Monday, 29 April 2013

Something of an early arrival

I had great plans for some pregnancy posts. There were lots of things I wanted to write about in these last couple of weeks of pregnancy: worries about whether this was all a terrible idea (and what the hell we were going to do about it if it was); was this interloper going to ruin Lumpy's life; how on earth we were going to cope with two (two! 100% more than we were used to) children; how pregnancy had been different this time around (aka, moaning); and, of course, our plans for a home birth, and how that was inevitably going to be thwarted by me going two weeks overdue and having to be induced, in hospital, surrounded by angry doctors poking me with various pointy implements. At least, during the three weeks of pre-baby maternity leave this would allow, I'd get in plenty of time for lazing, napping, more lazing, and a good chunk of blogging.

Allow me a moment for a ironic laugh. A ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaah.

I finished work last Thursday. This would, in theory, give me ten days before my due date. Ten days to get my house in order, squeeze in a bit of pampering, and a healthy dose of the aforementioned lazing (I am a big fan of lazing, as you may have guessed, and have found my opportunities for it sorely limited over the last 2 years and 10 months). We had a minor panic on the Thursday night when my feet seemed a bit swollen and my blood pressure was a bit up. Here we go again, I thought, remembering my incarceration in the hospital last time around with the pre-eclampsia that never was. I had a midwife appointment the next day, and couldn't stop the waves of dread from flowing in. I'd be admitted, for sure, and end up being induced that weekend. Tears may have occurred.

But miraculously I got through the trial by midwife and was released for good behaviour and unproteined wee. I didn't even have to have another appointment for two weeks, which would take me to May 3rd, and a full five days overdue. A whole two weeks in which to panic about failing to go into labour naturally and getting induced. I walked out of the doctor's in a daze, and went for a pedicure, subjecting a poor unsuspecting beautician to my swollen hobbit feet, and emerging with swollen hobbit feet with nice red toenails.

I looked after Lumpy, wondering if this would be our last day of just us, together, and guessing it probably wouldn't. We had a lovely weekend, taking Lumpy swimming, drinking in the long-awaited sunshine, and having picnics in the garden. It was all very idyllic, and my mind kept playing on how a new baby would fit into this comfortable little family unit we already had, veering between thinking it was going to blow it all apart, like a small, screaming, poo-bomb, and hoping it might slot right in, be one of us.

I was really looking forward to the few days after the weekend. Lumpy would be at nursery, and I would have the days all to myself - unimaginable bliss. I had a massage booked for first thing Monday morning, and waking up that day with no contractions or any other sinister labour signs, I felt rather pleased with myself. Over the next few days I would do all those little things that just had to be done before the Flumpy arrived, but had somehow been ignored over the last nine months. Plus a lot of lazing, naturally.

I waved off Lumpy, who was aware something was up and got a bit grizzly leaving for nursery. I had to pretend I was following on my bike, until they were safely out of view. Nothing like a good bit of parental deception! Then I dashed back into the house for a shower, because what masseuse wants to massage a heavily pregnant smelly badger (or a heavily pregnant fragrant badger, for that matter - but hey, I had little control over those other factors). The massage was at an entirely new place, as the lovely masseuse I'd been going to throughout the time of great swelling and fatness (as I had come to think of pregnancy) wasn't well, so had cancelled my original appointment. This going to a new place actually made me feel strangely vulnerable, in my beached walrus-like state. But I manned up, and drove to the appointment. I'd considered biking, as it was only 3 or 4 miles away, and I'd been cycling to work a few days before. But sense triumphed for once, and I also thought I'd like to have a rampage round the shops afterwards, and didn't really fancy carrying seventeen shopping bags back on my handlebars.

I had the massage, which was very nice, if rather strange. It was a special kind I'd never come across before, where you lie on your back on top of two giant heated water-filled cushions. The masseuse slips their hands between you and the pillows to massage your back, so you don't have to turn over at any point. It's all a bit wobbly and oleaginous and strange, a bit like being massaged in the sea in the middle of an oil slick. And also slightly pervy-feeling - but let's not go there. She also massaged my feet, which, in my drifting dreamy state I remember being mildly concerned by, as my usual masseuse has always made a point of avoiding them, as supposedly it can bring on labour. I also found myself wondering what would happen if my waters broke while I was lying on this strange water-cushion contraption? With all the oil and water, would either of us notice?

