Sunday, December 6, 2009
OK. Time to put the brakes on. And not only because there was a birthday kid, two rollerblading cohorts, a skateboarding brother and a two year old running frenzied circles inside the house. Grandma Myrtleandeunice was the instigator of it all. It’s not like she keeps her rollerblades in the boot of her car any old day.
Except it isn’t any old day for us. The eldest kid is now eight and my right foot is fumbling for those brakes. Crikey, life happens fast.
Grandma featured eight years ago too. As she was leaving for the airport in Melbourne, I was waking to breaking waters. There was just time to catch her on the phone, warn of a possible airport non-appearance 24 hours later. Poor sausage. She paced the aisle of the plane between Melbourne and Singapore while I wafted back to sleep from the sheer boredom of nothing else happening.
In true first birth style, there were two false-alarm tube trips to St Georges Hospital in Tooting, London, lugging all the informed paraphernalia of labour. This included, but was not limited to, a bucket: to sit on and rock about in circles (truly a ridiculous stunt even when not whale-like), a pillow: for on top of bucket (we were advised of hospital shortages. I’m not kidding) and a bottle of Evian spray mist.
The same Evian spray mist was on hand for the second and then, (pure, bemused habit), third birth. I have only ever sprayed the thing once: during the long haul flight back to Melbourne, because this birthday kid was having a mammoth, pass-out tantrum. I remember wondering if it would calm her down. Pah! This kid calms when she’s ready.
It took much negotiation to steer 48 hours clear of the hospital and avoid the dreaded artificial induction. After Mum’s relieved arrival through customs, she poured raspberry leaf tea down my throat and accompanied lumbering laps around Clapham Common. The Mr prepared hot curries and hot baths. I shake my head and grin to remember how I HAULED MYSELF OUT OF BED THREE TIMES IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT TO PERFORM STAR JUMPS. A memorable visual image. All in the name of beat-the-clock, get-this-baby-moving desperation.
This first birth, so opposite to the last, was pure inexperience, naïveté and foregone conclusion. The Mr and I arriving at hospital, the nagging discomfort of the canula pulling in my hand, the belly monitor tethering, the artificial kickstart to labour. All while trying to balance on a bucket. Although the Mr proved most dexterous at toppling-bucket-wife-catching, the kid refused to play ball. There was more and more and yet more syntocinon until this exhausted, star-jumping, labouring mother finally hit the wall.
An epidural agreed upon and administered before an anaesthetist lunch-break, went agonisingly awol. Failing to take effect on both sides of my body, I lay on my back, half-paralysed, like an insect doing death throes – furious at the anaesthetist’s airy assurances all would be fine in a minute or two.
Through the one and a half hours I writhed and begged for the anaesthetist’s return, I can clearly recall a focus on the window high above the ground and what clearly seemed to me the only reasonable avenue of escape.
When the anaesthetist reappeared to have another go at that epidural, I could not catch my breath between contractions. The Mr must have held his own breath as he battled to hold me still and tight. With the blessed relief of a functional anaesthetic, I was able to calmly but alarmedly watch as my poor bloke fell away in a dead faint.
Twelve hours ticked by, the Mr recovered from his mild concussion and I (apparently) ‘laboured’ through the epidural. When it was time for the scheduled eight o’clock ‘pushing’, I lay helplessly, ridiculously, on my back – waiting for contractions, to ‘bear down’. On what, exactly? With a cheersquad in attendance, I failed again and again. A ventouse called for and the Mr, remembering the birth plan and huff and puff class advice, questioned the situation and asked how necessary this was. ‘Not necessary, if you want a blue, floppy baby’, the response. And so she was born.
A beautiful bundle, surreal to behold. I couldn’t fathom anything of all that had happened. In fact, the fathoming took weeks. The Mr cottoned on much more quickly. He doted and held his sweet girl most of the first day.
The 24 hours, in hospital, after the birth, could not end quick enough. The ongoing indignity of various rushed agency midwives yanking a breast in the approximate direction of a ravenous babe, more of the cheerleading proclaiming the attachment ‘just right’, (so... there’s supposed to be blood?). Even my generally mild-mannered Mum, saw what was happening, came over all feisty and lioness, protecting her brood.
In the end, this baby and me, we worked it out. At home, in the (mostly!) calm. We watched each other for long stretches of time, saw what each was about, understood we are much the same.
Happy birthday, sweet rollerblading, upside-down gymnast, giver of great hugs eight year old.