The delivery room is a private space, a room of your own borrowed for a little while shared with people who are there to do nothing but help.
I’m going to start at the beginning but these days it seems hard to pinpoint the fine line that separates the beginning from the prelude. I’ve never been fond of preludes but as preludes come the pregnancy wasn’t so bad even though the last few weeks of it where at the time bordering on extremely difficult.
I guess it all started when I was sitting in that hospital room. I had been through some tests which under the last weeks of my pregnancy had become a routine thing. I lay in a machine that recorded my little girl’s heartbeat and I got my blood pressure measured after having giving them a tube with my urine and sometimes a little blood. That morning I’d had the whole workout and I was sitting there looking at the snowplow out the window clearing a field for ice-skaters in the park outside. I was feeling relatively easy as I usually did when I was sitting in that room after the tests. It was the time when I was sure that everything was fine with the baby and myself and that if something was wrong then at least I was surrounded by professionals.
Then the doctor came in. She was a small, dark haired woman with an accent and the same language stammering that I have myself. She had kind eyes and firm hands and I trusted her although I felt somewhat intimidated by her. She sat down and told me the status. There was protein in my urine and my blood pressure was still high, with the headaches and 37 weeks behind me she asked me if I didn’t want to be ‘started’.
The one thing that cures pre-eclampsia is delivery.
And I felt so relieved. I felt like the sunshine that was gracing us with its presence outside was shining directly on me. I felt great and I didn’t feel a twitch of nervousness before the task at hand.
Anything was better than one more day of this waiting and worrying.
So I called J and I was escorted downstairs to a room of my own. This was the room I was going to spend almost an entire day in. This is the room where she was born, my little girl. This was the sacred room of delivery.
And it does feel sacred. When I walked in there I felt almost like I was leaving a part of myself behind. Like the part of myself that would normally have been shy and uncomfortable with showing my body in “bad light” was left outside. I looked like Jabba The Hut, bloated with water and pregnancy fat and was about to lay there fully open but thoughts of any bodily shyness were far, far away.
It never occurred to me before the delivery that women don’t easily talk about their own delivery. You hear a lot of “ghost stories” about bad deliveries and good deliveries but never during my pregnancy was I told a delivery story from the woman who experienced it. It was always second hand information. It’s almost as if telling the story is too hard, you tell it ones (in a blog or to friends) and then you let others tell the story or keep it to yourself. You may offer hints of it to support other pregnant women but you don’t tell the whole story.
It’s as sacred as the room indicates.
Two doctors poked a hole in me to let the water out before J even got there. Then we waited. I felt chirpy listening to the Rock ‘n’ Roll radio station, talking to J and feeling the weight of anticipation on my shoulders.
When they started the contraction pains/drip the whole thing started for real.
The pain? Is it the worst pain I’ve experienced?
I was hoping that the answer to that question would be no but I can’t say that. Pain seems so relative and while I was in it I coped with it the only way I know how. I sank in on myself. I crawled into myself and my private version of Murakami’s well. I heard the things going on around me but felt sometimes almost unable to respond even when I wanted to.
And I dealt with a lot of pain right there in the beginning when they “can’t give you anything for it yet”. I was offered acupuncture which I accepted. “Whiskey pin” in the head and in other places… I don’t know if it helped but at least it was a distraction.
Then I was offered “laughing gas”. “Breath it in through the pains” they told me. I always quit breathing it in before the pain was over because it made my head spin and I didn’t like the feeling. It helped a little but only a little.
The pain was still there … bearable? Well… I guess the definition of unbearable pain is when you actually faint from it – and of course I did no such thing. It was a heck of a pain (then again so was the pain from a toothache I had for two days but that was a long time ago and pain is something you easily forget …) and there was little to do but to crawl inside that head of mine and endure.
Then the man with the big needle came in. Epidural. I never saw the needle but I liked the bald young doctor who gave it to me. He was careful and I was careless due to the gas. I sat on the edge of my bed clutching at the nurse who stood in front of me and held me. I saw a little of J who stood in the corner surely feeling helpless.
It took time but in the end I was able to crawl out of my head a little – the pain subsided and the hard work began.
The delivery was difficult due to the fact that I experienced “bad labor pains” towards the end of the delivery. I was able to ignore them and not squeeze – I had a hard time finding them when I wanted to squeeze and lost the “right way to squeeze” because I couldn’t find the peak of the contractions. The head midwife was concerned to get the child out fast (I think due to the fact that towards the end we had about an hour to go on my epidural?). So they started to jump on my stomach, squeeze and shout orders to push.
I knew that pushing so hard would make something burst but it was time and I pushed.
And out she came. It felt exactly like I thought it would feel – first you are full, bloated, stuffed and you are not sure that this is the final push – you feel the fullness and then suddenly – slither and slide – and out she is.
They put her directly on my stomach and the first thing I saw were those big black eyes staring curiously at me. It was an eternal moment. I felt so relieved and so happy. And there she was. Our beautiful little girl.
When the moment was over J swept her up in his arms so that the doctors and the midwifes could take care of me. I had lost a lot of blood because of a rift and needed to be stitched. It wasn’t pleasant but compared to what came before, it was nothing. I breathed in some more gas and this time I felt the full effect.
High as a kite is a phrase that comes to mind. Both from the gas and from the experience. There are two or three pictures of me afterwards sitting on that strange bed smiling like an idiot, still looking like a bloated Jabba the Hut.
In the darkest moments of the pain, when I crawled so far up in my own mind that I was afraid that I wouldn’t find my way back J was there talking about mundane things, chirpily chatting away about all and nothing. Cheering me on, helping me breath, helping me cope. And I heard every word, every sentence (I believe) although I was rarely able to respond. It’s like falling into a Murakmi well but having the voice of the one you love quietly chatting away to keep you calm.
I’m not sure I would have been able to crawl out of that well without him. I’m not sure I would have been able to cope at all – I would hardly have been able to find that well, that place of peace, without him there.
And there we were three newborns, me, J and our little girl.
We got very tasty sandwiches and we got non alcoholic apple cider to toast in and we got a tray with the Swedish flag on it.
It felt festive.
I’m sure that I will be like all these other women. I will tell this story here and then I will keep quiet about it except in small comments like “when I had X I had acupuncture – it didn’t help much” or “it was a hell of a pain but it was all worth it in the end”.
The delivery room is a very private room. In this room a very private moment takes place. The people in that room are forever a part of one of the biggest moment of your life and the emotions behind all that happens in that room are too extreme, too strong to talk about often.
When we walked out a new chapter of our lives started. We were swept away towards the mother ward with all the strange things that happen there, but that’s another story, another chapter to be left for another time.
I walked out of that delivery room pushing the little glass box with my little girl in front of me and J’s hand on my back. I could hardly stand upright because I’d lost so much blood but felt like I could climb a mountain still.
A few things echoed in my mind:
1)Isn’t she beautiful?!
2)Do people really decide to do this AGAIN?
3)Pain is a bitch!
4)She is perfect!
And she is.