GORE, GLORY AND GONG: MY BIRTH STORY
The events described below really did take place…and I’m still processing it all.
I’m sure you all know by now that I’d been waiting anxiously for this baby to arrive for a hot minute, and for a couple of reasons: a) Being over 40 weeks pregnant was really, really tiring; b) I missed my waist and c) I was actually tired of eating, even if it was guilt-free.
At the same time though, I’d been proper terrified at the prospect of giving birth to something more than a nice speech for my boss. Leaving an actual baby in my care is not something I have ever advised anyone to do, and a week into caring for said baby I still can’t believe I’m actually doing it – and she’s not only alive, she even seems happy!
So here’s how our spawn, our dearest Gong, came into this world (apart from the obvious bit about her father and I doing the grown-up of course):
Monday, 3rd July
Woke up feeling a bit tired thanks to the week-long homa I’d been nursing. My grand plan for the day was to start my morning with a movie (50 Shades Darker – nonsense movie, don’t waste your time, still haven’t finished it), then keep myself busy with unnecessary errands trying to stay active and help coax the baby out of me.
Lots of people were telling me the homa was a sign that the baby was coming, but I was dismissing it because I’ve had homa plenty of times before and no baby ever came so I put it down to some bad luck. Never mind that I wasn’t pregnant those other times. Low key though, a part of me wanted so bad to believe it was true that I Googled it. And Google came up with nothing to convince me.
Anyway, since I’m a hoe for anything home décor and Odds & Ends is my happy place, and I could not in good conscience let a good sale pass me by, I insisted I had to go there, browse and purchase something as a treat to myself for making it this far.
So there I am with my sister and nephew, struggling to waddle gracefully around the store without knocking anything over, when I suddenly feel this urge to poop. I tell my sister and she looks at me with some light panic in her eyes, and I’m rubbing my tummy and saying I know I definitely need to poop, but I’ll hold it because it’s rude/awkward to poop in public bathrooms.
We leave the store and head to the club for lunch (hers) and a snack (mine), and I’m enjoying this heavenly tea scone when I feel it again, only this time it’s not so strong since I’m seated. I dismiss it. On the way home I feel it again, this time accompanied by some slight cramping. I tell the Uber guy to drive a little slow, treat me gentle. At no point does it occur to me that something could be happening.
I get home and while chilling with My Lover I mention this urge to poop that keeps coming up, and he’s giving me the eye, like: “Do you think it’s going to happen soon because I’m sure it’s happening soon and the doula said that was one of the signs.”
Of course I’m like: “I don’t know, maybe, but hold up, I have plans for tomorrow. Transformers is showing and my girl Imali has excited the 13-year old boy in me so I have to watch it tomorrow, and the doc said he had a funeral on Wednesday so I’m thinking the baby should hold on until Thursday. My point is, we’ve waited 10 whole months, what’s a few more hours right?”
We dish and go to bed.
Tuesday, 4th July – 2am
I’m woken up by the cramps. They feel like period pains. I’m trying to ignore them but at the same time I’m wondering why I still feel the urge to poop. I go to the bathroom. Manage a movement and enjoy some mild relief. Five minutes later I’m back in there again. I notice I’m bleeding. My Lover is now looking at me like, babe, this is really happening. I’m still in denial. I Google: “signs you’re going into labour” and “do contractions feel like menstrual cramps?” They do. The bleeding is also a sign. So is the urge to poop.
We’re now timing contractions, which are coming every 20 minutes, then 15 minutes. For some strange reason, I’m thinking I can ride this out, be a ninja like my girl Nyash who had been in labour for many, many hours before realizing it. My Lover is not having any of it. I’m insisting that this is just early labour and we don’t need to go to hospital just yet. He’s listening to me, though I can see he’s struggling to be patient and understanding, holding me when I need support during each contraction, swaying with me like the doula taught us.
My Lover has had it. He calls the doc, tries his best to describe what I’m feeling. Doc says I should go to hospital. (I found out later that though he had said there was probably no cause for alarm, there was a little cause for worry).
