Entering the labor ward for the umpteenth time meant this place really was starting to feel like home. I was familiar with the staff and knew them all on a first name basis. Sedeeka, Valentia, Nadine, Crystal, Mary, Selma, Belinda. To name a few. These were the nurses I had spoken to in the lonely hours of the morning and the chaotic ones, who I had shared my story with. I learnt a lot about them too. Many had been working as midwives for over 35 years. Many had families of their own and I would love listening to their daily dramas unfold. I waited for shifts to change to hear the latest developments in their family sagas. It was always told with humor and I felt like I was in on a bit of the action. Yes things can get pretty boring and lonely in hospital. More than that I loved getting to know these women. To me they are the real hero’s, doing all the dirty work, there for you through the thick of it and often the ones delivering babies without the help of doctors. I admired their dedication to a job that is tiring and no doubt underpaid.
But walking in on this day, the 4th of July, everything felt different. This time I felt no fear. No uncertainty. What I felt was calm. Excited. I was ready. I was at peace. I can remember a very special moment while checking in where I looked at Noah and realized it would be the last time I would love one child. My whole pregnancy I had questioned being able to love another person the way I had loved Noah for 2 years. How could I possibly have enough love to give another baby when the one I already had took up every ounce of my heart? Noah and I were so deeply in love, I had feared the worst. But as I looked at him in those final hours leading up to the birth, I felt my heart grow. I literally felt my heart tickle and swell with such a love for this new baby I was soon to meet. That was the moment my heart doubled and I knew my capacity to love was greater than I ever imagined. God designed us to love and love deeply. The way he loves us. It’s that simple. We just underestimate ourselves, our capacity and our ability to allow ourselves to be stretched beyond reason.
This time I went straight to labor room 2, the same room in which I had birthed Noah. Brendon arrived with all my bags in tow, his work lap top (I’m not sure if he just didn’t believe it was all really happening and thought to bring some work to do incase we were sent home again.), my laptop and about 5 vitamin waters and energy drinks. Not so much for me, but for him. Sedeeka came and inserted the gel at 11.40 and left asking if I would like some lunch. Why not I thought. Curry was the chef’s choice of the day. A little too late to get things going naturally but hey, I thought. I was hungry. I ate all on my own while Bren went to get himself something at the cafe downstairs. I bounced on my ball and inhaled every mouthful knowing I would need every ounce of energy for what was to come.
In actual fact I had absolutely no idea what was coming. Bren came back and set up the laptop for us to watch some series. I started to feel contractions quite soon after the induction. Apparently being induced can tend to speed things up, so the pain can come quickly and be rather intense. Intense being the operative word here. I just kept bouncing on my ball and watching The new girl, every so often squeezing Brendon’s hand as the contractions became stronger. Two hours passed with me pretty much doing this.
My Superwoman of a doctor checked on me every hour or so. I was still very calm and relaxed but decided a bath would be a good idea to break things up a bit. The nurse ran me a bath and as I lowered my bulging belly into the hot water I felt instant relief. Brendon kept asking if he was allowed to get in with me. I told him I didn’t think it was appropriate. Even with all my clothes on? he asked. Being naked isn’t the issue babe, im not exactly naked myself. You are MORE than welcome to give it a try my love was my reply. I was quite interested to see the look on the nurse’s faces. Sedeeka, talking loudly in the passageway, cut our conversation short. She was calling around the hospital trying to find an anesthetist for the woman who had gone into labor at pretty much the exact same time as me. She had already told us a horror story about a girl who had been denied an epidural that morning because all the anesthetists were on holiday. I later met this woman in the nursery feeding room and she related the story to me. Her words to me were I became a tad demon possessed. Nice. Can I just say quickly how absolutely confused I am by the fact that this happens so often. It’s like a phenomenon. The fact that anesthetists are so rare and hardly ever available when you need them. I think my husband should consider a change in career. We could make millions! I knew I was going to want an epidural at some stage towards the end and as I heard this conversation outside my door I realized it might be something I would have to face. Natural birth without any drugs. Brendon, who looked a little paler than usual was also listening to the conversation and through a rather nervous voice tried, rather unsuccessfully to persuade me not to worry. Babe, Jackie has her own back up anesthetist, don’t worry. Seriously. Its fine. Its gonna be okay. Don’t stress. Clear your head. Its gonna be okay. You are going to do great. Don’t worry. Are you worried? Are you worried? Don’t worry. Are you worried?????? Well I wasn’t but I sure as hell am now. Thanks love. Please calm down to a panic.
