In honour of the lead up to The Duchess’s first birthday, I’ve decided to look back at the last year starting with her arrival.
Read: Looking Back – Part 1
Read: Looking Back – Part 3
It was 9.30pm and I was sitting astride one of the dining room chairs backwards staring at the television. Two and a half episodes into series two of The West Wing (Just let Barlet be Bartlet — right West Wing fans?) and I had decided those “pains” were consistent enough to call them actual contractions. They were around 8 minutes apart and I was breathing through them with my game plan still in mind. They start. They stop. They start. They stop.
Although the hospital suggests ringing when they are intensifying and around 5 minutes apart, I knew The Native was getting a bit anxious. I suggested that I go up and run a bath to help ease a bit of the discomfort and that he ring the hospital to let them know what was happening and to see if they had any other advice to give while we waited.
I heard distant mumbling as he talked through the next step with the midwife on the line. He walked the phone into me. As I sat in the bath, I felt okay. I chatted with the midwife and told her I hadn’t had a show, my waters hadn’t broken, and I didn’t feel like I was dying. She decided that I sounded okay, too, and that it would still be quite some time yet. I accepted that. She again reaffirmed that we should call back when they were 5 minutes apart and stronger or if we had any concerns.
We continued on this way for some time. We timed and made notes to pass the time. I consulted the diagrams I had been given about good positions and movements to help move labour along and to ease some of the pain. I squatted and swung from doors. I walked up and down the steps. I paced. We waited.
It was 11pm and the contractions were stronger now. Contractions sent me into a silence where my brain and body focussed, with slow, measured breaths on the starting and especially on the stopping. And so I ran another bath and The Native called the hospital again. The contractions were closer together, but they didn’t feel that I sounded like they were strong enough yet. I accepted this judgment again, but more reluctantly. What did I know, though? They were the ones delivering babies every day. I’d never done this before and I still hadn’t had any of those tell-tale signs.
After I finished my bath, I turned to The Native and said that we may as well try to get some sleep if it was going to take as long as they were thinking. I took two paracetamol (like fighting a 5 alarm fire with a watering can, right ladies?) and we went to bed just after midnight. The Native is one of those people who can fall asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow (isn’t that SO unfair?!) and after only a couple of minutes I could hear his deep rhythmic breathing relax with his body. Two contractions and 15 minutes later, I knew that, for me, sleep was not to be. I left The Native to get his rest, while I tiptoed downstairs. I quietly endured my contractions, but now found myself writhing with the pain. I couldn’t sit still and so I walked. With each contraction I did lap after lap around our small dining room table until it stopped – and then would begin the short lap again, only minutes later.
At 2am, I felt the pain was strong enough to warrant going in. I rung. I was sure they’d say it was time. I spoke with them. I would stop to breathe through the contractions. They said they felt I should wait. And what was I to say to the professionals? Yes, it was my first baby. Yes, the contractions had only just gotten to the point of writhing, but something in me was screaming, “I need to get in to hospital now!” When she tried to put me off, I finally felt my emotions raise. She asked what I would like her to do and I gave her two options:
1) Let me come in.
2) Tell me something I could do at home so I could sleep, at the very least.
She gave me some pep talk about how I might have to accept that I’m not going to get sleep, but about trying to “rest” when I could. Har, har. She suggested that I run bath number three. I begrudgingly conceded.
Minutes later, I was standing undressed and in the bathroom with the tub running when I felt a sudden surge of panic wash over me. I could NOT do this anymore. Fear quickly crept in. I remember softly crying, “I can’t do this. I can’t do this.” And then I felt it – the first push.
What?! They told me it would be hours. They told me I must be in the early stages of labour. They told me first babies are a marathon. That couldn’t have been a push. And then I felt it again.
The Native, who was peacefully slumbering down the corridor was woken to this cry:
“Honey, come now! Come now! Come now! Please, come now! The baby is pushing!”
He flew, wild-eyed, out of bed and grabbed the phone. He rung and told them that I felt pushing and they finally said those words I had been longing to hear – “Bring her in and be fast.”
I remember him running up and down the stairs with hospital bags and our camera, while I just tried to put on a pair of shorts. It felt an impossible task. The car was loaded and running, he was sitting in the driver’s seat with the passenger door open and I, still being in a state of complete panic, stood on the pavement terrified to get in the car, not feeling like my body could achieve anything but the pushing. It wasn’t rational, but for seconds, maybe minutes, I couldn’t bring myself to get in the car. He pleaded with me:
“Please, please get in the car! Please get in.” I whimpered, “I can’t”. He stared and waited for me to move. It was a warm night and many windows down the road were open. I vaguely wondered if our little street had any indication of what was going on under their sleeping noses.
He couldn’t wait anymore. He firmly said, “Get in the car, now.” It was enough. I got in and held tightly to the dashboard as he ignored the rules of daytime traffic and carefully sped through the empty streets of our town. It seemed that, for us, labour might just be that movie scene that everyone assures you that it is not.