Tuesday, 2 February 2010

A Night Of Firsts by Kate

At first I blamed the nut roast we'd had at lunchtime. Shouldn't have been so greedy, I told myself as I took the Metro to Mendez Alvaro where I'd arranged to pay a social call to our former flatmates and pick up some post. While I sat chatting to Pete, I got fidgety. No position seemed comfortable. And I had an urgent need to visit the loo. Bloody nut roast.

After a while I made my excuses and headed back to the Metro. The discomfort was now moving into pain territory. Then it struck me - was I having contractions? Surely not, I had four weeks to go and these were awfully close together and now feeling rather strong. Braxton Hicks, I thought, those "pre-labour practice contractions" I had been told to expect.

Once on the Metro I was finding it hard not to groan and grimace as we trundled back towards Pueblo Nuevo. I was haunted by a recent Metro Madrid advert, which depicts a woman in labour and helped by strangers on the trains as she heads towards hospital to have her baby. I tried not to think about it.

The walk from PN Metro station to our flat seemed interminable and a couple of times I had to stop, trying to remember the breathing techniques I had been practicing ready for the birth. I'll be fine when I'm in a relaxed, familiar place, I thought. A fit of chills shook me, then as I waited for the lift in our building, I felt burning hot. What the hell??

I finally got inside and when Theo saw my face and asked if I was okay I did allow myself a grimace. "I think I'm having contractions", I said. He tried to rub my back and help me but suddenly I couldn't bear to be touched. I moaned on the sofa, trying different positions, but no relief. Then another urgent need to visit the bathroom. Once there I realised I was discharging some blood.
"I think we'd better go and see someone," I told Theo and tried to breathe through another contraction.

With admiral presence of mind, Theo threw supplies into a hastily improvised hospital bag (just in case) - something I'd been intending to organise this week, but never mind - and led me to the car. I felt calm, but couldn't pay attention to anything except the contractions, which seemed to be coming at one minute intervals. Theo, meanwhile, battled with the spaghetti of roads and disappearing signposting that marked the route to Universitario Hospital La Paz - a dry run was something else we had been planning to do in the next week or so.

When we arrived, we explained the situation and I was led away for examinations and monitoring. A very jovial middle aged medic checked by cervix "Only 2cm", she said, "I don't think you need to start pushing yet." Ho ho ho. My contractions were monitored for fifteen minutes then another cervical examination. Despite my imperfect understanding of Spanish, I detected slight consternation. I was now 3cm.

"The problem is," I said, "Is the baby's head is here - she is sitting on her arse." The consternation increased and I was scanned. Yep, I was right. At that point, they obviously made the decision to take our baby "out the window" - although I could only surmise this from the way I was being stripped of clothes and jewellery and given a hospital gown to wear and asked when I had last eaten or drunk anything. Nothing since the nut roast, I assured them.

Then Theo was suddenly beside me. "Are we having her now, then?" I asked, just to make sure.
"They're going to give you a caesarian", he said
"Oh, okay." Another contraction to breath through.
"I love you!" Then I was wheeled away. Watching the passing strip lights above my head I could only think how surreal it all was. I felt completely calm - had done since the beginning, in fact - but couldn't quite take in that I was about have a baby.

In the theatre, the kindly but efficient medical team prepped me for the operation. It was a most odd feeling as the epidural took effect and all sensation in my legs disappeared. Thankfully, so did the pain from the contractions, which was a mercy.

A green curtain was stuck up so I couldn't see my abdomen (although the effect was slightly spoiled by the fact that I could see perfectly in the reflection cast on the highly polished monitor arm above me. I tried not to look.)
"Can I touch my baby afterwards?" I asked. I couldn't remember the Spanish for "hold". Yes, they assured me.

I felt myself being shaved, then something pushing into me, which must have been the incision. Then hands were inside my belly and I felt the baby being physically pulled out, her head finally away from the underside of my rib cage. Very, very strange, but not in the least painful.

A moment later, "The baby's out!" and with startling suddenness she was lifted above the screen for me to see. I was speechless. The only word I managed was an awed "Oh!!" before she was taken from my view. Next the pushing and pulling as they stitched up my wound. "I've just had a baby!" I thought.
"Congratulations!" They all cried.
"This is surreal", I said aloud. The time was 00.15.

The next moment, a little bundle was carried to my head, her face towards mine.
"Little kisses for your baby," said the medic holding her. I complied, the surreal feeling growing. Then she was gone again. I still felt calm, especially as they assured me she was fine. Also, a dawning sense of wonder. I couldn't really take it in.

Soon, the stitches were finished, and trailing a drip trolley, I was wheeled out to the corridor where Theo met me.
"You're amazing", he said.
"Is she alright?" I asked.
"She's perfect!!" he said. Then he told me I was being taken to the intensive care unit on the fourth floor for overnight observation and our little Rosie would be monitored on floor eleven. We would be reunited in the morning. He had been told to go home, but he would come back at the earliest possible time - around ten. He kissed me and I was pushed into a lift up to Planta Cuatro.

Up in the ICU, I was checked and monitored and only here did I suddenly become aware how everything hurt. I requested more pain relief. They gave it to me after pressing painfully on my abdomen. Boy, that was agony.

So, hooked up to various drips, catheters, auto-blood pressure-machines, ECG monitors and gawd-knows-what I tried to get some sleep. Actually, I felt pretty relaxed, but sleep was impossible with machines continually bleeping and the blood pressure sleeve around my arm tightening uncomfortably every half hour. I kept thinking "I've had the baby!" and started to wonder what she was like. All I could remember was a pair of blue eyes and a shock of fuzzy dark hair.

As the clock ticked slowly on, I contemplated my situation. I had never been a hospital in-patient before. Never had anything approaching major surgery. Never been inside an ICU. And - oh yes - had never given birth. And now I was a mother, apparently. Another first.

By morning, I was getting impatient to be with Rosie. I had been watching the clock since I had arrived and now I could hardly contain my impatience as they gave me a bed bath and started unhooking me from the various tubes and wires. I was missing Theo, but all I could think about was meeting my daughter.
"Any pain?" asked a nurse. "Yes," I said. She shoved me in the abdomen. Ouch.

Finally, they began wheeling me away. I was taken up to the eleventh floor and into a room where a woman and her husband and baby were already ensconced in one corner.
"Congratulations!" They said.
"You too!" I replied. And then I heard wheels approaching the door. They belonged to a mobile cot which was pushed over to my bedside. In the cot was a tiny, pink baby - our baby. For a moment I just marvelled at her. Then, despite, the pain in my abdomen, I leaned over and took her from the cot and into the bed with me. I just wanted her in my arms. I smelled her and gazed at her in wonder. This was our daughter. The feeling was indescribable.

Then, twenty minutes later, Theo arrived. We embraced and he joined me in my fascination with this tiny new person we had made. Our family. Now we are three.

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