*With advance apologies for the pregnancy and baby journals I failed to use.*
The idea was that I’d document every last detail of my journey into motherhood, but as my husband says, I am a great planner yet an awful implementer.
Since details are becoming sketchy as the memory fades, now – two years since the birth of my son – is as good a time as any to finally do it.
If you’ve seen this post, you’ll know some of the back story. My pregnancy was entirely unexpected. A true blessing. Being a total info glutton, I spent the entire 9 months devouring every web page ever created about motherhood, reading book upon book and attending antenatal classes with The Hubster, so that we could be fully prepared for the way our lives would change.
But my birth story is nothing close to the one I’d imagined as I inched closer to my due date. In all aspects other than the fact that I walked away with a beautiful baby boy, delivery itself was a total anti-climax. The takeaway here for any moms-to-be? Expect the unexpected. Things might not work out the way you’d planned. And that’s OK.
My due date was 19 August 2012. I’d had a healthy, enjoyable pregnancy, but by 33 weeks I desperately wanted it to be over. Sleep had been a hassle from the first few months already and I was exhausted. I’d also battled carpal tunnel syndrome in the latter part of my pregnancy and couldn’t wait to have hands (and legs) that didn’t seize up and cramp painfully (despite popping calcium and magnesium religiously).
I was adamant I’d be giving birth as naturally as possible (i.e. vaginal delivery), but hadn’t completely ruled out an epidural. I’m a sissy for pain, thanks.
There were lots of brush-offs from people when I mentioned natural, mostly based on the fact that I am 4 foot nothing and baby was expected to be a big boy at birth. I was defiant. Hubby was pretty pro-Caesar, mainly for selfish reasons, haha. C’mon, c-section deliveries are far quicker and easier for husbands. None of that screaming and rubbing of backs and watching your wife in pain for hours as she attempts to squeeze a watermelon out through her koochie.
My final gynae visit was at 39 weeks and 2 days. Baby had turned a few days or weeks back and was head first, but wasn’t engaging. Gynae was also concerned about his size in relation to mine, and felt there wasn’t any way I’d be able to deliver him without a fair amount of pain and tearing, which may or may not eventually end in an emergency C-section anyway. I really liked my gynae, but I do have my beliefs that C-section deliveries are often the go-to option for doctors in South Africa who need to squeeze as much work into their days as they can. I asked to be induced, but the displeasure on his face was pretty obvious. He’d need to do it on a Saturday (what? and let him miss the rugby? God forbid!). We backed and forthed a bit, but by the end of our visit it was official. I was to give birth by C-section in 2 days, that Thursday.
I cried the ugly cry for 2 days straight. All the excitement and anticipation of the last 9 months seemed fruitless. I’m a total control freak and could not comprehend how my perfectly compiled birth plan wouldn’t even see the light of day. I sobbed when I looked at my hospital bag, packed three weeks before in anticipation of the great drama that I’d envisaged would unfold when my first contractions kicked in and/or my water broke. I’d pictured a mad dash to the hospital with my husband flashing other cars out the way and yelling “Breathe, baby. You can do it!”. [Blame the movies for the hype.]
What I got instead was an alarm clock waking us up at 4.30am on the morning of, followed by enough time to take a leisurely bath, GHD my hair and apply make-up, and a steady, bittersweet drive to the hospital just before 6am, with husband making idle chatter and trying to cheer me up.
Once all the paperwork and waiting was over that morning, nothing could quite prepare me for the trauma of being spread-eagled on a hospital bed in an icy cold operating room with my bits and bobs on display. I was so not expecting like 8 people in that room. One of the male nurses looked like somebody I’d met before. Also the anaesthetist was a total hottie and I might have blushed had I been in a less mortifying situation.
I was given a spinal block and warned that I might feel tugging, but not pain. I remember the insertion of the catheter being bloody eina. I kept asking my husband, “have they cut yet?” and he kept saying no, while making endless small talk to the extent that I wanted to slap him. I was shivering uncontrollably by then thanks to the effects of the spinal block and talking to him through chattering, gritted teeth. Lots of tugging. Doctors chatting among themselves while busying themselves with my nether regions. East Coast Radio playing on a radio somewhere. Not quite the labour ward tracklist I’d asked husband to put together on the iPod for the hours of labour I’d thought would occur.
“Have they cut yet?” “No”. “Have they cut yet?” “No”. And yet suddenly there is a mucky alien being held above me, and husband exclaims “Oh babe, he looks like Lee” (my brother) and then “Oooh, and he’s well-hung like his daddy” (yes, he went there. In a room full of strangers).
I’m like “What? He’s here already?” Before husband could answer, the docs wrapped the wailing lump up like a mummy, placed him on my chest, grabbed our camera, took a pic of us, let us lap him up for all of 20 seconds and then instructed husband to follow them.
