Pregnancy… all things considered I wore it well. I was one of the lucky ones. My hair was glorious, my skin clear, and I actually lost weight (not through some crazy mission to not gain a kilo during the gestation period, but rather through giving up my beloved beer and accompanying meat/cheese platters).
Sure, I had some weird pregnancy side effects that drove me a little crazy…like blocked ears that wouldn’t pop no matter how hard I tried, and a nose that grew at twice the normal rate (I swear it was never this big)! And facial hair. Yep, I grew sideburns. Lucky I’m fair-haired, otherwise I’m sure I would have heard the circus calling. I had wicked reflux and one time I almost dropped my toddler when low blood pressure caused me to nearly black out…but all in all it was a pretty sweet ride. I possibly felt the best I’ve ever felt about my body. I had a real sense of purpose. My liver had a chance to recuperate after years of abuse, and I finally had a taste of what it is like to have a full head of thick hair (though still not enough hair to blend in with the glorious manes of my Italian friends and family!).
I carried both boys to term, the first to almost his due date, the second to five days over. I experienced my water breaking with both kids (a beautiful moment where you feel like a water balloon has just popped inside of you and you’ve wet your pants in the excitement). It was all pretty textbook…until I got to the actual labour part.
Labour… now here’s something I do really badly.
Both times my contractions started shortly after my water broke only to stop completely several hours in. I was put on synthetic hormones to restart and/or speed up the process, but it had little effect, other than to cause my firstborn extreme distress (we later found that the cord was wrapped around his neck). I laboured for what felt like forever (about 17hrs each time), my contractions had all the intensity of two semi-trailers going head to head with my uterus stuck in between, but they remained at 2 mins apart for practically the entire time. In short: my contractions were ineffective; I didn’t dilate quickly enough; and put simply, my body just sucked at labour.
I had an epidural about half way in with both boys. The second time around was a waste of time. The anaesthetist inserting it looked a whole of about 14 years old, and despite my insistence that it wasn’t working he assured me it was. It wasn’t. We found out later that it wasn’t inserted properly, it was half hanging out, leaking god knows what into god knows where. It may help explain my back spasms and strange reactions to the anaesthesia, if nothing else.
Towards the end of my labour with my second child my body went into shock. Whether it was a reaction to the misplaced anaesthetic, or just the complete overwhelm and fear of labour after 16 hours, or whether it was just plain and simply the pain...I’m unsure. But I shook, uncontrollably, like I had hyperthermia. I couldn’t stop it, I couldn’t calm myself and I felt utterly ridiculous. Women have been doing this since forever – what the hell was wrong with me?!
When it came time to push with my first child I think I’d completely let go of any fight to maintain my dignity. There I was, feet in stirrups, four people peering down at my knicker-less bottom half, and the doctor wearing gumboots using the bottom of the bed as an anchor-point getting ready to pull my baby out of me. After the doctor attempted to attach two different suction caps to my baby’s head, I pushed hard with the help of the doctor’s vacuum machine thing. Out came my baby’s head, then bang…my contractions stopped completely. It was like standing in an elevator with four strangers all staring down at the floor waiting - except they were staring at my baby’s head sticking out of my hoo hah and there wasn’t any pleasant elevator music to distract from the awkwardness. In the end I had to push without the assistance of a contraction. He came out…but he was blue. They all but threw him onto my chest for a matter of seconds and then rushed him off to get him breathing. It was all a blur and I still don’t remember much about it, but looking back I know that the shock of his birth experience would take about three months post-birth to actually hit me.
The birth of my second child goes a little like this… I’m about 160cms short and medium framed – he was 4.40kgs (nearly 10 pounds) with a 38cm head. As you all now know: I don’t labour well; my epidural didn’t work; and I was about 16 or so hours in (having missed a night’s sleep already) by the time I was ready to push. I birthed him without intervention/assistance. Let’s just say - it wasn’t pretty.
It was almost 48hrs between my water breaking and being given the all clear by the doctor. The placenta was so big that it tore the lining of my uterus when it came out, causing internal bleeding. Shortly following the birth one of the midwife’s detected clotting and called in the obstetrician. The long and short of it is that it involved intense lower abdominal ‘massage’ to assist me in expelling the clots. It was essentially like giving birth to the baby’s head five more times. The clots were the size of mangos, so big in fact that the midwives took them away to weigh them and show them off to the interns. I was hooked up to drips on either side, a catheter bag hanging off the side of the bed and given two blood transfusions.
Post birth was a whole new ball game. My once gloriously pregnant body was now beaten, squeezed, stretched and sorry. There’s nothing quite like having your obstetrician ‘try’ to insert a suppository and hearing him say “geez, I need a compass and a roadmap just to find it”. Yep, labour – it gave me hemorrhoids too. (I feel really pretty right now). Three months down the track I lost all my glorious pregnancy hair, and whilst I was happy to say goodbye to my Elvis phase, I wasn’t quite ready for the bald patches just above my temples. My boobs, once so full and joyously disproportionate to my frame are now like little beanbags…without the beans. If you lean forward and grab my stomach skin and squish it all up together with the belly button in the middle, it looks how I would imagine an 80 year old tiger’s butt would look. Yep, that’s the reality. Pregnancy and labour, no matter how smooth, are really tough on your body (and your mind!), but you know what? I’d go back there and I’d do it all over again. That statement is one part love, two parts insanity…but hey, they’re kind of the same thing, right?