So, this is birth story 1/2. It has a bit of blood n guts in it. It’s a bit TMI. It’s kind of long. I wrote it because I want to start writing again and it felt like this was in the way, a clot I had to pass before the words could flow freely. If you don’t feel like reading a birth story right now, please don’t! Have a look at these instead:
- my brother Joe’s twitter account;
- what I wrote exactly one year ago;
- my new “Art” Pinterest board featuring my fave pieces by friends Anita and Tosha.
And if you do feel like reading a birth story right now, here goes.
My Moroccan and French due date was 30 May 2013, my American and British due date was 23 May. I wanted to give birth on the 26th. It was a Sunday, so my husband wouldn’t be at work. It made sense, because it was between the two due dates. My birthday is the 24th, my father’s is the 25th, and the 26th would be a nice follow-on. Finally, the night of the 25th was a full moon so it all seemed to come together. A month or so before giving birth, I told my Doctor about my plans, and that I was sorry he’d have to come in to work on a Sunday. He smiled and said, You don’t just decide these things.
My parents had arrived from France a few days earlier, bringing with them the crib, push chair and other baby essentials. On the Friday 24th, my birthday, friends came up from Casablanca and we had lunch in the garden. Mom and I baked cookies in preparation for baby visitors. That evening we had a simple supper and my husband and I retired for the night (end of sentence redacted).
On Saturday we walked to the beach and had my Dad’s birthday lunch at our favourite restaurant there. I was planning on going into labour 12 hours later, but my contractions started as we waited for our food. After lunch we paddled in the sea and walked home. Contractions spaced out and weren’t regular. I was still planning on hanging on til next morning to go to the clinic. That evening my parents, my husband and I had a light supper at home. Around 10pm we all headed to bed, and I started doing my evening yoga stretches (they included some squats and hip opening stretches). When I was done, I got up and crossed the room to the bathroom. On my way I removed my yoga pants, and that’s when I felt my waters break. I managed to get onto the toilet and not even a drop got on the floor.
I sent a text message to Dr. Chami, changed my clothes and got into bed for some last minute rest. The contractions were regular and getting stronger. After an hour or so I checked my phone and saw that the doctor had advised me to go straight to the clinic.
I gave birth at Clinique Al Boustane in Rabat, with Dr. Chami as my OB-GYN. A month before giving birth, we had moved form Casablanca to Rabat, and I’d had to find a new doctor and clinic (I had originally planned on giving birth at Clinique Ghandi with Dr. Saile). When I arrived in Rabat, at 35 weeks, I decided to take my time and pick a doctor that I felt comfortable with. I “interviewed” four different gynecologists, one woman (terrible), one man who was good but wanted to “practice his English” during consultations (that’s not what I’m here for, mister), and another two men who were great. I hesitated between the last two and finally went with the one who had been recommended to me by my mother-in-law (a purely social connection – he was a friend of the father of the new wife of the son of one of my mother-in-law’s friends – yes, that’s the connection). Anyway, Dr. Chami followed me for the last month of my pregnancy, the birth and everything that came next. I liked him very much, and so did my husband. Even my parents met him.
