Alien meets Fear and Loathing: Pregnancy, the things nobody talks about.Ask me anything
Disclaimer: Contains my labour and birth experience in typically graphic detail. If you are either of delicate disposition or related to me, (in particular a brother of mine and don’t necessarily want to associate your beloved sister with the word cervix, or VAGINA) perhaps divert your eyes around now.
Four days ago a momentous, life changing and utterly terrifying event occurred. For all my reflecting and postulating about pregnancy and Blob’s impending arrival, I truly don’t believe I ever accepted the fact that I was about to bring an actual human life into this world. After forty-two weeks of psychological trauma combined with the obvious physical discomfort pregnancy entails, I found myself prostate on starched white sheets attached to a beeping monitor, a monitor registering the heartbeat of the tiny person so apparently reluctant to meet her entirely unprepared and completely bewildered parents at last. In the end, her arrival time was completely outside of our control. At midday on Monday July 9th, I was given my first pessary tablet, inserted directly into my cervix to encourage the onset of contractions. It took around five hours before I started to register any significant level of pain, in fact I was actively trying to precipitate the contractions as I was determined not to delay the process in shape or form. There was no way I was going back, I had reached the point of no return, plus my patience had reached ultimate saturation point by this point. I had after all, been pregnant since birth of Christ.
After bouncing on the birthing ball and having an extremely uncomfortable bath into which one midwife poured a pint of semi-skimmed, (I’m still somewhat baffled as to why) I was examined. I had dilated one centimetre in six hours, slow progress to say the least. My waters were then broken using some kind of medical hook, it was as though I had suddenly lost complete control of my bladder, as I lay there in a puddle of warm, seemingly endless, unidentified fluid. (pleasant I know.) After some more monitoring, which had become tedious by now to say the least, I was transferred to a delivery room. By this point the contractions were somewhere between horrific and agonising on a scale of complete ouchiness. (It’s a medical measurement.) As I paced around the room, grizzling and complaining at my Mother who basically just sat there with an entirely placid look on her face, offering advice such as “I know, it’s really horrible with your first baby, but the next ones are no where near as bad.” The thought of any more children at this point was almost enough to make me leap from a window and end the whole diabolical affair.
After an hour of pacing like a captive panther, (with a penchant for the dramatic) I decided another dairy filled bath was just was the doctor, or midwife, ordered. Nathan accompanied me into a private bathroom, where he watched on quietly, as I knelt on all fours in the tepid water, grunting and complaining excessively. If I was to describe the pain, it was something along the lines of having a decade’s worth of stools stored up somewhere in your lower abdomen and although you are desperate to relieve yourself, you know the physical impossibility of this task considering the sheer size and solidity of said stool. This, combined with the worst period-like cramp imaginable, with side order of unbearable pelvic pressure which comes and goes in waves of utter horror. By the time I had been in my milky pool for around ten minutes I was nigh on suicidal. Nathan rung the bell for the midwives, who rushed in to help me out of the bath, concealing my modesty with two hospital gowns, one for the front, one for the back. Apparently no-one has yet decided that a gown which does actually fasten up perhaps would be beneficial in such circumstances. Nathan later informed me that it was at this point he finally registered just how much pain I was in as I let the midwives wrap me in floral hospital gowns without protesting or worrying about how many people had possibly died in them. There was thus no denying I was in agony.
I was marched back to my delivery room by a sturdy, un-phased midwife, shaking like a leaf in a breeze. The pain was now off the scale of ouchiness and had entered a whole new dimension of indescribable shit. I was placed back onto the bed, re-attached to the dreaded monitor and examined again. The words uttered by the midwife at this point will remain etched on my subconscious for all eternity. “Still 2cm dilated, you’re not yet in labour.” I remember thinking, well what the hell is this then? Just a happy dance through a park of utter bliss?
Pethadine was at last offered to me, and although I had read about the possible undesirable side effects of the drug on both mother and baby, I readily accepted it as though I had been offered a delicious and delightful smorgasbord. However, I was at once informed that one of the midwives had in fact tottered off home with the key to the drugs cabinet. I felt like a prisoner who had been offered parole, only to have his chance of freedom snatched away from him in a moment due to some form of administration mix up. On reflection, this may have been a ploy to delay administering the drug until the latest possible opportunity. The idea that there was only one key to a rather vital cupboard, seems somewhat ridiculous.