But I managed to get through the hour without bursting or birthing, and drifted out into the sunshine to see what shopping delights Abingdon had to offer. Being a total scabby cheapskate, I spent most of my time in charity shops, before a frenzied food shop in Co-op, where I stocked up on essentials like crisps, frankfurters, and chocolate. All this time I was checking to see if I felt any twinges, any sort of rumblings or impending signs of a baby wanting to make its way out of my orifices. But there was nothing.

I drove back home, ate some strange combination of food for lunch, then had a sorting/lazing compromise by sitting on the couch watching the endless episodes of Masterchef I had recorded over the last few weeks, while going through a ridiculous mass of old make up, hair gunk, and deodorants that had been taking up half of our bathroom for the last year. I was very bold, and threw half of it all away, then decided enough was enough, and retreated to bed for a while, to listen to my natal hypnotherapy CD again. This CD was the home birth version of the one I'd used last time, and is all very 'breathing in golden light', 'going to your special safe place', and visualizing your cervix, but it worked last time, and I actually really enjoyed the 40 minutes of stopping and just breathing that it offered. I often fell asleep after listening to it (or even during it, recently), but this time I was strangely alert, and felt reasonably awake afterwards. I lay in bed for a while, but eventually dragged myself out, and went to make a bolognese for that evening. Still no signs or squeaks of labour, though I did note that Flumpy hadn't been moving as much as he usually did. I decided not to panic about this - my placenta was anterior this time, so cushioned some of the movements, and he'd never been the most kicky and wiggly of babies, anyway. I rang Grandma Badger and told her about the massage, and reassured her that nothing was happening on the baby arrival front. We joked about how I should send her a text before calling from now on, so she didn't panic that I was in labour every time the phone rang. I''m sure I said something along the lines of 'oh, he won't be here for ages'...

Mr Badger and Lumpy arrived back from work and nursery (respectively), and we scoffed the bolognese. Then, as always, the boys went into the living room to watch an episode of something improving, like Abney and Teal or Bob the Builder, while I went and got Lumpy's bath ready. I finished running it, and had a sneaky wee. After finishing, I went to sit on the floor and realized I was still weeing.  And I couldn't stop it happening. I had, spontaneously, become utterly incontinent. I had been sporadically incontinent during this pregnancy - particularly during a vicious month-long cough that I'd had back in January, and my introduction to the world of Tena lady had been utterly miserable, so this was not a welcome development.

Except... it didn't quite feel like wee, or weeing. I jumped up and sat back on the loo, and felt a rush of liquid falling out of me. The stuff that was on the bath mat was also not very wee-like, but looked like it had come from somewhere else entirely (if you catch my vaginal drif. SO to speak. Oh god, it's only going to get worse from here on in, you know...)

Not quite wanting to believe it, I started to admit that this was my waters breaking.


This hadn't happened to me last time. Well, obviously it had happened at some point, but I had somehow managed not to notice it. God only knows how, as the amount of liquid coming out was quite remarkable, and certainly not something you'd miss. I gingerly got up off the toilet, and sat back on the floor, studiously avoiding the pool of liquid beside me. A few minutes later, Lumpy and Mr Badger came up the stairs.

"I think my waters just broke," I said. "I'm a bit scared," I added, rather quieter.

"Ah," said Mr Badger. "Right."

"What's 'waters broke'?" asked Lumpy, attempting to pull off a sock. "Buh-dooooing!"

Mr Badger and I exchanged a look.

"It means Flumpy Pie might be coming soon," I said carefully. "In less than 48 hours, anyway," I added, looking at Mr Badger again. Waters breaking before labour, I thought. Induction, drips, hospitals. Bugger bugger arse.

"Buh-doiiiiiiiiing!" said Lumpy, pulling off his other sock.

"I'll ring your mum," said Mr Badger. Then, "I'm a bit scared too."

I gave Lumpy his bath, trying to be completely normal and cheery, while my head was going 'gaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!' and more pools of amniotic fluid were pouring out of my lady parts and onto the now rather sodden bath mat. I scooped Lumpy out of the bath [splosh!], wrapped him in a towel [gush!], and pretended to eat his toes [dribble!], just as normal, except I was leaking.

