Saturday, July 18, 2009
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.