A week ago I became the mother to four children. Four boys. People have always said to me that going from two to three children is the breaker and that going from three to four is ‘nothing!’. I’m here to dispel that old chestnut. Four is a.lot. My head is spinning but that may just be my iron deficiency.
A week and one night ago my waters finally broke conveniently when I was on the toilet and so began Grover’s journey into the world.
I had thought it was starting the night before when I had strong low abdominal pains and loose bowels (sorry, that caught you all off guard didn’t it). But no. I went to bed and it all went away. We went to Felix’s Auskick gala day on the Sunday morning and as we left home I said to Chef, “I’m not sitting down at this thing, I’m going to stand and walk for hours. I’m having this baby today because I am done.”
A week and one night ago I cooked the family a dinner of the marinated and roasted chicken pieces that I did a few weeks back with sausages, but this time no sausages. I did the potato gratin and we had peas and broccoli. And you know what? I know I would have made a dessert, but I can’t, for the life of me, remember what it was. OMG – that’s right – I made Eton Mess. Which let’s just say presented itself as another type of mess later on in the wee small hours of the morning. Mum joined us for dinner and at one point I even said, “maybe this is the last supper as it were”.
A few hours later I was hanging out on the lounge. I made a boiled fruit cake and managed to scorch it as I got taken up in Big Love. The pains returned, similar to the night before but I didn’t pay that much attention to them, except for acknowledging they were there. Then at about 10.45pm I went to the toilet.
The adrenalin kicked in instantly. My breathing went from normal to shallow and racy. I was already shaking. I went down the back room and stood staring at Chef, who was on the computer, who was all “what?” until he saw me leaking on the floor. I literally couldn’t get my head to formulate the words or my mouth to say them. There wasn’t very much fluid at all, compared to the flood with Oscar and Jasper. Chef told mum, I rang the midwives, Chef got me towels and lots of them, he got Felix up and dressed, and suddenly, we were on our way.
The anxiety I had been feeling about labour had not vanished with my waters breaking and in fact seemed to be intensifying. The fact there were t.h.r.e.e. different lots of road works we had to negotiate on the way to hospital only probably added to it.
When we got to labour floor at around 11.30pm and I saw K, my midwife, I almost burst into tears in relief. This is a woman I have a mild infatuation with and am feeling quite bereft that she may now just drift from our lives. Is it bad I want to be friends with my midwife? Anyway, she was on a rostered weekend off, but had come in to deliver our baby all the same. After being one of my midwives on every pregnancy, but never having delivered one of them, she was as determined as I was desperate for her to deliver this one.
But then the waiting game began. The TENS machine was hooked up to my back and we waited. We walked the halls, I paced the room, Mum turned up w/ Oscar despite us telling her we’d call when labour kicked in, and we waited. Surprisingly, three hours passed quite quickly. I’m sure no one else in the room felt like that, but I did.
At 2am I said to A, who had been buddying K through my pregnancy, that the baby would be here by 3am. At 2.15 the contractions shifted gear. I didn’t want to talk through them, I couldn’t lean forward a milimetre as it just hurt my stomach too much, so I stood in the middle of the room and stamped my feet through each one. I just shut my eyes, stamped my feet, focused on let the baby come and kept a very firm grip on my little TENS machine boost button. At around 2.20, I declared I had to take my nightie off. I apologised to all present for exposing my massive form to all and sundry (I had always wanted to strip off in every other labour but was too embarrassed) but felt so.much.better. It was pretty soon after that I think that the vomiting started. I only recall two small vomits but Chef said I vomited. A lot. Nice. I got to 2.30, told K I couldn’t do it anymore, that I wasn’t happy about it at all and that was enough. Chef said cheerfully, “But that means you’ve only got half an hour to go”. And I knew he was right. So I just shut my eyes (again, I think I basically had my eyes shut from about 2.15 until he was almost out) and kept on stamping. Somewhere in there I said to K “I really want to push but I’m not sure if I really need to or if I just want to so it’s all over”. In her calm infinite wisdom she told me to just listen to my body. But this time, this final time, was so very different from all the others. This time I was actually apprehensive. Frightened even. And I was nude. And I was standing up. The urge to push was much more of a drawing down sensation if that makes sense. It was far more gradual, creeping up on me compared to the other three where some primal urge came from deep within. I do know that my breathing and the sounds I was making changed. From deep breaths to some deep gutteral groans. From stamping to just sort of leaning into the floor through my knees. I still couldn’t lean on anything, couldn’t touch anything or have anything touching me. I think it was a way for me to keep this labour, this birth to myself. To not have any part of it diluted, as if in touching someone or something an element of it might be drained away, taken from my grasp. I heard K and A rustling, getting their gear on and all the collateral to the fore. I thought, oh here we go. And suddenly we were there, K instructed Chef to get infront of me, I still couldn’t lean so just sort of hung on to his shoulders (I knew I loved his height for a reason), a pillow went between my legs and for a minute I thought, “this kid is going to land on a pillow!” Then, for what felt like an hour but was probably more like 3 minutes I pushed the biggest noggin out in.my.life. And at 3am on the dot, he was with us.
