Sunday, April 30, 2006

Where's my baby?

Milestone today as son celebrated his sixth birthday.

Six years have zoomed by just like that. Where has my baby gone?

In six years' time, according to his 'little red book', he would be about my height.

And then of course another six years after that when he's eighteen, he'd be ....

God willing, he'd be doing something worthwhile with his life.

Fathers don't take birthdays as mothers do, I think.

I can still remember many of the little details surrounding son's arrival.

Being an older first-time mother meant being asked numerous times whether we wanted to test for Down's. I felt under a lot of pressure to test. It was as if the NHS did not want another Down's baby to burden the system or that they wanted to make sure that we do not turn around and sue them for not discovering early enough that baby could have Down's.

Signs of our time.

Baby was so-oo overdue. Seventeen days to be precise.

By Week 41 I was begging the midwife to have it induced because I was in constant pain from 'symphysis pubis dysfunction' (hip girdle separating in preparation for baby's birth) causing pain with every movement of the legs -- walking (waddling actually), turning in bed especially took a lot of effort. Excruciating. I won't wish that pain on my worst enemy.

They tried and they tried but they could not find a date in their diary! They could not get staff for the Easter weekend, so ... sorry, you have to carry the baby for another week.

Finally on a Friday morning scheduled for induction, I headed for the hospital determined to return home the next time with a baby. I was so naive I thought that 'induction' meant they would induce me on Friday morning and the baby will appear Friday evening, at the latest.

Saturday morning, no baby. Labour started in earnest. Panic, they have no room in delivery suite. Contractions getting more frequent. Weather getting warmer and more humid.

Get the baby out of me!

Sorry, delivery suite busy. No room.

By some miracle, the contractions became less frequent. But still, no room in delivery suite.

Sunday morning. Early morning, midwife who had been really nasty to me the previous night decided that I must get to delivery suite. Out of the blue I was quickly wheeled to Delivery, with midwife going, 'By hook or by crook I'll get you there before somebody gets the slot.'

Gosh! I thought, 'I'm having a baby, not running a race.' But this was how ridiculous the NHS had become, six years ago.

So more drugs, more of whatever they pump into you to get your contractions going. More internal examinations. More blood tests, at the end of which they discovered someone had given me an infection. Quick, put her on antibiotics.

Many hours later with a husband getting really, really bored, lots of pain and an epidural later, 'Your cervix has not dilated enough.'

Wait. Change of shift. Another midwife in charge. 'Your baby is getting distressed.'

'What?'

Every time I had a contraction (and they were very frequent), baby's heartbeat shot up.

'I think we might have to go into theatre. But we'll have to wait for a surgeon.'

Soon, surgeon came. Read the charts. Yes, baby's heartbeat not looking good.

'I'm afraid you'd have to join the conveyor belt,' guffawed said surgeon. He was a very black man with very white teeth and a very, very infectious laugh. (He was wearing wellies.) You can't help but like Mr. Williams. I needed to go into theatre immediately.

It happened so fast. I was so exhausted by then I could not imagine where I could summon the strength to push. So I was actually pleased to learn that they had made a clinical decision to give me a C-section.

My only concern then was: 'Does my husband have time to get a coffee?'

He did.

Papers signed. Someone had to remove my nail polish -- I had wanted to look elegant when my baby was born! Rushed into theatre. Husband gowned up. Epidural topped up.

Asked the young anaesthetist if I was going to feel much pain.

'You'll be fine. You might feel like someone's doing the washing-up in your belly.'

'How do YOU know?' I barked at him. 'You've never tried it.'

'O, that's what I've been told,' he smiled.

I don't know what they were doing, but it did feel like someone washing up down there. (After the event Mr. Williams told me that baby was very deep down the birth canal and his head was lodged there. They had to pull him back up. Poor lad.)

Then horror of horrors, I felt pain.

'Help! I can feel pain.'

Anaesthetist called out, 'Hey guys, stop. Let's check.' Seconds later, some more prodding.

'Can you feel this?'

'No.'

And they continued to do the 'washing up'? (Without Fairy liquid, thankfully.)

Till finally, as if by magic, like a breath of much-needed fresh air, it felt like a large weight had been lifted off me. All 8 pounds 11 and a half ounzes of baby -- and 'strings' attached!

I felt wonderful? tired? relief? (Answer: All of the above.)

We were congratulated for now having a baby boy.

I had asked the staff to clean up baby a little before showing it to me. Husband took a peek while they did that, came back and whispered.

'Bad news.'

'What?' I asked with whatever energy I had left. 'What's wrong?'

'He's got your nose.'

If I could move my arms, I would have slapped him. We had been wondering whether baby would have a nose like mine (small and flat) or his (let's just say not very small and not very flat). And let's just say at that very moment I was not concerned with what baby's nose was like.

When they showed me my baby I thought 'drowned rat'. Ugly, drowned rat.

And felt guilty. All the magazines tell me I was supposed to feel my baby was the loveliest living thing I have ever seen. But no, he looked ... ugly. His dark hair was still plastered in some birth fluid and being seventeen days overdue he was wrinkled. Very, very wrinkled. Red.

While they were sewing up my many layers of fat, muscle and skin that they had cut open, I fell asleep on the operating table, exhausted after more than 30 hours of labour.

And snored.

Back to Organic-Ally.

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