We got to the clinic at about half past midnight on Sunday the 26th of May. We were shown to a shared room (2 single beds) in which we were alone, my husband and I. The next seven hours were almost uninterrupted waves of hard contractions with barely time to take a breath between each one. I wanted my husband to get some rest, and he was keen on sleeping too, so I labored “alone” for that time. In hindsight, obviously this wasn’t the best thing to do and I think I would have managed the pain better had I had some physical and moral support. But that’s the way it happened, and all we can do now is use this experience to make the next one better. At the time we both honestly thought that there was no better way of doing it. Just a few things interrupted the seven hours’ hard labour. I stepped into the shower a couple of times to get some pain relief from the hot water. Unfortunately the water was only lukewarm so the relief was short lived and I ended up with chattering teeth and harder contractions. And the nurses came in a few times to check my dilation. Throughout the pain I was not able to have coherent thoughts, and I only managed to say one sentence: “I want an epidural.” They told me I had to be 3 cm dilated. I was making painstakingly slow progress, and I can only trust that they were telling the truth when they told me how far along I was (nurses in Morocco have a bad reputation of lying to labouring mothers about how dilated they are – this happened to a friend of mine around the same time, also in Rabat but at another clinic). At 7:30am they finally told me I was 3cm dilated and that they would call the anesthetist. I thought it would take forever for him to get there because it was early Sunday morning, but he showed up half an hour later, wearing old jeans, tennis shoes and a sweatshirt. I was moved down to the birthing ward. I asked the anesthetist to give me a “light” epidural because I wanted to feel when to push. He ended up giving me a lopsided one, and I felt everything on my left side and nothing on my right side. When I commented on this, he asked me if I wanted him to up the dosage, but I declined. The pain was much more manageable (once I got past the horrible freezing cold shakes I got when the epidural was put in). After a while Dr. Chami turned up, checked my dilation, chatted a bit, and left. The nurses came in to shave me, and they nattered away while they were doing it, pausing when I told them I was having a contraction. My husband arrived at some point, and the doctor returned. I told them I felt like pushing, and Dr. Chami confirmed I was 10cm dilated. I was surprised at how fast I’d gone from 3 to 10 cm. That was probably because they gave me Pitocin at the same time they gave me the epidural. I had to ask them what they were giving me, once it was already in, and when they answered Pitocin I asked them to reduce the dosage. They told me that wasn’t possible. Dr. Chami told the nurses to check that the suction cup was working properly, and showed me how to hold onto the handles at the side of the bed to push. I pushed once but he told me I wasn’t pushing in the right place. I didn’t feel comfortable holding the bars, so I grabbed hold of the backs of my thighs to push again. The doctor put his hand between my legs to show me where to push. This time it worked. He took the suction cup and adjusted it to the baby’s head – I remember wondering why, but was too concentrated on the pushing to say anything. Two more pushes. Dr. Chami yanking wildly (think, plumber getting the drain unblocked – in my mind’s eye he is resting his foot on the bed for balance) on the suction device. Elizabeth’s head is out, she’s turned, she’s born. I felt cheated, as if I had only just got the hang of pushing. I had enjoyed that part. Dr. Chami held her up to show me it was a girl, but I was feeling strangely detached from the baby. No delayed clamping or skin-to-skin, both of which I had asked for. She was taken to be weighed – not measured, they forgot to do that – and cleaned up in the next room (which I could see from the bed), and my husband was with her the whole time. I, in the meantime, was commenting to the doctor on my shrunken stomach, and telling him he looked like a butcher (he did not seem to appreciate this remark – I thought it was bang on the mark, considering he was wearing white overalls and holding up a bloody placenta – which looks exactly like a cow’s liver. Again, in my mind’s eye he is wearing those white rubber boots that butchers and fishmongers wear, but that must be my imagination adding them a posteriori). He sewed me up, proudly announcing that he hadn’t cut anything. I had asked him not to give me an episiotomy, but to prefer a natural tear. I had two stitches, which I am certain wouldn’t have been necessary had he not used the suction cup so violently (or, at all! I’m sure I could have pushed her out on my own!). Elizabeth was brought back to me and she suckled, getting the goodness of the colostrum into her. She had pinked up by this stage, but her fingers still looked like little purple witch’s fingers, with long fingernails. I had to stay in the birthing room for another hour, so they could keep an eye on me post-epidural. The worse thing about this was, they wouldn’t let me drink water and I was extremely thirsty.
I can only trust that they didn’t give her formula while she was in the nursery. But the fact that she spit up a little when she was returned to me lessens my trust somewhat. I had asked for the baby not to be put in the nursery, but obviously at some point this request was forgotten, while I was waiting to get out of the delivery room and my husband was chasing paperwork.
The rest (including a one-handed McDonalds meal whilst breastfeeding) is history, as they say. If I had to sum up my first birth, I’d say it was a good enough experience for Morocco. Far from perfect, but good enough.
See my second birth story here.