Friday, June 14, 2013

Having a Baby Abroad: Birth story part 1

My husband's dissertation was due on August 30, and the baby was due on September 7. David asked me to keep my legs crossed until he handed his paper in, then he begged for a few days, perhaps even a week of nothing and laziness before we were overcome with a newborn. I taunted him by bouncing a bit too high on the yoga ball (the only comfortable place to sit in the entire house), ordering a spicy curry, and jumping off the sidewalk at a crosswalk. But the wee boy stayed inside.

Emily, the midwife, making a house
call when I was 40weeks+5days.
That's her black medical bag.
How cute is she??
He was born nine days "late." I use quotes because due dates are guesses. I think all they do is frighten women into thinking something is wrong if they go overdue and give friends a reason to write "Have you had that baby yet?" on people's Facebook walls. In many countries, they don't even give you a date -- just a range or even a month. I was thankful to be in Scotland while I was nine days "late" because they don't talk induction until two weeks past the due date. I've read far too many horror stories about inductions (and yes, I'm happy that yours went fine, but I didn't want one, okay?), and I was hoping to avoid one.

One fab thing about going overdue is that the midwives in Scotland make house calls at that point. It's not quite Call the Midwife, but it's not far off either. They don't wear those super-cute outfits, but some of them do ride bicycles. My 40-week appointment was in pajamas, in my own bed, sipping tea. Everything was fine with the baby, but I had a little something else going on with me -- I was losing some feeling on the left side of my face, most likely caused by the baby pushing on a nerve. Not a big deal, but enough that the midwife wanted to get a doctor's opinion.

I was sent to the hospital to have it checked out, and I was terrified that they would keep me there and induce me or c-section me -- I was five days overdue at that point. My normally low blood pressure was soaring because I hate hospitals and because I was freaking out. I explained to them that I was just having white coat syndrome (which is weird because doctors wear regular clothes over in the UK, not white coats). The doctor kindly gave me some time to myself with a glass of water, and even agreed to take my blood pressure manually rather than with the big scary machine that always makes me breathe heavily. Eventually, after several hours and some blood tests, the doctor said everything was fine, and I was sent home. (Who knows for sure, but I think if I'd been in America, I would have been induced, C-sectioned, or at the very least, not allowed to leave the hospital.)

I was home for another week before anything of interest happened.

The first contraction was at 11:15pm GMT on September 15th. I went back to sleep, thinking I might be able to get some good rest in between them (they're meant to be far apart in the beginning, right?) and feeling no reason to wake David, who had just finished watching an online Dr. Who marathon)  from his peaceful slumber. The second one was at midnight. David heard me get up to go to the bathroom, and he mumbled to ask if I was okay. "Yes, just a contraction, go back to sleep."

Wrong thing to say! He was immediately wide awake, grabbing my iPhone to start timing contractions. Oops.

The third one was at 12:03am. The next -- 12:05am. Then 12:10am. Then 12:13am. Now if you know anything about how labour is supposed to go, you know that's not typical timing. They are supposed to gradually get closer together. Mine got really close, really quickly, with no discernible pattern -- and I was having what I referred to as "after-shocks," where I'd have a second contraction just thirty seconds after the first.

This is most likely because my baby was posterior -- facing my belly button rather than my back. It's harder way out of the birth canal and results in what's known as "back labour." Back labour is typically more painful and difficult than regular labour, and I'd done everything I could to prevent it. During the last few months of pregnancy, I never leaned back, I stopped sleeping on my back once the baby was getting into position, only ever I sat on a yoga ball, and I spent hours a day on hands and knees or swimming. I even had cranio-sacral therapy to get the baby to turn (he did, but then he flipped again).

I'd read that hands-and-knees position was good for back labour, but I found that even worse. Finally, I jumped in the shower and leaned against the wall with a stream of hot water aimed on my lower back for immediate relief.

At some point David called the Lothian Birthing Centre at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. They say that the woman is supposed to make that call, to eliminate the middle man and make it easier to evaluate how far along the labour is. Well, I have major anxiety about making phone calls anyway, but I definitely didn't want to talk to ANYONE -- even David -- while I was going through active labour. So sweet David called for me, which was a good thing because he was told they were "on divert," and we would likely need to go to St. John's, a farther away hospital. Thankfully, David didn't tell me that, or I might have locked myself in the bathroom and not come out until the baby was born.

David also called our amazing doula, Nicola. She came over about 2 or 3 am. I'm not sure because I was still in the shower -- at one point, I even set off the smoke alarm from all that steam. (Apologies to our upstairs neighbors, but consider it payback for your taking up the viola.) I wasn't paying much attention to anyone because I was trying (unsuccessfully) to conjure up some hypnobirthing, but I did hear Nicola tell David that he needed to get me out of the shower unless we wanted a home birth.

To be continued because this is long already...

Previous Having a Baby Abroad posts begin here.

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