Birth Story – Marcel Muri

And here is birth story 2/2. Marcel’s turn to have the account of his first appearance relived and revealed. It’s a bit more blood n guts, it’s still TMI, and it’s long, too.

If you don’t feel like reading (another!) birth story right now, you might want to check out these yummy recipes I have made many times:

And if you do feel like reading a birth story right now, here goes.

On the afternoon of Wednesday 27 August 2014, my parents and I went to buy a refrigerator. We had Elizabeth, my 15-month-old daughter, along with us, and she ran wild between the rows of washing machines and dishwashers. I was 40 weeks pregnant, and hoping I’d go into labour sooner rather than later. Contractions started on the way home from the store. I texted my husband, who was working (and spending nights) an hour away, to let him know he might have to come home that evening. By the time he got there, contractions were every 5 minutes. I was excited, because all of my friends who had recently given birth to their second child had had a fast labour, delivering within an hour of arriving at the hospital. We headed to the clinic, but the rushes slowed down in the car. Sure enough, the midwife who checked me said I was barely dilated at all. In fact she compared me to a Deux Chevaux that wouldn’t start up. My due date was Sunday, and she told us to come back on Monday if nothing was happening.

Henry and I called my parents and booked a table for 6 at our favourite restaurant, which happens to be halfway between the clinic and our family home. We went for a lovely early evening walk on the Causse, a high grassy plateau near the restaurant. Contractions picked up slightly. Things were feeling good. For our daughter’s birth I had laboured alone, even though Henry was in the room with me. This time around we were determined to do things differently, to learn from our previous mistake, and I felt very supported by him.

We had a delicious meal that evening, under the anxious eyes of our hosts. We ate outside on the terrasse. I freaked the other diners out by getting up every so often to walk off a contraction. I felt great. The evening was perfect: the restaurant and its friendly familiar atmosphere were a great backdrop for the beginning of labour. The team there had catered at our wedding, so there was a sense of continuity and connectedness that I think everyone felt.

Contractions were about 10 minutes apart but not regular, so we headed back home. Henry spent the night with me and took the next day off work to stay with me. I managed to sleep a little that night, and woke the next morning determined to give birth that day.

Thursday was spent pottering about and living the contractions. We were staying with my mother-in-law at their country house, which is just up the road from my parents’ home where Elizabeth was staying. We were splitting our time and meals between each household, and feeling surrounded by loved ones. Everything felt really happy.

I was breathing (but not talking) through contractions, and I knew the real hard ones were still to come. I wanted to labour at home for as long as possible, so I was happy to stay with our families, and hoped that dilation was happening. We were only 35 minutes from the clinic so I wasn’t worried about transport time.

That night I slept less than the previous one, but I still woke up on Friday in a good mood, happy and excited about giving birth soon. Henry went to work with instructions to keep his phone on loud and close to him at all times. I tried to rest that day but contractions stopped me from actually sleeping. That evening my parents were throwing a party, so I hung about there and helped (sort of) prepare the food. Henry arrived in the late afternoon. By that time I was humming through contractions and very glad to see him. They were probably about 8 minutes apart and getting intense. Twenty or thirty family friends turned up for our party. There was music, wine and food, conversations everywhere, and so much fun. I was labouring amongst all that merry-making and I love the fact that it made everything feel so normal and joyous. I sought out Henry each time I had a contraction, and he stood behind or in front of me to support my weight and breathe with me. Our friends Marlène and Peli were there with their 2-year-old son Indi, and it was fun explaining that the baby would soon be there. He picked a flower and I put in in my hair. He was so hapy when I told him that the flower was still in my hair when my son was born.

As the evening wore on I felt the need to get away for contractions, and Henry and I took a little walk in the moonlight. We had to stop every 4 minutes for long contractions, which I was now moaning through. The evening was wonderfully warm. I felt strong and in control. Henry and I were locking heads and hugging during rushes.

At around 11:45pm, after 55 hours of contractions, we decided to head to the clinic, and quickly said our goodbyes.

When we got there, I was lowing through the rushes and had started feeling a hard flat pain in my lower back, familiar from last time. I was excited because that meant serious labour.

The midwife checked me and said I was 4 cm dilated. I was a little disappointed it wasn’t more, but felt strong and capable.

She attached a fetal monitor to my belly and left the room. I knew she would be able to see the stats from the nurses’ office down the hall. She returned quickly and started to explain that fetal heart rate was dropping during contractions and they might have to induce, to hurry baby out as he wasn’t holding up very well.

I protested, as I wanted as natural a birth as possible. The fetal monitor had been malfunctioning since we got there, so I was advocating a wait-and-see approach. Or at least another monitor.

While we were talking, she glanced at the monitor again and said she wanted to call the doctor to have a look at it. The doctor, Tracy Chapman (yes, that was her name, for real), arrived quickly, and had barely said hello when she said I would have to have a Cesarean section. I immediately panicked, and started screaming that I didn’t want a c-section. But lights were flashing and sirens going, and I was moved to a stretcher and wheeled out in a matter of seconds.

Someone shouted back at my husband to find some scrubs in a cupboard and to head to the operating theatre. I was hysterical by this point and screeching that I didn’t want a c-section. There were blinding lights everywhere and a foreign voice telling me to relax because they were going to anesthetize me. Somewhere in my brain I remembered that I needed to be calm so the wake up from general anesthesia would be easier, and I tried to relax. But I was desperate and couldn’t make it 2 seconds without the panic rising again. All I could think of was my belly being cut open. I stopped screaming and tried to not sound too crazy while I asked them to please, please just check again because I was sure I could give birth. The foreign voice laughed and said, “She still has hope!” and apologized because she was going to put me under, despite my frantic state. Time was up.

I resurfaced once or twice, moaning for my husband. I woke up properly 4 hours after the “birth”. I was brought to the hospital room where Henry was waiting for me with all our stuff (after finally finding some scrubs in a cupboard somewhere, he had arrived in the theatre moments after the birth). Marcel Muri was in the nursery, and brought to me to sleep by me. I cried when I held him for the first time. We both slept until 7am, when he woke me up with hungry mewls. I put him to my breast and he suckled like a champ.

The aftermath of the Cesarean section was less terrible than I had feared. It took me a day to be able to sit, another day to be able to stand, and yet another day before I could get up and walk to the bathroom (that shower felt amazing, albeit sore). But from the beginning I could pick my baby up from the crib on wheels and pull him towards me. Strong arms FTW! Breastfeeding was a breeze – I guess because even though I had a section, I had laboured (for fifty five hours!) and so my body knew to produce the colostrum and then the milk.

What saved me from having too much resentment about my birth being taken from me was Henry’s gratefulness towards the doctor and medical team. He kept telling me that they had saved our baby.

They did all sorts of tests within the first few hours of his life but, thanks be to God, found no reason behind the dipping heart rate. Except obviously the 55-hour-long labour he and I both went through before the emergency c-section.

As my friend Jessica pointed out, we will just be grateful. Grateful that he is here and healthy, and that it all happened in a first-world country with a medical team and equipment on hand. We are privileged.

Marcel Muri

Marcel Muri

See my first birth story here.


Birth Story – Elizabeth May

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:

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.

Elizabeth May

Elizabeth May

See my second birth story here.