I go to my closet to look for a dheera. For some reason I’m thinking the colour choice matters, so I’m wondering whether to go with orange, burgundy, blue or pink, and whether to wear a denim jacket or a leather one. I want a look that says I’m in labour and didn’t have time to look for something cute, but at the same time I care about my presentation even if it’s 5am and I might be having a little medical emergency. My Lover won’t let me do my eyebrows or mascara.
We’re at Aga Khan. I’m on the observation bed being hooked up to monitors. Machines are beeping and humming softly. The labour ward is really quiet. Nobody being born at this hour I suppose. The nurse on duty is strapping the foetal monitor to my tummy and all I can think is: Gong, I hope you’re alright in there. I’m a bit mad that I won’t get to watch Transformers and eat caramel popcorn, but I can forgive you for that if you make this quick and relatively painless because I don’t want to spend money on an epidural.
I’m staring at the hospital ceiling wondering why nobody has thought to give it more character…a nice painting, maybe not as elaborate as the Sistine Chapel, but something nice, you know? Maybe they can commission the guy who does the Java ones. I like those ones.
The monitors show that everything seems to be ok. Gong’s heartbeat is fine, my blood pressure is good. That’s all that matters right now. Until I notice the headscarf that’s still on my head. My Lover did not bother to remind me to take it off. First the eyebrows and mascara, then this. He doesn’t want me to prosper. At least it’s not an old stocking or worn out bandana. I’m still winning. My lips are very dry. The Nivea is not working. I’m wondering whether I should add some lipgloss, then another contraction comes and all I’m wondering now is why child birth must feel like punishment for not using contraceptives.
The nurse comes back. She wants to check whether my cervix is dilating. She’s putting on gloves, rubbing some jelly on her finger, which looks large and menacing to me. I’ve read about this bit, and it’s every bit as uncomfortable as I’ve heard. There is nothing sexy about being fingered in that manner.
She confirms that I’m dilating. 2cm so far. She says they usually send people back home at that stage because it’s still early labour, but the doctor has requested that I be admitted.
I’m given a very thick pad to wear so as not to stain my panties while they transfer me. They’re black lace. We cannot ruin good underwear.
I’m in the labour ward. I’m hungry. Contractions are coming in every 7-10 minutes. They feel like shit but I’m managing. My Lover is being an absolute star. He’s doing everything right. Reminding me to breathe in and out deeply, swaying with me gently, checking on me every few minutes when he sees my face change. I start whispering “incoming” each time I feel another contraction building.
He’s gotten his cousin to deliver a Bluetooth speaker. We’re playing soul and 90s jams. Anita Baker’s Same Ol’ Love (365 days a year) is my favourite. That, and some good old Aretha. I’m really feeling the music, I even have the energy to walk and wobble-dance around the room. My Lover and I dance and it feels so good. Before we’re interrupted by another contraction.
To keep myself busy, I suggest we walk around the halls, I accompany him to the payments office, even manage to talk to my sister on the phone before that conversation is interrupted by yet another contraction. I finally understand why the hospital has those wooden rails on the walls: they provide great support while your insides are being torn apart.
9.30am – I think that was the time. Things got a little blurry.
My doctor arrives. We make small talk. He wants to do another check. Says I’m 4-5cm dilated, progressing nicely, but…
There’s a “but”. Why is there a “but”? Is everything alright? I look at him. He’s holding up his gloved finger. He says it appears that the baby has pooped inside me. Meconium he calls it. He adds something about the possibility of the cord being around the neck, distressing the baby. He doesn’t want to take any chances. He breaks my water. The nurse rushes over to my side to check the baby’s vitals. She says something about this being serious. I feel like I’m fading. I’m present, I can see everything going on around me but all of a sudden the voices seem to be coming from far away.
My Lover is following the doctor. I hear “sign a consent form.” Consent for what? Isn’t that what they make you sign when there’s the possibility of something going wrong? I can feel the panic rising in my chest. Inhale deeply through the nose. Exhale slowly through the mouth. Keep your eyes open. Try and relax.
I CANNOT FREAKING RELAX! WHAT IS GOING ON? IS MY BABY SAFE? AM I SAFE?
I manage to raise my voice above a whisper and ask My Lover, am I having a CS?