Time now had become a relative concept, all I know is that I lay there, sucking on the gas and air, (which was entirely useless I have to add, I’ve had better hits from a dried out board marker.) for at least an hour until I suddenly experienced an overwhelming desire to push. There are no words that could aptly describe this particular feeling. Imagine your whole pelvis exploding out of your backside. That, but worse. The pressure is entirely inexplicable. Since I had just been examined and remained haplessly at 2cm, the midwife seemed somewhat lackadaisical in her approach towards me. I wholeheartedly believe, she, along with my Mother and Nathan just thought I was being entirely ridiculous in my sudden exclamations of “She’s coming.” and “I need to push. I can’t not.”
A doctor and another midwife seemed to teleport into the room, one administered the pethadine, which was by now completely redundant, whilst the other inserted a cannula into my hand, through which she administered a shot of oxytocin. With a reluctant sigh the midwife examined me again and what do you know, 10cm dilated and a baby arriving. Her apron was quickly thrown on and the resuscitation table buzzed into life, Blob was at last about to enter life.
The labour from then was somewhat of a hazy, other worldly experience. The pain of the actual pushing was nothing compared to the writhing agony of those final contractions. An hour of pushing and tiny head appeared. Nathan described how he could see the head turning, I could feel it myself. Again, for all my florid, elaborate prose, I simply no longer have the words.
The artist formally known as Blob, was finally born at 10.55pm.
She was placed on my chest and latched straight on to my breast, that is after pooing, weeing and tearing out my cannula, covering both of us blood. The image of a brand new baby casually grasping a needle in her hand is rather disturbing. I lay there, exhausted, dazed and still completely bewildered.
They say the pain is forgotten in one sweet moment, that moment you first hold your baby in your arms, look in to their eyes and know it was worth every second of pain, every day of frustration, every missed slice of Brie and every long lost sip of blessed alcohol. For me, I remember every single minute of it, my feelings about pregnancy have not changed. I hated every day of being pregnant, and I will forever be experiencing flashbacks of that day. The blood covering the bathroom floor after my first shower, the first baffling night alone with a baby on an eerily quiet, post-natal ward, that first burning, agonising wee.
And worst of all, that wheelchair and those gowns, heaven knows how many people died in those…
After my last update, I genuinely believed the subsequent entry would be a bombardment of every single repulsive, terrifying and completely unedited detail about Blob’s long awaited arrival. As it stands, she is still very much in-utero and I am becoming more than a little bit impatient. There is however, a list of things one can attempt to hasten the onset of labour in the final stages. Said list includes sex, spicy food, exercise, liquorice, hot baths, loud music…(a large pair of tongs)…and numerous other completely unreliable mis-truths perpetuated apparently by an obnoxious bunch of elderly female consorts some centuries ago.
Sex is perhaps the one based most convincingly on some semblance of scientific theory as there is an enzyme in sperm believed to ripen the cervix, which in turn encourages dilation. Therefore, this is perhaps the one most worth placing emphasis on. Naturally, this has been tried, regardless of the tiny fact that never in my entire life have I felt less sexual or indeed, desirable. I am currently the size of a small bungalow and my mood largely fluctuates between anxious anticipation and utter exasperation. Forty-two weeks of pregnancy does not have the most agreeable effect on ones libido. (Yes, forty two weeks, anyone who previously believed human pregnancy lasted nine months is sorely mistaken. I appear to have been pregnant for nigh on a year. Delightful.)
Everything else on the list has also been tried, but alas, evidently to no effect. I may start trying more extreme methods of displacement, perhaps a casual leap of a bridge.
Unless she decides to put in an appearance by Tuesday, which in all honesty, any hope of this actually occurring has been entirely lost by this point, I will be induced. Metaphorically and literally speaking, by hook or by crook, Blob will be forced from her apparently far too comfortable uterine hotel, whether she likes it or not, by Wednesday at the latest.
Just five more days…
Anyone see any cliffs?
As you have probably deduced in a most Holmes like manner, Blob is yet to put in an appearance. Over the weekend I have been convinced she was about to embark on her journey downwards, but alas, no.
The most frustrating aspect of it all, is that I appear to be experiencing all the signs of impending labour (for once I won’t bombard you with all of the intimate details.) without actually going into labour. This could be what is aptly described as a ‘slow labour’ which usually refers to the fact that for several days you may experience contractions, all manner of aches and pains, yet more toilet troubles and the loss of many delightful substances before established labour actually truly kicks in. For my sins, I’ll most likely spend the next seven days, suffering the most elongated labour ever documented, before they at last decide to induce me.
