Saturday, July 18, 2009

Birth Story (Number Two)



Consider yourself warned from the outset. I have always known that I would write these. I have always expected that the writing of stored-up fragments and fractured memories would be the full stop at the end of three very different birth experiences. Due to my appalling sense of timing there is another birthday and so another story in a day or two. That’s the one where things go really, really right. This is the one where things are a little rocky for a while. (And for anyone about to do the birth thing and up to the eyeballs in tales of woe and disaster, it all ends just fine but maybe best come back for the next one?)

Everyone says that a second pregnancy, a second birth is a lot different from the first. No one seems to know the answer when a heavily pregnant woman looks them directly in the eye with a rabbit in the headlights stare of unmitigated panic and asks: “What if it's worse?” It wasn’t until a month before my due date that a midwife at the birthing suite had the guts to look straight back at me and suggest I go and talk to someone.

A week later I’m headed off to the other side of the universe to chat to an independent midwife who hears all I say as it spills without punctuation and lands like a puddle at my feet. Three hours later we have dissected and theorised, what if-ed and plan-of-attacked all over the shop. Soul purged, I rush back to my side of the universe to help put a small one to bed and debrief with an equally birth-traumatised Mr. For the first time in eight months and one week, I am ok. So, I pack away the notes and the optimism for another day and then my waters break.

There’s evidence of the baby poo, meconium stuff and there’s a phone call and then there’s an immediate birthing centre summons. It’s an easy ride in but there are familiar twinges and stuff is happening and I’ve remembered to bring the optimism but meconium prompted the beginning of a slippery slope the last time round.

My feet barely touch the low-lit, pale-pink-carpeted birthing centre floor, before I am shunted across the corridor to the ‘real’ hospital with it’s glaring fluorescence, dodgy feng shui and easy-clean linoleum. There is rational and measured debate over the need for induction and the compromise is to wait while a stopwatch ticks. I ‘fail’ at the first hurdle. It’s not happening often enough, intensely enough – just calm down everybody, my waters only broke three hours ago. Although I have spent eight months with my head in the sand, I know I face an uphill battle as syntocinon is loaded into my system even though I’m not ready yet and the foetal monitor says we have a happy heartbeat. My body is wired for fight and flight. I can’t focus, I can’t breathe and thank goodness for the Mr who reminds me of the logistics behind our ‘When Things Aren’t Going To Plan’ plan.

There is more syntocinon to get things moving and I need things to stop stop stop. Hold on a sec, let me catch up let me get my breath but five hours in and contractions are falling all over each other in a tumble to be heard things are not right there is blood everywhere and people filling the room and it happens then only then. Someone takes the time to look me in the eye and tell me gently that there is something very, very, wrong. Even though I am writhing and strapped and screaming on a bed with a crowd at my feet and barely coherent, suddenly I get a say. I snap the bleedingly obvious. DO. SOMETHING.

That’s all I know.

Everything needed to be too quick for the Mr to be there. I wasn’t there. My second little bundle came into the world under, I imagine, a glare of white bright light and unfamiliar voices and cursory hands. He was whisked away down the corridor and into the lift and when I woke, I was handed a polaroid photo taken by someone with understanding and no sense of composition. I can remember the Mr, demanding that I be taken to see him, but I was too drug-addled to remember our first meeting or my first touch. Later I touched his face on the polaroid, trying to understand that he was real and that he was here.

I look back on this time now, write these words and hear how naïve I sound. Throw in a migration back to Australia, a nineteen month old, twice-weekly five in the morning commutes to a faraway University for lecturing, a house to find, counting the days to the arrival of our belongings and I get part the way to remembering how easy it was to distract myself from my fears. And I have never known the luxury of a fear-free pregnancy or birth because there are always the tragic memories of watching my brother crumble with the loss of one of his own.

