Part Three – Gwen’s arrival
(Part One) (Part Two)
7:30pm - Sally said, “This baby’s going to be here by 8:00!” It was exciting to feel that this was going to end, and that there was going to be something else happening next, and I didn’t even realize that I had no frame of reference – I had no idea what time it was or how close 8:00 was. It didn’t even matter, it was the exact right thing to say.
I got a lot of encouragement from everyone during the pushing stage. Chris stood near me with tears in his eyes, telling me I was so strong and so amazing and that he couldn’t believe what I was doing. Janice stroked my forehead and told me I was so precious. Sally told me to take in a breath deep enough to sing a long, high phrase, and then push during the whole time I let the breath out. (This was awesome not only because I could relate perfectly to what she told me to do, but because it was so refreshing to think about something not related to the baby or the birth!) Behind me, I could hear Lillian and the nurse (Desiree - yes, Kat, the one you met!) saying, “Wow, she is a really good pusher,” which gave me a lot of strength as well – they weren’t just saying it to me, placating me by saying the right things, they were commenting to each other that this labour was going really well and that I was doing a fantastic job.
As the baby crowned, Lillian asked if I wanted to reach back and feel her head, which I did. OH MY GOD!! What an incredible feeling.
In between each contraction, her head would slip back in a bit, and in my haze I thought she was going all the way back in and I was losing all my progress. Of course, the other people in the room knew that this was not the case. In between was the hardest part because I was so stretched out, but I couldn’t push without a contraction, so I had to just stay still and try to block out the pain.
The head finally came out (after about 10 pushes) and she spat up right away, which was good. Lillian saw that the shoulders were quite large, so she said, “little pushes” while she worked gently to ease my perineum around the shoulders. Lillian then said to me, “When she comes out, just sit up onto your knees (I was on all fours with my upper body against the head of the bed) and I will put her between your legs.” Right after that, Sally told me that the nurse was getting the bassinet ready for the baby. I was incredibly energized all of a sudden – with these two statements, I felt infused with power and strength and the understanding that I was within seconds of meeting my daughter. There was no stopping me after that point!
With the next contraction, I pushed with everything I had – but when the contraction ended, the baby wasn’t born yet, so I didn’t stop. I had decided I couldn’t take anymore, so even without the contraction I kept pushing, pushing, pushing, with every bit of strength and desire and determination that I could muster. And then she was out. And like a light switch, the pain stopped. I had almost stopped remembering what it was like not to be in pain, and suddenly it had cut off completely. I was almost as amazed at that sensation as I was about the fact that I had a baby!
7:56pm - I sat back on my knees and looked down and there was my daughter. She was pink and slippery and wiggly and crying and amazing. All I could do was say “Oh my God, Oh my God,” over and over. I was completely awestruck. Janice described this moment as lightning going through my body and bringing me back to life.
Gwen made excellent noises right away, she didn’t even need to be suctioned as she got rid of all her own mucus. The only snag at this point was that the cord was not long enough for her to come up to my chest – probably the reason she’d kept slipping back inside throughout the crowning. Lillian asked Chris, who had been planning to cut the cord with a Japanese ceremonial knife, what he wanted to do. Chris immediately said that the cord should be cut with the scissors as that was all there was room for, and that he could trim it with the knife later. He didn’t care at all about losing that ritual, he just wanted Gwen to get up to my breasts right away.
Then we sang Gwen her song - a song Chris and I had sung to her during the pregnancy many, many times.
This is a triumph
I'm making a note here, "Huge Success"
It's hard to overstate my satisfaction
We do what we must, because we can
For the good of all of us
Except the ones who are dead
But there's no sense crying over every mistake
You just keep on trying till you run out of cake
And the science gets done, and you make a neat gun, for the people who are still alive...
I cuddled with Gwen while Lillian and Desiree cleaned me up. I expressed my joy that all my work was done, till Lillian reminded me that there was the little matter of the placenta. Ugh! Haven’t I done enough? We then had this little conversation about the fact that I hadn’t sworn at all during labour – the one thing I had been sure I would do, as I am quite a potty mouth at the best of times. I think the reason I hadn’t been cursing a blue streak is because there just wasn’t energy to waste on unimportant words. If I was going to say something, it had to express the maximum of meaning with the minimum of effort – “back” meant “put counterpressure on my back”, “water” meant “get me some water”, “okay” meant “the contraction is over”. Sally told me later that at one point in late labour, I had said “Oh my goodness,” which cracked her right up – oh golly gee, gosh darn it!
I also said “I can’t do this,” “Please God,” and “Come on baby,” a lot.
Birthing the placenta was a challenge, as there were no contractions to push against, but I just sucked it up and did it, gazing at my beautiful daughter the whole time. After that, Desiree had to press on my uterus to see if it was contracting properly, which hurt like hell. Then Lillian stitched me up (9 stitches), which I couldn’t even feel. And I peed right on the table and didn’t feel a thing and also did not care in the slightest.
For the next hour or so I held my daughter, both of us naked, while people fussed around and cleaned up and checked out the placenta, which had two interesting features – a double membrane, which Lillian said she hadn’t seen in twenty years, and a lot of calcification, which was probably due to my high-ice-cream diet. Things were slow and relaxing at this time. Once in a while I felt that perhaps I should let someone else hold the baby, but I decided I’d earned some uninterrupted time with her, and that everyone else would have a turn eventually.
At about 9pm, Lillian said, “Should we do the newborn exam, now that she’s an hour old?” I couldn’t believe an hour had gone by already. She was weighed (8 lb 12 oz), measured (21 inches long), and quantified in all kinds of ways (apgars of 8 and 9). Chris trimmed the cord with his Japanese knife.
While I lay there, I looked down and realized I could see my feet again! My belly was gone! (Well, greatly reduced, anyway.) I was encouraged to get up and take a shower and try to pee, one of which I was successful at. Chris held Gwen for the first time, and so did Sally and Janice, while I was showering.
After I got out of the shower, it was time for logistics. Chris had forgotten to bring Gwen’s bag (the one with her sleepers, diapers, going-home outfit, and so on) to the hospital; he explained that this was because when we left for the hospital, he was entirely focused on me and my needs, to the extent that he sort of forgot there would be another person with us on the way home. He’d also forgotten the camera and his parents’ phone number (no, he’s not the type who has his parents’ phone number memorized – after a year, he has almost learned ours). I saved the day by having a small card with the important people’s phone numbers on it – Emily’s Great Big Hospital Bag Packing List suggested it, so I had it, so he was able to call his parents and tell them they had a granddaughter. We also called Auntie Sara, Honourary Uncle Mike, and my parents. After that was all done, a plan was made by which Janice and Chris would go back to the house, Janice would head out in Chris’s car to buy ice cream (which was, of course, ALL I wanted to eat), Chris would pick up Gwen’s bag and come back to the hospital, and then Chris, Sally, Gwen and I would head back home.
Yes, I left the hospital the same night. I was pretty determined to do this, and the experience of labour and birth did not dissuade me. Had it been 2am I may have felt differently, but I didn’t see any reason to stay – all I wanted was my own bed and to feel normal again.
So at about 11pm we headed out of the hospital room, our crazy laden caravan, and went home.