It’s been a long hard road Blob, I’m anxious to finally meet you face to face, so we can properly discuss this whole debacle.
I initially intended this to be kind of a round-up post but it seems Blob is determined to hang around a little longer, so you may well have to suffer more of my ramblings between now and whenever she decides to make her eagerly anticipated entrance into this world.
Rather than gazing back over the preceding forty weeks and plumbing the depths of my obliterated emotional reserve tank, I simply want to take a moment to bullet point a few of the most apparent aspects of pregnancy which are so woefully overlooked by seemingly everyone who either experiences it for themselves, or deigns to write about it in any shape or form. If you are of particularly delicate disposition, I suggest averting your eyes, round about now.
- The Elusive Clam - The body which you had hopefully grown accustomed to has by now become almost unrecognisable, even as human, let alone your own, that much is well documented. What nobody seems to acknowledge is the fact that your own genitalia become something akin to a wild and forsaken landscape. A distant, deserted and largely inhabitable island awash with unkempt foliage and long lost, wayward explorers. (The image of the explorers might be taking the metaphor a little to the extreme, but you get the picture.) In the simplest of terms, I haven’t seen my own vagina in around three months.
- Back-Door Disorder - No, this isn’t some kind of sexual exploration Blog, I’m merely talking toilet troubles. Constipation is a well-known joy of early pregnancy, then during the second trimester things seem to settle down and you gain authority over your own bowels once again. In the last month or so however, there has been absolutely no regularity whatsoever. I can go several days feeling no inclination towards the bowl at all, then completely out of the blue my body deduces five or six times a day is perfectly satisfactory. (I have actually stopped to go once since beginning this paragraph.)
- Night Terrors - This particular point is something I have found to be both disturbing and hugely intriguing with regards to the complete wonderment that is the human brain. Throughout pregnancy, your dreams can become a little unorthodox to say the least. I have most recently found myself dreaming consistently about Blob being born one inch long and everybody having to carry her round in a tiny matchbox. I have also been mauled by Rottweilers which turn out to be Bill Oddie, not to mention the fact that often Blob is born inhuman. The most fascinating concept of the pregnancy dream though, is that you are never not pregnant in them. Even when the dream does not relate directly to the fact of you being with-child, it is always apparent. Even in your dreams, your brain can no longer picture yourself any other way than this. It cannot be switched off, even for one sweet blissfully ignorant moment.
As the precious moments draw in and I find myself only a week away from my EDD, (that is Estimated Due Date for those not in the know when it comes to pregnancy lingo.) I can’t help but picture myself as I was prior to this pregnancy. I imagine myself cartwheeling out of the hospital, with all the lightness of a balloon, this burden at once lifted and a tiny vacancy sign popping up somewhere outside my uterus. I have all but forgotten what it feels like to run, to swim, to play tennis, to ride a horse. To be able to stay awake for twelve hours, to make plans, to travel, to not cry every day, to not be the literal and metaphorical elephant in the room, to have wild and uninhibited sex, to wear totally inappropriate underwear, to savour the taste of Bourbon and Brie and for nothing to ever be too much.
I feel as though nine months ago, I left the sombre ocean behind to wander without guidance or purpose through a seemingly impenetrable forest, now at long last I have stumbled upon a clearing and I gaze upon it again. The Pacific ocean, with xanthous sands so lustrous under my blistered soles, there to greet me, waving devotedly, glistening with all its longing cerulean blue. As I approach I hear a whisper on the wind, welcome back old friend, you’re free.
Deep down I am all too aware that this is nothing more than a reckless fantasy. The freedom of youth I’ve mourned, is long gone. I will limp from that hospital, dazed, sore and terrified of what the future months may have in store for me. Though my womb will be empty, my arms will be full, and never again will I know independence or selfishness. I will only know of unconditional love and perpetual concern for another.
For that I’ll never be ready.
The very intention of this blog was both to share my own experiences of an unexpected and unplanned pregnancy in the most honest and forthcoming of terms, as well as for my own personal catharsis. As I reach the end of my pregnancy and thus possibly the end of my blog, I honestly feel as though it has provided me with both of those things. As well as these things however, I am all too aware of the fact that I have offended, shocked and quite frankly horrified both friends and strangers alike. So I feel I must address this particular entry to those who have recoiled in disgust and those who have refused to read the unimaginable and unfathomable ramblings of the ungrateful, self-absorbed swine that I am.