Ten minutes. Nearly 40 weeks of carrying him and yet he’s cut out of me in 10 minutes. Anti-climax deluxe. I’m then left alone with the docs while they sew me up (still shivering like a meth addict), while husband is off God knows where and I’m wondering what the heck just happened and where is my baby?
No straight-to-the-breast-to-nurse. No angels singing as I look at the brand new life I’ve just brought forth. Just, nothing. Nothing but uncontrollable quivering and wondering.
I’m then taken to a recovery room where I torment myself further by watching the clock and growing more anxious about the fact that I wasn’t with my baby and all the blogs and websites said that first hour is crucial for bonding and nursing and all that stuff. Then I’m wheeled up to my ward where husband joins me and is like an excited puppy because he got to see all the cool stuff like baby being weighed and given his first bath. And he got to hold him and be with him in the nursery. *resist urge to punch baby daddy*
Little Ryder Luke Meth was eventually brought to me two hours after delivery. He was beautiful (although I look at those pics now and see otherwise since the haze of new-mum hormones has worn off). I put him to my breast and he sucked awkwardly for a few minutes, cried a bit and then fell asleep.
It took about 4 hours for the spinal block to wear off and the minute I could feel my legs I pushed myself into getting up and walking around, because I’d been told this was a sure-fire way of getting a quick start on recovery.
Ryder was 2.97 kgs at birth and had a perfect APGAR score.
He was by far the loudest in the nursery. A perfect angel during the day but at night he would scream blue murder. I kept him close to me and wouldn’t let him out of my sight unless the nurses needed to do stuff with him or with me. He slept in my hospital bed or in his crib alongside my bed at night, not in the nursery. I walked the hospital corridors with him, fighting through any traces of pain. And pain there was indeed on Day 2! I didn’t realise I needed to ask the nurses for pain meds, because they’d given it without my prompting on Day 1. This meant I went for most of Day 2 without taking anything, until there I was at about 2pm that day, doubled over in agony alongside my bed, frantically pressing the call button because it felt like a hot knife was being sliced into my belly repeatedly. Let me just say those pain suppositories they give you are amazeballs. I learnt to live on those for a few days.
Most of my time in hospital was spent just taking in the wonder that was my perfect boy.
But I was anxious that he wasn’t latching for long enough and wasn’t nursing properly. I asked one of the nurses to help and her advice was “Give him a bottle. We have formula. He’s hungry.” Really?
The head matron took time with me and empathised that many of her staff didn’t want to put in the time with mums to help with breastfeeding. I was gutted. My poor sweet boy couldn’t latch, I thought, and I grew more and more anxious.
Help came in the form of the sweet lady next to me, who was on her second baby. She came over to my bed regularly and tried helping me to get the right position and to get my boy to latch. Still occasionally exasperated and anxious, I also called in my antenatal class instructor on Day 3 to give some extra help. Breastfeeding was not as easy as it looked. It just felt awkward.
We went home from hospital on Day 4 and dealt with a steady flow of visitors and well-meaning comments and advice, many of which threw me into crazy mama mode.
Looking back now, I am so thankful that I had the support of my mum and The Baby Clinic in those early days. Mum helped me not only emotionally, but also through the agony of 5 days of post-partum constipation. Nobody tells you about this. I felt as if I would never actually poop ever again. I took baby-safe enemas and home remedies, but there was nothing but bloatedness and pain for 5 straight days, combined with the feeling that if I “tried” too hard I might rip my precious bits worse than any natural birth ever would.Don’t get me started on the little lady-like sneezes, coughs and teeny tiny laughs one is forced to enact post C-section. Nothing too enthusiastic or you feel as if your stitches are ripping.
Speaking of stitches. That was probably one of the most excruciating parts of my whole post-birth experience. I had dissolving stitches, so didn’t need to have any removed manually. But my good Lord, the plaster over those things hurt like heck when it had to be removed. I had to do it in stages over a few days because I couldn’t handle the pain of ripping it away, skin, hair and all.
The next most painful thing? When my milk finally came in on Day 5. My boobs morphed into rock hard boulders and it took mum and her magical massages and hot water cloths and hand expressing to bring them back to some sense of normality. My Medela electric pump was also a huge help all through breastfeeding.
Andrea at The Baby Clinic was a gem in unravelling the confusion and uncertainty of those first few days, especially with breastfeeding. I grew better at it and was able to continue for just over a year, by which time Ryder had self-weaned and was pretty disinterested in boob, although I kept pumping and giving him expressed breast milk.
That little baby boy is now a 2 year old tyke. I cannot believe how fast the time has gone.
For my next birth, should there be one, I’m still uncertain how I’d like to deliver. I do still feel short-changed that I didn’t get to experience contractions and labour and husband mopping my brow while marveling at my might and awesomeness. But there are certain things I still loved about my birth experience, believe it or not.
So that’s my birth story. Two years later. Better late than never, eh?