After having visited a friend yesterday with her new baby, I was reminded that I have never blogged your birth story.
I wrote it in your pregnancy journal that I kept, but never wrote it here. I did a couple of posts before you were born, but nothing about the birth itself. Actually, looking back on past posts, I see that I didn’t even blog for a whole year after you were born. Consider this perhaps part of the plight of the second child. With the first child, you think you have no time, but when the second comes around, you realize you really had a whole lot more time than you thought. Who knows what the third child is like, that is a path we have decided we won’t be taking.
But it’s a story I want to tell, here, because maybe one day you will want to know about it. Maybe it will be in the days before you give birth to your first child. I really, really hope and pray that I will be so blessed to be able to see that day, but if I’m not, then at least you will have it here.
So, Daughter, let me tell you about your birth.
You were born in October, right on your due date. In the summer, we were trying to figure out when we should tell Nana to come, because she would have to come watch your brother. She wanted to come for three weeks. We couldn’t decide when she should come because it was hard to predict when you would arrive, given that your brother was born five weeks early. We decided she should arrive the last week of September, two weeks before your due date, and leave a week after the due date. I was certain you were going to be early too, after all, my first baby was early, and they always say that first babies are late, so I figured you’d be even earlier.
One afternoon in mid-September, a week before Nana arrived, I noticed that my blood pressure had started to creep up. It was during a heat wave. I had been diligently taking my blood pressure periodically in light of what had happened the first time around.
So, I prepared myself for an eventual inducing. I packed my hospital bag, bought slippers and maternity pads and some sterilizing soap. And the next morning I went in to the hospital for some monitoring.
This time around, we had moved so we lived a lot closer to the hospital. It was only a short ten to fifteen minute bus ride. I downloaded some upbeat 80s new wave to my iPhone to listen eventually during labor.
I got to the hospital and was directed to the midwives salle where they did monitoring. I explained that my blood pressure was running a bit high. She directed me to a monitoring bed, slathered some cold gel on my belly, strapped the belt on and looked at the monitor.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. 115/70.
My jaw dropped and I actually couldn’t talk, I was so surprised. The midwife looked at me and said « your blood pressure is great ! ». I told her I couldn’t remember ever having such low blood pressure.
They monitored me for half an hour and sent me home, with instructions to come back next week for more monitoring. That was the first of what would be four nervous bus trips spent preparing myself to be induced.
Nana came. Those weeks with her were nice. I introduced her to the ladies at your brother’s new halte-garderie. He had just started in September. Nana began taking him to the garderie every afternoon on the bus. We went to the park, we went on walks, I took your brother to the pool, and also went to the pool by myself. I had stopped going to my prenatal yoga class by this time because it was too uncomfortable to take public transit,and a bit far. I remember the last time I went, at 37 weeks. The yoga teacher, who was the same teacher I’d had with your brother, was also pregnant with her second child. I remember when she asked everyone how they were doing, I’d said « J’en peux plus ! », which made the other ladies in the class laugh. At the end of the class I told the teacher I thought this would be my last class, and she said she’d see me for number three, which made me laugh.
It was Nana’s birthday while she was here, so we baked her a cake. I have to say though, that there was also a whole lot of sitting around. The last month of pregnancy is incredibly uncomfortable, Daughter. Baby pushes up on the lungs, so it’s hard to breathe. It’s hard to walk with a baby hanging down in what feels like your butt. I was too uncomfortable to move much, so I wasn’t doing much. I felt sorry for Nana, because a lot of that time was just spent waiting
and waiting some more.
I kept waiting for signs of labor. Nothing. No mucus plug. No contractions. What was going on ? I thought you were going to be early too ?
I drank raspberry leaf tea, ate some pineapple sprinkled with chili powder, and watched movies. I remembered how Momie had said I was ten days late, and I came after a friend had made a spicy omelette for Momie, saying that women had always given birth after eating that omelette. I wished for that omelette.
Finally, it was down to about five days before your due date. I was getting nervous because Nana was due to leave a week after your due date, and we needed her around for a few days for help after we got home. So, as I mentioned before, I decided to ask to be induced.
