I always knew I wanted to be a mother. My older sister has always been at the mercy of my maternal tendencies, even since I was a young child. That instinct very easily comes off as bossy or controlling, though always from a place of loving concern. And following the passing of my last surviving grandmother last September, the birth of my son and the ever noticeable absence of my own mother, I have been initiated as the new Matriarch of my family – Or at least my immediate paternal family.
Our journey into parenthood began with a positive pregnancy test early in January last year. I had a pretty severe bout of food poisoning a few days prior and my friend suggested that my overly emotional response to the discomfort was a sign. So, thinking it’d just be another negative, I took a test. Dumbfoubded, excited and just a little afraid, Mike and I accepted that our twosome would soon be three.
Out of joy and excitement, I was unable to contain the news, dispite being very early on in the pregnancy. I arranged to meet with a midwife and booked a dating scan. I started buying tiny outfits, squirming with anticipation and adoring how little each garment really was. Just a few days prior to the scan, at 7 weeks, I started to bleed. Not heavy or even painful, but lasting long enough for me to be aware of what was going on. We kept our appointment for the scan and I felt embarrassed lying there, looking at a screen that clearly showed there was no longer any sign of life in my uterus.
Flash forward from January to March, tears cried out and having had a break from work to realign my attitude, I was convinced that it wasn’t our time to be parents. I figured that there was no way we would achieve a second pregnancy so soon, so I shifted my focus elsewhere. That was until I was a week overdue and, again expecting a negative result, I took another test. The positive line came up heavy, clear and immediate. There was nothing feint or unsure about things this time around.
With a bit more caution than our initial revelation, we let only our nearest and dearest know. I scheduled another meeting with our midwife and booked another dating scan. Boy, was I terrified that screen would be blank. My fears were unfounded, each week passing filling me with more confidence in my body’s capability. My conviction in our baby being a boy was made a reality at our anatomy scan. Pregnancy was treating me relatively well, aside from a short period of nausea to start and the ongoing niggles of sciatica.
Eventually, the emotional pressures of my job at the time became too heavy a burden for me to bare. I finished working much earlier than anticipated, though this served as a blessing as I was able to share in my Nana’s final week of life. Around that time, my hands, feet and face began to swell. My midwife became concerned as my blood pressure was steadily rising. Our baby showed no further growth after week 38 and his descent into my pelvis was evident one day, absent the next.
At 40 weeks and 4 days, I was admitted to hospital. After being brought in for fetal monitoring, my mild symptoms of pre-eclampsia began to cascade towards more serious. I was asked by a doctor if I was ready to have this baby. Naturally, I was keen to get things under way. As is the way in the maternity unit, I ended up with an overnight stay before induction as the original plan was interrupted by six new babies being born that night. Though I was nervous, I was more ready than I’d ever be.
I received my first dose of Prostin gel at 10am, with our baby still floating above my pelvis and a posterior cervix. Within minutes, I felt cramping. I thought it was surely in my head, nobody responds that quickly. How wrong I was! The irratic, mild contractions were easily manageable over the first 6 hours. Mike rushed out and bought me a colouring book. We walked, coloured in, rocked on the fitball, ate sandwiches and laughed together in the anticipation of our son’s arrival.
At 4pm, the doctor administered the second dose of gel. Baby had dropped down into my pelvis, I was fully effaced and dilation was beginning. I applied the Tens machine I had hired to assist with pain management and found myself in and out of the toilet constantly. In what felt like the blink of an eye, the contractions were coming on fast yet irregular. Each was stronger than the last, and after a while, there was no break between them. At 7:30pm, I was wheeled into the delivery suite, 4cm dilated. I was so off the planet, I couldn’t open my eyes or move my body. All I could handle hearing was the next instruction. All Mike could do was keep rotating cold cloths on the back of my neck, I couldn’t bare to hear his encouragement or reassurance.
The delivery suite was a blur. My midwife arrived, surprised to find the labour progressing so quickly. I recall her exasperation at the doctor not inserting a line as per usual protocol and having to find a good vein in the midst of active labour. I was given gas and air, but this only served to regulate my breathing and stifle my primal groans of agony, as dilation was too fast for it to even touch the pain. The next thing I knew, my waters were ruptured as I was instructed to roll onto my back. My body gave an involuntary push, as though nothing my mind signalled from this point could make any difference to the natural reflex. With a midwife on either side of me and, suddenly, a room full of people to bare witness, I pushed with all the force I had left in me to muster. Our baby was distressed. The doctor swooped in and administered a local anaesthetic, assumably for an epesiotomy that never came to be. My midwife said to me that this baby had to come out NOW. I could no longer feel where one contraction ended and another began. I breathed in deeply and focussed all my energy on my son’s emergence to the world. One of the midwives brought my hand down to touch his head as he had crowned. Time stood still as I was told that I was not to push again, little did I know that lifesaving measures were being taken. My baby’s cord had to be unwound from around his neck. Then with one final push, he was here.
There was a flurry of action, so much happening in those precious minutes. His cord was severed immediately and he was rushed onto oxygen – his birth happened so quickly and he was so stunned that his lungs would not inflate at first. As Mike followed our son through to the special care unit, I lay completely open and vulnerable as I was stitched and cleaned up.
The hours passed like minutes, until I was able to see our son. We couldn’t hold him to start, with him being supported by a breathing machine, a tube draining his stomach of fluid and a drip line to administer glucose. I was in so much shock that nothing registered on an emotional scale. Until I held him for the first time. Our rainbow baby, our son, our little Maxie boy, was sent to test and teach us. That was just the very start.