in the terribly attractive position of legs splayed wide open with my hands pulling against my thighs. I believe I was in this position when the afternoon shift came in to meet me. As I said though, modesty was already way out the window by then and I was feeling exhausted. I was hot and sweating and needed a wet towel for my forehead and a dry one to wipe my legs and hands with between contractions. Whilst still being aware of my surroundings, in a way, I was also oblivious to a fair bit at this point. I didn’t have much of a concept of time and I also didn’t care who was sticking their fingers into me. Charming huh? Since Sparky wasn’t standing up towards the end of the pushing though, I managed to anchor my feet in front of the handholds which was a godsend.

Pushing

And I kept pushing. As your head came down, I could feel the difference although up to that point, it had just felt like I was pushing without much progress. When you crowned though, I could feel myself stretching. And I also felt…full. It was at this point that they called the OB so he could be there for the last stage. The stage where I was well and truly shagged. So we got to interrupt his afternoon clinic appointments. I can’t actually remember how long the OB was there but it was long enough help coach me through a number of pushes to get your head out. At one point he also took my hand and asked if I wanted to feel your head but I was like no thank you. Kind of like with the mirror they offered to bring into the room. As far as I was concerned, I was experiencing it but I didn’t need to see it or feel it from the outside as well. There are some things I just do not need to know.

The OB was also there to tell me not to push after your head was out but the body was still to come – not as easy as it sounds by the way…and it’s a very strange sensation. Your shoulders and arms and legs felt kind of lumpy on the way out. Not as hard work as your head though I must say. And at this point, I knew it was just about over so I’m sure I was ready to forgive a multitude of sins – or pain. It was also around this point apparently that the OB grabbed your dad’s hands and made him “catch” you on the way out. I am told that this was a “surreal” experience. I think this is a good thing. And then there you were.

They immediately put you on my chest and the OB set about sewing up my tear and delivering the placenta. The former didn’t hurt at all, the latter was somewhat uncomfortable. Your dad and I were kind of occupied with looking at you though. You were wet and messy and very real. You were also not happy. You were grizzling and wouldn’t settle as they had expected so you were picked up and vigorously rubbed. This didn’t seem to help much however so they told us that they would take you to the nursery and get you checked out. They put your ID tags on and then took you away with your dad in tow and I was left alone.

Now normally around this time, parents and baby would be bonding and perhaps attempting a breast feed for the first time. Everyone is wide awake. The mother because she has a flood of hormones, the baby because they have just received a rude shock I suppose and the dad because it’s all finally real. But as I said, we didn’t quite start out that way. After a while, your dad came back, pretty shaken, to tell me that you were going to be kept in a humidicrib overnight. He told me there were wires and tubes and you were so small and finding it hard to breathe. He was really upset but this is why we are a good pair because we vary rarely loose it at the same time. I was sure that you would be ok and this was a setback not a disaster. You would get the help you needed overnight and no doubt be back with us the next day so we could start being a family…together.

So this was most of your birth story. The rest of it is the bit between you going to special care and me going down to the ward.

After you and your dad and the midwives and the OB left, I was alone in the birthing suite. Bound to the bed partly because I was completely knackered and not sure I could get up without falling over and because I was still bleeding…a lot. Actually, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t allowed to get up by myself but I was pretty happy to rest in bed…and call people on my mobile. Which was about all I could do by the way because all my belongings were on the other side of the room and everyone had disappeared leaving me somewhat stranded. Anyway, had you been with me, letting family and friends know of your arrival would have gone slightly differently. Since I had nothing better to do however, I spent the next hour and a half calling as many people as I could. And in a way, it was kind of cool to say hey, wanted to let you know – I just gave birth!

So whilst I was mostly alone during the next few hours, midwives did actually pop in to check on me from time to time. They would always check to see how much I was bleeding and press on my stomach to see if my uterus was contracting. At one point, they gave me an injection in the thigh (I think to help clot my blood?). Another time, they inserted a catheter so I didn’t need to get up and use the toilet. Joy. The Sintocinon drip was still going and at some point once this had emptied, it was replaced as well. After a while though, my butt felt like it was going to sleep so I was really ready to get up and take a shower.

It took quite a while before a midwife was free to come and help me. When there was one free though, it was one of the cranky ones that looked like she had way better stuff to do than watch me take a shower and help me put my clothes back on again. I’m sure she was actually a nice woman and good at her job but I must admit, I was quite relieved that she wasn’t a part of my labour. But together, we eventually completed the lengthy process of making my body move where it needed to in order to clean myself and get my pyjamas on. She then got me a wheelchair so I could go and see you in the special care nursery.

Special Care

You were in a humidicrib on 45% oxygen and you had monitors connected to you and a cannula in your hand. It wasn’t quite as scary as Sparky had led me to believe but it was still hard to see you breathing so heavily because it was such an effort. I was with you for a little while and then the nurse came back to wheel me down to the ward which was ok because the day had finally hit me and I was exhausted. As I mentioned in the beginning, I didn’t sleep so well because I started this post around 2am but I think I have run out of things to add so since one of the ward nurses has given me some drugs and I have called the nursery to check on you (they have already lowered the oxygen levels again) I will call it a night and try and get some rest ready for tomorrow.

Alles Liebe,

Lexelah

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