Tuesday, September 25, 2012

June, a month in photos.

Notes on June. 

i. fancy booze from fancy friends, with fancy ice cubes
ii. a spending spree in the charity shop
iii. new dress, small bottoms
iv. treats from Pierrotv. treats found by small people. 
vi. bubboos blown
vii. buboos watched
viii. my own tiny King.
ix. a first kitchen cave
x. the discovery that if we work together we can move the furniture.  
xi. laundry is tiresome
xii. Fofee
xiii. in a box, sunday morning reading
xiv. Mountain Biking Makes Men Muddy
xv. first watermelon, closely guarded. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Giving birth. Part 2.

part 1. {here}

The drugs that are meant to start the proper contractions kick in, fast. It's really sore, which I don't like, but I'm also detached enough to observe that it's probably not as sore as my worst periods, the ones where I black out.  Birth Plan Reading Midwife suggest that I get in the birthing pool. It's deep and dark and lovely and the water pressure is excellent. I ask Nye why our bath doesn't fill this fast. He sits beside me and looks anxious. It amuses me that he's being such an expectant father about the whole thing. Then it irritates me, he's read the birth partner book so why the fuck isn't he making it all better instead of just sitting there?

The lights are low, I'm in the pool completely naked. I'm still sore but boringly so, not enough to mention. The water seems to quite literally dilute the pain. I'm surprised, I kind of thought people gave birth in water to distract themselves from the pain, not because it actually helped to lessen it. Weird bits of stuff are floating in the water, I chase them absent mindedly with my hand, trying to catch them. Nye looks concerned. It's almost 8pm, shifts have changed and the door opens. New No Birth Plan Midwife has arrived and tells me that I need to get out of the pool right away as the water will wash out the drugs that are meant to induce labour. Man, I am pissed off.

As soon as I get out of the water I'm in pain again. It takes the midwife 15 minutes to come back. I could have been in the water the whole time instead of pacing the room, clutching furniture and moaning about being sore. We're shown to a labour room and told to make ourselves at home, as if we've just arrived at a nice hotel for the weekend. We're told that if we have an ipod we can plug it into the stereo and listen to some relaxing music. We do have an ipod, which we brought for exactly this purpose, but I can't possibly fathom why I would want to listen to music right now.

Nye is rummaging in the bag for something, food probably. I spot the camera, I ask him for it and take his picture. He takes mine. They're the last pictures of us before we become parents.

I'm sore. I'm lying on the bed and I'm sore. It's not excruciating (for example, I can still take photos) but I don't like it much either. The midwife offers me pethidine. I waver for a second while I remember something about believing in 'natural birth' and that drugs are bad for the baby, then said 'yes please'. One injection and 20 seconds later I remember how much I adore opiates. Something delicious washes through my body and it gets a lot easier to make myself comfortable. I fall asleep.

Doctors come, one at a time, to check how dilated I am. Some of them are nice, respectful of the fact that I am making life, some of them call me 'good girl'. They all apologise for the discomfort. It might be discomfortable, I couldn't tell you, I don't remember.

I fall asleep.

I wake up. I feel a little sore again, not much but a little. Things don't feel quite as delicious, the edges not quite as blurred.

The anaesthesiologist comes in. She's not much older than me, she's friendly. I immediately like her. The midwife tells me I'm lucky she's on duty, there's a male one and he just took 20 minutes and three attempts to get the needle thingy into a patient's spine. This makes me feel quite sick. No one has asked my if I'm ready for an epidural, it's just happening and that's fine. I hope they'll give me more pethidine,

Everyone's chatty. I lean over the edge of the bed and am told to stay very still. No one says it but I've read the books, one sneeze and I could be paralysed forever. Never have I felt more like sneezing.

She rubs numbing stuff on my skin, it doesn't work. I feel the needle go it. I twitch. Fuck, am I paralysed? No. Good. I hope that it might feel like the pethidine, beautiful as it trickles through my veins, but it doesn't. I just go disappointingly dumb. Someone whacks my feet to see if I can feel it, I can't, which is good. The midwife turns the lights down and leave. Nye and I chat quietly a little and then I nod off again, it must be around midnight.

I wake up and push myself up slightly to see what's going on, something must be going on. Nye is asleep in a reclining chair next to me, the room is empty, the lights still low. It is a warm yellow cocoon, I lie down and fall asleep again. I haven't slept so much in weeks.

The next (and last) time I wake it's very early in the morning, something past 4am. I need to pee. The midwife is there. I don't know if we called her, if she just happened to be there or if knowing we needed her she appeared like magic. In my memory she appeared like magic which now that I think about it, seems unlikely.

I tell her I need to go to the loo, thinking that she might help me to the bathroom. I've forgotten that my legs don't work any more and feel slightly surprised when she reminds me. Apparently I'm going to need to have a catheter. I know from past experience that I like catheters, they negate the need to get out of bed to pee, something that I've been looking forward to for approximately 9 months. The midwife bends my legs at the knee and props them up. I note that although I can't feel anything, they're not useless, they prop quite easily. Interesting. Her head disappears.

