Warning: Emotional content of this post will be high. I am exactly one week post natal, the nights are sleepless. The days are timeless. I have wailed and cried. I have felt such extreme joy. I have experienced a lot of pain, physically and emotionally. But I have her. Mini D. Dulcie D. And she has us, the Ds now walk this earth as four complete beings, distinct and yet completely whole. I did warn you. Heathcliff, it’s me, your Kathy anyone…
So, how did this all come about. Mini D wasn’t due until November. That was the shape of ‘the plan’, but I knew, I hoped. We believed after A Matter of Life or Life?. I’ve known for four months the flavour of Mini D, to demedicalise and humanise after the amniocentesis. I’ve spoken to her in secret. I’ve bought her special things. Wolf didn’t want to know, we respected our choices. I could know, I just couldn’t let him know. Not actually as difficult as you think when you have a ferret like conundrum to care for. He keeps us on our toes, and with little time for conversation.
The antenatal appointments were increasing in frequency. Scans, checks, weights, measures. We’d passed D Day, we had passed 37 weeks. So when at my 37 and half week check up, I shouldn’t have been surprised when we veered off track. Baby and scan were fine, but abdominal growth had slowed. Rather than leave her, unsure whether this Meant Anything, let’s examine you and see if we can’t serve her an eviction notice. My cervix was compliant, it was weak willed. I let out a nervous fart. The Dr barely concealed her need to leave the room. But that was Monday, date of eviction, Thursday. I would not be as weak as my cervix. I would induce my own labour. Didn’t I deserve some control?
I bounced on my birthing ball. I went for reflexology. I couldn’t manage a curry due to appalling reflux. Wolf thought all his Christmases had come at once. The ‘show’ came to town on Wednesday. Ha, this is it. Twinges, but no. Thursday came, I hadn’t done it. We were due in court. Rufus deposited at childminders, we set off. Fannied about too long, running late. Arguing about Wolf’s driving like a girl. Or Miss Daisy. But it was banter. I was petrified. Bump photo taken. But then I remembered something about hospitals; they exist in their own timezone. An endless length of time where nothing happens when you think it will, phones don’t work. That smell. After all that rushing about, we were suddenly where we remembered spending a lot of time before. Waiting. Bored. Frustrated. Booked in at 9am, but due to TV being boring in February, or a Manchester wide heating cut, there were just too many babies being born. So, Mrs D (oh, she’s back is she?) I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait to be unjuiced.
But here’s something I can be proud of. I’d taken some of the work off their hands. I’d cracked my weak willed cervix open 1cm. A token victory, but I’d done something myself. We had coffee, we walked and talked about nothing. Back up to the ward for something exotic resembling a lunch. Good news. There’s a gap on the production line, time to get you started. I felt excited as only someone who has never experienced labour before could be. But there it was again, time. Crushingly slow. 24 hours with a pessary. And then we’ll see. Some women start contracting before then, but some women are here for days, up to a week. I don’t have time for that. I need to see her, hold her. Check that these scans are inaccurate. I looked at my challenge in the eye, and went off to find the nearest stairs to climb, and the biggest ball to bounce on. No, not that. Gross.
My mum and sister arrived. Full birthing team complete, armed with requested Capri Sun and magazines. We chatted, we walked. My sister sent me to stair climbing boot camp. But nothing, despondency. Book yourselves into a hotel girls, Wolf go home and watch our boy. I walked them out. Something dragged on my bits. I had to stop mid walk, ooh and ahh dramatically. Right, so maybe this is it starting. The midwives agreed to call out of visiting hours for them to come if I was ready to go to delivery. I bounced back, it was going to be OK then. I wasn’t going to be here endlessly. I slipped between the hospital sheets in my nightie as if Peter Pan was going to arrive. Looked out my thin window into the atrium excitedly. My journey to meet her was going to start.
I could easily practice my yoga breathing when the contractions first started. Thought, I Can Do This. A lady came into the bay next to me. Undilated, but contracting quickly. A previous broken pelvis. She screamed, she vomited. I felt like a fraud next to her. This wasn’t too bad. Maybe I should get some sleep. But I was to excited. 2 am came and that quickly disappeared. Every 10 minutes became every 5. They were quick, but becoming quicker. More painful. Every 5 became every 2-3 within half an hour. A lurch for the nurse call button. This must be it. Ow ow ow ow. Trying to breathe at all was a miracle. Quick examination. 2cm. That’s it? Oww ow ow ow ow. Now my heart hurt just as much. How long would this last? We don’t know Mrs D, could be a few hours. We’ll examine you again when the pessary is due to come out at 1.30pm tomorrow. Owwww ow ow ow ow. Here’s some paracetamol, get in the bath. Owwwww ow ow ow ow.