Well. So much for all these inducing-happy doctors that everyone always warns you about. I called the hospital at 7am like they asked, and they told me I could come in. I packed my hospital bag and took nervous bus ride #2 to the maternité. I sat in the waiting room for three whole hours, on an empty stomach. The doctor who had followed me during the last few months saw me in the waiting room and came over to say hello. I thought that was nice that she recognized me. She had suggested that I go see the hospital psychologist after I had told her I was still feel down about Momie passing. I had seen the psychologist and it was very therapeutic to talk about my mom.
At about noon, they called me in. They told me that they were very full, and inducing wouldn’t be possible that day. The midwife told me it was better to wait anyway, baby could come at any time. They said to come back the day after tomorrow if nothing had happened.
Harumph. I got back on the bus and came home.
Two days later, I called at 7am, packed my hospital bag, took the bus, sat in the waiting room. They sent me home AGAIN. I couldn’t believe it !
On your due date, I didn’t even bother packing my hospital bag, and I was carefree on the bus ride over. This time, however, they brought in an obstetrician, the same one I’d had two years earlier who I at first thought was an ass, but turned out to be ok. He checked my cervix, still barely dilated at 1 cm, which I had been at for about two weeks. He asked me why I wanted to be induced, saying I could still wait a few more days. He seemed a bit surprised that I was requesting being induced ; I guess most of the Anglos who come in the British hospital don’t want any sort of medicalization.
I explained my situation about Nana, and he said « Pour moi c’est bon pour une declenchement ». I asked if I could have a few minutes to think about it, and he said « Bien sur » and said to take half an hour and call my mari.
I went out into the waiting room, called your papa, sent texts to a few people, took a walk around the maternité. I felt like, I would have liked to have waited, but it was just getting down to the wire, and it would be really awful to not have Nana there when we got home.
So I made the decision to go ahead with an elective inducing for you. I still sometimes wonder when you would have come on your own, what your birth day would have been.
So, I went back in, and they got me all set up for inducing. They got me in a hospital robe, and got an IV in my arm. At one point during labor I would be very tangled up in wires, as they also had to attach me for eventual blood pressure medication.
The midwife was named Ch and she was very nice, and there was also a midwife-in-training, a really young girl who couldn’t have been more than 23. She was also nice.
So, that’s when your actual birth story starts. The first two or three hours were rather uneventful. Your papa came in and looked kind of bored. Nothing happened for the first couple of hours, no contractions, no water breaking. Then very mild contractions began to start. I told the midwife in training that it would be nice if that’s as painful as the birth got. She looked at me like, yeah, don’t hold your breath. Which I wasn’t doing anyway.
The upshot of that is that the really painful part only lasted maybe three hours or so, far shorter than the first time around.
After sitting around for about two hours, the midwife Ch said she was going to break my waters. She used a long plastic thing that looked like a knitting needle. She assured me it wouldn’t hurt and it didn’t, but very soon after, any tiny lingering hope I’d had for a miraculous painless birth jumped out that little birth room window.
If you’ve read your brother’s birth story, you already know how I feel about contractions. They hurt. Like a mother. They rolled in and rolled out. The only comfortable position I could find to get through them was on my hands and knees on the bed, warm amniotic fluid gushing out making a pool on the bed, with my big pregnant white butt greeting anyone who walked in the door. I would rock back and forth in Cat and Cow pose, doing bee humming pranayama breathing. The midwife in training, Cand, suggested instead of the loud breathing, I should try blowing on my fingertips like a feather. I felt mean for thinking this because she was nice, but I was thinking, you have obviously never gone through this before if you think blowing like a feather would be helpful.
They told me I could have an epidural any time I wanted. Well, I wanted one NOW, but I was so afraid of it not working, like the last time.
They got the anethesiologist in, a different one from last time, although I didn’t entirely like her either. I think there is something about the metier of anesthisiologist that makes people weird. Something about the power of controlling people’s pain. Anyway, she fitted in the epidural, and gave me a button to push so I could control how much pain medication I got, something I hadn’t had the last time around. I pushed the button, waited, pushed, waited. About fifteen minutes or half an hour went by. No pain relief.
