Tuesday 21 September 2004
This is the story of my second birth…the birth of my first daughter!
My mother had been the midwife for my first baby. I chose to hire a private midwife and have my mother there this time to look after my son.
I woke up at 12. Midnight. With pains. Ever increasing pains.
And so woke Derek up.
He sat up and rubbed his eyes.
“ Are you sure?” he asked.
“ Yes! It’s really sore this time!”
He had reason to ask. For the last three weeks I had been having pangs of pre-labour. I had phoned the midwife (Karen) and my mother countless times.
I decided to sit and wait a bit. Just to make sure. I didn’t really want to be caught crying wolf again…
This baby’s gotta come out at some stage…it’s nine days overdue.
The pains increased. I tried to lie down and rest but couldn’t. Instead I wriggled around trying to breathe into the pain.
I finally decided to phone Karen at two. She came around.
“ These pains look more intense,” she smiled reassuringly.
Karen checked how dilated I was, “ Three cm dilated ,” she said, pulling off her rubber glove.
“ If I may, just give one piece of advice, don’t hold back with each contraction. Let go into it, you’ll find it goes much easier…” Karen smiled (her smile so reassuring), “you’re doing fine, I’ll come back later, phone me when you need me.”
I phoned my mother.
My mother asked, “are you sure?”
I rolled my eyes and reassured her that yes, this time I was definitely in labour.
Derek and I went downstairs (we didn’t want to wake San) and made a fire.
The pains were increasing. I began to moan softly to myself. I breathed deeply and moved with each one.
This labour felt so different from my first. I didn’t feel frightened. I didn’t feel scared. I didn’t feel bewildered. I didn’t feel freaked out by the pain.
I allowed myself to go with each pain. I allowed each pain to take over my body. I rode it. And within that I felt unbelievably strong and powerful.
The pains began to increase.
Derek phoned Karen.
My mother wasn’t there yet. Where was she?
I phoned her. Between contractions. Just to check where she was. She answered her phone. Mumbling. Still fast asleep.
“ Mom! It’s happening! Where the fuck are you?”
“I’m still in Prince Alfred Hamlet,” she mumbled, “ I thought it was another false alarm when you phoned earlier, so I went back to sleep.”
“Well, it’s happening and I need you to be here to look after San, so get moving!”
I switched the phone off.
I was livid.
Karen arrived at about five. My mother soon after. My mother sat and watched me. Karen made tea. I squirmed and writhed on the floor. Derek held me. Breathed with me. Rubbed me. Spoke soothing reassuring words to me.
I squirmed and writhed in pain. On the floor. On the mat. In front of the blazing fire.
The pain increased.
I began to do push ups. I felt strong, so powerful. I grunted and moaned.
My mother sat. On the red velvety piano stool. Her hands clutched between her thighs. Watching me.
I wonder what she thinks and feels watching her daughter go through this?
I sat. Kneeling with knees apart.
Breathing softly.No pain.
The pain starting again.
It began to build up.
Coursing through me.
As the pain reached its crescendo, I jerked forward and arched my back.
The scream makes the pain more bearable.
San woke up. My mother got up. She heaved herself off the piano stool. She picked up her steaming cup of Rooibos and trundled up the creaking stairs to my first born.
I began to walk around. The pains were coming more often. I hung on Derek whenever a pain came. Screaming and hanging. Allowing myself to dive into the pain fully. I found myself plunged into a darkness of unbelievable excruciating pain. And then suddenly, found myself on the other side. Out of it. And with it came a white hot moment of clear beautiful bliss. And then I lost it. I fell. Back into the pain…as it slowly decreased and ebbed away.
I wanted, I craved a shower. But the washing machine was in the way. Derek moved it. Pushed it. Rolled it. Put his back into it. Moved it out the way. And turned on the shower tap. It was broken. The shower head was blocked. Nothing came out. Only trickles of water. Derek banged it. Nothing. It was broken.
Karen suggested a bath. I didn’t want to because the bath was upstairs. I was hesitant because I didn’t want to disturb San. I didn’t want to freak him out. But I felt the need for the comforting warmth of water. The relaxation. The relief of it.
I paced the downstairs floor, waiting for the next pain to come. And when I felt it building up, up, up, I flicked my hands wildly, motioning for Derek to come.
And so I hung on him. Screaming and hanging. While Karen was upstairs, to run a bath.
I climbed the stairs (with some difficulty) and got into the small ugly brown bath.
But brief. The bath too small. Cramped. No space really. Couldn’t move around when the pains came.
(San shouted from his room: “ inside voices inside, outside voices outside!”)
I nearly ripped the taps out of the wall. They ordered me out of the bath. Too risky…couldn’t have water spraying everywhere!
Back in my own room things got more intense. I was naked and hot and my lower back throbbed in absolute agony.
The pains came closer and closer together. Karen rubbed some oils into my lower back. I became bathed in sweet smells. My lower back melted.
I could hear my mother leaving the house with San. Closing the front door behind them.
An Egyptian goose sat across the road. On the chimney of the house of Natasha. I wanted to shout, “ Hey goose! Wrong house! Deliver the baby here!”
In between pains I sucked on slices of organic oranges for sustenance.
Chewing on as many as possible and then spitting them out before the next pain consumed me. Raced though me. Arching my back.
I heard myself. Screaming. Shouting.
“I can’t do this anymore! I can’t, I can’t!”
My back, almost numb with pain, felt swollen.
Karen offered me the TENS machine.
Uh oh, how much is this going to add to the bill?
Karen stuck the little sticky pads onto my back and clipped the monitor to my T-shirt. Karen pressed the little joystick button into my hand.
With each excruciating pain, my thumb pressed down on the buzzer. A slight electric tingling relieved the pain in my lower back somewhat. But more than anything, the little machine gave me a focus. Something to help me breathe through it all.
Karen checked me again. I wasn’t fully dilated yet.
Karen suggested I lie down on my side (fucking hell!), the only way to dilate fully fast enough.
I did it. I would have done anything by that stage.
Oh, but fuck it is so sore!
There I was lying on my side. Derek next to me, facing me (his blue eyes pouring strength into my very being). Breathing with me as each pain came. Holding my eyes with his as I screamed. Pressing the button for the TENS machine with me. While blood and goo and slime dripped. Dribbled out of me.
The back up midwife arrived. She had dark brown hair and was slight and she smiled radiantly at me while she cooled my face with a damp face cloth.
Karen checked me again.
I am fully dilated!
Karen could feel the head. She told me to hold my breath and to push. I pushed, my cheeks puffing out, pushing with my hands against the wall. I could feel all my strength, all the pressure moving down there. To my nether regions. I could feel the little head tingling, stretching me. Slipping in and out, not quite coming out. Not wanting to come out. It stung. I pushed, wanting to get the baby out. Karen told me slow down. The baby was lying posteriorly. Facing the wrong way. Karen told me to take it easy or that I might tear. Karen helped me breathe into the next rush of pain while the back up midwife held my right leg up. I held the leg up against her chest. I pushed with all my strength against the woman (afraid I might push her out the window!).
In a grown of painful relief, the head emerged and the little body shot out in a gush of yellow water.
The baby lay there, not quite breathing and blue, an aquatic creature from another realm. Karen placed an oxygen mask over the baby’s face. The little body began to wriggle and move as life seeped into it. A little wail emitted from its little lungs.
Karen placed my slimy little daughter into my arms.
I sobbed hoarsely, clutching the little girl,
“Oh my God, she’s so beautiful, she’s perfect!”
I said it over and over again.