My labour with Lara only comes to me in snippets now.
I remember the early feelings, when it still just feels like period pains. And you are buzzy and euphoric and think “I can do this! This isn’t as bad as they say! Maybe I’m one of those few people for whom labour is not too sore. I know they say to rest it’ll take a while but I’m so EXCITED! I’m going to have a baby!”
Getting to the birthing centre at 3 in the morning after a night and a day and a night of dull ache growing into ow-this-is-actually-bloody-sore. Sitting on the red chaise lounge at the birthing centre reception and laughing. The marvelous midwife Xoli saying I can’t believe you’re in labour and you’re laughing!
That moment when she says yes you’re in labour but no you’re not dilated yet. Better go home, get some rest.
Coming in again at midday and only 1cm dilated. But deciding to stay anyway.
Time warps and stretches and concertinas like those funny mirrors you get at the fun fair. Hours seem like minutes, minutes seem like hours.
Lying on my side, Bradley style, putting into practice all those breathing techniques, going across the dambo, into the ebony forest, to a happy place, seeing Iwomba there. Thinking I have this under control as each tidal wave sucks me under with such a force I think I’m going to drown. Xoli saying you can scream if you think it would help. I try and my carefully constructed world unravels and spins away from me.
That moment when I think I really can’t do this anymore. Thinking they said in childbirth classes when you feel that then it’s nearly the end. But I am only 3 cm dilated and it is not even nearly the end. Like you’ve peaked too early at a party you’ve been looking forward to for months. Except bloody sore!
Xoli saying we must walk. Its night time now. How long has it been night time? Xoli and Mark drag me across the parking lot like dead weight. I vomit on the shiny new tiled floor in reception. It feels like gravity is trying to suck me under the ground. I have forgotten how to walk.
I sit in the shower, hot water pounding on my lower back. It feels sooooo good! I laugh. I’m in there for an hour possibly. It feels like 5 minutes. Then I worry that I’ll use up all the hot water for all the other labouring mothers so I come out. Miranda, ever the service provider!
Saying to Mark “Stop whispering! Talk louder! Come over here, go over there, press my back! Don’t touch me! I want music. Turn that music off!”
Every few hours an internal exam and each time the crushing news that I’ve only progressed a centimeter.
My heart rate being as fast as the baby’s.
I can’t do this. I am not strong after all. What order do these snippets come in? I have no idea. They give me something to help me relax.
At some point they manually break my waters. When is this? Before the pethadine? After? And the oxytocin to speed things up. When was this? I have no idea.
The pethadine instantly makes me how I imagine a proper druggie must feel. Drooly and dozy and slooooooow. I vomit. I don’t like this feeling. We all sleep fitfully.
Except Mark who is like an owl on speed.
2 in the morning, I’ve been awake 2 days and almost 2 nights and been in labour for I dunno, ages. I am so so very tired. I am 9cm and not budging. Xoli says “I think we have to give you an hour or so. If nothing happens, it’ll have to be a C-section.” I am delighted. There is a way out! Joy of joys!! Not how I expected to feel when faced with this news! I am lying on the bed. Did I get pethadine again? Or is this when I got it? I have no idea. But time is still doing its warpy thing and then through the haze “Xoli I think I need to push” More of a question really. Hopeful. “If that’s what your body is telling you to do, then listen to it. Do what your body says” I try halfheartedly but its just wishful thinking.
And then, later “Oh, this is what the pushing urge is. Yes okay, I need to push”
A rush of activity. Filling the bath. Salt in. The water is much hotter than I expect. I am eased inelegantly into the bath. I feel euphoric. I am not scared of the pushing phase, I know I can do this.
Xoli giving me sips of energy drink saying you’ll need energy for this. Me being in no doubt that this part I can handle. I put my chin to my chest and puuuuuush. And again and again. I don’t know how long I do this for but it doesn’t seem long.
And then the burning. A moment of “wait, don’t push” as Xoli unwraps the cord from around the baby’s neck. A very sharp and sudden (but brief) pain that feels very different from everything else. This must be me tearing. And then out she slips like a slippery fish. And at once everything else is forgotten. Xoli saying “It’s a girl.” I remember so clearly that moment when I first see her, all cross and blue and slippery and my world opens up to the sky and lets in a clarity and a light I had never known to exist. Everything makes sense now. I feel complete.
Glancing across to the clock sitting on the edge of the bath 3am exactly.
Letting the water out the huge bath and delivering the placenta. So very perfectly red. The man jokes that it looks like there’s been a murder. He’s right.
The stitches they don’t hurt a bit.
We are shattered and exhausted but we stay up ‘til first light just staring at this baby. I feel like I’ve been shaken up into lots of different pieces but when the parts have all come back down to settle again they settle in a different order, making a new me, one I didn’t know existed but one that suits me so much better.