I was devastated. I was not really that much dilated, and I could imagine hours more of this. Just when I thought I was going to have to suck it up again, the anesthetist said the words : « On va mettre un autre produit ». (« Let’s try something else »)
She squeezed my feet while she said this, during a contraction, and for some reason I found this gesture incredibly soothing.
She didn’t need to redo the epidural, and I don’t know what this other « produit » was, but I wish I had gotten the name because man oh man DID IT WORK !
It was sweet, heavenly relief. I could feel the contractions. I could feel them roll in and roll back, but they just. didn’t. hurt. There was no more pain.
I lay back and began to really enjoy the birth, feeling the contractions. I don’t know how much time went by like this, maybe an hour ? Maybe less ? But I suddenly had the urge to push. I was amazed I could still feel that urge. Ch checked me and I was utterly amazed when she told me I was at ten cm. Already !
At one point, for some reason they were concerned that you were still high up in my belly, and I asked if that meant a c-section, and she said she didn’t know. In any case, they told me to start pushing.
First push : you shot way, way down immediately. Everyone was impressed. That’s a second child, the midwife said. The first one cleared the way. No one was concerned anymore.
Second push : your head became engaged. It was a very uncomfortable feeling, although because of the epidural it didn’t hurt. It was just « très désagreable » as I told the midwife and your papa. (There was no obstetrician needed this time around ; it was a midwife-assisted birth).
At this point, for some reason, I just started laughing. It was such an amazing thing, to give birth. It really felt joyous, especially because I didn’t need to fight the pain. I could just feel you moving down through me. I can say that I was laughing as you were born, Daughter.
I was also pooping. I say this Daughter because maybe one day you might want to know if your mom pooped in the delivery room, and I’m afraid that, yes, it was the case. I could feel it, but couldn’t control it. That’s what all that pushing does. It didn’t happen with your brother but it did with you. I apologize to other people reading this, for the graphic nature of this information tidbit.
Your head was still engaged. I was waiting for another contraction. They told me no need, just poussez ! Even though it was uncomfortable, I did one more big push and you slipped right out, screaming for Britain !
You were placed on my tummy. I wanted to nurse right way, but they still had to deliver the afterbirth (which I asked to see again) and stitch me up. You were howling and yelling, a really kind of indignant, « how DARE you ! » kind of yell. Then you got weighed, and the baby nurse dressed you in the blue pyjamas that he had worn when he was born, I just love those pyjamas so I wanted you to wear them too. Then we spent two beautiful hours in recovery. We got breastfeeding started right away, and you were very calm, just looking around.
It’s funny because I had been worried about the fact that so many stressful things had happened during this pregnancy : my mom dying, moving, your brother starting a new garderie etc, that I’d been afraid of how this would affect you. I kind of feel like, you yelled so much when you were born, unlike your brother who didn’t make a sound for about two minutes, maybe you were thinking, « what kind of a place IS this ?! ». But after a few days, when we came home, you just turned out to be the calmest easiest baby. It’s as if you were reassured.
After two hours, we were wheeled up to our room. I was incredibly dismayed to discover we would be sharing a room this time around. Incredibly dismayed, although it ended up not being the end of the world. It’s not as though one gets a lot of rest in the maternity hospital as it is. The first roommate I had, had given birth the day before. It was her fifth child, all girls except for one boy. She herself was one of five girls. Boys generally don’t run in their family. She was horrified that you were dressed in blue pyjamas. “Mais c’est une fille!” she exclaimed. Well, she obviously has good reason for not being able to think outside the pink box. I feel for her son.
The second roommate was having her second child, and had to have an emergency c-section after a failed induction. She spent the night before the induction in the room, with her husband, and left in the middle of the night for the inducing, but ended up with an emergency caesarian. We had a curtain to separate us. Neither of those two moms breastfed, which is very French. I overheard the midwife giving them pills to stop milk production. Any visitors they had, had to pass by me to get to them since I was closest to the door, and I felt like a bit of an oddity breastfeeding.
Anyway, we were wheeled up to our room, I was brought a hot meal (it was about 9pm at this point). I stood up on my own to use the toilet and was chastised for this, as you are supposed to wait for someone to help you.
