People love to tell you – perhaps with more than a hint of schadenfreude – that your first labour will happen after your due date, and it will be long. I had my fast-approaching due date marked on every calendar I could get my hands on but, though I continued to wistfully hope my baby would be one of the fast ones, Jene and I were positive that that date would come and go before our baby.
At 39 weeks, just before we went to bed at 12:30, I complained to Jene offhandedly that my back hurt, but at that stage in my pregnancy there wasn’t much that didn’t, so nothing more was made of it. By 2am, though, the pain had been coming and going in such short succession that I hadn’t managed to sleep at all. Armed with a hot water bottle and a healthy dose of denial, I moved to the lounge room, convinced that I simply had some bad digestion pains. I had had no warning whatsoever of impending labour, the pain was coming in short but erratic intervals – not building up over time – and I felt no discomfort in my belly.
After two hours of writhing on the couch, though, I heard a pop, felt my waters break, and finally had to concede that it wasn’t just a tummy ache, and I should probably wake Jene. The midwives at the maternity ward advised me to come when I felt ready, but I needed to leave immediately, as Jene doesn’t drive and I was going to drive myself the (thankfully) one block to hospital – something I do not recommend. As I leaned over the car bonnet waiting for Jene to get some hot water to defrost the windscreen, I had to concentrate hard to resist the urge to push – a detail that I kept to myself as we finally got going. (A detail that he later told me he knew, anyway, but was trying not to think about.)
Once at the hospital, after practically running up the stairs to maternity, it took two contractions before the midwives coaxed me to let go of the banister, and another two before I could be persuaded onto the bed in the delivery room. I was so far along already, and moving so quickly, that the 3cm dilation I had to go occurred in the time it took to administer one dose of Strep B antibiotics.
It didn’t take many pushes – two or three – before baby’s head was out, and after a brief pause to cut the cord from his neck, another one or two before he was born. Jene told me he came shooting out.
Devin James arrived with no complications on the 10th of August 2009 at 4:59am, after thirty minutes at hospital and four and half hours of labour, weighing 3190g (7lbs) and measuring 49cm (19in). He was a lovely little thing, with lots of (surprising!) red hair, and wide-open eyes. I couldn’t believe he’d come from me, Jene couldn’t believe he’d made it through the birth, and Devin couldn’t believe the big bright world he’d just entered. We spent a long time quietly gazing at each other.
I’d spent most of my pregnancy reading anything I could about birth, attended antenatal classes and fretted about what to pack for labour, and in the end I didn’t need any of it. In fact, the most painful part of the whole event was the ninety minutes it took to stitch some internal grazes – and all I was required to do then was cling to the gas.