So if you read My Vaginal Circus, a post I wrote on the excruciating womanly duty that is labor, and were curious as to what happened next, let me fill you in.
As much as I’d wished the pain would be done with and my baby would be safe that night, unfortunately this wasn’t the case. The horrific contractions were slowed a little in hospital thanks to the tiny orange tablets I was being force fed, but they continued for quite a while. And I don’t mean quite a while as in the awful three day labors you hear horror stories about. I mean one long MONTH of these beauties.
I ended up being admitted to six different hospitals, flew in two emergency helicopters, was sped off in at least six ambulances and even occupied the first aid room at the ferry terminal. I took twelve needles before the active labor even took place, for this bossy little baby who was extremely indecisive.You are way too young to be having an attitude problem, Mister!
Prodromal labor is something I’d never heard of. Midwives don’t really warn you that these things even exist. For them I suppose timing increasingly longer and more painful contractions somewhere near your due day and then popping out a happy baby the next is standard and what is expected of you. But no one was prepared for this.
Towards the end of pregnancy you have what are called ‘Braxton Hicks.’ They are kind of like the cute little sister of contractions. They prepare everything down below and get your body all ready for the real deal. (As if anything can really prepare you!) They kind of aid you with knowledge of what muscles you’ll be using and what it will kind of feel like. (If you can compare a needle prick to having a large nail being slowly driven through your foot.)
So I was very used to BH and knew the difference between them and these very real contractions straight away. In hospital it was all confirmed that they were definitely contractions I was experiencing, and so the nurses around me commenced preparing an incubator and towels and alerted the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that we would have a very premature baby on our hands shortly.
To take precautions in case the pills weren’t enough to stop the labor, I was given two lots of steroid shots in my thighs to kickstart his lungs into developing well enough to breathe. (This seems to have resulted in one extremely chubby kid who seems immune to caffeine and will probably make an excellent swimmer with a giant lung capacity. Oh, and he can definitely scream.)
I remember being in one hospital late at night and my contractions had slowed to half an hour apart. My cervix wouldn’t budge. (4cm= active labor. 10cm= push time.) I was stuck at 2cm. So Big Shot was sent home, as partners weren’t allowed to stay in the hospital and he had work in the morning anyway. His boss was amazing for the amount of times he let Big Shot leave work to visit me in hospital. Even he was getting pretty used to all the false alarms. Big Shot told me he’d return after work the next day, kissed my belly, then my forehead, and brought me a heat pack and a glass of water before leaving.
I hadn’t been able to sleep and I knew I’d need the energy if I was to be pushing out a child in the morning, so I reluctantly took the pain relief and sleeping pills I was being offered. The pethedine slid into my veins and crawled into my brain like a nightmarish insect. On my medical records were clearly printed the words, “Psychosis” and “Dissociation Disorder.” This obviously meant nothing to the nurses, who closed the door abruptly and left me alone in the dark, unfamiliar hospital room, locked away with my demons and without a support person in sight. The drugs didn’t take my pain away. They took my sanity away instead. I screamed, not from the contractions, but because I was going crazy. I did all I could to stay present; I tapped my fingers on the walls, I talked to my toy fox. But I couldn’t stop the hallucinations that were bleeding slowly into existence from my dark imagination. This place was hell. I tore my hospital gown and clawed at my skin. I howled at the empty darkness. I had to escape. I had to get away from my mind and away from what was happening. It was like an acid trip gone wrong and I was in a seriously scary, messed up place. Fear overwhelmed me.
And so I did the only thing I could do. I rolled onto my knees on the plastic mattress, bowed my head and clasped my shaking hands together tight as I began to stutter out what I could of a prayer. Please, Jesus, please, save me, Jesus, help, please, please, stop, help, Jesus, please God… My jumble of words barely made any sense, but He heard me loud and clear.
I woke the next day to a lady in turquoise bringing me my morning dose of pills and some cereal in a styrofoam bowl accompanied by a packet of milk; the typical five star dining I’d become too familiar with.
I sat up in disbelief, the confusion clear on my face.
“You’ve been asleep for a few hours now, ” the lady smiled as she handed me a piece of cold toast. “Eat up and we’ll get you back on the monitor.”
