The final week of pregnancy was awful. I was hot, swollen, uncomfortable and getting really impatient. Logic was telling me this thing can’t stay in there forever but I honestly thought it would never happen. The night before, I went for a walk down the park and I was so grumpy! Waddling along, wingeing and moaning thinking I would feel this awful forever.
The next morning around 7am I got up and there was a”show”. Hooray! Something was happening. All morning I felt a dull groan in my belly and I wandered around the house thinking how excited I was that I would finally meet my baby. I had been warned that these things take time and pre labour could go for hours, days even. I called my parents and sister, Sammy, and told them maybe over night or tomorrow we should have the baby. I had asked Sammy and my mum to be there for the delivery. From what I had seen of labour, it took days and I thought Mick could use the support of another person and maybe they could take shifts. Sammy told me to relax, it would be ages yet. I rang the Birthing Centre and they told me the same thing.
By midday, the pains were more insistent but nothing more than a bad period pain. I had a fitball that I rolled around on a bit, had some lunch and wondered what this birth was going to be like. By 4 pm, the pains were getting a bit strong. I updated my family and the Birthing Centre and they all told me to relax, it would be ages yet. I wandered around groaning but when the pain passed it was like it had never happened. Then at 6pm, my waters broke and it was on. The contractions started coming much stronger. Mick rang Sammy and said she should probably get over here quick. She told him to relax, she would finish her dinner and head over. I rang the Birthing Centre again and they told me to let the contractions settle in. They were keen for me to avoid going to the hospital too early and then having to send me home.
I couldn’t tell how far apart the contractions were. They went from 10min to 5 min really quickly then I wasn’t sure if I was having 2 or 3 at once then a 5 min break or whether they were all separate ones. I had to walk. I could not sit still. The fit ball did nothing and the bath was excruciating. My house is set out in a circle so you can literally do laps of the place. I was power walking around with every contraction. Sammy arrived and remained really calm. She told me later that she thought Mick was being a bit panicky on the phone… until she got here. The contractions felt like they were coming all the time or I was having them in bunches, I couldn’t tell. Everyone had said that it takes ages but I wasn’t sure any more. Finally, at about 8.10pm I said, lets go to the hospital. They both leapt up and we were off. Sammy told me later that she freaked out when she got to my house and saw how far along I was. They both thought it was a good idea to let me decide when to go to the hospital. Seriously? I was listening to you guys!! If it had been up to me, I would have gone ages ago!!
As we approached the car, I had a contraction and I held on to the side of the car as I got in. Unfortunately I held on to the door jamb and Mick slammed the front door closed on my hand. I did not feel a thing. I looked at it and there was a red line but that was it. No bruise, no broken bones, nothing.
My sister had laboured for almost 3 days with her son and told me that birth doesn’t happen like it does in the movies. There’s no rushing around like a slapstick silent film…. Ha! She doesn’t say that much anymore!
The hospital is 2 min drive away. I was sitting in the back seat behind Mick who was driving and half way there, I had a other contraction. Because I was sitting down, it was excruciating. I felt like I was going to rip Micks seat off its bolts. We just made it before another one came along and I leapt out of the car doing laps of the car park making this strange guttural groan/wail/call of he dead. Two nurses were coming out of the front door and saw me. They asked if I needed a wheelchair but when they saw the look on my face, they said, “Looks like your doing ok on your own”. I happened to see my face in the mirror later during a contraction and I’m surprised those nurses didn’t run screaming for the hills. I could not repeat that expression if I tried. My nostrils were twice the size, my lips were curled back like a wild animal and I looked like another person.
We walked up the stairs and burst thought the door having another contraction. They were thick and fast now and I could not stop walking. Sammy told me how beautiful and calm it was in the room with the dimmed lighting and lovely calm nature of the midwife, Helen. Not surprisingly, I didn’t notice! Helen, asked me to lie on the bed so that she could check where the baby was and I nearly screamed the place down. I think she said something like “Right, it’s really down in there”. I leapt up off the bed and started doing figure of 8 laps of the room and the ensuite. This was were I could see my face and it was not a pretty sight. Then my arms started doing this weird thing. It was like I was pulling down on invisible chains from the roof or something. I think I was bearing down. All of a sudden I wanted to sit on the toilet. Once I was there I didn’t want to get up. I had a grab rail on my left side and Mick on my right. He started rubbing my back and it was like manna from heaven. I heard Sammy call my mum and say that if she wanted to be here for the birth she had better hurry up.
It was pretty hilarious really. I’m sitting on the toilet with Mick rubbing my back, Sammy watching from the doorway and Helen squatting on the floor shining a giant Dolphin torch between my legs. I looked down and realised I was wearing my favourite dress so I whipped it off and got changed into a nightie. Did I honestly think there was any modesty left to preserve?
Then I felt the baby move down. “The baby’s coming, I need to push.” Helen told me to go slow but the baby wanted out.
I wish I had recorded the sound that I made when I pushed. My eyes fixed on a spot on the wall and this howl came out of mouth. The next thing I knew the head was out. I looked up and my mum was in the doorway. I looked down are there was a baby’s head just there! Freaky. I howled again, pushed and out he flew. I was squatting over the toilet and thank goodness Helen knew what she was doing or else it might have ended up as an Eau de Toilette birth! She took hold of him but the umbilical cord was really short.
I looked down and I remember thinking these exact words “It’s a baby.” I’m not sure what I expected to see but, there you go.
So there’s me standing over the toilet in a pool of the amazing things that fall out of your body at a time like this, Mick holding me and Helen holding the baby. We all waddled like a three headed, multi-limbed swamp monster across the lino, trying not to slip over and made it to the bed. Then I said, “He has Downs, yeah?” Helen said, “I’d say that’s the case”
She laid him on my stomach (that’s as far as he could reach) and we waited for the cord to stop pulsating before we cut it. I felt amazing. We had no time to think of drugs of any kind. I think I had been 1 or 2 contractions away from needing gas or something though. This meant I had all the happy hormones racing through my body and was instantly falling in love with this little guy. There was no crying at all. He was calm and content. After we cut the cord, I lifted him up and he looked into my eyes, burrowed in and fixed on me. He held on to my fingers and observed me. There was no fear, no vulnerability, he didn’t want anything, or need anything. He just gave me a look that said, we belong together.
And then my heart exploded.
Well, the actual feeling was like my heart was made of glass, like it was shattering and drowning at the same time. I loved him so much that I hurt.
I turned to Mick and I said, “He has Downs, are you ok?.”
He said, “We knew this. It’s fine.”
And it really was.
After all the horrendous little jobs that need to be done after a birth were done, our families and my best friend came to meet him. I was so excited to show him off. It was truly a celebration. No one was sad. He was welcomed and loved instantly. Helen told me later that it was one of the most beautiful births she had been a part of. I think about that day a lot.
Wade is named after his great-grandparents. Two people whose life compass has always been set firmly on caring for others and doing right in this world.