There we were, at the hospital at, um, a fairly advanced stage of labour. The nurses were casually asking me admission questions and filling in forms as I struggled to get into a gown and then pee. Ha! Not happening.
My thing with labour is that I handle it best standing up. So I kept standing and walking and yowling and the nurse kept asking me to lie down. They sent Stéphane off to admissions so I was with our doula and between contractions I gasped out that I would be happy to lie down as SOON AS SHE WAS FINISHED FILLING IN FORMS.
Once we determined that I was indeed at 7 cm, I was allowed to stand up again and three contractions later.... BOOM. I'm pushing!
You have to remember that this is not a sensation I was familiar with. I toughed out my entire labour the first time around without an epidural (only because the epidural guy was busy with the lady having twins next door) so I knew what it was like to get to 10cm. A world of pain. But the whole pushing thing was new. And entirely out of my control.
Suffice it to say a lot of hustling happened at that point as I got back on the table and Stéphane was rushed back upstairs.
Now, when we arrived, I believe I politely requested some pain medication. Something to the effect of "Aaaaarrrrrrrggggkkkkk I can't taaaaakkke thiiiiiis I neeeeeeed druuuuuugggs NOOOOWWWWWWW." But my doula grabbed me by the shoulders and she said: "you'll be done in a half an hour, you can do it." Which didn't help the pain AT ALL but it was enough to get me focused on gittin' 'er done. But first I tore my gown off and gave Johanne the crazy lady in labour face when she tried to cover me up with it.
It's important for me to say that I wasn't planning on absolutely having an epidural-free experience. I don't want to engage in that horrible female exercise of one-upmanship when it comes to childbirth. (Oh yeah? Well *I* asked the nurse to bash my kneecaps as I was pushing just so I could experience MORE pain, I mean, more of the joy of childbirth!) Uh, no.
But with an epidural comes the possibility of other complications (some of which I experienced with Liliane - not being able to pee for three days is seriously awful) plus having to wear a claustrophobia-inducing monitor, etc. And since I only had to endure a half hour, I figured what the heck.
But what a half hour it was. Dr. Merovitz arrived and she was calm and kind and open to me trying to push in a different position. With Stéphane and Johanne at my side sponging me off with cool water, I tried pushing on my side a little. It wasn't happening. Dr. Merovitz helped me find a position, to grab the handles and really concentrate on what I was trying to do. It's wild to be in that much pain and know that YOU are the one that can bring it to an end. You and the baby. But I was still lucid and basically pain-free between the contractions so it wasn't long before the end was in sight.
I'm big on status updates (plus I keep my eyes firmly closed) so Stéphane kept encouraging me with progress reports.
Theresa: aarrruuugggg, what's happening????
Stéphane: You're doing great, I can see her hair!
Johanne: Do you want to reach down and touch her head?
Theresa: NO, I WANT TO BE DONE NOW
But here's where it gets interesting.
I knew that once the head was almost out, the hard part was almost over. So when the Doctor said that we were at that point (and I started to feel the crowning - please shoot me now), I was surprised when the next push didn't finish the job.
Imagine my surprise when all of a sudden my legs were being pushed back as far as they could go (hey, I don't BEND THAT WAY) and my uterus was being removed with pliers. No, not really, it was better than that! Unbeknownst to me, Dr. Merovitz had given the signal (I remember hearing "big baby" through my pain haze at some point) and all the nurses leapt into position to perform the McRoberts manoeuvre.
It sounds so benign. Cute even. But no, the McRoberts maneouvre is not a style of knitting, nor an evasive tactic that you saw once on Star Trek, it's not even a dance move. Think of it like a kind of torture with a jaunty Scottish name.
When I regained consciousness (I didn't really pass out, but if ever someone could die from sheer pain, that would have been the moment.) This was on my chest:
Are you talkin' to me?
I found out later that the reason for
Actually, thanks to Dr. Merovitz and her awesome sewin' up skillz, I can confirm that all is well in that region. And of course all is well with Alice.
Stéphane got to cut the cord and as I pushed out the placenta (Can someone just pull it for me? No?), then went through all the stitching up (Um, I CAN FEEL THAT) and cleaning up, our new babe figured out the breastfeeding in no time flat. Which was extra impressive given that I had the major shakes afterwards (adrenalin apparently?). When it was his turn, Stéphane whipped off his shirt to get the full skin on skin experience like a pro. The nurses were impressed.
Full disclosure: I didn't have that overwhelming "I'm so in love" feeling right away. First it was "holy cow that's a big baby" then "I guess she's not blonde like Liliane" and then "hey, she knows how to latch on already!" But once I was all fixed up and could finally close my legs (it's amazing how good that feels), I was falling in love. Not just with her, but with the whole second baby experience.
I held Alice in my arms as the orderly wheeled us through the halls to get to our room. She didn't like his deep voice but she was happy in my arms. I was giddy with relief.
My OB, Dr. Johnson, stopped to see us a few hours later. She had heard all about our adventures and half-heartedly tsk-tsked me for waiting so long at home. But not really. Then she gave me props for surviving the McRoberts manoeuvre. She said that even when you've had an epidural it's painful.
We had the sweetest nurses and we even ended up back in the same room we had with Liliane! See, meant to be.
Our doula, Johanne
I sent Stéphane home to sleep that night in air-conditioned comfort and Alice and I spent the night cuddling and feeding. It was peaceful and a little too warm but otherwise, bliss. I even got to read my book a little (yay Kobo!) and we listened to Eddie Vedder ukele music on my ipod. Since it drove me crazy never knowing what time it was last time, I had at least three different clocks in the room.
Stéphane's parents and sister brought Liliane for a visit the next morning. I had a shower before they got there (no easy feat with a catheter, but I was determined) and I literally felt like a million bucks. Like a million bucks dragging around a bag of my own urine, but still.
We left the hospital around 7PM that night. A totally different experience from the 4-day marathon we had with Liliane. I had a lot of anxiety about the whole peeing thing and had a minor meltdown when I had to have a catheter but by Saturday afternoon, everything was in working order.
Our friend Pierre came to drive us home. It was a glorious Montreal summer evening. Warm but not too hot, a golden, setting sun, everything looked beautiful. Alice didn't love the car seat but stopped crying once we started moving.
Welcome home baby!
Stéphane's saintly parents wanted to give us time alone to get organized at home so Liliane stayed with them two more nights. We pretty much got into our pajamas and went to sleep.Alice was pretty hungry so I was feeding her every 2 hours or so but it wasn't as bad as I had remembered. (Notice a pattern here?)
And then the babymoon started in earnest. I was having that experience that you hear other people talk about. That gooshy, mushy, marveling at her fingernails experience. I missed it the first time around (thanks A LOT brain chemicals) but I reveled in it with Alice. Sigh.
So that's her story. She continues to be a delight.
Looking back almost four months later, I am still happy with the choices we made. I loved having a doula (even though she was made to feel unwelcome in the delivery room, but that's another post), I have the loveliest nostalgia for all the staff at the hospital. Liliane adores her little sister and has been sweet and gentle with her from Day 1. My husband continues to be a hero, working hard at his job and working hard at being an exceptional Dad to two girls.
All in all, we rocked it.