Louise was fifteen weeks old on Friday. She was due twelve weeks ago, with a cesearean planned for thirteen weeks ago, but that would have been boring.
Fifteen weeks ago on Friday, I was working my last day before maternity leave. I was working from home because the previous day I’d left the office at lunchtime and gone to the hospital with contractions. I couldn’t get comfy and moved from Pilates ball to standing desk without being able to concentrate on my work. The rest of my team was in Estonia, at an event that I’d been working on for months. I gave up trying to clear my few outstanding items and told an intern on my way out that I needed to get checked out at the hospital.
The midwife examined me and told me I was all closed up - the contractions were quite regular and close together but she said they were only practising. She told me to go home and rest. So I did.
In the night, I was woken by period-like cramps on and off. Since I had only ever experienced intense contractions induced and driven by drugs, I did not recognise these early ones for what they were. All morning I worked from my desk at the window, pausing as the waves came over me every ten minutes or so, only stopping when Marek came home for lunch to say I thought I might have been leaking amniotic fluid and that I should probably get it checked.
Marek drove me to the hospital and went back to work. The monitoring rooms were full so a midwife told me to go to the delivery unit and use one of those rooms. Another midwife came to examine me, cheerily said there was no signs of waters leaking and that she’d just examine me but expected I would be on my way home soon. Her expression changed once she started the examination. Er, madame, you seem to be in active labour. You are six centimetres dilated. I almost fell off the bed. My body, which had tried and failed to birth two babies well after their due dates and with the help of modern medicine, was well on the way to birthing a third three weeks early.
I called Marek and told him the news. He needed to get out of work, get the girls to our friends and neighbours whose offer to watch the girls if needed we had recently laughed off. ‘Thanks but it’s all planned. My parents are coming and the operation date is set’ ha.
As labour progressed my doctor came in and told me I was full of surprises. Didn’t I know it? He said we could see how it went, but that at first sign of slowing, too much pressure on my cesaerian scars, too long a time without the baby arriving, at any of these signs I would be whisked off for a section.
The contractions got closer together and more intense. ´I think I want a section!´ I said, to the midwife. ‘I’m not mentally prepared for the possibility of labour. I know what to expect with a section.’ She examined me. 8 cm. No, turns out what I wanted was an epidural. Before having children I always imagined giving birth as an intense experience but one that I would manage with strength and grace, and the soothing support of water at the very most. After two emergency operations to get stuck babies out, my views on medical intervention had shifted somewhat.
After the epidural was administered, I feel the soothing release of the pain subsiding from the contractions. It was miraculous. I gathered my forces, allowed the hour of pain-free contractions to continue bringing the birth closer and then, just as the feeling was returning, I was told I’d made it, 10 cm.
There was a problem though. All my babies had started out in the correct birthing position, head down, looking down. At some point in the process though, all three turned, so they were looking up- back to back with me. Not a great way of getting out, especially for big babies.
The midwife told me to turn on my side. I then had to lift my legs up onto blocks to encourage her to turn. My heart sank. It had all been going so well. The doctor returned and had a feel of the baby’s position. He exchanged glances with the midwife and she had a feel too. They smiled at me. She seems to have turned! I was astounded.
The pushing phase I remember as quite comical. Lots of waiting around for a contraction, then intense pushing and the feeling that nothing was advancing. ‘I didn’t bother with lessons this time’ I complained ‘I don’t know what to do! They told me 7 years ago about the breathing and blocking and all that for my first!’ The doctor smiled and reassured me that they would help. After a few rounds of waiting, using the contraction to push, doing it again and then trying to assess whether anything was actually coming out, he said he could see the head and a mirror was fetched. Seeing that baby’s head appearing gave me the strength for the last few pushes and when she was born, I could not believe that I had actually experienced a vaginal birth.
I have thought of that day every so often over the last 15 weeks. It gave me such a boost to know my body had finally managed what it had not before. The doctor was amazed that all the pieces had fallen into place the way they had, and he told me I was his first patient to ever have a vaginal birth after two sections. In fact, he asked his colleagues and could not find another case among their patients either.
Louise is our last and I am trying to savour the moments. She started off life giving me the biggest surprise and they keep coming.