I’m not scared of the pain, I have zero qualms about taking an epidural if I find I can’t bear it. I’m not worried about the baby’s safety or mine. But, it’s just, I’m not READY to have a baby. I should have probably thought of this before the eve of my due date. I guess I always assumed I’d be a natural parent, while A got used to being sidelined. I’d done my research, right? I had a healthy pregnancy, I’d wanted a baby forever. I’m super low risk for postpartum depression.
Yet here I am, the night before my due date, and I don’t want a baby any more, thanks very much. The foreverness of it all is just hitting me now, and I want a time turner. And so I tell myself, I’m not in labour. I tell A I’m not in labour. I tell anyone who’ll listen that I’m not in labour, the baby isn’t coming, I have MORE TIME. I do. Go back to sleep. Let’s all go back to sleep.
I convince myself of it rationally too. The contractions are erratic and not yet very close together. I could last in this limbo for days; twenty four hours at the very least. At 1am, I download a contraction timer app on my phone. Either I’m not thinking straight or they’re really random. Some waves are long, they last for minutes that feel like hours. Some are so short that they punch me in the gut and go away before I can straighten up. Three or four come 3 minutes apart and I panic, thinking I need the hospital. Then, there’s quiet for 12 minutes before I’m hit by three in a row again. I move through the ‘gas’. This can’t be the really intense labour that all the birth-stories I’ve read are made of. I wait for my waters to break, I wait for something dramatic to happen.
By 2.30am, the gas-contractions are hitting me hard, and I make small ‘oof’ sounds with each, hoping they’ll wake A up (fat chance). By 3:30am, I finally give in to the realization that something may be wrong. Even if I’m the absolute baby who goes to the hospital when she’s barely dilated, even if I lose my Superwoman badge of honour, I need to make sure the baby’s ok. I wake A up.
Guess what I didn’t do because I was afraid to jinx things? That’s right, pack a hospital bag. I shuffle to the study and start instructing A. Meanwhile, I issue sotto-voice instructions to my mum on packing a secret new-dad goodie bag for A. There are chocolate cigars handwrapped with congratulatory messages, a chocolate champagne bottle inscribed with our initials and the year, and a bunch of diapers with funny messages on them so midnight diaper duty is slightly better. I know. I’m awesome.
It’s 3:50 by the time we call a cab. I rush to the lift and into it while A walks a bit more slowly behind me, weighed down by the bags. My mum follows behind, telling me to be careful, to take some help, to let A support me. I damn near bite her head off. The cab driver is understandably terrified, and it doesn’t help when I hum through the 4-5 contractions that happen along the way (Yes, I’ve given in to recognizing that they’re contractions, even if they’re early ones). It usually takes 15 minutes to get to the hospital, but Metro construction work doubles that time. A’s hand hovers hesitantly just above my shoulder, I swatted it away when he attempted to touch me. I wonder how long I can get away with bending double and humming before I give in to an epidural.
I walk into the hospital at 4:20. The receptionist checks me in leisurely, I seem perfectly fine. I’m led up to an observation room rather than the delivery ward. But then the duty doctor looks at the machines and suddenly everyone’s running around and the room fills up. While there’s still some semblance of privacy, I ask if I can visit the loo. I’ve read enough birth stories of labour-poo to know it’s a real possibility. They say no, sorry, you can’t even have an enema, because that’s your baby coming. If some poop accompanies it, so be it. Wait, what?!
I’m quickly shaved and prepped, and told to try waiting till my doctor arrives. Now the pain’s kicking in and kicking out all thoughts of Lamaze and deep breathing. I end up clenching through contractions instead, which helps absolutely no one. I remember how to breathe again by the time the third one hits, but I’m still very distracted by the thought of poo on the bed. Unfortunately, I feel the kind of urge to push that there’s no stopping, even if it pushes out some unsightly bits with it, so help me God. After all that drama, you’d think a baby would pop right out, but nope. Nothing. They tell me I could do it better, I need to breathe, lift a bit and expand-push rather than clench-push. I try once. I try twice. A long shepherd’s hook is produced and my water bag is burst to give me more space. Five times and I give up. My vagina is not an acrobat and it won’t bend to my wills. That’s when Dr. P runs in and announces the baby will be out in 5 minutes tops. I assume she’s kidding. A and I are looking at each other in shock, and I get into the transition stage of saying, ‘No, the baby’s NOT coming, because I can’t DO THIS!’
That’s what I want to say anyway. I probably manage a few grunts. I’m not a loud baby-deliverer, no surprise there (my throat screams if I shout, so I tend not to). A keeps repeating their instructions and I’m so super annoyed with him. He’s meant to tell them I said I can’t do it; not tell me they said I can. Wtf?! He should be on my side!
The push that finally delivers Gulabo feels exactly like any other, a powerful thing bigger than me that lifts me up and throws me back down winded. Even though I vetoed an episiotomy in my birth plan, Dr. P has to cut a quick snip to help the baby’s tearing momentum. Hands are helping, a raw red ball of flesh is held up, and an angry mewling fills the room. It’s a lost kitten very reluctantly stepping into a harsh spotlight. Is it out? Did it come from me? Then why the hell is my body still pounding? I’ve taken off my glasses to push and I can’t see anything.
A is being a real parent, choked up and starry eyed and unable to take his eyes off the baby. Me, I’m just lying there wondering if any of the goop got on to my kurta since I obviously didn’t have the time to change into a hospital gown. The baby’s teeny, so they need to quickly check a few things. They do it right beside me, A hovering over them carefully. He’s so overwhelmed with emotions and I’m so blank with the lack of them that it’s a lifetime before I think to ask what I had. It’s a girl. It is? But that’s what I always wanted and never dared to dream of actually getting! This is the happiest day of my life! This is exactly the life, the family, the birth I’ve always dreamed of. But I lie there and it’s all happening outside of me, I feel nothing at all.