I am lucky, because a birth is only the opening paragraph of a story and in the room next door slumbers a so nearly-turned six year old. At the moment he is struggling to find his place in the world, negotiating the middle kid thing, fighting my attempts to help because he is different from me. Walking and holding his hand today, I noted a precious moment that is numbered because soon he will be too old to let that happen. The thing is, I’m still trying to make up for the moment that I wasn’t there to welcome him, say his name, tell him I love him to the moon and back and back and to infinity and beyond. And to hold him close.

Happy birthday sweet boy.

38 comments:

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

Happy birthdays to mother and child both.

Karin said...

Dear Tania. Thank you for sharing your story. I have tears in my eyes, after reading your last sentences. I so know how you feel. But ofcourse you know, I know, I'm sure, that you've made up for that moment a thousand times and more, being the loving mother that you are.

Happy birthday, for you and your little boy.

x

Cindy said...

Somehow I think that the fact that you have been there the other 6 years minus the first day to love him like no other will more than make up for it. Happy birthday to you both, you deserve it. Hope he had a great day! Beautiful post.

Jo (sparkly green knickers) said...

Ok, wow, written like you still haven't completely made sense of it all 6 years on! Whether you were there or not for the beginning, he knows in every part of his being that he is loved and adored by both you and your Mr.

Happy Birthday sweet boy!

Umatji said...

Your card meant the world and now, after reading this means all the world and more. Thankyou for this story and for the story in your card - what a strange world it is - with birth of all kinds linking up women from all times and places. All heart. In so many different ways.
xx

Madeline said...

I don't know what it is, but I love reading birth stories...even the scary ones...maybe because mine was scary. Levi was also born via emergency c-section, and I'm still getting over the HOURS of separation. The pain and the fear I could handle; the separation from him in those first hours of life was akin to torture. Like you said, though, "it all ends just fine." That is the true blessing! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Loved reading this blog and reliving moments from my two births, both different..one emergency C section the other a planned c section (as to avoid the emergency!).
We are blessed to have our precious ones with us regardless of their entry into this world.
Reading about your brother's loss of one of his children is heartbreaking as I saw it happen to one of my friends last year.
I cannot begin to understand her pain and loss but I am inspired by her strength and courage to keep on going and be the best mum ever for her little boy.
So wishing your little boy a wonderful Happy Birthday!
Love your cousin Jen xo

The Sice Family said...

Ah, we all have a horror story to share. Mine too, is a hospital one. One which, during a peak moment of panic, had me glaring at the doctor and seething, "Would you give me better service if I paid you more?!" Hmmm. Motherhood. Starts out so scarily, can be scary at other times too, but ultimately, completely satisfying.
Happy Birthday to your boy! Wendy xx

Kylie said...

Hi Tania... that's a lot to go through. I'm still recovering from your description, so I can understand why you still feel it so deeply. What a lovely thing a 6-year-old's hand in yours is... :)
I'm sorry to read about your brother's loss. My brother lost a son to cancer when he was 5 y.o. I still find it difficult to talk about it.
Keep holding onto that hand as long as you can! K x

said...

:)
i am sure you were there... even though you weren't... brith is not always the easiest chapter for a woman. Most people just don't believe in giving women time... to to birth... but you're his mother. I am sure you're doing a great job, or you wouldn't be writting this:)

Mel said...

Tania what an amazing story and of course, so very well written. I think writing these stories does go a very long way towards sorting it all through in our minds. I like your perspective on it now given your brother's experience.

Oh and Happy Birthday to the frog-and-skateboard-loving-six-year-old!

One Flew Over said...

Happy Birthday little man! I'm of the belief that a shaky start prepares you for the world in which we live. My youngest was born 2 months early while we were at a wedding in Brisbane...all character building, for us and them ;) Enjoy the day Tania!

Christina Lowry said...

Tears came to my eyes and I read your post. I can relate to so much of what you have said. Cohen is 7 months old now. After the birth I felt like I had failed some how. I held him for a minute or two and then he was taken away for an hour. They brought him back to me and lay him on my chest and he started wheezing. Midwives cames rushing in from everywhere and he was taken away from me again. My husband went with him again. I was left alone in the birthing room and I cried. No one told me what was going on or how he was for another hour. My heart was breaking. When finally I was wheeled to the special care nursery they handed him to me and I never wanted to give him back. He fed and fell asleep in my arms.