The first night, you cried anytime you were off the boob. I didn’t really get much sleep, although I really dozed off around 3am for a couple of hours and my first neighbor, who had the TV on all night, apparently called the midwife in because you were coughing up meconium, and I didn’t hear. She said she was concerned. I kind of felt a bit judged, how dare I take care of myself and get some sleep when my baby needs me ? But I was really tired from the birth.
The second night, you were crying quite a bit. I tried giving you a binky but you kept refusing. You just wanted the boob. The midwife came in and really insisted that you take the binky, and for some reason watching her do this made me cry. Some protective hormone.
Finally, in what I consider an act of compassion, the baby nurse suggested that they would take you from 3am to 7am, and give you a bottle of hypoallergenic milk, through a syringue. I had been so against anything that wasn’t breast milk, but I decided to accept because you really seemed to want milk.
Daughter, I have to say that I still consider this to be a compassionate act, one that got me off on the right foot for parenting the second time around. From 3am to 7am, I slept. Four solid hours of sleep. They brought you in, fast asleep at 7am, after having given you a bottle, and you dozed on for a few more hours.
I mention this because I know you are not supposed to give anything but breast milk if you are trying to nurse, but this little break really helped me catch up. I remember the first time around, the neonatal nurse telling me that sleep is important for milk production. This one little bottle, the only artificial milk you got for six months, really helped so much. As it were, we ended up nursing for 11 months, so in our case that one bottle didn’t hurt.
Other than that, it was a standard stay. Not terribly relaxing, but I still found moments to rest. I had my toiletries and comfort items, my electric kettle and selection of teas from home. I had an iPhone this time around to post photos and updates onto facebook. I still had to keep the IV in for about two days because my blood pressure momentarily shot up during labor, no doubt due to painful contractions, but they were still vigilant. It never went up again. I was monitored as before for blood pressure but never had any issues.
The night they took the IV out, the nurse put a bandaid on and left. A few minutes later, the bandaid was soaked in blood and blood was dripping onto the floor. There was too much pressure in my arm after having had the IV in for a few days. I had to roam the floor in the middle of the night looking for a nurse.
Nana came every afternoon, as did your Papa. Your brother wasn’t allowed in the maternite. Nana would bring him in to the garderie and then take the bus over to visit with you. The day after you were born, she asked if they would exceptionally take him an extra day so she could come see you, which they did.
The third day after you were born, I had a bit more of the third day blues. I remembered having them with your brother too. It was when I was transitioning roommates, so I took advantage of the room being empty to open the window wide and look out onto the streets of Levallois. There, looking at people going about their day, going to work, going to lunch, I let the tears flow. I was thinking about Momie then and how she wasn’t going to get to see you, or how I couldn’t call her. I remembered what a comfort she had been the night before your brother was born, when she was in New Mexico with her friends, standing on the balcony, looking out while talking to me thousands of miles away in France.
They kept us another day because, story of my life, you hadn’t gained weight. I had prepped myself for leaving so I was a bit disappointed. They showed me how to give you a bath and clean your umbilical stump ; it was amazing how much I had forgotten in two short years.
And then came the day to pack up and leave, and call a cab. We packed you into your car seat and drove you home. Nana took a picture of us from the window getting out of the taxi. We had arranged it so that you had a gift for your brother, an electric race car, and that I would come in the door first and greet him.
I came in and gave him a big hug. I had missed him so much. To this day, that is the only time I have ever spent the night away from him. I am not saying this is a good thing, it’s just under the circumstances how it has turned out for us.
Then I asked if he wanted to meet the baby, and I’ll never forget the happy look that crossed his face. We brought you in and oh, Daughter, your brother was so happy to see you. He was smiling and touching your hands. We have a great photo of that moment. I don’t know what your relationship with your brother is at the time of your reading this. I hope it is good, but in any case, let me tell you it started off beautifully.
Nana stayed with us a few more days before flying back to Canada. It was early fall, and we took walks around the neighborhood with you in your new Bugaboo stroller. She came with me to the hospital a few days later when I had to have my stitches removed. She waited with you while the midwife did it. Then we walked around the Mairie de Levallois.
And then we set sail into the adventure of being a family of four.