Luca Baby! (Or There's a Reason it's called Labour)

Luca (who began his journey into this world on Diwali) was born last Friday, October 24, in Room 603 at 11:11 am, weighing 7 lbs 7 oz, on the third day of my thirty ninth week of pregnancy - and he is just magical - a pure gift from the universe. I would not describe the means I brought him into this world in this way. In fact, I would say it was exactly the opposite. But he is worth every sweaty, shaky, screaming second of it.

Everyone tells you to have a labour plan. I'm not discounting that you should figure out what you want and hopefully for your case you will be fortunate to be able to labour and deliver according to your chosen gospel, but in my case, the raised eyebrow of all medical professionals to my assertions of wanting a natural childbirth that accompanied their too prescient warning that the baby has its own plan and that quite possibly it may all go out the window, proved too true.

I opted to have my birth in hospital, although I would have preferred a birthing centre connected to a hospital (ie in the same building), not been so keen on a house birth in the knowledge that the number one cause of death for women until recently has been childbirth. I did however want to make the experience as natural as I could and enjoy the mystery of giving life. I had yoga poses and stretches all worked out and had dragged my partner earlier to a yoga message workshop so he would know how to help me labour through the contractions. I envisioned squatting, walking, stretching, labouring in the child's pose, in the shower (as our room would not have a bath), to the tune of Sanskrit chants, Tibetan bells and my hypno tape. Having experienced much pain in my life due to many broken bones and ligaments as well as a quick and dirty affair with amoebas, I thought I had it all down pat.

My confidence only increased when I started to get nightly contractions in week 37. These contractions dilated me by week 39 to 2 cm. They bloody hurt, but I could certainly deal with them. In fact, two days before I gave birth, I was working to finalize a motion I had to file late into the night through my contractions.

As always happens in my life, the universe took a turn to deflate my expanding head.

Week 39, Day 2, I had my usual ultrasound to check my little boy's kidneys. My husband and I ran in a mad rush to the appointment, having slept in, both of us up cramming against deadlines (I had just finished what I needed to do in order to give myself six weeks off and I wonder whether my son was being considerate enough to wait until this point to come into the world). We never found out about his kidneys that day as the sonographer took one look at my amniotic fluid, went pallid and said she was calling in the doctor to speak to us, without even waiting to finish the rest of the ultrasound. We waited in agony for the doctor to return and were surprised she came in with what seemed an indecently wide smile in the circumstances. "Today is the day!" she jovially said. She explained my fluid had dropped from 11 to 4 and in particular considering my son's possible hydronephrosis, there was no reason to delay. They were going to induce me right away. I asked to speak to my OB, in shock, not prepared to start labouring that day. I didn't even have my hypno tape!

Rather than induce me right then, I was sent home for the sole reason that the maternity ward was overflowing, with the warning that I should gather my things and return within the next couple of hours. My husband and I rushed home and scrambled to finalize my hospital bag, leading me to fall into tears because I could not find my Sanskrit chants nor my hypno tape. After I calmed down, my main concern was going to the bathroom, more worried about pooping in front of medical staff and my husband (as I have heard is quite common in labour) than the pain awaiting me. What a fool I was. Once the pain kicked in, I did not care in the slightest in front of whom I was bleeding, peeing or pooping. Later I found out that I did poo a little bit during the pushing and I was in too much pain to even notice. My husband assured me he was so freaked out about the deluge of blood that was coming out of me and more enraptured by seeing his son arriving (even though I had warned him to keep his gaze only north of the belly button!) to even care.

When we arrived at the maternity ward around 4 pm, it was an overflowing madhouse. There was a low pressure system over the city and the evening would see a solar eclipse. Whatever you may think about the influence of the stars upon our actions, it certainly seemed to have an effect on many a uterus in New York that day. We had to wait outside of the maternity ward as triage was overflowing and I took the opportunity to walk, naively trying to start a natural labour and avoid an induction. As I walked back and forth I saw a few women sweating and nearly screaming in pain as they entered active labour - a little foreshadowing of what lay in store for me- and were cruelly confined to the waiting room chairs. The staff kept coming out to apologize explaining they had no rooms nor even medical staff to deal with all the contracting uteri and that they were doing their best to the tune of heightened grunts and screams as I continued to pace.

Lovely M came with sustenance and an encouraging smile. They had ordered me not to eat but I snuck in food anyway as it looked likely that they would not even see me for hours in triage. Once in triage, they hooked me up to my prison of monitors and provided me with the most painful IV I had ever experienced - three hours and a bruised bump later I begged them to reinsert it. My contractions confused them- instead of a pattern, they appeared to come in sets, one overflowing into another and then a pause of sometimes nearly ten minutes before another series tried to conquer my sanity. I was then even more confident I could handle the pain as it was again confirmed that I was feeling the pain of actual contractions and able to walk and squat through them. This was going to be a cinch.