I love Cohen more than I thought it was possible to love anyone. I have his best intentions in mind always. I think that makes up for the things that I couldn't control around the birth, like him needing to be taken away. Forgive yourself. You had all the best intentions and a heart full of love. The birth didn't go as you had hoped, but you got your sweet boy.

Happy Birthday!
:)

Sadieandlance said...

Happy Birthday Mr 6. Thanks for sharing the scary but beautiful story Tania. x

Nikki said...

Happy birthday to your little man. Hug and squeeze and hold that little hand for as long as you can...

Grace said...

Birth is only the first paragraph of the story....
wonderful words. I had 2 "less than perfect" births - mostly because I had built up these expectations of a peaceful, natural entry into this world. And it did not happen quite that way. But in the end they were perfect births because after a while I was able to let go of the guilty feelings (it truly wasn't my fault) and realize it is not so important how they got here but what you do with them once they are here.

It just takes us all different amounts of time to realize that I guess.

Thanks so much for sharing this birth experience with us and a very happy birthday to your son.

Is your other birth story on here? I will go look now.

Loz and Dinny said...

Hey lovely. Thanks for sharing your story. I was a wee newborn that didn't see her mumma for over 24 hours - Mum still relates her story with an element of sadness that I now recognise (having Edie)was that strange and powerful feeling of mother's guilt. The six years of holding that wee hand and being with him are the bits that he will remember - the love for your children is the one thing that radiates through your stories - I hope you have a wee celebration on his birth day - for yourself - you are one ace mumma x

mum space said...

Happy birthday to your little man and thanks for sharing your birth story. You made me cry. Both sad and happy tears. Sad for what you went through but happy you have, hold and treasure your child. You are certainly lucky to have him but he is equally lucky to have a special mama like you xx

Lexi @ PottyMouthMama said...

I'd love to give you a big, huge bear hug and say - you've done an ace job, you did the very best you could. You did exceptionally. You are a wonderful mother NO MATTER WHAT! He's a well-loved beautiful little guy with a cheeky lost-toothy grin, and an ACE t-shirt - you are one clever cookie. Yo Mama, you rock. xxx

Lexi @ PottyMouthMama said...

AND PS - HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Thanks for sharing this incredible story, it is beautifully written. xxx

daylesford organics said...

Happy Birthday to you and your little man! What an amazing story teller you are. We too have had three far less than perfect births. My eldest sitting next to me just asked me why I am crying. She was a planned home birth that ended up an emergency ceasar and a 10 day hospital stay. I was given a polaroid too. When my Mum tells me it was one of the hardest days of her life, it almost breaks my heart. But at eight Indi now is one of the most creative, inspired and beautiful people I have ever met. I have never written her birth story because for so long I felt shame and guilt but you have really inpired me. Thank you. Love Kate XX

Peta @ Pippiwillow said...

Wonderfully written Tania, emotive, heart felt and honest. Thank you for sharing.
You may not recall the moment you beautiful boy got his first face full of oxygen, but, you knew him before he was out, and you know him now like no other person. You were saying his name and loving him to the moon and back and to infinity and beyond long before anyone else. You have fed and bathed, nurtured and encouraged this beautiful boy - your son.
You have the honour and privilege of having the title (his) 'Mother' - which is to hold him close whilst noting such precious moments such as that which you have listed above.
Again, I thank you for sharing what was/is clearly a painful memory.
Peta xo

GUGAW said...

happy birthday little one!

Lauren said...

I have tears...happy bithday to your little man!

Gina said...

I couldn't respond to this post first time through reading because I was a little overwelmed. Still don't know what to say... but thank you for writing it down. How precious our little ones are. Happy birthdays.

On a superficial note - your froggy shirt looks like a triumph. I love it.

