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:
- awesome chocolate chip cookies;
- chorizo, chickpea and cabbage stew – only takes 5 minutes to prep;
- asparagus and fava bean Easter salad (ok we only made this twice, but with wild asparagus so it counts double)
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.
See my first birth story here.