Between all the raised eyebrows, sycophantic personal messages, misplaced judgement and general disapproval, there have been two particular topics of debate which I have been perpetually confronted with. The first being, ‘How do you think your daughter would feel if she ever read or knew about this blog.’ The honest answer to that, is that she will know, because I fully intend on sharing with her every step of this indescribable journey that we have embarked upon together. As she has grown and changed, metamorphosing from simply an abstract source of fear and uncertainty into this ever-present personality, a life, my life, our life. I have grown along with her, in every sense of the word. Thus, I do not worry about how she would feel to know of my initial despair, my lack of preparation, my unbridled and all consuming anxiety, because that is a little something known as reality.
The second stick I am invariably and consistently beaten with by those who profess to have a consummate knowledge of all things pregnancy related, (discounting the tiny inconsequential fact that many of them are yet to experience child-bearing for themselves thus rendering their observations entirely illegitimate.) is this ‘How can I say such things about my unborn child, when so many people can’t have children and would do anything to find themselves in my position.’ Obviously when I began writing this blog, a thought that crossed my mind was how offensive and insensitive this may seem to anyone unable to conceive for themselves. I mulled over this conundrum for approximately thirty seconds, before deciding to blog nonetheless. My reason for this decision was and remains completely transparent. Pregnancy and the individual experience of it, can never be compared with that of any other person. Nobody can ever claim authority or undisputed enlightenment when it comes the impact of pregnancy on another person’s life, or their own for that matter. Convincing yourself you would ‘do things differently’ or ‘never write such things’ is futile, for no-matter how well you think you know yourself, you don’t.
So, for those who have read, laughed and cringed along with me, I can’t thank you enough for providing me with such an outlet. For those who find themselves insulted by my accounts, I thank you also, for allowing me to address in my own terms, the myths you continue to perpetuate.
From the very beginning of this pregnancy one of the things I have been least looking forward to was attending these apparently entirely compulsory parenting classes. You are however only required to attend two, one about breastfeeding and the other being an even more unsavory labour class. Despite my reluctance, I did as I was instructed and dragged myself along to both of them.
During the breast feeding class I learned that those mothers who are lucky enough to be able to breast feed for an extended period of time (Ideally about eighteen years on a strictly hourly basis and after that in any emergency situations, such as when there is no cows milk left for anyone’s cornflakes) should be revered and greatly congratulated on their successes as well as for the perpetual sacrifices they have made. These women will not have left the house or even seen daylight for nigh on two decades because expressing milk into bottles has recently been discovered to be as dangerous as smearing cocaine directly onto your baby’s gums before drop kicking it out of a nearby window. (Any one who chooses this method, should be considered immediately untrustworthy and possibly unstable. That is the expressing, rather than the Class A drugs and Aikido.) Any mother who can’t breast feed for any one of a thousand possible reasons should ideally be lightly stoned at the gates of the city in which she resides. Possibly only with small pebbles until she at last accepts the indubitable fact that she is nothing short of a failure. AND woe betide these “mothers” who decide not to to breast feed their child, regardless of whether or not she physically can. She should be cast immediately into the seventh circle of hell, where she will be forced to languish with all manner of undesirables for all of eternity, for she is the lowest and most despicable of them all. (Do not attempt to apprehend unarmed.)
Yes, I considered the class to be largely uninformative propaganda based so obviously on government stipulations and health regulations in which personal and individual preferences, situations or physical requirements play absolutely no role whatsoever. On a personal note, I intend to breast feed Blob myself for the first few weeks, then allow a local goat or small bison to take over.
The labour class I found slightly less militant and somewhat more informative. Nothing entirely alien was raised, the usual subjects were covered; pain relief, how to spot the first signs of labour (Small unknown face appearing between your legs and waving cheerily.) what to expect after the birth, taking the baby home, those dreaded and terrifying first few days. The process of birth itself was demonstrated by the midwife pushing a none to pleased looking doll (one of those ones from the last century with the white soft body as though they are permanently wearing a vest) through an extremely angular and unexpectedly bony pelvic structure. The doll almost lost an eye as his face was literally forced past the curved coccyx, the entire class looked on aghast. Many may have signed themselves up for elective Cesarean as soon as the mandatory two hours were through. The highlight of the class was undoubtedly when the token bewildered teenage member of the group raised a hand to ask that all too familiar question… “Is it true that some women poo whilst giving birth?” It is a fear we all harbour only none of us had any inclination towards raising our hand and asking a surprised looking midwife in front of a room full of strangers. For me it is actually my main concern regarding the entire labour process. I can take any amount of pain, but please God, let my bowels stay off duty.
