My daughter Tamsin was born on the 26th of August 2010 at 8:20 a.m after about two days of labour.
One of the mothers from a baby group I attended said to me “When you give birth, you leave your dignity at home”. She was right. Legs apart, I felt like an object being prodded and inspected by just about anyone. I can’t describe the pain, except that it was excruciating. For me, it was like plummeting into a deep, deep tunnel with no bottom and being hauled back up again, only to experience the same pain again and again.
I have a very low threshold of pain, so I told the midwives to give me all the available drugs in the world. So I had gas and air and when I was dilated enough they finally gave me the epidural.
Once the drug had taken effect, I felt like a person again and not a rag doll tossed and about in a sea of endless pain. I could actually breath easy.
Pam, the young and really pretty midwife said to me, “It might take a bit longer than you expected. Do sleep, you’ll need your energy later”. This was early morning, after being in labour for two days with no sleep you have no idea what those words meant to me, I could almost weep. I sent my poor husband who also lacked sleep and food, down for some breakfast.
Then fell asleep.
The kind of sleep that is so sweet and delicious you could actually taste it. Then I heard something. At first I thought I was dreaming and imagining it. With my eyelids still closed I heard it again, my daughter’s heartbeat was slowing down. The strong heartbeat that serenaded me all through out my labour like the sound of the djembe drum I brought with me back from Ghana – loud and clear was growing really faint.
I sat up and listened, hoping I was just too drugged and hallucinating things. But no, it was for real. I called the midwife. When she came, she checked the machine and asked me to change positions, explaining that my movements could have caused the wires or tubes that connects the machine to my baby loose or something.
But there was no change. Her heartbeat was still slowing down.
“I’ve never done this before”, she said.
Before I could ask what she meant, she stepped on a chair to reach the red emergency button on the wall. Within seconds, it was like a scene straight out of a Grey’s Anatomy episode – doctors and nurses came flooding in. There must have been a dozen of them. Then I was quickly wheeled out of the room, if this were a Greys Anatomy episode, you’d hear up sound music, perhaps it would be Ana Nalick’s song “Breathe” (they seem to love that one) or Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol. I turned to Pam and said, “I’m scared”. She said nothing, but held my hand. Bless her.
The last thing I remember was a pair of really green eyes saying “Breathe into this Mrs. B”.
My husband came back to an empty bed and an empty room with a banana and apple juice in hand. A staff came in and without any explanation said “I’ll call the midwife”. Can you imagine what he must have been thinking when he saw the room empty?
After awhile, a midwife came and explained what happened. My daughter’s umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck, she was slowly being strangled and that’s why they performed an emergency c section right away. A single second delay would have caused life-changing damages. I shudder at the thought.
It took me awhile before I could tell this story without bursting into tears. Chris, my midwife was the loveliest woman. She was like a surrogate mother to me, really helpful and was so patient with answering all my paranoid questions. When I told her about what Pam said (I’ve never done this before), she was really disapproving and said that she shouldn’t have said that.
Talking about it now still rattles me a bit. I still wake up in the middle of the night to check my daughter’s breathing, even though she’s two already turning three. I know it’s normal for mums to do that, but I do it more than once, even when she’s napping during the day.