We got him ready for bed, me thinking 'is this the last time?', as if an atomic bomb was about to exit my womb, rather than a baby.

"If you're a very good boy," I heard Mr Badger say, as he and Lumpy headed to his bedroom to read stories. "You might have a baby brother in the morning."

Oh shit, I thought. That would mean I'd have a baby too.

Not ready not ready not ready. Need more lazing time.

This was different to last time, too. Last time, after my hospitalization of ridiculousness, I had an appointment with a consultant the day after my due date, where I was pretty sure she was planning to tie me to a bed and induce the arse out of me. So going into labour the day before his due date was a massive relief.

I took some deep breathes, got up off the bathroom floor, folded up the sodden bath mat, and went to change my trousers. Over the next hour or so, I changed my trousers about seven times. I could practically see my bump deflate as all the fluid poured out. Seriously, how the hell had I missed this last time?

Grandma Badger had said she'd head over straight away. Even if I wasn't going into labour tonight, it would be better for her to be there, than to get a desperate call hours later. I felt distinctly comforted by the fact she would be here, to look after Lumpy if needs be. That had been one of our major concerns over the whole process - what if I had to be transfered to hospital unexpectedly? I really didn't want to drag him out of bed and dump him in a strange house amidst panic and sirens.

I did some panicky tidying of the bedroom and the kitchen, vaguely aware that there may be midwifes in the house at some point soon, and if they saw the state of the place they'd probably shove a plug up me, refuse to let a baby be born in such a tip, and whisk it off to social services as soon as it emerged. At least I'd bought biscuits that morning.

At about 8pm, I was just jittering around the kitchen, when I felt a vague, mild crampy feeling.

Hmm, I thought, glancing at the clock, that's interesting.

Five minutes later, there was another one.

Mr Badger came downstairs, and I updated him on this new development. He disappeared quickly upstairs to start pumping up the birth pool (this had been his number two concern, after the 'what to do with the Lumpy' issue). I got the birth ball out and bounced up and down on it in front of Paul Hollywood's bread programme on the telly. Something that looked truly disgusting, but was no doubt really delicious, was shown rising in fast forward. I closed my eyes and breathed. 3-2-1 relax. Go to the special beach. The special beach in the Maldives. Drink a bloody great cocktail. In your mind.

The contractions were fine. I started timing them on an app, just to be sure. They were about 45 seconds long, every five minutes. But I could talk through them, and they were only mildly distracting. Mr Badger came back down, then decided to call the midwife. He was put through, and chatted briefly to her, explaining that we'd had a pretty quick labour last time. She said she'd come over straight away, but was up in Bicester, so it could be a little while. Mr Badger headed upstairs to start filling the birth pool, with a bucket supplementing the hose, running up and down the stairs from the bathroom to our attic-conversion bedroom about twenty times. At least it gave him something to do.

Grandma Badger turned up just before 9. We chatted for a few minutes, before I went off to the loo, just as a stronger contraction hit me. It still wasn't bad, but I definitely had to stop and think about it, and I was starting to channel the inner cow once again, letting out a deep moooooooo as it lasted. 

Hmm, I thought, as I pattered back into the living room, glancing at the clock. I wonder if he'll be born today or tomorrow.

The midwife turned up a few minutes later. It was quite odd, showing a stranger into the house and doing the usual small talk, while pausing to contract every 3-5 minutes, and mooing. Luckily she was a lovely Sturdy Irish Lass (SIL from hereon in), and I felt pretty comfortable with her. She looked through my notes, then took my blood pressure.

Ah, the blood pressure. I'm so good at that.

It was fairly ridiculous - 160/95 or something. I had taken it myself a bit earlier, and it had been fine - 120/80 or similar. She checked I had no other symptoms, and I explained about my White Coat Syndrome.

"Okaaaaay," she said slowly, and a bit cautiously. "We'll take another reading in a minute. We don't want that one."

She took it again after another contraction had just died away. It was acceptable this time - 140/85. Still a bit high, but hey, I was in labour. Cut me some slack. SIL seemed satisfied, anyway. She sat back on the couch, and looked at my notes again, noticing that I had utterly failed to fill in my birth plan. Ah yes. I was going to do that tomorrow. During my lovely, relaxing, pre-baby maternity leave.