'Oh.' her voice says from between my legs. 
'You're fully dilated. I can see the head.'

Huh, I think, that's pretty cool.

'Okay, I'd like you to push a little bit' .... 
'now a little bit more'..... 
'now a little bit harder, the baby's nearly out.'


I thought I was practise pushing, so that she could look at it's head.  No one said anything about having a baby right this minute .Why did no one tell me I am having the baby right this minute? Okay, I think, I suppose I can have a baby right now and I push with more conviction, the conviction of someone who knows she's having a baby and isn't just practising.

'Harder! Okay! We're nearly there!'

Scissors disappear between my legs, Nye looks at me, panic stricken, not sure what to do. He has been told that I do not want an episiotomy. I smile at him, nod my head and tell him without words that it's all okay. Despite my surprise that she wants me to have this baby right now, everything is okay, exactly as it should be. I am having a baby. Never have I felt such pure faith that everything is okay, happening exactly as it's meant to.

There are three people in the room; me, Nye and the midwife. It's sometime before 5am, the world is dark and it's quiet, the lights are still low. I push again, harder than before, and then there are four. Me, Nye, the midwife and my baby girl.

I laugh, relief and joy relax my muscles. Nye looks at me with wonder. 'You did it' he whispers. Clutching his hand, glistening with sweat, as happy as is possible to be, I turn to my right and away from my husband. I see the midwife; wiping, wrapping, weighing, and then a tiny tiny person is delivered to me. The tiniest person I've ever seen. She's wearing a knitted hat, she's wrapped tightly in a blanket. Her mouth is tiny and open and her eyes are closed. Her lips part, searching, and I want desperately to put her to my breast.

The door opens, fluorescent corridor light spilling into our room bringing with it people. I don't look up, I'm still staring at my daughter, wondering how to get to my boobs through the top that I'm wearing.

"why didn't you call......"  
"...there wasn't time...... sudden..... straightforward..... blood loss though, about three litres.'' 
" ...need to call consultant before next one arrives"

Arms gently pull my baby away, hand her to her father. 'But....' I want to say, 'she needs milk' but before the thought has reached the world I drift back to my body, to the other baby that's still in there and the doctores that have started to arrive. Doctors who want to make sure that they see this one come out. For the first time I'm torn between two people, my child who is here and my child who isn't. No one is interested though.

Lights turned up, monitors strapped on. Talk of heart rates. The anaesthesiologist reappears. She 'tops me up' while someone rolls an ancient looking scanner into the room. Yet more people arrive.Gel on my stomach. More people. The scanner. Checking that the baby's still breech. Monitoring her heart rate. Waiting. Waiting for her to turn. Stubborn. Stubborn baby. Bright lights. We wait.

An hour later, a consultant. Stern face, disapproving.

"What is she still doing here? Theatre. Now." 
"Straightforward" says the midwife. Cut off mid sentence.  

People leave. There is me, Nye and the midwife again. And our baby.

The midwife is doing something to the bottom of the bed, adjusting something so that it will fit through corridors. 'SHIT' she exclaims, metal clattering to the floor. A container dropping, liquid splashing, lots of liquid splashing. My legs are still suspended, I don't know what's happening but I know the midwife is stressed. Something is broken, there is blood on her scrubs.

Then it's fixed and I'm moving through the corridor. Nye is left alone in a darkened room with my blood on the walls. Except he's not alone, he's holding a baby, his baby, the first of precious few moments that he and his eldest daughter will share, just the two of them, alone.

I'm moving through double doors after double doors. There are voices, so many people. One two three four five six seven I lose count. Lights, so bright, dazzling, white walls, lamps. So this is theatre. I've been in theatre before, three times, but those theatres have been relative broom cupboards, a tight squeeze for a surgeon,  anaesthesiologist, nurse and patient. This theatre is bright, spacious, there's room for the ten people I have so far registered. Nye comes through the door, following slowly behind the crowd. He sits to my left. My daughter is wheeled in in a large plastic box. My daughter. She is placed beside us. Her little mouth is still moving, still searching for a breast that isn't there. Nye places a hand in her box beside her before turning back to me.

I try to count again, one two three four five six seven... twelve. Twelve people in the room; for me, for my daughter who is yet to be born.  I take stock. There is Mairi, the midwife. There is me, there is Nye. I don't know if I count us. There is a consultant between my legs, I've never seen her before. There are two midwives looking after the baby. There is the anaesthesiologist. There's a backup anaesthesiologist (probably the one who took 20 minutes to anaesthetise his patient. I am wary of that one.) There are two paediatricians standing in the corner by the incubator, they're talking about the holidays they have coming up, skiing. They are clearly straight out of medical school and are flirting wildly. They could not be less interested that 6 feet away from them life is coming into the world. In the far corner, with a disapproving look, is the consultant who insisted I was moved to theatre NOW. She's itching to take charge.

