Tomorrow my first born turns 10. Double digits. She could scarcely fall asleep with the anticipation. What will the day hold? What surprises and gifts are in store?
My thoughts are on this night ten years ago when I recall the minutiae of the hours that led us to her arrival. We’d gone to the hospital for my inducement. I’d done everything recommended to bring on labour – carrying out some of the actions simultaneously in a two prong attack – all to no avail. As a last resort I’d faced the wrath of our local pharmacist. Castor oil is frowned upon in the UK but it was the shot of choice for expectant mothers back in Ireland in the 60s and speeded my entrance into the world.
Well you’d think I’d asked for contraband such was the reaction. The chief pharmacist was summoned, my request declined and I was rapped on the knuckles for even considering it as an option. I’m not sure I’d have gone through with it. Though if I’d have known what lay ahead for me in the labour ward I’d have tracked down a bottle and guzzled the dosage and more (100 mils of oil to 100 mils of orange juice). That morning I’d swallowed the dust/grit my mother had posted to me – a concoction from an enclosed order of praying nuns – as I recited the accompanying words to bring about a painless birth.
Ten years ago today we sauntered into the maternity ward of the hospital, swinging my sleepover bag and a packed supper for DH. You’d think I‘d have got an inkling of what lay ahead when I purchased the ‘recommended’ supplies. For buried under tiny white towelling baby grows and vests were soft disposable knickers and ultra absorbent pads, pile ointment, nipple cream, nipple pads and nipple protectors. Duh!
First gel was applied and later my waters burst with the insertion of a needle. I spent the next 8 hours wriggling in agony. I vomited until I’d filled two cardboard bowls and my stomach cavity was empty, though my belly was still massive with child. The only relief I got was through bounding around the ward in the wee small hours on a giant space hopper. I must have looked a sight.
Finally the midwife confirmed that things were starting and I was hooked up to monitors for the contractions to begin. It didn’t take them and me long to realise I was a lightweight where pain was concerned. So when I asked for an epidural I received one in prompt fashion. I’d gone from feeling invincible and amazonian woman to a withering mess who wanted to bail. How had it eluded me that childbirth hurts – a lot.
DH was at my side but couldn’t help me. I was out of reach. No one could help me. I was oblivious to all, a hostage to agony until the Greek doctor appeared. He pulled up a stool and sat by my straddled legs. “Ventouse” he pronounced – “we’ll do this together”. I was exhausted. Earlier the midwife had told me to “push from your bottom like you’re doing a poo”. I remember thinking to myself I can’t be a mother, I don’t even know for sure anymore where a baby comes out. The doctor had me look into his eyes and asked me to give one last push or he was going in to lift her out from my belly (or was it my bowel). So one primal grunt later out she came.
Joy. Love. Relief. Pain.
Flooded with gratitude to the man who made this possible. I speak of the Greek and not DH.
Those early well wishers calling to congratulate us first got to hear the blood and gore story. “But what’s she like?” they’d ask five minutes in and I’d realise I hadn’t mentioned the baby at all.
In hindsight I see that I was traumatised, that I couldn’t get over the pain that went with the birth. Primitive and visceral. Pain that swept me up and smashed me on the rocks. I didn’t expect to be left in such a mess either. A tear and repair. Stitches. For days I walked like I had a melon between my legs. My nipples were raw. Breastfeeding sucked.
But then I’d look at our girl, our February gift and know she was mine. Ours. She was out.
Being induced, I’d chosen her birthdate – avoided black Friday, the 13th and even Valentine’s day (who wants to get ripped off dining out on your birthday) going with the 12th.
Every day is taking her towards independence and further away from us. And I know that’s how it should be. But I revel in this day which was really the start of it all.