I got out of the bath and regretted it soon after. By about 4pm I gave Brendon my serious face. Have they found that screamer next door her anesthetist yet? If he comes, don’t let him out of your sight I carried on bouncing on my ball as I found it to be the best source of relief but every so often I would walk around trying to get things going faster. The woman in the next-door room was starting to groan at this point. Long deep groans that would send shivers down my spine. That’s when I stopped walking all together. I didn’t need things progressing too quickly. I kept asking Brendon if she was ok. My heart was breaking for her. Where was this bloody anesthetist?? Sedeeka was still making call after call. I asked Brendon if the woman was ok and to check on her but he just kept telling me to just focus on myself. Oh yes. Right I’m also having a baby here. FOCUS Leigh. Eventually we heard the sound of a mans voice and realized our drugs were on their way. I was SO relieved for the woman. Her screams became fainter and fainter and eventually they were gone all together.
By the time my Gynea came back to check on me just before 5 I was already 7 cms dilated. I gave her and Brendon a high five and a big grin. It didn’t last very long as I felt the huge wave of another contraction. Right lets get you some drugs, she said. Music to my ears. Again the joy didn’t last long. For any of you who have experienced the administering of an epidural will know its no walk in the park. For those who don’t, imagine it to be a kind of short term EXTREME pain for long term pain relief sort of thing. First they put a needle in your hand the size of straw (Brendon says this was the WORST thing to witness in the whole birth process and the only time he had to actually sit down and drink some coke) and then they inject you a few times before putting a huge block in your spine. It aint fun. All made worse by the fact that you have to put your chin on your chest and push over your huge tummy so that your spine sticks out enough. All whilst having contractions. YIP. No fun at all. My experience was made a tad worse by the fact that he couldn’t get it in and kept jabbing around. I felt stabs of pain so bad that they had to inject me with more anesthetic before trying to put the block in again. EVENTUALLY he got it in and I felt some relief and for half an hour I was given the joy of thinking the pain was gone for good. But half an hour later I felt my waters break and moments later I felt the contractions returning. More like a horrible pressure at first and then stronger and stronger. When my Doctor checked me to see how far I had dilated I felt most of what she was doing. In that short space of time I had dilated to 9 cms and literally an hour after the epidural was given I started pushing. The fact that I felt my waters break, could feel contractions and lift my legs up made me face the facts quite soon. The epidural hadn’t worked and I was about to push my baby out. There was no turning back now. I had to put on my brave face and do what I knew millions of woman had done before me. What I was made to do. I had to dig deep. My man looked at me and said with all the courage he could muster : “You can do this babe, I just know you can. Lolo, you CAN do this!”
I started pushing. Three long pushes at a time. Every time I felt the contractions, I pushed. The hard part was not letting your breath out and pushing your chin on your chest while doing it. When I said earlier that I had no idea what was coming, I meant it. From a physical perspective I really hadn’t anticipated it to be so hard. I consider myself to be quite a fit girl. OK, minus the last 6 months of pregnancy where I gave up on any form of exercise what so ever. But I have stamina ok? So like I was saying, things got tough. I can remember at one point telling Brendon and my doctor quite seriously that I just couldn’t do it. I was too tired. I had pushed for about 30 minutes and we could sense my doctors concern. Brody’s head wasn’t coming under the cervix despite the fact that I was fully dilated and pushing like constipated cow. Also, Brody’s heart rate kept dipping.
She told us she would need to use a vacuum just to pull his head under the cervix. You would think that with my last experience I would be nervous as hell regarding any instruments being used. But being as tired as I was in that much pain, all I wanted was for it to be over. That combined with the peace and trust I had in my doctor, meant I was relaxed about it. I just knew I was in good hands. When she finally saw his head she made the mistake of asking me If I wanted to feel it. It freaked me out completely for some reason. And I started to panic. Not for too long. Brendon caught my gaze and told me I needed to push like never before. He knew more than I did and was aware of the complications we faced if I took too much longer. I gave another two or three big pushes and his head was out. It became apparent that the cord was around his neck, so before I even carried on pushing, she cut the cord to loosen the grip around his neck. Another 2 pushes and his one shoulder was out. Being the hefty little guy that he was, he gave me a bit of a tough time getting his broad little shoulders out but eventually with one final push (I hope I dot ever have to say that word again) he was out.
That moment when they put your baby on your chest has got to be one of the most special, intense, most amazing moments in all of time. In that moment, it’s just you and this new little life. Nothing else matters. Everything you have waited so long for has finally arrived. All the pain, the heartburn, the morning sickness, the discomfort. It all vanishes. Everything else fades into the background and as you stare into your baby’s eyes, everything is just how it should be. In that moment, everything makes sense.
He was beautiful. Just so perfect in every sense of the word and I was his mom. How could I possibly be so blessed? How could this child belong to me? I thought my heart had already doubled in size. Now it was exploding.