On the 23rd of February, my first daughter Amelia was born.
I could never have imagined feeling so much love for someone and being so in awe of someone so teeny tiny who really doesn’t do too much. However, this beautiful gift has come at a price, that price is my dignity.
Just over four weeks ago, I started having pretty regular contractions, not yet time to go to the hospital, just the type where you stay at home, make yourself comfortable and wait for the real pain to kick in. I was sitting outside on the balcony with my mum when the neighbour enquired as to how I was going and if I had had any discharge yet.
WHAT? Since when is this an appropriate question to ask? Ever.
I was mortified and kind of shuffled and avoided the question; little did I know that this would be a continuing question from all sorts of medical staff over the next few weeks.
I’d planned to give birth at a birthing center and we arrived at four in the morning. I was given my options for pain relief starting with water immersion.
As I had been reasonably comfortable in the shower at home for the previous four hours, our lovely midwife pointed me in the right direction. When I got into the bathroom I pondered on the correct etiquette, was I meant to get naked? Would the midwife come in? Would my husband stay there with me? Some things the books just don’t cover.
After eight hours there, and no progression, I had to transfer to the hospital to get something to give the contractions more kick and we were joined by an array of medical staff.
After slow progression and stalling at the pushing stage, it was time to transfer to the operating table to try the vacuum, if unsuccessful it would be a caesarean. This was when the real audience turned up. Two obstetricians, two paediatricians, two doctors, two nurses, two midwives, two patient care assistants – it was almost like a Noah’s Ark of surgery except this being a teaching hospital, they each had a trainee, and each trio took turns at looking ‘down there’ during the process.
Although this wasn’t the birth I had planned, I was comfortably educated on all possibilities. What I was mostly wondering at this point though was if there would be enough oxygen left for the baby when he or she arrived, there were just that many people crammed into the room.
At 21:56, Amelia entered the world (with some help in the form of an episiotomy and a vacuum) safely under the bright lights of the surgeon’s knife and was welcomed by her mother, father and eighteen of our closest friends. As she laid on my chest, I barely noticed the various groups watching on as the surgeon stitched me up. ‘Finally’ I thought as he finished up, ‘the indignities are over’, little did I know they were only just beginning.
Six days later, I felt something just wasn’t quite right with my stitches and I had a whole bunch of bleeding, so at ten pm, the three of us headed to the hospital to get it checked out. After five hours in the emergency department, it was finally our turn to be seen, so there I was again, flat on my back legs apart with yet another doctor looking down there and of course, she needed a second opinion.
As I was waiting on the second doctor I glanced around the room at the boxes of nappies, gloves and garbage bags – I was being examined in a STORE ROOM! Long story short, the doctors couldn’t decide if my stitches had burst open or not, so they called for a third opinion.
While waiting for that, hubby and I engaged in some small talk with him proclaiming his embarrassment that my mum had been washing his undies while she had been staying with us. Once upon a time that may have made me blush too, not anymore. At four in the morning we were sent home, apparently, it would heal itself, nothing to worry about.
Two days after that the midwife checked my wound and again called for back up, this time I was told I would have to head back to surgery to have the area restitched so off the three of us went. After the time was pushed back by six hours, and having not eaten for thirteen hours, a new pair of doctors turned up to have a look during Amelia’s feeding time.
They enquired as to whether or not they should come back at a later time if I didn’t feel comfortable feeding in front of them. Huh? Weren’t these the two gents who were going to examine my busted vagina? I think they can handle a bit of boob.
What was I told this time? Hmmmm.... They discussed whether or not the area was infected and couldn’t work it out, so they asked for the midwife’s opinion. She wasn’t sure either so they asked me. How was I supposed to know? I sure couldn’t bend that far to look, by now I was having trouble even sitting down and this pair who were tag teaming me with a torch and a speculum couldn’t tell me! If they didn’t know how could I?
So with more questions than answers, they asked what I thought was the best option. At this point, the best option I could see was for me to retrain as a doctor and treat it myself. After they pointed out that it was a Friday night and my surgery was more than likely to be put off until the next day due to the high proportion of drunks anticipated, I was sent home with some more antibiotics and was told I could take them or not, they may or may not work. This was starting to resemble a ‘choose your own adventure’ type of treatment, fingers crossed I have made the correct decisions, time will tell.
So, although I’m not sure that I’ll be able to see a stethoscope in the future without automatically taking my pants down, it has been all worth it. Amelia is just gorgeous, and I’m as proud as any first-time mother could be.
As proud as I am, I think it is important not to bore everyone with baby chat all day and though I could go on and on, I’ll save the details of her sleeping pattern, gurgling sounds and cute faces for the grandparents. No one Iikes ‘those’ mothers who analyse every little stage of development to anyone who will listen, but every day I just can’t wait for her to have awake time so I can watch her. What else can I do? In a town with one shopping center and one strip of bars and restaurants, I’m afraid to step out the house as I’m pretty much sure to encounter one of my new intimate ‘friends!’