He says yes, but everything is going to be fine.
Damn it! I wanted to do a natural birth! It’s alright though. Let’s just get the baby out. I don’t care if they ask me to sneeze or poop her out, I just want her here and safe.
I’m panicking. The tears come. They’re flowing down the sides of my face. I don’t want to cry. I want to be strong, but I can’t help it. I’m worried sick. I’m going in for an emergency CS. People die during childbirth. That’s why they want the consent form right? I’m biting my lip, trying to pull myself together.
The nurse comes back in and hands me a gown to change into.
I get up from the bed. The sheets are stained dark green. It’s positively disgusting. I’m not prepared for that. She hands me another thick pad and asks me to wedge it between my legs.
We walk to the theatre.
10.15am – or so
I’m in theatre. The hair cap they’ve given me can’t fit me (I have a somewhat stylish two-week old bun). I’m sniffling, struggling to breathe through my blocked nose. It doesn’t occur to me to ask for some tissues or something until the snot is practically running down my nose, and I get some gauze to wipe it off. Everyone around me is really busy, working methodically in their surgical scrubs. Conversation is minimal. This is serious, and it’s happening. To me.
I’m handed a pillow and told to hug it while leaning forward. I can’t. Contraction. I squeeze the pillow guy’s wrist. There’s something about him that’s comforting. I check his nametag. Mukuria Mwangi. The anesthesiologist sticks a needle in my back. Nothing. She says they need to do it again. My tramp stamp seems to have hidden the right spot. He asks me to try and lean forward. My tummy is in the way. Another jab. My lower body, tummy down, goes numb. They lift my legs, lay me flat on the operating table. I’m looking for My Lover, trying to stay calm, failing.
I shut my eyes briefly. When I open them, My Lover is by my side, in scrubs. He looks kind of hot. A green curtain is obscuring the view past my boobs. I can feel my doctor and his team getting to work. He slices through me. I feel the touch, the tugging as layers of skin are pried open and separated. No pain. It’s surreal. I wonder whether I’ll be one of those women whose anesthesia wears off midway through surgery. I need to blow my nose but I can’t. The gauze is still in my right hand. I notice that my hands have been laid open, wide apart, like on a cross. Weird.
My Lover and I are making conversation. I don’t remember what about. There’s music in the room but I can’t tell what.
“Here we go, another voter.”
The baby is pulled out of me. The doctor says something about the cord. Moments later I hear her cry. I start crying. Silently. Relief. Joy. Glory.
I can’t believe it. Someone hands My Lover the phone.
“Get up, take the video. Your baby is here.”
My Lover hesitates, before he lets go of my hand and walks over to the side of the room, where the pediatrician is busy working on the baby.
He comes back. I ask whether everything is ok and he says yes.
I’m being sewn up. The doctor and his team are making small talk now. Everything seems less serious. The anesthesiologist is checking my I.V., she says she likes my nail polish. I tell her it’s one of those nude shades by O.P.I, and that I can’t remember the name but when I wake up I’ll hook her up with Robert, my nail guy, at Saffron Spa. She says she knows the place. My doctor and his tag team are joking about this new youthful language, of grown people calling each other baby, and what is “bae” anyway. It’s funny. I’m laughing a little. I’m tearing a lot. I’m overwhelmed.
My baby is here; all 3.995kg of her.
The pediatrician places her on my chest. I am not filled with this instant love. It’s something else; this huge sense of responsibility towards this (not so) little human. I think it’s that responsibility that makes me warn the doctor that I have a nasty homa and I don’t want to give it to the baby. She takes her away.
I turn to look at My Lover. I smile. The tears are rolling down my cheeks. He’s looking misty-eyed. We did it.
The last thing I remember before being wheeled out of theatre is the horrendous music choice. I’m kind of offended that that’s what they played while I lay on the operating table. I tell them they need to do better, and should start with soul. I suggest Anita Baker. They play Otis Redding instead. I’m cool with that.
I’m also cool with the fact that despite things not going according to plan, I have a really, really cute baby girl; who I didn’t have to push out of my vag despite having every intention of doing that. Lord knows I wouldn’t have managed that LOL.