I take things a day at a time. I have exceptionally good days with little Holly, where I manage to have a sing, do some exercise, do a little writing, take her out for a walk, and play some piano. And then I have abysmal days – or at least, in my selfish mind, I think of them as abysmal; they are actually crucial days for her, because those are the days when she does nothing but breastfeed because she’s having a growth spurt. Some days I feel that I’ve managed to keep everyone, including myself, very happy, and we’ve all done things we wanted to, even the dog. Other days, I must sacrifice my own happiness for the survival of my child – and my pet. I hope to return to work in term four of this year. But at the moment, I can’t even contemplate it, because I’m still adjusting to motherhood and everything is so fresh and new. And life with a newborn, while it is often house-bound, is nonstop – even at night.
Holly actually came two weeks early. I finished working at thirty-seven weeks pregnant, with the last lesson of term being a recording for a digital singing exam. My student did well on this exam, as I discovered after Holly’s birth, and so I feel that I finished everything on a good note, no pun intended. The following week I went into early labour. I started to get Braxton Hicks contractions, sometimes as many as three every ten minutes. Labour failed to establish for several days, however. I took long walks to encourage things along, and sometimes had such a strong contraction that my leg would seize up mid-stride. My husband and I called it the “rubber leg”. I would tell him to wait for me when we were together by calling out behind him: “Rubber leg, rubber leg!” I encouraged labour along because I didn’t want to be in limbo forever. Besides which, I had the most awful pregnancy rhinitis, meaning I was waking every hour in the night even though I didn’t have a screaming child calling for me. I simply couldn’t breathe properly overnight, due to all the hormones and all the extra blood flow. So I was ready to birth, so to speak.
My midwife (and the back up midwife that I also knew) were both off at the time that I lost my waters over the weekend. This meant that the early part of labour was a “series of unfortunate events”, where doctor and midwife after doctor and midwife wrongly told me I had some sort of infection (whether in my blood or in my amniotic fluid), and they passed me around like a hot potato, without the benefit of knowing me or my medical history (or caring, it sometimes felt). I went from Chinchilla Hospital to Dalby Hospital, where I hoped to birth. But they sent me off in an ambulance to Toowoomba Hospital, despite my protests, and my water birth was cancelled because of an infection that we later discovered did not exist. By the time I got to Toowoomba, I was despairing of having a natural vaginal birth, because my labour kept stalling. I simply wasn’t at peace enough and wasn’t being given enough space to let my body do what it needed to do. This meant I was very pushy at Toowoomba Hospital, and they definitely saw my cross side. I told them exactly how I wanted to labour, told them that I wasn’t going to lie down for them or do anything like that, and was rather going to move around the room and use various positions to get labour moving again, and they could examine me how they wished if they could work around me. Thankfully, they supported me in that and commended my desire to have a vaginal birth (which I expressed in no uncertain terms). Michael backed me up every step of the way. They put me on oxytocin to get labour established – and wow, did it establish labour. I came to regard it as a form of torture by the end of the night. The first two thirds of labour I felt was very manageable. I was on the drip for nearly twelve hours, and the first eight, maybe even nine hours, were fine. I breathed through the contractions and used music, heat packs, and pictures of my favourite things to help get me through. I ate between contractions and kept my fluids intake up. Michael was with me every step of the way. But once I really started dilating, I saw the ugly face of labour. I turned down all pain-killer right till the end, thinking I could cope. But in the last hour and a half, I begged for morphine, because I was in absolute agony and could barely move. At this point, they examined me and told me they couldn’t give me morphine because I was fully dilated. This should have been a cause for rejoicing, but I was devastated for my own sake that I had left things too late for pain killer. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to hold my own child, so even when they kept telling me that I was about to have a “beautiful baby”, it fell on deaf ears. I stupidly didn’t expect crowning to hurt as much as it did, so I have to admit I didn’t push as hard as I should have initially, because I thought I must be tearing. In the end, the room was invaded by all these extra midwives, and they got me up on the bed for the very last stint and told me I had to push now otherwise they would do an episiotomy. This was because Holly’s heartbeat had started to drop in those last few minutes, and it was probably because I was so distressed. I finally pushed like an animal, and as I suspected, I did tear. But at that point, it really only took three or four good pushes to get her out. It was the weirdest feeling, and I was so numb with the pain afterwards that it took me fifteen minutes at least to register that I had my daughter in my arms. They told me Holly was very advanced because she cried the moment her head popped out and began to pee the moment her body was free.
So according to my official records, I’m due next Monday. But I already have the baby, and she’s eleven days old. I’m able to type all this now because she’s sleeping today – I have a good feeling about today, but tomorrow might be different. Interestingly, when I met Holly and saw how alert and healthy she was, I knew I’d made the right decision about painkiller. It was the right decision for her. But it wasn’t the right decision for me at the time. And I suppose this is the nature of parenthood. You make decisions for the good of your child, even if it puts you through agony sometimes. So I’m glad I chose the labour I did, in the end.
Anyhow, I now have an interesting few weeks ahead of me (or should I say eighteen years… lol). Michael and I are about to discover a new rhythm of life that puts Holly’s good first. I do love my girl, and I can’t wait to see her grow, even if it means very painful days of ceaseless breastfeeding. In the meantime, I will find a way of continuing writing and making music somehow – but some days in this crucial newborn stage, they’ll be on the back burner. I’m blessed though that I can write via dictation while I’m breastfeeding – and that Holly loves music, so I can sing and play for her, and it soothes her. Perhaps one day she’ll be doing artsy things of her own.
In the meantime, here are some pictures that show the craziness of our last couple of weeks. Enjoy!