Hours later, my whole body shaking, bleeding down both my legs and crying, all I could handle was sitting, my confidence ruptured. At 10 pm they had inserted cervidil inside me. The insertion itself was really painful. They told me to lie still for 2 hours and get some rest as nothing would happen for 12 hours and then all the work would begin. Ha! As I needed to pee desperately, my son edging up against my exhausted bladder, my husband and I watched two episodes of Twin Peaks until I was allowed to pee. Then we said goodnight and settled in for much needed sleep before The Big Day. Less than one hour later, before I had a chance to take one wink of sleep, I was experiencing seismic pain rushing through me, my groans waking up my husband who had fallen into a deep, restful sleep and The Big Night began. 12 hours my arse. In two hours, I had started bleeding everywhere and was having one contraction after another, without break. My husband asked if I wanted the yoga massages, if I wanted to squat or do other poses or stretches with his help, if I wanted my chants on and all I could say through clenched teeth was that I didn't want him to touch me, that I wanted darkness and silence and didn't know what I wanted. I believe I kept murmuring I didn't know what I wanted as I sat in different positions, curled up, suffocated in my own surging pain. My bewildered husband didn't know how to help. I told him just holding my hand helped. Not knowing the strength of my grip, at one point, he politely told me that while he could handle my grip, if I kept pulling back his thumb, I would dislocate it.

Some time during this madness, my IV fell out and my husband grew pallid and called the nurse. "My wife's IV dropped out" he said shakily, "there's blood everywhere." I didn't care - I had been bleeding with each contraction down my legs, my husband at first scurrying to clean the floor until I growled at him that he should be more worried about me than the floor. At that point, my previous fear of doing dirty deeds in public had flown out the window. I would not have cared had I had diarrhea and it was all filmed and put on Youtube. All I could concentrate on, through the constant shaking and bleeding, was the pain. Each swell a tsunami of shattered nerves, hitting my pelvis, my abdomen and my back, which felt as if it were on fire(back labour - another gift of experience from the universe). The nurses intermittently came in to ask me if I wanted an epidural and I kept refusing. They constantly readjusted the monitors, which kept falling off. I asked if I could labour in the shower and they very nearly laughed at me. I could not be off the monitors for one second.

Hours later a new nurse came in and checked my contraction chart, her eyes growing wide. She said she would be back with the doctor in a minute. The overworked doctor came in, viewed the chart and immediately told me she was taking out the cervidil, which was another painful experience, causing me to bleed more.

By sunrise, I was defeated, near to collapse and crying. I gave in. I told my husband I had no more energy and would take an epidural. I was worried that if I didn't, I would have no strength to push. As we watched the sunrise over the Brooklyn Bridge in front of our window, I clenched my teeth through the pain, shaking so uncontrollably that I could not stand. "Isn't it beautiful?" my husband asked me. I nodded, having lost the strength to talk. It was as beautiful, brute moment of tortured sanity. I saved my last verbal effort to look my husband in the eye and sternly ask "where the fuck is this anesthesiologist? Call the nurse!"

I always read everything I sign. I'm an attorney. It's second nature to me. When the anesthesiologist came with her paperwork, I only looked at the signature line. She told me my contractions were too quick for her to wait for a pause and I would have to lie very still. I nodded. Just give me the drugs! The relief was almost instant. My nurse smiled at me. "There" she said, patting my shoulder. "Much more civilized now."

We later learnt that I was the only one that hadn't taken an epidural that night. My husband nodded, comprehending why I was the only one that people could hear on that floor. "They were probably all taking bets when you would give in" he laughed. I smiled stupidly at him, the drugs released into my system. I still felt the constant pressure, but no pain. He could have said he had an affair with a ewe and I would still have smiled up at him.

As against the epidural as I was, I believe it saved me from the C. From 8 am until half past 10 , when I began pushing, I could not sleep due to the constant pressure, but I could rest. My husband slept soundly by me, energized to be my chief cheerleader during the Big Push. By the time the doctor came in and said I was plus 3 (which I also wonder whether I would have reached had I not relaxed by taking the epidural, as the body clenches during pain) and ready to go, I had regained some of my energy. And boy did I need it. Pushing took all my strength and by the time he was out, I was out of it, screaming through my last three pushes.

I was confused when my boy came out silent. My husband was pallid and immediately left my side. I started to cry, not knowing what happened. My husband later explained that his shoulders had got stuck and that they had to resuscitate him, which explained all my tears. In a second, Luca was on my chest, looking up at me serenely with his enchanting eyes. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life - to have carried him and felt him squirming, hiccuping and kicking inside me, to have him so serenely looking up at me on my chest.

After my son was born, I had to push the placenta out and was surprised at how it looked - massive bulbous, iridescent. My attention was only diverted by the doctor preparing a massive syringe. "What's that for?" I croaked. "Nothing" she gently said. I nodded, not caring, looking enchanted at my son. "There's been an abrasion and some tears" she explained. I nodded and looked back at my son, my husband and I both crying with an outpour of insurmountable joy.

Nothing had happened the way I planned. Even the doctor on call, it being Friday, was the one doctor in my OB practice that I was not comfortable with - and yet, she was amazing - and it was right that the universe showed me once again that I was too quick to judge. Nothing in the end mattered but the fact that a new soul, part me, part my husband, born of our love, was looking up at me, lying on my chest and is now soundly asleep as I type away. I can't wait until it's feeding time again to pick him up in my arms and cuddle him. He is my other beating heart.


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