11 days late, Malachi was born into the world under slightly different circumstances than I had planned or would have liked. I had missed my opportunity to have a home birth and so, after holding off for as long as I could, we headed into hospital not much before 11pm. We were shown into an admittedly large and pleasant delivery room, which the midwife said they had given me to try to make it as home-like as possible. The transition slowed my contractions down a little, but not for long, and soon I was on my knees on the floor, sucking on the gas and air in desperation as pain ripped through my body and my free hand flailed around in protest. To be honest, the speed of the progression caught me by surprise, and I had no time to really prepare myself for the radically increased intensity of my contractions – my coping mechanisms of breathing and visualisation went out the window, and I realised how much I would have benefitted from somebody there to remind me of them.
The midwife had left me to labour a while but, eventually, some time within the hour, she examined me again and noted that I had gone from 4cm to 8cm dilated. She kept telling me to follow my body, that I would know when it was time to push. She wouldn’t examine me again to discover if I was 10cm. And this created a complex for me. I started wanting to push, but was it safe to push? She kept telling me to do what felt right – if it felt like time to push it was probably time to push. Probably? That didn’t seem good enough to me; I had become very unsure of myself in this strange situation, and I was defaulting to my tendency to obey the figure of authority, because I didn’t feel like I had any. This was one of the things I had been trying to avoid by planning a home birth, but that didn’t matter anymore.
After a while, I started trying out some gentle pushing – I couldn’t bring myself to really go for it, and I felt myself trying a bit and then halting it, out of fear. The midwife checked me after a while, and said she could feel the sack of waters bulging out, and so I should push. And on one of the subsequent pushes they gushed forth, startling Edward.
So now it was time to push, but still I kept interrupting myself, because I’d been holding off so long that now it felt wrong to push. I had been ‘resting’ on the bed for a while, and I got back round onto all fours, which significantly intensified things. It was actually incredibly unpleasant, but equally it felt like how things were supposed to be – I felt more able to push, the contractions were quicker and more intense, urging me to push, and I could console myself by burying my face in the bed and rocking.
But what seemed like very soon after that, the midwife wanted me back on my back to ‘open up my hips more’. This led to more pain, much more discomfort, and a slowing of my contractions. She put my feet in the stirrups and kept adjusting them to push my knees toward me. I had to keep asking her to lower them again because of how much it hurt my right leg. Then she kept raising the back of the bed, which curved my back and caused even more pain and discomfort. So I found myself in the very position I knew I didn’t want to be in, and it was about as bad as I could have imagined. My old back and knee injuries were clearly making themselves known.
Plus the mouth piece on the gas and air had started making an atrociously loud buzzing which blocked out all other sound and vibrated incessantly in my mouth. It was obviously to do with the change in my breathing now that things were really serious, but try as I might I couldn’t rectify it. While it was buzzing, it was also failing to deliver the full amount of gas. So I was trapped in distraction and frustration, unable to ignore the buzzing as the midwife kept instructing, and unable to set aside my crutch, even if all it was really doing at this point was giving me something to bite down on.
I was annoyed at myself for not claiming more power over the situation. I was annoyed at the midwife for following such conventional wisdom and more or less ignoring my protests (as weak as they may have been, I don’t really remember). I was supremely annoyed at the mouth piece. The whole thing felt fudged.
But at some point, the gas and air was set aside, the midwife told me in no uncertain terms what I needed to be doing, and he started coming out. My contractions had slowed down a lot now that I was on my back, and it felt like in between pushes we were all just tensely waiting for something to happen again for an unreasonable length of time. There began to be talk of drugs and doctors because I had been pushing for so long. The midwife stepped up her cheerleader game, which I was incredibly grateful for, and Malachi emerged before drugs or doctors.
It wasn’t how I had wanted it to be, but it was over, and I couldn’t say it had been so bad. And now he was on my chest. In the real world. A real human. Who we had made.
Was it worth it? Of course. Would I do it again? Not like this.