Behold, a grapefruit:
I know. I know. But you don’t need to know how long I spent trying to find to scale images of his head and grapefruits. 37.5cm people.
A week ago a new life that my body had nurtured, had protected, had grown came into the world. I wonder who this little person with big wide hands, long fingers and massive feet will be.
A week ago I began to bid farewell to the physical battle wounds I had sustained from pregnancy – sciatica, heartburn, swelling and carpal tunnel. The swelling has still not completely gone, which I’m quite miffed about, neither has the carpal tunnel, particularly in my left hand, but the fact when I feel the need to do a wee I really do need to do one is still quite a trip and tying me over in the meantime.
A week ago I was bleeding clots the size of my hand onto the floor in a labour ward, but over on the tiny little pastel checked couch sat my hulking frame of a husband of 10 years and partner of 16 with our newest creation.
A week ago I was working on a post I never loaded about how I felt I’d been such a substandard mother during this pregnancy and that I was going to try so much harder once the little person was on the outside. That this feeling applied in particular to Oscar, with who I have been very ‘short’ and impatient. Who has driven me nuts with the incessant questioning of what’s happening next, which car we’re going in, if soccer is on today and when we’re going to see Nana and Grandpa. I know I’ve been slack with him because I can be. He can’t – really – answer back and I have taken advantage of that too many times. And that makes me feel very very unworthy of this bounty I have in my life.
A week ago my heart created space for another little person without me even trying. When Oscar was born and it all went even more pear-shaped than the pregnancy I remembered when I’d said to the obstetrics registrar – who was trying to allay my fears of something being wrong with the baby by the fact I was young, didn’t smoke and wasn’t an alcoholic or drug addict – that someone had to be the statistic. And then we were. And how hard I rallied against the reality that had been dealt us. I didn’t want to be the mother of a disabled child. I didn’t want to be one of those manic mothers taking their child to this class and that specialist. I didn’t want to have to explain my child to anyone, let alone the world. I didn’t want to have to fight for what people call equal rights for my child but what I call ‘what is right’ for any child. I didn’t want to have this grief lace my heart, label me, define me. I didn’t want to be the mother who when asked about how her child was held herself in check so friends and family wouldn’t tire of the never-ending quest for reaching any elusive developmental milestone. How I wished to be a mother who when someone asked how my child was, could simply say ‘fine’. I felt guilty for imagining if he died, that it seemed so much more romantic, so much more tolerable a tag than the albatross of ‘disabled’ around my neck for what? the rest of my life? for thinking that pain would ease over time as opposed to this load which would only increase the older he got. I felt guilty for my anger, for wishing it would all just leave me alone even for just for a few hours. For wondering if that vice like grip it had on me would ever lessen. For so desperately hoping every night when I went to bed that the next morning I would wake to Oscar saying “Mum I’m hungry” rather than “Ma u[p] [s]un u[p]”. I wanted to kick the people who said Oscar had chosen us. I wanted to spit in the eyes of those who would say, ‘I don’t know how you do it’ , as if parenting your child – irrespective of whether they have special needs or not – is a matter of choice. I want to scream at everyone who asks if Oscar will ever be able to talk “I DON’T FUCKING KNOW” and so it goes on and on. But time is a marvellous thing. It gives you perspective, it gives you oxygen, it gives you hindsight. And so my life as a mother and as a parent to a child with special needs took hold. And here we are, with our Little Guy Number Four and I’m struggling to remember my world without him in it. And it made me realise something, with every child comes an extra layer to who I am. And that while the love is instantaneous it takes a little time to get comfortable in the new garb. The coat feels a little heavier, some label at the back is scratching on my neck, the pants ride up a bit and the shoes seem to be pinching my toes. I’m not sure about the colour and I certainly wouldn’t have picked the outfit for myself, so bear with me as I pull on this collar over here, the hem over there and just seem a little itchy for a while.