I outlined what we wanted - as natural as possible, mentioning that we'd been doing natal hypnotherapy. At that, she seemed to switch slightly, watching me more carefully during the next contraction.

"Ah, you hypnotherapy mums," she said. "That's why you've been so calm. Well, maybe we should go upstairs, and I can examine you, and we'll see where we're at."

I walked up the two flights of stairs, mooing gently, then lay on the bed, and had a woman who I'd only met 30 minutes ago shove her hand up my nether regions. It was a little awkward, but needs must. She said I was about 4cm, which I tried not to think about or analyze too much. Last time, I hadn't been examined at all, at any point, as I was virtually pushing by the time we got to the hospital.

She left her hand up there through the next contraction, which was delightful. She said the head was still quite a long way off the cervix, and she'd like to bring it down a bit more before getting into the water, so she suggested I got on the birth ball again for a bit. I decided I needed a wee, so went into the bathroom first, where I had a rather almighty contraction. The midwife popped her head round the door and mentioned that the next few contractions might be a bit stronger, since she'd had a good rummage around in there.

She wasn't wrong. I managed to get out of the bathroom, and stood leaning against the bed, mooing loudly, and weaving my hips from side to side. They were coming quickly now, it seemed. I couldn't really tell, but it must have been every minute or so. Mr Badger held my hands and reminded me to breathe. The midwife watched, and listened, then, after about 10 minute, suggested I should get into the pool now.

"Really?" I said. "If you're sure it's alright?" I knew you shouldn't get in the water before 5cm, as it can slow labour down. It was intense enough at that time that I really didn't want to slow it down. I wanted it done, as soon as possible.

"Yes, I think you should," said SIL. "I think you're progressing pretty quickly."

I vaulted into the water. It felt nice, warm and soothing. But then another contraction came, and I just thought, oh fucking hell. I can't do this. I just can't. I made a little sobbing noise, then, as the next contraction came on, tried to scrabble out of the pool on the wrong side, towards the wall. I was trying to run away from labour.

And then, all of a sudden, I wanted to push. And I did, just a little bit.

My tone of mooing must have changed, somehow, because the midwife apparently let out a big sigh, then sent Mr Badger running downstairs to her car, to get oxygen, just in case. She'd rung the second midwife a while before, but she was still a little while away. With that sigh, she'd realized she was going to have to do this on her own.

She came over to the pool, practically grabbed my face and said we had to slow down and calm down. Whether this was mostly for my benefit, or for hers, I'm not completely sure, but I tend to obey orders, so I took some really deep breaths and forced myself to take a step back, hold off, and relax. Mr Badger got back from the car (the midwife later admitted that she was slightly scared he'd miss the birth, but that she had to take the risk to get the oxygen up there in case the baby needed it.

I think she may have given me permission to push at that point. Or maybe I gave it to myself. Whatever, I pushed. And pooed. Oh yes, I refuse to give birth without doing a great big poo at some point. I was vaguely aware or a slight kerfuffle as the sieve supplied with the pool was located, and some poo fishing partaken in. It'll be the next big thing at the fair this year, I can assure you!

After the next push I could feel the baby's head coming down, though the water was softening everything and making it harder to tell exactly what was happening. I sneakily put one hand down to feel, and there seemed to be some head there. Blimey, I thought. This is actually happening. I think I can do this. A couple more pushes and the head was out. The midwife told me that after the next push I should reach down and scoop the baby up to bring him out of the water in front of me. And, after the next push, that's what I did. One of my fears was not being able to find he baby in the water, and to leave him floating around there indefinitely. So I was very relieved to grab him straight away and bring him up to the surface.

The cord was around his neck. Twice. And then around his body. I vaguely registered this, before the midwife swooped in and deftly unwrapped it. He started to breathe properly, and then let out that distinct, newborn, outraged cry.

I sat back in the water, kissed him, and grinned. This must be a dream, I thought, looking across the room at my bed.

A good one, though.

Hello, my Flumpy. My darling, wonderful, amazing boy, my love. Hello.

I'll even forgive you for stealing all my lazing time. And that's saying something.