Once regaining her composure, the midwife simply smiled and nodded. “It happens to most women.”
Several more booked in for elective c-section.
The most common of pregnancy symptoms are widely documented and discussed in great detail, often in more graphic detail than anyone can possibly require, (do we want to know about your prolapsed uterine wall?) Those physical side effects of carrying another human inside of you, basically metamorphosing you from a whole and fully functioning human being into nothing more than a transporter, an agent of life, a courier of consciousness. We all remember that moment in Men in Black, where the pathologist realises the newly delivered corpse is in fact just a vessel for the cute little wrinkly dude that lives inside his face, well pregnancy is just like that. There is no need to even adapt the location of said alien, because for me, I have found my own subsistence to have been growing more patently inside my mind, than my uterus. This leads me to the point of my latest blog, which is to focus on the mental complexity of pregnancy, rather than those tiresome physical and emotional effects we all suffer and are quite frankly, bored of hearing about.
So, how does one go about separating what is an emotional response due to an imbalance of those pesky hormones, from a mental deficiency or transformation? It would be entirely disingenuous of me to pretend I have avoided the emotional outbursts, break downs and intermittent bouts of depression, because regardless of how entirely together I must seem about all of this and how readily I have accepted my new role as a twenty four year old mother-to-be…I have suffered at the hands of wild, unfathomable hormones, just like everyone else. What I have yet to discover in any of the pregnancy literature of have so far read, is whether or not I am in fact entirely alone in the acknowledgement that this growing baby girl, has obliterated my own brain, while hers is undergoing assembly.
I have noticed a marked change in my own personality, I don’t think like I used to think. I don’t feel the things I used to feel, I don’t want what I once wanted. You may be sitting thinking, that is entirely normal, pregnancy and childbirth are life changing events, bound to impact your entire being in every way imaginable. With that, of course I can not argue, this is something different however. I literally feel as though my brain is not the one I had cultivated quite sufficiently prior to this pregnancy. I am not the same person. I no longer recognise myself at all. I have no individual identity. Am I the only person to drive away most of my friends, simply because I no longer consider our lifestyles to be compatible? Is it expected that I should give up all my hobbies, change my tastes in music, dress, entertainment? Should I not want to leave the house?
Though she is inside of me, why do I feel as though I am in fact, growing inside of her.
Somewhere along the way, a law must have been passed forbidding pregnant women from dressing in anything other than floral print curtain-like attire, as there appears to be nothing in the realm of maternity wear that is anything less than hideous. Up until this point, (now 32 weeks and counting) I have been squeezing myself into my regular clothing, unfortunately for both me and my ever expanding womb swag, my pre-pregnancy wardrobe consisted largely of tiny skirts, shorts, tight fitting dresses and bosom enhancing tops, accompanied by a drawer full of minute thongs and Wonderbras. None of this is becoming of a heavily pregnant woman, of that fact I am all too aware.
Thus, I have been scouring the internet for more appropriate clothing but have been largely unsuccessful. The two nursing bras I did finally purchase are completely revolting. One resembles something more befitting of a geriatric, whilst the other apparently has a mind of its own, moulding itself daily into all manner of shapes, none of them in any way breast-like. I have been attempting to wear them nonetheless, particularly when I have no reason to leave the house, (which conveniently is most days) inevitably though when it comes to stepping out in public, I return ashamedly to the old faithfuls. Ones that aren’t so determined to render me completely shapeless.
Aside from the fiasco of maternity underwear, I have been desperate to find some suitable maternity jeans, note the emphasis on the words jeans, for it is neither dungarees or stonewashed plumber jeans I have been searching for, if I had been, I would have by now entirely re-stocked my woefully depleted wardrobe, but alas, I have not surrendered my senses entirely, so up until this week my search had been agonisingly fruitless. Until…I found some. I am that impressed with how ordinary they look it has been deemed a photo-worthy occasion…