It has only taken a mere ten months before I have felt that I am remotely ready to tackle the topic of Hudson’s entry into the world…
It all started around 37 weeks. We went swimming at Casey Race and the cool water worked wonders for my lethargy. I felt weightless despite my residence in the toddler pool’s few inches of water. ‘How good would it be to go early’, I thought, ‘surely this time will be easier than the last…’ When we got home, I realised that my belly had dropped fairly significantly and I made the mistake of consulting ‘What to expect when you’re expecting’ which had the oh so helpful prediction that a baby engaged in a second pregnancy is as good as born. It wasn’t.
Expectations. If only I had realised back then the poison I was injecting into myself by thinking that it would be easy, quick and smoother than last time. ‘Eli’s birth was terrible’, I told myself. ‘Surely it can’t be that bad again’. Boy, was I wrong.
My due date came and went with little fanfare. Christmas day was a little more eventful with minor cramping, but I at least had the temerity to hope that any labour would be deferred until the morrow. As the days wore on, however, I began to lose faith and all perspective.
Around 28 December 2012 I began to experience minor contractions. I had a ‘sign’ that things were starting to move, but contractions never stabilised. Just like last time, they would intensify at night and taper off during the day.
Two days into the craziness I had got down to contractions four minutes apart and one minute duration, but the hospital staff informed me that this was simply not intense enough.
After three days of sleeplessness and constant pain I was pretty much at my wits end. Despite my inner cringe at the display of emotion, I called Casey Hospital a number of times pleading to be induced but to no avail. To me, without the comfort of being at least checked over by hospital staff I was petrified that I was the only one looking out for my baby, and therefore convinced that something might go wrong on my watch without me having any idea.
On 31 December we visited my mum, contractions still in constant focus. I took a bath around 4pm to try and alleviate the pain, and the contractions were in full swing 5-7 mins apart. We left Eli at mum’s and headed home, determined to ride out the tidal wave and get to the other side. We watched the Spiderman as I inhaled icypoles and bit down on the stick to distract myself each time the wave of pain assaulted me (a coping mechanism that was abruptly questioned by the charming midwife assigned to me later on).
Around 11pm we decided to try rest, New Year’s Eve the very last thing on our minds. I did my best to conk out but the constant 5 minute wake up call made it difficult. At 1:00am in the new year I awoke to the loud pop of my waters breaking…while others were no doubt still popping champagne corks. We finally began to hope that the groundhog day we had been experiencing was about to come to an end.
We arrived at the hospital and were tolerated by a middle aged midwife who was clearly not happy to be working the new years eve shift. She gave me sage advice about ‘fatigue being the greatest enemy of natural labour’ and talked extensively about her five labours instead of taking note of mine. Despite me throwing up, crying, constant contractions and being barely able to walk, she thought it would be a good idea for me to go home.
The walk to the car was the longest of my life. I collapsed against a pole outside Emergency and truly thought I had zero energy for what was about to happen. We just made it in the front door before I was convinced we needed to return.
The same charming midwife awaited us and took her sweet time doing paperwork and refused me any pain medication until she was finished. I was throwing up, exhausted and completely over it but even after the paperwork she refused to turn up the gas. Defeated I begged for an epidural. She gave me a lecture about how she would need to call the anaesthetist from home but I was beyond caring. After she finally agreed to turn up the gas I realised I could cope, but he had already been called. Dave tried his best to keep me focused but the midwife’s constant chatter did little to help. I have hazy memories of her chatting to Dave about her kids while I was writhing in mid contraction agony.
All I can say is thank God her shift ended, and the replacement midwife was amazing! Caring, focused and empathetic, she carried me through the next few hours with grace and more than made up for the previous person’s lack. I progressed fairly quickly and within a few hours of being (finally) admitted, had finally given birth to Hudson Patrick Hughes.
What I say next has absolutely no bearing on Hudson as a person but simply expresses my emotional and exhausted state. I remember them handing a baby to me and I felt nothing. Then he started to deteriorate. I couldn’t even muster up enough energy to care. He was taken to the special care nursery and I was just relieved that people were taking care of him. I lay almost comatose while being stitched up. I remember confessing to Dave that this was my favorite part of labour, sucking away on the gas and trying to forget everything.
When we got back to the ward, I tried to sleep but despite four days without any rest I could not switch off. I just wept as I relived every moment.
Looking back, I reckon that almost every trigger point I possessed was pressed during that experience. Foolishly wanting to be in control of the timing and nature if the birth completely did me in. My reluctance to accept help was tested as I didn’t even have the energy to open my eyes in those last few days, let alone take care of Eli. My deathly fear of appearing weak or vulnerable was made a laughing stock as I begged without shame for an end to the pain and exhaustion. I wanted to be seen as strong and have ‘done labour well’ but instead had to experience a midwife scoff at me and judge me to be an emotional and fragile woman. For a while, I couldn’t even think of her face without tearing up a little.
As for Hudson, I did treasure the eye of the storm that we experienced together, just me and him staying in special care for the first week. When the fog of exhaustion lifted, I was able to enjoy him and get to know him properly (when I wasn’t constantly trying to wake him up for feeds, that is, apparently four days being stuck in a birth canal was not that leisurely for him either).
Despite all the drama, and I sincerely hope that I never have to experience a repeat in subsequent labors, we survived and I am lucky enough that we both emerged without any lasting damage, either physically or emotionally. Others have not been so lucky and that sobering thought brings with it infinite perspective.