Infuriatingly, they were right. It slowed down a bit. I could calm down in the bath. But my mind was racing. If they slow down, will I be dilating as much? Over and over it turned in my mind, another contraction. The cycle continued. I don’t know how long I was in there for. I got out. Then OWWWW OW OW OW. My body vibrating with pain. Tears. I couldn’t stop them, big heavy sobs. I shook, teeth chattering. White fear. I wanted her out. I wanted my Mum. No, you can do this. You don’t need a caesarian. Your Mum will have to wait until visiting hours. When? 3 hours time.
2 hours of mooing, crying and swearing passed. I was bouncing on the ball. Falling asleep on it. Standing up. Climbing all over the bed. Crying. So much grief, I didn’t want this to go wrong again. Back in the bath. Cannula wet and useless, bent out of shape. Turning over and over. How long? How long? I heard them in the corridor. Rushing in my sister scooped me out of the bath. I couldn’t talk. My Mum getting angry at the midwives. Why didn’t you call us? Don’t you know about her first baby? I squirmed onto the bed, monitoring, examining. And then the flood of relief. 5cm. Wolf arrived. It was time to go, she was going to be coming. The dystonia of fear abated. The pain didn’t. But the grief had passed. I would do this.
Wheeled passed people I couldn’t see. Blurring as if going at something akin to miles per hour. The doorway. Too hot. Get this nightie off here. Can people see? Don’t care. Mrs D there’s the gas and ai- no hands, hoovered off the bed- oh, I see you’re a natural. Frazzles. Dizzy. Funny voiced. Choices of pain relief through vaseline tinged eyes. Epidural. Yes, epidural. Looks exchanged amongst Team Birth and midwives. They know this is quick. Really? Felt pretty slow, but I am impatient. I want her. I want to check her. I need to know. Diamorphine. Yep, take that. Wait, no. Will it make her floppy? Have I started calling it a her? Don’t know. Sorry Wolf, don’t care. May do, but it’s early enough. Let’s do that now.
I float. I hurt. I hear everyone sort of. Make demands. Make jokes. Take the piss out of my sister. Sleep. Breathe the weird breath of entinox. I never lie on the bed despite being hooked up to the monitoring straps. I feel proud of myself, I know I’m in charge. Naked bar belts and compression stockings I remember my brother and I running around as children with dressing gown cords attaching bin lids to our backs as shields. We were He Man and She Ra. I am She Ra. I shout it. I summon the power of GreySkull to get my baby out. More water. Fans. Spray. Team birth are kept busy.
I’m 9cm. Nearly there. It’s quick. I rest, prepare. When will I need to poo? Jokes about pooing. I turn onto all fours. My body is telling me, shouting. I feel like I know. I didn’t expect this. Pushing. Gas and air taken away. Contractions slow. The waiting in between feels endless. Is that? No, yes… Climb the bed, push, bear down. Ache. Ache. Ache. There’s no way. Nothing feels the right size. But then more pushing, burning. Fire. Keep going. Keep going. Stop. Stop. Stop. Push. A scream. A gurgling scream. Excitement, but it’s all behind me. Let me see her, let me see her. Passed up. Wolf is being given instructions. Cut here, no wait, wait, right now. She’s in my arms. I smell the sweet blood on her breath as she screams. I check her carefully. Perfect. Perfect. Ears. Jaw. Size. I love her. I love her.
I’m turned round to the room again. Tears of joy. She’s going to be weighed, dried off. There is a long, very painful section of time now where I have to deliver the placenta. But I don’t want to, won’t remember that. Another void of time where I couldn’t be with my girl. I thought my journey had ended, this is an unexpected, violent detour. But soon, I literally stand up for myself, and it happens. Wolf helps as I clean with a baby wipe. Get onto the bed. Lie down. It’s clean, she comes back to me. I love her. I love her. I take her in.
And that’s where I’ll leave this for now. A virtual cliff hanger, but not really, because it happened As It Should. Completeness.
But I can’t finish without mentioning that this week, a fellow child of a nameless syndrome passed away at a year old. A SWAN child. A child like my boy. Rufus doesn’t tick any ‘correct’ boxes. He has symptoms, but no unifying cause. Dulcie is different to Rufus, but only time will tell if she suffers from any symptoms. For now though, I am blessed. Blessed with two beautiful children, I have held them close and counted those blessings. And hope that the parents of the child sleeping feel all my love and empathy. Because nobody should have to know the white fear.