I go back to work on Monday.
As my final week of maternity leave draws to a close, I can’t help but get a little misty. It seems like just yesterday I was passing out on the couch while watching Californication, around 1 am, dreaming of pissing myself…
I was the size of a minivan so sleeping had become a real challenge. And I was good at sleeping when I was human-sized. Real good.
I was semi-lucid during said piss-dream, so I went with it. It felt nice. Warm. Really warm. Shit, that’s a lot of warmth.
Semi-lucid changed to apathetically-conscious as I reached down to confirm that this was indeed a dream.
I was drenched. The leather couch was drenched. And it was still gushing.
[I know. I’m aware of how gross the word “gushing” is. Particularly with regard to your netherlands. But it’s just the most accurate word here. Sorry.]
Initially I thought, wow, it’s one thing to piss yourself in your sleep, but you’re essentially awake now. Time to Kegal it up, Lax McGax.
But it didn’t matter. No amount of Kegals or anal winking (see that blog post about “the rectal”) or clenching of anything could stop it. In fact, any sort of movement only exacerbated the flood.
Holy mother shit. My water broke.
Now, I had taken courses in natural childbirth (*half-smirk with one eyebrow raised while unnecessarily re-buttonning single button on blazer*) and fancied myself a bit of an expert on “how to handle labour and childbirth”. Despite never having done it.
One of the first things they told us was that Adrenaline (our “fight or flight” hormone that floods the bloodstream in times of polar bear attacks and whatnot) directly opposes the natural, feel groovy hormone that allows labour and childbirth (and orgasms, if you’re lucky) to happen. Let’s call that rascal Oxytocin.
No problem, I thought. I’m a hippie at heart. I’ll just channel all my inner zen and float through labour like a feather in a warm autumn breeze. Inhale life and love, exhale fear and pain. Bring on the oxytocin.
But as I lay there in a pool (I’m sorry I’m still on this but…wow…like, it’s a lot. Way more than you’re imagining right now. And just when you think your body can’t possibly hold any more liquid; even if you were a previously empty vessel filled head to toe with baby-float juice? It pretty much starts all over), I was feeling anything but zen.
I was pure Adrenaline.
I still tried to fake it. Once J had cleaned up the mess and I strapped a queen-sized mattress into my fullest-arse drawers, I lay back down and tried to get in the zone. But while I attempted to summon tranquility and gratitude, I looked more like Rodney Dangerfield (God rest his soul) on his eighth cup of coffee.
My teeth were chattering uncontrollably. They had told us in our course that, should you go into labour in the middle of the night, it’s imperative that you go back to sleep because “tomorrow you will run a marathon and then some; you will need your strength more than ever”.
But to fall asleep when you know that to-day a human is going to emerge from your vagina (sorry, dad) is tricky, to say the least. It’s like being dangled by your foot from a plane in flight and told, “I won’t drop you for a while, ya might as well try to get a little shut eye”.
So I didn’t sleep. In my defense, once my water broke, game on. The contractions weren’t very mild for “early labour”, the time they suggest you “go for a walk”, “bake a cake” or “knit something”.
Knit, my ass.
Within an hour of my water breaking, we knew beforehand, I would have to be hooked up to IV. So we called the midwife.
Tangent: We went with a great midwifery group. They met with us throughout my pregnancy and took care of all my prenatal needs and whims – even coming to my home to cater to my occasional bout of paranoia. They were lovely.
The group we were with had three midwives. Let’s call them Jane, Judy and Jackie. We were to meet all three throughout the pregnancy, but on the fateful day of the birth, we would get whomever was on call. Fair enough.
Somehow, due to a mix-up in scheduling, we ended up seeing only Jane and Judy right up until my 37th week. And we were more than happy to have either one pluck a youngster from me. Jane was Scottish, maybe in her late forties, very maternal, doing this for years. Judy was maybe in her mid-to-late-thirties, no kids of her own but very warm and confident and made me feel like I could do anything.
It was Judy who came to see us at home for our 36-week visit. While she was there I casually mentioned that it’s funny we’d never met Jackie. Her face turned uncharacteristically serious.
What? You haven’t met her?
Sure enough, scheduling conflicts. She called the clinic office and quickly arranged it so that my last few visits would be with Jackie.
Ok, I thought. But she’d better be Scottish. Or have some other Mrs. Claus-esque qualities. Or at least be uber maternal (in lieu of my own mother who was, at the time, in Africa hiking Mount Kilimanjaro, running a half-marathon and embarking on a week-long, overland safari. I know. She’s wild. Definitely the Blanche to my Sophia.).
For the record, we only had two more appointments before lil M would decide he’d had enough bathing.
The following rant is an example of how I can sometimes fall into that ugly trap of judging a book by it’s cover: At my 38 week visit, out walked Jackie to collect me from the waiting room. Rather, whom I would soon find out was Jackie. At the time I assumed this was Jackie’s spritely niece on a high school co-op program, ambitious little tyke.
But nope. It was Jackie. A vision of petite n’ tight, nulliparous youth. Whereas I was more a “flaccid pudding of leaky hormones”.
Fast-forward to two weeks later, 1:30am. We dial the midwife “pager” number.
Hello, Jackie speaking.
Now, before I go any further: I quickly learned that Jackie – despite looking like Topanga from Boy Meets World – is brilliant and possesses an old, motherly, warmly feministic soul. She was probably a midwifery pioneer in a past-life. And she let me crush her hand and howl like a banshee into her face for hours, God love ‘er, without showing an ounce of fear or worry.
Even when things went “a little awry” (look up “lip of cervix” for some light reading with your morning coffee) and I projectile vomitted, Exorcist style, and demanded 9-1-1 and heroin (I’m not kidding)… she knew just what to say. She and J were crucial in keeping me above water (literally; I laboured mostly in the bath and would have stayed there for the birth had someone not pooped in it. Ruuude.).
And even though I was in a zone unreachable by any language or movement, they were my strength.
I am forever indebted to both of them for getting me through that day.
The “worst best day ever”, we like to call it.
One minute you’re somewhere in between conscious and unconscious, and you’re flapping your sweat-drenched lips and rolling your head on a lifeless neck and speaking in tongues. And your body is lifted into the air by an electrified knife and your insides are wrenched and twisted until you are confident you are dead or dying and the concept of breathing or speaking or moving is somewhere far far away belonging to someone you used to be…
And the next minute he’s here.
And your eardrums turn off.
And the pain turns off.
And there’s nothing but him and you, both outside your broken (but still alive) body.
Lil M was placed in my bare arms, at home in our bed, at 6:07 pm on February 27, 2013. And he was suddenly all there was to feel.
Something tells me it will always be that way.