On 17th February, at 00.27 am, Sara Emma Peatey arrived into the world.
This is the last of a trilogy of articles related to this life changing event to bring closure to this chapter of my life and, of course, start a new one! (read The Miracle of Birth and 5 Questions While Waiting For A Baby).
I’m not one for sentimentality and I certainly do not enjoy hearing baby stuff from others. I love my three kids more than anything, but I draw the line at extending that beyond my blood family.
I’ve heard plenty of men say ‘what an amazing experience’ it is to be present at birth. I was present at Sara’s birth, and throughout labour, as I was with my first two daughters. It’s definitely an honour to be there when new life enters the world, but I can’t say I understand the ‘amazing experience’ when applied to the rest of it.
Am I a freak to be glad I don’t have to experience it myself and to say the whole thing is actually quite unpleasant?
A quick recap
Mona decided she wanted as natural a birth as possible which in many cultures is perfectly well supported and even expected. Natural, for us, meant no intervention – unless absolutely necessary for the safety of mother or child. No chemicals, hospitals, cutting or any other ‘improvements’ on the well-designed-by-nature system for delivering new life into the world.
This was always going to be challenging in a country where 90% of birth is by planned Caesarian, it’s generally assumed you must be a masochist if you choose natural birth and where breastfeeding is considered to be for those who can’t afford formula!
Everything happens at the right time
Sara was due on 9th February by the doctors’ calculations but Mona’s innner guide told her it was going to be 31st January.
Both days came and went, which just proves that neither doctors nor inner guides know everything and babies do exactly what they want, when they want!
Now I’ve never been pregnant so I don’t know first hand what it feels like. From my observations of mothers, the physical side gets more and more uncomfortable as the last month passes. Everything takes longer with the extra bulk. Sleeping is difficult. You start to forget what it felt like to be not-pregnant. Water starts to get retained in places it’s never been retained before. The growing baby makes its presence felt with greater vigour.
No matter how much you want to just get on with life as normal, it becomes less and less possible and more and more frustrating. I’m just waiting on the sidelines. Unable to do anything other than take care of the apartment and reluctant to start anything of significance, not knowing when the big event will happen.
What I do know is that giving birth itself is very painful and no amount of Hollywood ‘30 seconds of pushing and they’re out’ can change the reality of it. You have to be very frustrated to want that! Indeed by the time the day came Mona was so frustrated she was desperate to give birth – pain and everything.
The right time was 00.27 on 17th February 2010.
How do I know?
Because that’s when she was born!
The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray
Our beautiful vision of natural, home birth and providing a warm, cozy welcome for the little one lay in tatters. It was very hard to let go of this vision but when faced with potentially life or death situations, stubbornness is not always a very helpful trait.
The first part of labour was manageable. I kept out of the way, bobbing in and out when I felt I could be helpful and, according to our midwife, it was a text-book labour.
Until it stopped being so. The story moved to those dreaded final chapters of the text book and the pages about the things that can go wrong.
Basically the labour froze.
For 6 hours the contractions had no effect at all – unless you count the excrutiating agony. They should have been pushing the baby, opening the way and moving to that final stage of ‘Push …. Push … PUUUUUSHHHHH!’
If you’ve been there yourself you’ll remember counting the centimetres (or inches). We got stuck at 5cm and even I can work out that 5cm is not enough. Babies are small – but not that small!
So off we went to hospital.
For Mona it was a desire to get some relief from the pain.
For the midwife it was a desire to be closer to the technology available to help in these rarer situations.
And for me? I hate hospitals – but I’m not the one with a baby inside my body trying to get out.
After a little more waiting and hoping that things will start to move along naturally it becomes clear there will to be no easy way out. No-one seems to know why things are stuck – but stuck they are.
It’s close to midnight and we’re presented with a choice. Continue with a long, painful labour that’s likely to end in an emergency C-section or …. skip the painful part and go straight for the C-section. The staff leave to allow us to have a moment to discuss what we want to do.
I’m starting to appreciate how the baby feels right now – stuck and very small. Mona even more so.
30 minutes later we’re in the middle of the scenario we most wanted to avoid.
Mona is strapped to the table, surrounded by machines and what could be an entire soccer team all wearing masks. There are tubes, needles, scalpels and suddenly the baby is pulled out and whisked away by strangers.
Every cell in my body is screaming this is WRONG! I forget to breathe as I’m trying to comfort Mona who is shaking and crying. This is as invasive and impersonal as you can get.
I have to leave, I’m almost fainting. I feel so utterly helpless.
This is the right way.
How do I know?
Because the cord was wrapped several times around the baby, making it impossible for her to be born the way nature intended. If it was not for the invention of the C-section, probably neither mother nor child would have lived to see the dawn.
All Right Now
All’s well that ends well
This whole experience taught me several very important things I was maybe missing before:
1 I have very little control
I knew this already and it’s been proved to me over and over again but I’d pushed it to one side for the last months and thought I could decide how things would be when it came to the birth. In reality I control nothing. I can help things along, ease the path and gently steer direction. Any illusion that I am in control, though, is just that – an illusion.
Honestly speaking I had very little respect for doctors or the whole medical profession. I believed I knew more than they. This experience proved I’m wrong and I have no shame in admitting it. There are times when they are absolutely wonderful and what they do saves lives. Everyone we met (except one sour faced nurse) was great. I’ve found new respect for the medical world and less certainty that I know better.
3 The Journey
Over the years I’ve been developing a much greater appreciation of the importance of the journey over the destination. This was a reminder that there may well be times when the result is more important than how one gets there. We now have a healthy, beautiful daughter and a fast recovering mother. The path was not the path we wanted .. but it did get us here safely. The other paths might have ended in disaster.
Impossible Not To Love
You can’t always get what you want
… or the way you want it or when you want it.
At the time it was hard to accept this.
We wanted a natural birth, soft lights, gentle music and a lot of warmth and gentleness. As I was sitting by Mona’s side as she lay on the operating table I had this thought,
‘Am I ever going to be able to love the baby?’
We wanted Sara’s first hours to be laying on the safety of her mothers chest. We wanted the cord to be left and not cut straight away. As they opened Mona under the bright lights, as they pulled Sara out, cut the cord and took her away to clean and check, I wondered,
‘Will this damage her in some way? Will I be able to look her in the eye, knowing that I wasn’t able to protect her at this most vulnerable point of her new life?‘
Three weeks after the birth, as I hold her in my arms or watch her face as she’s sleeping peacefully those thoughts are long dead. She’s safe, warm, happy and cared for.
It is impossible for me not to love her.