By Louise McHaffy
Monty, now four and a half, is the eldest of my three (soon to be four) children. It took the birth of my two daughters at home before I could accept his birth which I chose in the end to be in hospital, and to let go of the disappointment I felt in “failing” him – and the subsequent guilt of daring to feel disappointed when I had such a healthy, beautiful baby.
On Monday 30th August 2004 I woke at 3.35am with my first contraction. Luke and I had spent the weekend at the lakeside bach, having made naïve plans to pop out the baby and chill out for a while before heading back to town.
I sat up by the old wood stove in the rocking chair by the fire for a while and off and on until morning. My pregnancy had been perfect and I expected everything to continue that way. My contractions puttered about until the afternoon when they became more intense. I climbed up onto the hill by the lake about 3pm to ring Julie (midwife) as cell phone coverage was sporadic at the best of times, and the bach was lacking in a few modern conveniences.
Julie and Megan (my student midwife) arrived. I felt self-conscious like I was putting on a play and didn’t know what my lines were. However, I soon lost sight of that once the real work started – too bad if no-one enjoyed the performance!
The birthing pool was filled and topped up with a continuously boiling jug. The night grew into a never-ending circle of trips to the fragrant outhouse with loose bowels, vomiting into a bucket and contractions that by morning I wanted to crawl out of my skin to get away from. After Julie did an internal examination and tried to push back a cervical lip (I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to hit somebody as much as I did at that moment) we tried the birthing stool which I thought was a particularly nasty invention.
I remember Luke sitting in the corner looking completely miserable for me after supporting me the whole night. At 4.30am I made the first decision to transfer to hospital, then, once I had given myself a stern talking to, changed my mind. I convinced myself so well that I trooped on for another five hours. I even stopped vomiting and kept some fluids down. It didn’t last though and feeling utterly defeated I decided to transfer at 9.30 on Tuesday morning.
The trip must have taken 45 minutes and the three things I distinctly remember about the car ride was my first real urge to push during a contraction, the bumpy roadworks and the chewy mint lollie Luke gave me that I half sucked then stuck to the back of the centre console when I didn’t want it anymore.
Through the hospital doors, cuffs on, monitors on, epidural given – what a lift in spirits, catheter in. I talked to Sue, my worried mother-in-law, on the phone, as she was concerned about the baby. I held the phone up to his amplified heart-beat and said, “Baby’s fine. It’s me who can’t hack the pace!”
With a temporary new lease on life, I had some energy to start pushing, though in retrospect it was like pushing against a brick wall. After a couple of hours I got no further than a haemorrhoid, so it was off to theatre for a “trial of ventouse and forceps” with a hefty promise of caesarean and “sign here” if the former wasn’t successful.
That’s when the tears started and I don’t think they stopped until Monty was on my chest. I had managed (with the forceps’ help) to push him out after vaguely hearing the scissors of the episiotomy do their thing. It was a hard concept to grasp that he was out. Luke was sheltering him from the bright lights on my chest as we discovered our wee boy.
Megan had recorded the birth which I am eternally grateful for now, it was so fuzzy at the time. I still have to turn the sound down so I don’t have to listen to his cry when they took him away for his WOF.
I felt a little safer back in my room with Monty on my chest – he soon attached himself to my breast with enthusiasm that took my breath away.
Julie, my long suffering midwife, wasn’t about to leave until she knew we were safe.
We did make it back out to the bach for the next week. There is nothing quite so amazing as the first week with a new life. Going to the ends of the earth for this wee boy and my two girls since is a flash in the pan compared to what they give you in return.