Sunday, July 03, 2011

A brand new person

Amid a flurry of liquid and goo a brand new little boy slithered his way out into the world. He had a tinge of blue at first and seemed to be having slight trouble clearing his airways. After nine months of waiting for him to arrive, it all happened very quickly in the end and seemed to even take him by surprise. Two hours earlier, Tori and I had been in bed in the van. Tori was trying to sleep after another uncomfortable day of carrying around a large watermelon under her top. She'd been having back pains and was struggling to walk less than 100 metres to the car from the Dragonfly cafe. As it was three days past the due date, we'd been in to the hospital in the afternoon to discuss a possible date for inducement. The midwife said that typically babies heard the discussion and decided to come out that night. And so was the case. I saw Tori grimacing in the bed and holding her back and so enquired as to whether she was ok. "I've just got this full on pressure pain in my pelvis", she told me through a couple of gasps. "But it seems to be going now". Hmmm... pressure pain in the pelvis that comes and goes. Do you think you're in labour, I asked her. "No, I don't think so", was her reply and then grimaced again as another wave of pain took her. OK, well I do. And with a quick round of "ooh the baby, ooh the baby", I assisted the waddling Tori to the car. Already she was struggling to speak due to the intensity of the contractions which seemed to be coming less than four minutes apart. Everything in Broome is close by so we arrived at the hospital in a jiff and pulled into the emergency entrance. With the aid of a wheel chair, we made our way to maternity only to discover that the birthing suite wasn't ready yet for a new occupant. When we had been in earlier that day, three women were currently in labour. As the hospital only has two birthing suites, I was happy that the baby had been able to hold on at least for a few hours. We sat and waited for the room to be cleaned while Tori's contractions built in intensity. The midwife was to tell us later that she thought that the baby was going to be born in the waiting room. Finally all was ready and we were ushered in to the birthing suite.

There are several things I remember about Jazzy's birth. I'd been at work that day down in Brighton while Tori had been home in Fulking drinking raspberry tea and walking up on the Sussex downs with her mum. The baby waited until just after I was home from work before injecting Tori with the "get me out of here" hormones that trigger labour. And so we raced up the M23 to the hospital in Haywards Heath. The first few hours were spent in a private kind of a waiting room. The wait being for Tori's cervix to dilate to 10cm. We'd done all the antenatal classes and so had some idea of what to expect. We went through the breathing exercises together between Tori's contractions and discussed the birthing plan. After contracting for a couple of hours, Tori was particularly horrified to hear that she was only at 4cm. All that pain and still no real result. With it being a first child, I don't think she realised she wasn't really in pain just yet. That was all to come. The whole labour for Jazzy took six hours with the last two a significant step up in intensity. While Tori screamed loudly, I remember the top of a little head with hair appearing from between her legs, only just distinguishable from her own body. With the next contraction and a good push, out she came accompanied by emotions in me that were unlike anything I'd felt before. I didn't know if I wanted to cry or laugh, so I did neither really. Just stared and let the emotion wash through me. It was quite overwhelming. The intense agony that Tori had been in only seconds before seemed to vanish without trace and be replaced by a sense of relief and happiness as the rush of endorphins kicked in. While no birth is easy, Jazzy was quite small and so it was likely not as difficult as it could have been. Or as difficult as Finn's was to be. I could tell that Finn's birth was more difficult because the level of pain seemed to have been ratcheted up at least a couple of notches. Whereas Jaz had been 6lbs9 when she came out, Finn was to be 9lbs3. The final stages of his birth were excruciating enough to watch, let alone to have to go through. We had a jokey kind of midwife who was full of cheer and laughter, but I got the feeling that Tori wasn't finding too many of the jokes very funny. At the business end of proceedings, Tori was in agony screaming "cut me open and scoop him out of me". The midwife chuckled. She then told Tori that at the next contraction she should push as hard as she could to push that baby out. The midwife said she would be behind the kneeling Tori and would catch the baby. She would then pass the baby up through Tori's legs for her to hold to her breast and the baby would do his part by immediately latching on to her nipple. The plan sounded solid and quite achievable. Tori fulfilled her part by squeezing Finn out with a bloodcurdling howl. The midwife, perhaps representative of the poor state of English cricket at the time fumbled the baby and dropped him on to the bed. She recovered him and passed him to Tori who seeing him covered in goo made comment that he looked slightly other worldly before recovering herself and holding him to her breast. Finn performed his part of the plan to perfection and latched on to the nipple for all he was worth. The execution had been a bit sloppy but the desired result was somehow achieved. Having finally made it through the ordeal, Tori again seemed in blissful relief. It became clear that as soon as the baby is out, all that pain just completely disappears.

Many people seem to believe that because a labour goes for only two hours that it means that it was relatively easy. Perhaps it is compared to the horror 24 hour labours that you hear about, but it didn't look so easy from where I was standing. It seemed that Tori had just bypassed the initial stages of labour this time and fast forwarded straight to the end game. The contractions seemed continuous and intense. I was armed with some acupressure techniques thanks to my acupuncturist friend Matt and was digging my thumbs and my knuckles into Tori's back as hard as I could. I could see the red indentations in her back from where my thumb nail had dug and so bit it off to try and ensure that I didn't draw blood. Not that she would have noticed. The midwife wanted to examine her early on to see how dilated her cervix was. Tori was in so much pain that she couldn't lie down in to the required position on her back. Instead she was moving around the room like a wounded animal, not sure where to go to make the pain go away. She'd lean over the bed or get down on her knees, and demand I dig my knuckles in to her back harder. I told her that her fitness clients who moaned after she had run them into the ground would probably like to tell her to "suck it up princess" and I was happy that I survived the remark. Most of my other comments were on the more encouraging side, but when presented with a good line to deliver, I find it difficult to hold back regardless of the circumstance.
Perhaps some of my teachers could have foreseen that several years earlier as they scrawled "makes inappropriate comments in class" on my report card. I told her that I'd been disappointed with the lack of abusive language during her previous labours and so was happy to hear a more liberal usage of the word "fuck" this time around. I knew that the baby was almost there when I heard her scream at the midwife to "get him out of me". It's very common at the final stage for a bit extra to be discharged before the baby emerges and I'm sure this won't be the last time that this child gives Tori the shits. But with one more push out he came, his shoulders and body slipping through easily in one movement once the head had emerged. It's quite an act of contortion the way a baby revolves its body around as it slides out. It seems unfeasible that it could fit through that relatively narrow opening. As the relief flooded through Tori, the midwife clamped him up and offered me the surgical scissors to cut the umbilical chord and set him adrift from his mother. She then placed him under the heater on an examining table and blew oxygen into his face through a tube to assist his breathing. After a few moments his little lungs kicked into gear and he let out a wail that I'm sure will not be as joyful to hear in the future as it was then. Tori beamed as her new little boy was passed back to her and she assisted him in working out how to get to the food now that he was outside her body. I kissed Tori and told her what an amazing job she had done. And then looked at my new son. What will he become I pondered. Will he be an artist, a sportsman, a musician, an accountant, a plumber, the president of Australia, a 30 year old guy on the dole?  He is still a blank sheet. Anything seems possible at this stage. The only things for certain are that he was born in the Kimberley and he will start out his life in the Good Ship Utopia. Our voyage around Australia enters the next stage. We have been joined by Kimberley Utopia Swedosh. And now there are five of us.

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