It was January 3rd. I laid in bed wide awake for what seemed like hours. In the morning I would face the tenuous task of pushing a human being out of my body. I felt like the playground bully had put me on his calendar for a good ass kicking after morning tea. The idea of scheduled agony made me feel uncomfortable and nervous, like the opening bars of Mama Mia.
I tried to empower myself with prayer and victorious thoughts. I pictured myself as a heavy-weight boxer before a title fight.
And in the pink corner, wearing a floral moo moo…
We arrived at the hospital at 8:30am and met with Dr. Gill to finalize the plan.
“Well, we’ll go ahead and…(muffled whisper)…..water! I think he said they would break my water, but due to his curious quirk of trailing off mid sentence, only to exclaim the final words, I could not be sure.
“And if that doesn’t work, we can put some gel on your…..(more muffled whispering)…to get things moving!” I assumed that the aforementioned gel would be placed near the baby exit, but only time would tell.
“And if that doesn’t do the trick,” he said strongly, “we can…(muffled whispering continued)…and she’ll be right out!” No idea on that one. I looked to mom for some sort of interpretation, but my intended subtle inquiry was met with an uncontrolled guffaw. I realized then, that mom and I would have to avoid eye contact during all future meetings with Dr. Gill.
Despite the shocking volume of unintelligible speech, I was comforted by Gill. He had an excellent reputation and a certainty about him that made me feel safe in his care. He also had a Fonzie quality during physical examinations —an effortlessness that made it seem like checking a cervix was as easy and checkin the oil on a Camaro—like he could catch babies blind folded—but, I’ll get back to that…
I held Mom’s hand tightly on the way down while Mike rubbed my back like any good coach before a big fight. I had my hair tied back, my soundtrack ready to blaze and my moo moo on deck. It was game time and I was ready to represent not only my family, but my country. I even shouted Team USA (not kidding) as I left the lift and headed toward the maternity wing.
“Finally you’re here! I called your mobile and your home phone!” She said firmly. Her name was Eilene and already we could tell that she was an angry elf. She was older with wise gray hair and a phlegmatic expression.
We explained that we were told to see Gill first and that we headed straight down after conferencing with him. She seemed unmoved.
“Well, you’re here now.”
We hoped that her cool demeanor was just an Aussie thing. Sydneysiders (unlike most Aussie populations) are notoriously curt, so it wasn’t entirely odd to have such a shrill exchange right off the bat.
We all threw comedy and kindness at her to get her back on our side, but our valiant efforts were quickly laid waist by her infectious charm.
“So what were your previous labors like?” She asked.
“A little rough. Both girls were posterior. I had about 24 hours of back labor with my first and 2 ½ hours of pushing. The second was hit and miss for a couple of days followed by about 12-14 hours of back labor with Pitossin about 8 hours in.”
“That’s average,” she said smugly. “Mine were longer than that and they weren’t posterior.”
Who was this woman? Had she not read the manual? Page 46 clearly states that all women want a pat on the back or at a least a “good on ya” in response to their laborious tales of woe. And all midwives know that back labor is a special sort of hell reserved for those of us with unique birth canals, odd pelvic layouts, and/or stubborn babies. Come on woman! Work with me!
In an attempt to document the sacred birth experience, Mom took out her fancy ipod video camera and begin to roll tape. Eilene, who had been attaching fetal monitors to my belly stopped abruptly.
“I am just going to tell you this now. I do NOT want my picture taken and YOU DID NOT ask me for my permission! I DO NOT wish to have any photos taken of me! You should have asked!” My eyes immediately filled with tears. Nurse Ratchet was going to deliver our baby.
I wanted to tell her that she was not allowed to speak to my mother in that tone, but every bad-ass bone in my body broke and I crumbled. I rolled onto my side, hiding my tears from the woman I now viewed as my opponent, rather than my advocate.
And in the black and blue corner wearing surgical gloves and a “no flash photography sign…”
I wanted to stop the fight. I felt like I had already lost. My coaching staff had not given up on me though. Mike begin to stroke my head and pray quietly in my ear. Mom, in a display of unparalleled restraint, apologized profusely and calmly attempted to clarify Eilene’s terms and conditions for filming the momentous event.
Eilene escorted Mike out of the room to show him around the ward. Mom and I hugged and processed what had occurred and soon Eilene and Mike returned. She seemed different. She had not warmed up, but she had clearly called off the attack.
After a hellacious examination lasting at least 5-10 minutes, my water had still not broken, so the three of us played cards and waited for the tide to turn. Contractions came and went without form or pattern. Occasionally Eilene would come in quietly and stare at me for a bit, but her presence was infrequent and aloof.
“What do you think happened?” I asked.
“I had a word with her.” Mike answered calmly.
I was completely destroyed by love for him in that moment. He had taken back my lunch money.
From then on, the three of us created a impenetrable realm where Naomi Cambell and her paparazzi paranoia could not injure me, at least not for a while.