Anonymous said...

T
wow.
W

RED PEPPER QUILTS said...

My second child too was born under such circumstances. I was given a polaroid of him, and I didn't actually see him for the first 10 hours of his life, one that he battled for! An apgar score of 2 at birth - was unable to be resuscitated for 25 minutes! All this whilst I wasn't even conscious. The hospital staff declared him the most unwell full-term (2 weeks late!) baby they had delivered for a very long time. But he came through unscathed! Thank goodness.

Happy birthday to your son, the toothless grin in this picture is just priceless! Thank you for sharing his story...

Rita

Fran-lovelylittlesweetpeas said...

Wow, well the first thing I noticed was that FANTASTIC froggy t-shirt - then I read the post. It seems alot of us have 'interesting' birth experiences. My two involved a 37 week induction due to diabetes and pre eclampsia and a very unexpected 33 week premature labour followed by 2 weeks of intensive care. I believe I was in mourning for a couple of years after that experience. But it finally dawned on me that they were both perfect births as they brought to me my two beautiful children.

Birthday wishes to both you and your lovely little man.

Getting Pregnant said...

Having babies is a big and very important decision. It should be planned well. There are many women who fear of getting pregnant. Some of the fears are scared of losing their freedom, losing their job, scared of taking responsibility, loosing figure. Some think they don't have enough money to have a child. But one can over come out of it by managing everything properly.

Andrea said...

...sob....thanks for getting my hormones going ;D...
thank god things went well in the end - HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
xo Andrea

elly bee said...

the 6 year old knows you love him deeply, to the moon and thousand times back. Who has a mum making this lovely frog shirt!
Tania, please be proud of what you give the little ones for their whole life; a loving and caretaking mum (and dad!)

hug xx

katiecrackernuts said...

A beautifully written post - a story that belongs to you, your little one and your man. The learning and growing is all your child's now and you will nourish and support that even if you feel you weren't able to in those first hours. You did what you needed to do - and so did some very special professionals, by the sound of it. As someone who has never given birth but has raised children, I say (maybe warn), there is more to come.

Jo James said...

Whew! I had to take a deep breath after that one. Thanks for that :) What lucky children to have you for a mom.

And thank your stars he isn't turning 16. And driving. A big car filled with explosive gasoline plummetting down the highway with other big cars filled with explosive gasoline. I do still get a cuddle every now and then though :)

two little buttons said...

happy birthday little man.
tania, you keep holding his hand as long as you can. i'm sure you have made up for those hours a million times over, but i guess its that mother guilt we have.
my eldest is only 5 but i get to hold his hand less and less and it breaks my heart.
i hope you all had a happy day celebrating

sushipie said...

thank you for sharing your story. it's really good to know that you and others can still be heartbroken about a birth experience but at the same time eternally thankful and happy to have your child with you. i feel that way, and i think those people who haven't experienced a scary birth can't quite understand why i suddenly want to cry from utter sadness when talking about the birth of my son.

Johnnal said...

Thank you! I cried and remembered the troubled birth of my firstborn and was comforted by the fact that he to is happy and healthy just one room away. Thanks!

Genevieve Mack said...

Thank you so much for your story.I gave birth to small premature twins, who after a shaky start are also ok. What I particularly liked about your story was how well you articulated the angst that is still with us regarding the birth. I read in the NICU that our children will not remember all the worry of their frist few weeks but we parents will never forget. SO thankyou you were able to finally clarify what those guilt and feelings of sorrow, despite the positive outcome are all about.
My children love to hold my hand and sometimes it drives me crazy after reading your post I will treasure it as you reminded me soon I will ahve to walk three steps behind them. Thanks again.
Genevieve

knitting sprouts said...

my almost 6 year old had a similar start to life and the deprivation of skin on skin, my voice, my smell for the first 6 weeks of life for this little soul haunts me. it is so wonderful to hold that hand and cuddle that body and breath love into him as much as I can. Thank you for a wonderful story.