After a few more doses of the orange and brown pills I refused to take any more. Their job was to slow contractions, but I still experienced them hourly at least, and I was so heavy with exhaustion that I could barely think straight.
“Please,” I’d begged the doctor. “I know it’s selfish of me because I haven’t reached full term, but I don’t want to stop the labor any longer. This baby obviously wants to come. It’s his time. Stopping it feels so unnatural. Please, Sir. I’m so tired.” But they continued with trying to hold off the birth and stopped checking my dilation, in fear that it may irritate my cervix and enduce the labor further.
This continued onward and for a while became our life. I was growing increasingly more upset and weak. I really didn’t think I could take any more of the starting and stopping. This was dragging on for far too long. It wasn’t fair on my body. I can’t describe the pain of contractions through text, but if you have experienced labor you can only imagine what a continuous month of them would feel like and how tiring it would be.
One day I was on my hands and knees, which was the most comfortable position at the time, eating a cold dinner of mince-type-thing and powdered potato with small cubes of veges off another hospital tray. My contractions had grown even stronger that day and I’d lost even more blood. My midwife was no longer concerned each time I relayed to her the way the pain surged through my insides or the leakage I’d spotted in my disposable hospital issue underwear. We were probably up to our tenth false alarm and I’d been 3cm dilated for a long time now.
Due to my history, the Maternal Mental Health Department had advised the hospital not to place me in rooms with other patients, (or anything fluorescent yellow,) as it was a danger to my mental state and I was unpredictable. But after the episode of being drugged up, locked up and messed up, I’d definitely had enough of being on my own.
The girl in the bed next to me was only about fourteen but her belly was swollen almost as big as mine. She was a Pacific Islander with gorgeous dark skin and I could only imagine how beautiful her child would be. I was in the middle of discussing our possible baby names with her when I screamed like I’d been set on fire. I reached over and pressed the nurse’s button repeatedly for help, but no one came.
“It’s okay,” the young girl hobbled over to pat my back and coach me through breathing. “They’ll be here soon.”
I shook my head, tears running down my cheeks. “They won’t believe me,” I managed to squeak between contractions. They were all too used to my baby’s antics.
“But it’s an emergency! Here, try again.” She pushed down on the buzzer for me again. Still nothing.
“Try yours,” I urged. She frowned at me, but did as I said, and sure enough, two nurses came rushing.
“I’m having my baby!” I screamed. Nobody believed me, but I was wheeled off into another room anyway, just to shut me up so the other patients and their families wouldn’t get scared. I can imagine my grotesque writhing around on the stretcher and screaming like the victim in a horror film was a rather disturbing sight to behold. I begged for another internal examination, and, sure enough, I had dilated further.
“Hurry up,” I remember shouting down the phone at Big Shot. “You’d better get here before your son does!”
He was on the next ferry over with my midwife, Kerry, and a student midwife named Stacey who came along for the experience. An experience indeed!
Once they arrived I was all set up and ready in the birthing suite, huffing away on some gas. I’d wanted a drug- free birth, but that was when I’d planned this thing before my prelabor began a whole month ago. I was definitely beyond that now. The gas was okay, unlike the pethedine it was something I could control. I would inhale until I felt high enough to deal with the fire blazing between my legs, then when reality hit I would pull the nozzle away from myself and throw the mouthpiece at Big Shot. “Get this out of my face!” I would yell, before begging for it back two minutes later.
Kerry had a quick squiz down below, then looked up at my face suspiciously. She had a word with the doctor, and I’m not sure exactly what was said, but when she returned the news wasn’t good.
So as well as suffering from prodromal labor, (the annoying starts and stops,) my cervix had managed to decrease in dilation as well. I had gone from five centimetres back down to two.
“Very rare,” Stacey told me, “But unfortunately still possible.” Why is all of this happening to me? Why can’t it just be over with already? I felt like someone was playing a cruel joke on me.
A few hours later I assured them that my baby was on his way into the world, but again I was told not to worry, as it wasn’t time. They were wrong. He had finally made his mind up. And I felt almost ready to push by the time anybody believed me.
This is it, Folks! The moment we’ve all been waiting for.