I threw on Christmas Eve 2012.
My father-in-law’s tourtiere never gets enough love from the rest of the family, so I washed down three helpings with some ketchup and a beer. It all came up an hour after I got into bed. My poor mum-in-law cleaned it all up while I sat shivering in her kitchen with a cup of hot water. My sis-in-law wondered, maybe you’re pregnant? Ha ha ha, no way. Probably just drank too much, I’m such a lightweight, ha ha ha.
My period didn’t come on Boxing Day so I grabbed a pack of tests, which I passed with flying colours. I dug up my BellaBands.
The first 20 weeks were a blur as I was busy managing M’s electoral campaign. I did blood tests that I didn’t remember doing, and all was well. Until the scan.
They had found some flags in the ultrasound. Brick-shitting commenced.
The technician and the doc at the hospital wouldn’t tell us a thing, but the doc had an air about her that said, “this is a serious matter and you should be taking this very seriously”; we had to make an appointment with the doctor. We couldn’t get an appointment with our doc for a week and a half, and when we saw her, she told us we had to get an appointment with the genetic counsellor back at the hospital. (Why didn’t they just schedule an appointment with the counsellor for us?) The election was in a week and a half, so I called the hospital and said, hey, we’re super duper busy, is this time-sensitive? Maybe we could meet after the 14th? The nurse who answered danced around the issue at first, but finally said to me, look lady, this is serious, OK? You got until the end of this week to decide if you want to keep the baby, so you’d better come in before the end of this week.
Wait what? I must be really slow, but it did not occur to me until that moment that I had a choice. We’d been shitting bricks for three weeks but only now did I realise my ankle is tied to a rope that’s tied to those bricks. Those bricks were now dragging me down into a deep, deep abyss where no one should ever have to go. I was prepared to handle whatever creature came out of my womb, but I was not prepared to choose between life or death for this little thing that’s kicking me in the ribs.
I thought about all the mothers who have gone down into this abyss. I’m willing to bet most people who think women have abortions willy-nilly have never had to make this decision themselves.
So M took a day off the campaign trail and we went to meet the counsellor to get us some answers. Luckily, they were reassuring answers. One of the flags is linked to Down’s, the other to Edward’s. Both were weak markers. Having two markers that point in different directions, plus reassuring results from the previous blood tests, meant that both were likely false-positives.
We eventually made peace with the whole thing and life went on. M lost the election but managed to meet our personal goals, and I got bigger and bigger.
R was sleeping through the nights more and more, and started sleeping in his own bed. Somewhere along the way he became a “father’s boy” and it made my life much easier.
Our neighbour decided to make all ours much harder, though, by being a humongous dick. Now that it’s over with — hopefully his place is sold for real and he’ll be gone forever — I don’t really want to go into that story again, like, ever, so let’s just say I got my money’s worth out of my doula for the late night “please help me get through this” phone calls.
I was feeling very, very heavy by 34 weeks. My sciatica was not improving despite weeks of strengthening exercises and physiotherapy. My back and legs seemed to always be achy no matter how much I stretched and rested. I knew the baby had to come soon — I couldn’t possibly get any bigger!
At 2am on August 21st, R woke me up with a cry for moo-moo and I couldn’t get back to sleep. I started counting the time between my B-Hicks. At 4am I nudged M and said, “I think my contractions are real.” He told me to try to get some sleep, but then soon got up to have a shower: “You just told me that we’re having a baby. How am I supposed to sleep now?”
We showered, (M shaved,) packed our bags, and at 7am asked my parents to come over and take R and Girdog to their place. At my doula’s advice, we curled up and tried to get more sleep. Amazingly, my contractions got stronger while I dozed. We then walked to get a coffee, stopping every hundred meters or so to wait out a contraction. It was so, so sunny. So, so hot out. I wanted sushi for lunch. Raw fish. Worried about food poisoning triggering labour? Not anymore bitches. M went and picked up some takeouts. I timed my contractions… they stalled a bit when M was out, but they’re steady as a drumbeat. I was getting pretty excited.
“You sound great,” my doula kept saying when she heard me on the phone.
We got to BC Women’s a few ticks after 3pm. The admitting nurse looked alarmed. “Get her in first,” she told her colleague, “she’s in distress.”
I tried to reassure her. “Don’t worry, my last labour was a marathon.” She looked at me like I was crazy.
“She’s seven centimetres,” she said to the nurse who would help me through the rest of my labour.
“And she’s still smiling?”
I patted M’s arm proudly. “Just because he’s here.”
We were ushered to the labouring ward. We looked at our room in disappointment. No big fancy tub, no cot. It was dim and without any natural light. But I had work to do. I ate frozen blueberries and watermelon and rocked on the birth ball, holding M’s and my doula’s hands. I cried when the contractions came and I told them my fears — I didn’t even know what I was afraid of, but I was getting so scared. Scared that I didn’t have enough energy to get through it, scared of the intensifying pain, scared of losing my mind. I was scared of not knowing what to do because I didn’t know what I was doing the first time around either.
The nurse was delaying checking me deliberately — she wanted to wait for my doctor to show up first. She kept checking the clock. “She’ll be here soon…”
My doctor would later explain that the examination would rupture the sac. As she examined me, she gave me a brief warning — and off we went. Everything got wet. The nurse and my doc wow’d. Even I managed a chuckle. Two contractions, and I thought, maybe I should get me some pain meds! There’s no way I can keep this up! I screamed and I cried. “I cant’t –” I started saying before my language facilities failed.
I had, in fact, entered the second stage, also known as “pushing.”
I’ve read about the stretching and the so-called Ring of Fire but I frankly don’t remember much of the physical pain anymore. I only recall the deep, blind fear I felt as I thrashed on the bed before my doc stopped me and gave me this wonderful advice: “you haven’t poo’d in five days and you have a big poop. So here’s what you gotta do. Take a deep breath in, and then push!”
So push I did. When the next contraction came, I took a deep breath and give three solid pushes. My doula reports good news: she could see the head! We’re almost there! I took another deep breath with the rising of the contraction and pushed again. OK, I could manage this. And again. The pressure was relieved and I felt another big gush of liquid between my legs. “And one more push!” I heard someone shout. No more pressure, just the feeling of a weird dangly thing between my legs as I heard a new, unfamiliar voice fill the room with a tragic cry. A slippery creature was placed on my chest. I was surprised by the tears of joy on M’s face.
“You did it,” he said.
We held Oliver Daniel together as he fell asleep on my chest.
“Good job, earth mama,” said my doc.
“You’re so good at it you should come back and have more babies,” said the nurse.