by Gwenaëlle Gobé
My partner Eben had picked avocados so they would be ready on Sunday for the party we organized. He’d collected some chairs and made a make-shift grill for sausages and vegetables.
A week before, I met a woman with the same due date as me. She asked if I had hadBraxton Higgs contractions or just contractions. I said I didn’t really know. She then told me where you felt real contractions. That’s when I realized I’d been having them to for a while.
On Sunday morning I wake up around 6 AM with a lot of energy. I get out of bed because the contractions are getting too uncomfortable. I’d recently had the intense urge to organize and clean, so I suspected the baby might be coming. I start pacing back and forth in the bedroom taking deep breaths. Eben went out with a friend the night before and was looking forward to sleeping in. He raises his head noticing me pacing and goes back to bed. The contractions get worse. Each new level of intensity surprises me. Around 11 AM Eben suggests we notify people the party will not happen. He sits at the end of the bed with my laptop figuring out how to send an email as I am feeling the contractions getting closer together. I ask him to rub my back and massage my legs. We try to delay the trip to the hospital as long as possible. At 2 PM I’ve had enough: It’s time to go!
The car trip is pure torture; there is simply no comfortable position to be in. The contractions are very painful. As it is the day of the marathon, traffic is slow so Eben opens all the windows. By the time we get to the red light to turn into UCLA campusI am yelling at the top of my lungs hanging on the handrail. Two cars are parked one ach side. On one side a family in their Escalade start cheering me on; in the other car a couple of young students are seriously frightened by my screams
At the hospital, they tell me I am 9 cm dilated. Everyone rejoices. They suggest different positions, including going into the shower. Eben puts burning water on my back and stomach. The midwives suggest I try to yell lower down from my stomach.Then we move back to the bed where I sit leaning on Eben. The contractions are excruciatingly painful. By 6 PM I feel totally drained of any energy. They check again and realize I am actually 3 cm open. This dampers morale.
I ask for an epidural meaning I can’t walk around. I am attached to tubes, and they put an oxygen mask on me because the heartbeat of the baby seems to dip each time I have a contraction. Eben is removed from the process and goes to lie down on the couch. I fall asleep.
I wake up and again feel the contractions, mostly on my right side. I am almost fully dilated. They will give me a cue when to push. We set up the bar around the bed so I can grab it and push. Eben, sitting next to me, is being encouraging. The baby’s head starts to crown and I start feeling the infamous “ring of fire”. I begin to yell again, never imagining the pain could be so acute. Finally, the baby arrives. The cord is wrapped twice around his neck. He is floppy and blue. He looks lifeless. They rush him to Intensive Care. I still need to birth the placenta.
They give us permission to go to Intensive Care. Our baby has a tube up his nose, a tube down his throat, and an IV. His heels are all bruised where they pricked him to draw blood for tests. The sight is disheartening. I can only hold him as far as his tubes will extend. The doctor says if he can’t breast feed by the end of the next day he will be put on formula and the likelihood of him staying longer in the hospital increases. I leave the Intensive Care determined to help my baby get better.
The next morning we go back to see our baby. They remove his IV and air tube and I am able to hold him in my arms. I open my gown and just let him rest on my chest. A nurse suggests I should try breast feeding. She grabs his neck and tries to shove his face on my nipple. He starts to cry. I tell her to stop. I put him near the nipple and tell him it’s there when he is ready. He rests for a while and then latches on. He has a good feed. I feel relieved. Soon after they move him out of Intensive Care and into our room.