The midwife, my midwife, is holding my hand. The other two are fussing around my baby with that peculiar mixture of possessiveness and disinterest that they all have. Nye is holding my other hand. The paediatricians are flirting. My anaesthesiologist is standing beside me. Among all of those people she, Nye and my midwife are mine, they're the only ones that I notice. The others are strangers, along for the ride and I'm barely aware of them. My midwife is asking me to push, the consultant between my legs is telling me to push, my anaesthesiologist is asking me if I can feel anything.

'Yes' I tell her.

'Do you want me to top you up?' she asks, reaching automatically for whatever it is that pumps more drugs into my spinal cord.

'No,' I tell her,  'please don't. I can feel it but it doesn't hurt. It's.... amazing.'

She looks utterly bewildered, but also slightly impressed. She finds her place by the consultant and leans over, watching in mute fascination. Surely she's seen this before?

The midwife tells me to push, to push harder. That damn stubborn baby does not want to come out. I remember what I read about amorous activity encouraging babies to leave the womb and I ask Nye to kiss me. I am absolutely sure that Nye kissing me and only Nye kissing me will lead to this baby being born. Now, thinking back, the thought of me telling Nye over and over again to 'kiss me!' like some awful hippy makes me want to die with embarrassment but at the time it made perfect sense; the baby doesn't want to come out, if Nye and I kiss my cervix will open like lotus blossom and she will enter the world perfect and whole and ready to greet a brand new dawn. I blame the opiates. And Ina May. 

But then, with the help of forceps to shoe-horn her out, Baby Two is born. She is in this world. And she really, really isn't happy about it. First there is a yell, and then in silent protest she turns blue. She is taken to the resus table and the paediatricians stop flirting and disappear over my daughter, my other daughter, I have two.  She perks up and they bring her to me, but she doesn't look too perky, in fact she looks rather blue again. They whisk her away to NICU, assuring me that she's fine. It's only days later that I think to question them, my faith that everything is just fine is still going strong.

My midwife's shift is long over yet she's still here. The other midwives tell her to go home, get some sleep. She leans over and kisses my cheek. She hugs me tight and whispers in my ear 'please tell me what they're going to be called, I won't see you again.' We've been refusing to tell anyone their names for the last 12 hours, it seeming rude to tell other people before we've told them, but I whisper back 'Ella and Amelia. And thank you.' As she leaves the theatre I notice that she's covered from waist to toe in blood, I wonder whose it is.

The lights are still bright as people start to drift away. There is an obstetrician in a headscarf between my legs, she is stitching me back up. It's not sore but it's bloody uncomfortable, it feels as if someone is sewing a brick into my vagina. Very, very tightly. I look around the room, hoping to see the placentas but I can't tell what is my flesh and what is blood-stained paper towels. No one even mentions them to me, let alone ask me if I want to keep them. 'What if I want to make a print? Or a wee charm?' I wonder. Maybe placenta prints aren't big in Glasgow.

Eventually it's done. I'm free of theatre, no long a vessel to empty then mend, but a mother with a baby, to be sent to recovery.

The recovery rooms are quiet, I lie with Ella and Nye and finally, I get to feed her. I hold her to my breast and the midwife helps her to latch on. In one arm I hold a tiny brand-new person, in the other hand a cheese sandwich. It's the best cheese sandwich I've ever eaten. Nye takes a picture of me on his phone, in it I am the happiest I can ever imagine being. He leaves to check on Amelia, and so begins the story of our stay in hospital. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Conversation at Toddler Group.

scene: me and mother of three boys, aged 5 months, 3 and 4.5, sitting chatting while 25 toddlers eat playdoh.

her: what have you been doing this week? 
me: Nye was away for 2 days so it was just me the girls for a couple of days, it was mayhem. (Very proud of myself) It was the first time I've looked after them alone overnight! 
her: My husband has just been away for 9 weeks..... So. 

In my defence, they were sick, we were stuck in the middle of nowhere with no transport and the weather was atrocious. But yeah, apparently looking after my own kids for two days isn't that big an achievement. Who knew?

* photo via The New York Times. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A morning with Anja.

Just before we left Glasgow, Natalie and Steven invited me to their stunning home (seriously, I was stunned. It was proper magazine-beautiful)  to photograph their tiny baby girl, Anja. 

Anja's grandparents had travelled from New Jersey to meet their first grandchild and we all spent a quiet morning together, just revelling in how beautiful and sleepy babies are and what a privilege it is to have three generations together for the first time. 

(I'm still working away on a website for this new photography business of mine. I spent two weeks building a blog site only to decide that I don't like it and I had better start again. We do however have a name, which is a start. I'm no longer available in Glasgow for shoots as we live in the Highlands now (surprise!) but in three months we'll be in London, and I hope I'll be launching Cara Shoots Littles (not the official name) properly then.)