Enter Pitossin (a.k.a. Syntocinon in Australia)
Despite my frequent though irregular contractions, Eilene made it clear that labor had not begun. Of course, this is exactly the kind of encouragement that I needed. I mean really, what woman doesn’t’ want to feel like a sputtering hooptie holding up traffic.
It was time for the drip.
As the contractions strengthened the back labor materialized. Yet another Pasley girl was posterior and loving it. We tried various and sundry methods of coping including “gas” and a hot shower, but the gas mask was making me nauseous (which Eilene said was basically all in my head) and the shower which started out feeling amazing, soon became like Chinese water torture. Mom helped me find comfortable positions and Mike manhandled my lower back to ease the pressure. All I needed was some Vaseline around my eyes and a mouth guard to get me back in the ring. GO TEAM USA….
But, I was no match for the drip. The contractions were not coming in slow gentle waves. They were violent, sudden and without pause. The only time they eased was when Eilene would come in the room and ask how far apart they were. It was as if my body seized up in her presence. Contractions that were 1 minute apart instantly became 3 minutes apart. I felt like a liar. Perhaps I wasn’t pregnant at all, just really front-loaded.
She turned up the pitocin.
I was in the pit of despair battling COUS’s (Contractions of Unusual Size). I could not move without feeling like my back was breaking. My only source of solace was the certainty that I must be nearing transition if not already there.
The final exam
“Looks like you are only at a 4 or 4.5. Wish I could tell you different but I would be lying.”
Read the damn manual Eilene!!! Page 132: How To Offer Hope to the Stagnant Uterus.
I wept uncontrollably. Mike and mom showered me with praise and comfort but all I wanted was relief and progress…and there was only one man who could give me that. His first name was Epi, and his last name Dural.
When Epi finally arrived he asked for my status. Eilene, gave him a glowing report. She is at a 4.5…maybe a 5. Glad she had an extra centimeter of cervix to spare for the anesthesiologist.
At 8:00pm, Eilene handed her keys to the night crew , apologized to the anesthesiologist for troubling him (not kidding) and with little more than a goodbye, my nemesis was gone. Mom took the opportunity to shout out what we had wished to say all evening long. “Goodnight Eilene!”
In a Pinch
Mike departed to forage for food in a land where everything closes at 5:00pm, including the hospital coffee shop. Dr. Gill also headed out for sustenance with his wife, when suddenly an appalling pressure paralyzed me. I needed to push. She wanted out and I wanted to help her evacuate expeditiously.
Mom and Mike informed the midwife of my insatiable urge. She passed the news onto Gill who was just about to take his first bite of dinner. I didn’t know how long I could wait. Suddenly, the little girl who I thought would never leave her womb, decided to try and sneak out unsupervised.
The new and wildly improved midwife told me I could give little pushes but that I should try and hold on until Gill arrived unless I wanted her to catch the baby. I had come too far and been through too much to not let Fonzie deliver the goods, so I held on for dear life.
“What do I do? I don’t know what to do.” I said, grasping the side rails of my hospital bed, whilst doing gold medal worthy kagels. Even Eilene would have been obliged to give me a 9.5. I could almost hear the Star Spangled Banner play…
“I need to push! What do I do?”
“Pinch it!” Said Mike. For some reason I understood what he meant.
“Call an audible.” Suggested Mom.
The epidural only worked on one side of my body. I felt off kilter and was shaking like a frost bitten climber with altitude sickness. I could see the summit. I could almost touch the top. But my Sherpa was still en route.
Dr. Gill walked in just in time, kind of like how Fonzie used to enter just when Richie Cunningham needed him most. Happy Days were here again.
Mom called Kirsten and sat the phone next to me on the bed.
“I love you sissy,” I said. “I can feel you with me.”
It was time to meet our girl.
Our offspring was crowning. Mike held my hand. Mom rolled tape. I panted wildly. The Fonz put on his gloves one at a time in what felt like slow motion. I was certain he was going to give me two thumbs up before getting underway. Instead he gave me gentle and shockingly clear instructions to slowly, very slowly …push…
Every fiber of my body wanted to push with primal abandon. To show them what an American momma could do! But, Gill urged me to be controlled and deliberate. And although it felt counter intuitive, who was I to question him. Gill knows the cervix like Bo knows baseball…like Fonzie knows women and motorcycles,. So with pelvic control like that of a matronly ninja, I gently pushed…
As he placed her on my chest, it all made sense. It was not the pregnancy, the labor, or the birth that bonded me to her. It was the knowledge that we belonged together, that our life stories were inextricably intertwined. This beautiful little body would be a permanent character in my story from here to eternity.
Kiama Joelle Pasley
January 4, 2011
Can you translate this beautiful piece of Aussie jargon?
We may have had a dodgy midwife who made me as mad as a cut snake but in the end we had ourselves a fair dinkum Aussie Ankle Biter!
Kiama was born on her Great Grandma Betty’s 75th birthday!
More Family Triva
Mike wrote a beautiful letter to the hospital about our experience. Once I find said letter, I will insert a paragraph or two here. It will make all you lady readers swoon. God Bless Him!
Yet More Family Trivia
Mikey got a promotion! We’re coming home!