(If birth stories bore you or gross you out you may want to skip this one!)
I wake up in the morning thinking, yes this must be it. Nothing major happens, a few period like cramps for most of the day. I text my midwife in the morning just to let her know. She texts me back to say “it’ll be like last time, slow at first but its coming tonight” I don’t believe a word!
My last labour took 32 hours by my count, but I think you start ‘counting’ earlier the first time round. This, I would have counted as the start with Lara, but this time, I know better than that.
So I have a hot bath (for exactly one hour my doula had told me to see what happens. If its ‘real’ labour it will kick in properly as soon as you step out the bath, otherwise it will slow down and you can go about your day). It slowed down. I went about my day. At about 6 that evening I text my doula and say “its fine, it’s a bit sore but nothing major. I’m going to have some supper and then I’ll call you after and give you an update. My mom says “What do you want for supper?” MEAT! Lots and lots of MEAT.
Half way through supper I’m not so keen on the idea any more but know I must force myself to eat. I need strength for the next 20 something hours of labour. Ha! Still not convinced this one will be quicker.
At about 8pm I call my doula and say “okay maybe you should start getting ready to come over. I know she lives an hour away. “I’m already on my way I’ll be there in ten minutes”
Which I’m grateful for.
Because things are starting to speed up now and its getting a wee bit intense.
Sue (she’s the doula) comes over with her box of potions and her birth ball. She’s a reflexologist and she massages my feet and every time a contraction comes on she talks me through them, breathes with me slowly and makes sure I roll my shoulders at end of each one so she can see how long they are and so that I can release the tension. She also puts a bottle of jasmine scent under my nose towards the end of each contraction. It takes me straight home to Luangwa, down by the river in front of Craig and Janelle’s old house. Walking down the hippo path with tangled jasmine bushes on each side; over the cracked cotton soil all pock marked with hippo footprints. The late afternoon light catching the branches of the winterthorn tree and making it hum with magic. There’s no place I’d rather be.
Sue is awesome but Mark is my rock. He knows exactly where to place the ball of his hand in the small of my back and PUSH. Sue is too slight to be effective here. Mark knows what to do from last time and he’s a star. (scared of getting crapped on by me again perhaps!) I’m better at this too the second time round. When I’m sitting on the sofa with Sue massaging my feet (it feels so goooood!) things slow riiight down. The contractions hiccup, the gaps between lengthen. It takes all my will but I know I absolutely have to get up and walk. Sit on the ball. Do something, keep moving.
And so I do. But Sue is concerned because every now and then there is a hiccup in my contractions. They are steady but every so often there’s a half a one. She thinks my uterus is tired. She is texting Xoli the awesome midwife saying we’ll need to come in to the birthing centre. Just in case.
I find myself thinking ‘oh great, this is going to be just like last time. I bet I’m not even dilated yet’. Out loud I say “I don’t think I can do this.” I don’t really mean it – I know I can – but I feel like feeling sorry for myself for a moment. Sue does ‘body talking’ (no I don’t know what that is either) and she does something or other to my head. A slight tap, a massage.
And then I say, “I feel like I need to poo.” I know it’s the baby coming but I won’t let myself hope it. Not yet. My contractions are only 30 seconds long, I’m due another whole day of this surely. The contractions still need to get to a minute or more. But each time the urge gets stronger and then I say, “I need to push”
Sue is still in the middle of her text to Xoli. The message keeps changing. First she’s saying “I think this may be slowing down” Now I imagine it says something like “get the F&$£@ in the car, this baby is coming”. Or something like that.
I make it to the kitchen. Contraction. “I don’t care what you say, I’m pushing”
Sue, ever practical, puts bin bags on my seat of the car just in case “don’t worry, it’s a hire car’ says my man drily.
Down the agonizingly bumpy driveway. Contraction. Push. I bellow like a buffalo stuck in the mud.
Out the gate. Contraction. Push. Bellow
On the road. Contraction. Push. Bellow
And so on. Luckily its only 8 minutes to the birthing centre.
And in between. Absolute euphoria. “WOOOHOOOO!” I yell out the window. Contraction. Push. Bellow
“I’M HAVING A BABY!” I yell at no-one. Contraction. Push. Bellow.
I cannot believe my luck. I really thought this was going to take 3 days. I am beside myself with relief and excitement.
It’s just past 2 in the morning. Mark is grinning in the dark next to me.
Get to the birthing centre. Step out the car. Contraction. Push. Bellow.
Waddle into the birthing suite. And a suite it is. All crisp white linen, big bath and downy pillows. The resident midwife asks me to pee on a stick. I say, “I’ll try but I think the baby’s head is in the way”. Mark has been here before. He knows how far along we are and what needs to be done. He starts running the bath.
When I can’t wee on the stick the resident midwife gets me to lie on the bed. “Oh yes you’re second staging” Yup. I ain’t no midwife but I could have told you that! A bustle of activity. Xoli comes in and everything comes together.
I get in the bath. Looking back at the pictures now I see how full the bath was for Lara’s birth. This one – the bare minimum, not enough time. One more push and there comes that tingle. Did I say tingle? Ring of fire. Xoli needs me to move so she can get to my bits. I can’t.
Xoli: you need to move
Me: I can’t. The baby is coming
Xoli: I know. You need to move NOW, so I can see you. NOW. She is firm. In control. A few strong hands maneuver the bellowing hippo into the right place.
And out comes the head. Its not a swoosh all at once like Lara was. This one, his head comes out and his shoulders get a bit stuck. Nothing major and under Xoli’s steady hand she eases out his shoulders and out he comes into the water and out onto my chest. That moment of sheer dumfounded pride and love. Nothing will EVER hurt my baby. I will kill for this little guy. Oh look at his FEET!
Time at leaving house: 2.10 am, time he was born 2.34am.
He is all sqooshed and angry and purple and bloodshot and greasy and gorgeously mine.