Friday, June 15, 2012

a place in the winter.

The radio is incessant but thank God it's there in the background, constant, reassuring, life is going on, the world is turning, people are listening to the early evening show and calling in traffic disruptions as they make their way home on the M25. Across the room, with curtains drawn in a mockery of privacy, a woman who was induced days ago is doing a remarkable impression of an unhappy cow. As one song ends and another begins we are that bit closer to meeting our daughters.

It's dark. We arrived at the hospital at 3pm, it was November and the light was already fading. Stepping out of the taxi my heart was racing, not with fear or anticipation but with pure rage. The mini cab driver had skipped every red light, broken every speed limit and taken every corner too damn fast. “I'm not in labour” I would have told him, but he had already ignored me when I asked how he was and told him Nye would be down in a minute with my bags, clearly furious to have a heavily pregnant woman in his car and desperate to get rid of her as soon as possible. I stepped out into the ambulance bay shaking and looked down to see that in his impatience the drive had trapped my cardigan in the car door, dragging it through the rain and spilled petrol of the Glasgow streets. Frustration and impotence boiled over into tears of anger; 'I told you we should have ordered a proper taxi.' I hissed. I had started out so calm, so ready to be induced, even our car breaking down that morning hadn't bothered me, but a kamikaze journey to the hospital proved a worthy opponent to my zen.

We are led to a ward to wait. The woman across the way has been there for a week. She is expecting her 8th. Perspective. 

5pm. The woman across the room is still lowing. Every inch of my body wants to curl up into a ball and lie down but I've been strapped to a foetal heart rate monitor for over and hour and despite being told regularly that it will just be a little bit longer, the signs that I'll be set free from the torture of sitting upright any time soon are not good. The babies weigh on my abdominal muscles, like you might image 30lbs of flesh and bone and fluid would,  but I've gotten used to it over the last 6 weeks and have accepted that although it feels like it, the muscles down the right side of my stomach probably aren't in imminent danger of ripping. The babies' heartrates are good, I'm having regualar and fairly strong contractions. I can't feel them, I can't feel anything but the shredding pain of sitting still. The lights are dimmed, it's almost romantic this cosy room of moniters, low light and quietly constant radio. Nye sits beside me, offering juice and energy bars and reassurance. I don't want any of them, I just want to get up and move.

Finally I'm released, told to go for a walk, stretch my legs and get some air. With something approaching pure glee I roll over, reach out to Nye and grinning allow him to pull me up and off the bed. Slowly, but not as slowly as we should, we wonder down the corridor through double doors after double doors and sneak out of a fire exit.  I've never been so happy to see a cold, wet Glasgow night, but overlooking the hospital car park, the November rain frosting my face with icy drops and the street lights doubled and trebled in the puddles and the wet windscreens of parked cars, I hold my husband and feel all of my anxiety and stress, my irritation and my impatience wander off into the night. I'm about to be induced and that means that despite my certainty that pregnancy was never going to end, I'm going to give birth. I'm going to meet my daughters. I look up at Nye, laugh a little bit and tell him I love him. I might even do a small, graceless dance of excitement there on the fire scape in the rain, 38 weeks pregnant with twins. 'Are you ready?' he asks me. I nod, I am absolutely, undeniably, more than ready.

Fifteen minutes later and I'm in pain. Proper pain. I didn't expect it to happen so soon but almost immediately after the doctor came and gave me the first dose of drugs the contractions that we'd been watching on the screen started to get real. The midwife on duty had read my birth plan, she knew that I wanted to do it without pain relief, as much as was possible. The hospital had been deeply reluctant to deliver twins without an epidural  in case they needed to do an emergancy c-section to remove Twin B, who was breech. In fact they were deeply reluctant to allow me to try to give birth vaginally at all. I thanked them for their advice and dug my heels in and so in concession I had agreed to the epidural, seeing it as my only choice to placate a consultant who thought I was being a very silly girl. I knew that I had the right to refuse the epidural too, but honestly, I was scared. There's only so much I felt comfortable pissing off the people in charge. I've been around hospitals enough to know that nothing good comes from being labelled a 'difficult patient'. 

Despite having agreed to an epidural I was kind of hoping that if I put it off for as long as possible I might get away without one, (because who doesn't love some prolonged agony?) but day shift melded into night shift and with it night shift brought a midwife who clearly hadn't read my birth plan, or if she had she was one of the ones we had heard about who thought that birth plans were utter nonsense. Either way, she wasn't interesting in my 'no pain relief' crap. And I couldn't care less. We might have been coming from completely different ends of the birthing philosophy spectrum but she delivered my first born, held my hand while my second child entered the world, stayed way past the end of her shift to be with me and left the labour ward that morning covered from head to toe in my blood. I can't imagine that in the rest of my life I will feel as close to many people as I did to that woman. 

*photograph by A Desert Fete. The whole story is here