A year ago right now, 9.30 pm, I lay in bed silently acknowledging the first few, close, intense rushes of energy and movement in my round belly. Little did I know then that the birth I was about to experience would redefine what birth could be for me. Zaki’s entrance into the world was not what I had come to know labour to be. Pain soothed by the cocktail of pain-soothing hormones, a slow increase in intensity and time to journey mentally and emotionally along with my body, the knowledge that all was right and as intense as it was enjoying the moment and welcoming each expansion as it came.
This birth was intense physically and mentally. I did it, my body laboured and birthed but my mind was not on the same journey. I was constantly trying to understand what was wrong, what I needed to fix in order for it to be like the past labours, like my labours should be. In the end there was nothing wrong, I was giving birth. It just happened in a tenth of the time of the first two births and a third of the time of the last birth.
Its hard to welcome each expansion when you have no idea what is happening, where in your labour you are, or why it is hurting more than the other labours even though it *shouldn’t* (bwahahaha). Its hard to welcome each expansion when you are busy trying to think about it and your body is trying to play catch up hormonally and its hurts a lot!
It was like mental see-saw. ‘This is happening. Just get comfy. Go to the centre of the pain. See you can do it, you just need to find the way.’ “Ow, ow, ow, ow. Arrgh, it hurts. Why is it hurting so much? I want it to stop, I want to run away!” Two hours of mental see-saw, yelling, groaning, pacing, shifting position, seeking and seeking again the *right* position to make it feel like it *should*, pacing from the lounge to the bathroom and back again, getting in the pool, its not full enough (and it never would be full enough).
Maryam was there, laying out towels around the pool, getting my water bottle, leaving me alone when I needed it. I hope one day, if she becomes a mother, she will draw from her experience that night.
Bellowing at the warmed, brightly lit floorboards in the bathroom. ‘Why am I labouring with my eyes open?’
Joyful memories of feeling the thick, strong sac, bulging like half a tennis ball through my cervix, just after I had called my midwife. ‘I’m gunna have the baby before she gets here. Will that be ok? Yes it’ll have to be.’
The rush between expansions to plait my pony tail whose loose hairs tickled my shoulders annoyingly. Rush of pain and intensity diminishing, ‘Right. Do it now!’ Undo hairband, slipping hairband onto wrist, ‘Quick plait! 1, 2 ,3 strands. And plait, plait, plait, plait, plait, plait, plait. Oh, here it comes again. Quick!’ Hairband slipped over the plait. ‘Ahrgh, I have to stop. Hurry, hurry!’ Twist, twist… ‘Oh please it hurts, just need to lean forward, get weight off pelvis’… Twist. ‘There, done!’
The mental fatigue to keep up the positive side of the mental see-saw. “Tell me something good!” “You’re doing really well”. And again “Tell me something good!” “You’re going to have your baby soon” ‘Baby? What’s a baby got to do with this??? Tell me about me, that I’m doing ok, that I’m labouring with strength, that everything looks perfect. Baby? Why did you have to go and distract me by talking about a baby!’
A few minutes later, ‘Oh yes, a baby is coming. Surely it musn’t be long now!’
The relief when he came strongly, smoothly, continuously down through my pelvis. It made sense, finally I understand something about this labour, birth is here.
Oh shit! I forgot the stretch. The conundrum: wait and prolong it, push and increase the burn. ‘But its ok I get it. I know what’s happening. Sense.’
Sweet, sweet joy. Feeling the downy soft hair waving in the water, the ridge where the frontal skull plate had slipped under the side ones as he descended rapidly, the squished face, the chin, the neck, the cord.
The head-already-born negotiations with my midwife, the mental mantra ‘Im gunna catch this baby myself’, the ongoing discussion as to why this baby wasn’t turning to birth his shoulders. The waiting.
The discussion I have, baby’s head protruding from my vagina, with my daughter about how she was born with her hand up next to her cheek just like this baby
The discovery, when he slid out onto the towel hammock slung between Joey’s hands, that he was wrapped up in his cord so tightly that I couldn’t sit back down in the half-full birth pool and unwrap him without a helping hand to keep his face out of the water, and his cord from pulling his belly out like a little skin tent. ‘Dont break the cord!’ Around his neck twice, around his wrist, over one shoulder and around the waist, over the other shoulder and around the waist in a criss-cross jelly safety harness.
The mystery was solved. He was so wrapped up that he needed a few more contractions to bring the top of the uterus down to give his cord enough length so he could turn enough to birth his shoulders. He tried, believe me he tried a few times to turn but had to turn back again to wait.
The wait for him to decide to breath. “Come on baby, we all want to meet you. We’ve waited so long to see you. Come on baby, come on.”
The crying that went on from the cooling pool, the mother who wouldn’t get out, the placenta that wouldn’t come out till mother got out of pool. The stunned feeling after a slamming labour mixed with possibly the second biggest oxytocin hit of my life. I have pictures to prove the stunned thing
Thus life with Zaki began.
Zaki now sleeps in his pram next to me as I type, on the spot where he was born 1 year ago.