I started going into labour at 4 am on 25 November. It was four days after I had been discharged from hospital after my mucus plug came off, and the doctor had told me to come back if I got a bloody show for four consecutive days. I had just finished the four days – spent chatting endlessly with my mum and going on long walks – and I groaned when I saw blood on the tissue when I wiped.
Then I started getting period-like cramps but very regular. I didn’t bother waking V, camping out on the couch instead. After a couple of hours when the cramps didn’t stop, I figured this was it.
V wasn’t convinced. He thought it was another false alarm and decided to go into work. I said I would go in to the hospital with my mum, just to get things checked out. Instead of rushing there as suggested by V, I dilly-dallayed and went in at 10 am. We took the MTR and a bus, and I was chatting away on the phone with a friend all the way there.
In the labour ward, I made it clear to the nurse that I didn’t want to be admitted unless absolutely necessary. They hooked me up to a monitor like last time and told me I was in early labour. Considering that’s what I had been told the last time, I wasn’t impressed.
Then, I got off the bed and felt water gushing into my underwear. My water had broken. Again, this is something I had wondered about… how would I know my water had broken and not just discharge. Well, there’s a fair amount of water, that’s how. Though not the torrents the movies would have you believe.
The doctor came in to examine me. I’m sorry to say she was a bitch. Without warning, she shoved her entire hand up me and then started scolding me for not relaxing. She hadn’t even introduced herself or explained what she was doing except for “examination”. She looked like a kid and I’m pretty sure had never had children. It took me a couple of hours to get over the violation of that “examination” – I imagine that is what it feels like to be raped.
It was decided I would be admitted to the antenatal ward. I spent the day with manageable cramps – now called contractions – feeling rather bored. In the course of the day, a couple of women in my area were wheeled panting into the delivery area.
By evening the cramps had got strong enough to make me breathless. The thing is that if you’ve had bad period pains, this is all very manageable. I thought I was being very zen about the whole thing.
To give me something to do, I had been noting down the frequency of the cramps. The nurse told me to let them know when they were coming regularly every five minutes. They were still irregular but within the 6-10 minute range.
V and my mum came to visit me in the evening and I was hoping I would start active labour then so V didn’t have to go home. But finally, he left.
Weirdly, right after visiting hours the doctor came over. Unfortunately, she turned out to be the same one from the morning… I had been hoping her shift would be over and I would get someone else for the delivery. They decided to induce labour, something I wasn’t too keen on. But apparently, if your water breaks they don’t want to wait too long because there’s a risk of infection. Later I read that part of the risk of infection comes from the repeated examinations of the kind that I went through in the morning, where bacteria that might naturally flow downward, is pushed back up.
As I summoned V back, the nurses rushed me into packing my things. I was mid-way through eating a banana and was insisting on finishing it because I had been told that I should eat before active labour because I needed the energy to push.
They hooked me up to a drip of some drug to increase the frequency of contractions. Luckily, V arrived quite quickly because the contractions started to become fairly intense. I was still able to chat and joke between them though. A nurse came in and explained to me how to use the oxygen mask to relieve pain.
At some point though, it all changed. The pain, oh the pain. Now, I cannot find the words to describe it. Like a cliche, I cannot even remember the texture of it. I only have the memory that it was very very bad.
They would occasionally as me if I had the urge to push, but I didn’t. I said I didn’t know what the “urge to push” meant. That too would change.
The oxygen only works if you can focus your breathing at exactly the point when the contraction is starting and not lose that rythm as it peaks to horrendous levels. When it worked, I felt high. When it didn’t, I thought I would go mad with pain.
I began screaming for a painkiller. At some point, one of the nurses had told me I could have one if I wanted and I said I’d like to hold off. V was trying to convince me to go through without it. I thought I’d wait till they determined how dilated I was and how long I had to go.
The doctor came in to check how much I was dilated and I had one of those “examinations” again. I screamed like I was dying. I asked again for a painkiller and she rather patronisingly told me that the pain wasn’t even that bad.
The dislike I had for the doctor in the morning strengthened to pure hate. I still experience moments of hatred for her, and hope she goes on to have the most painful labour imaginable when she gives birth and that she experiences every unhappiness life can throw her way.
I say this not because she refused me a painkiller but because she was such an asshole about it and what I was going through. In contrast, the nurses and midwives were awesome. They also tried to talk me out of the painkiller but they were motherly and encouraging. When the midwife did the same examination the doctor did, she was much more gentle. Luckily, I didn’t see the doctor after that point. I remember what she looks like and if I see her the street, I might consider pushing her into oncoming traffic.
The midwives said if I really wanted a painkiller they would arrange one. But first they had to check that my blood pressure was stable. Then they said they were calling the anaesthetologist but that she was in another surgery. That she was coming. They gave me an injection of something but not an epidural.
By 1 am, I learnt what the “urge to push” was. It is uncontrollable. Your body arches and spasms. Ironically, they started to tell me not to push because my cervix wasn’t dilated enough. I thought “fuck you”. I can just about bear this pain, I can’t control my body’s instincts also. I pushed although V told me the baby’s heartbeat was slowing.
By 2 am, I was in a trance. I had started using the oxygen out of desperation. I don’t know if it was working or if I had just semi-passed out.
Through it all V was my rock. He held my hand, he rubbed my back when asked to, he quietly encouraged me. Frankly, I could not have done it without him. The experience of going through this with V has bound me to him for life. He has seen me at my very worst – bloody, spread-eagled, wild-eyed and screaming. And he didn’t flinch. He stayed and told me I was wonderful.
At 4 am, the midwife came in and checked my cervix again. She pronounced me fully dilated. After all their evasions (lies!) I didn’t believe them. But her hand went up me very easily, proving that when your body is ready there is no need to force.
They wheeled me into the actual delivery room. And then they told me to push when the pain came. Funnilly enough, I was feeling no urge to push. They told me they could see the head. V said I was nearly there. “Liars!” I shouted. But I tried to push.
The midwives were awesome. They encouraged and cajoled. They told me I had to hold my pushes for longer. I asked V to count for me and that helped. The “nearly there” took an hour.
They decided to do an episiotomy to help. Ideally, I would have wanted to avoid one but at this point, anything to get the baby out of there was welcome.
At 3.56 am, exactly 24 hours after I started labour and 8 hours after I started active labour, I felt a hot rush and my son was born.
The midwife held him up for me to see – he was gray – and from then, my eyes never left him. It was like V wasn’t in the room. I watched as he screamed and turned pink. I watched as they cleaned him up and weighed him and counted his fingers and toes.
I noted his nose – V’s nose – and his very apparent family jewels. The nurses cooed over his “big eyes”.
They placed him on my chest and I felt a sense of unreality. I had created this. And yet, he felt so separate.
They told me they would have to deliver the placenta, but I didn’t have to push, thank god. It was uncomfortable but bearable.
My ordeal was not over though. They asked V to leave and took the baby away. Then they stitched me up. The fact that they gave me oxygen should indicate that it was painful even though they gave me a painkiller. After what felt like 20 stitches, they were done another 40 minutes later.
They rolled me out and took me up to the ward, instructing me to keep massaging my uterus so that it contracts. At some point, I fell asleep.
A few hours later, they brought me my son. They placed him next to me and helped me breastfeed. And that’s when I lost that sense of unreality. This was my child. I would die for him and kill for him if need be.
I had become a mom.