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Head over high heels: The birth of Leo

Written by: Stephanie September 27 2011 What a difference a day makes! I’ll never be able to portray the sense of utter euphoria that I’m experiencing right now, not even with a million words and all the time in the world. I just couldn’t do it justice. And I don’t know how long it’ll last,...

Written by: Stephanie

What a difference a day makes!

I’ll never be able to portray the sense of utter euphoria that I’m experiencing right now, not even with a million words and all the time in the world. I just couldn’t do it justice. And I don’t know how long it’ll last, how long I’ll be able to savour the emotion. So for now all I can do is breathe deeply and soak it in and let the happiness wash over me until it seeps into every pore of my aching body.

And boy, is my body aching. Muscles I never knew existed are making their presence known by throbbing constantly. I feel bruised and battered and I’m unbelievably tired and weary, as though I’ve just done five rounds with Mike Tyson. Still, I am one happy little lady, and it’s all to do with the new man in my life.

I've always said I'm not one to wait on others, and least of all for a man. But good things certainly do come to those who wait. Leonardo Harrison Connolly, formerly known as Baby C and affectionately named Leo for short, is here at last, safe and sound on the outside world. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to look at him without my heart melting and happy tears filling my eyes.

Dearest readers, be warned that this story will no doubt be an extremely soppy and emotional one, so I apologise in advance for making you sick. Alas, a combination of shock, exhaustion, overwhelming emotions and readjusting hormones has temporarily turned me a little hypersensitive.

I hadn’t expected to fall for Leo so quickly. With his big sister I had been the opposite, fully anticipating from the moment I held her in my arms to feel that sense of motherly love wash over me. Nobody had warned me that it might take a little longer for it to kick in. And it did take a little while for Lorelei and me. For the first few weeks we just plodded along, getting to know each other, before that love and that stronger-than-glue bond that now exist between me and my amazing daughter began to truly develop.

So up until 2:19 a.m. on Saturday morning, I had sort of written off the “love at first sight,” instant Mother-Baby bond as a bit of a farce. It seemed to be something society had invented and just another thing for a new mummy to feel guilty about. Yet now I can safely say that in some cases, it happens just like it does in the movies.

Anyway, that’s enough of all the slushy stuff. I know you’re waiting for me to cut to the chase and fill you in on all the details of Baby C’s journey. Well, brace yourselves ladies and gents, ‘cause it was one tough ride!

It all began in a rather dramatic fashion. I’d been sitting on our old office chair, breathing through the contractions and relaxing with one of my Mumma’s legendary back massages, when I felt a sudden dampness on my seat. I am not in the habit of peeing my pants (I’m very proud to announce), so of course I assumed that my waters had finally broken.

I asked my husband to call the hospital so they could send the midwife out. He explained that my waters had broken and spoke for a few minutes. “They asked what colour your waters are,” he told me. I hadn’t even thought to look. So I stood up, wobbled a little, looked down, and then I wobbled quite a lot. And I got quite scared. And I nearly cried, actually. Because it wasn’t water at all that had drenched my chair. It was blood.

I’m no expert on childbirth, far from it, but I do know that loss of blood, especially lots of it, isn’t normal before the baby is born. And so of course I began to freak out. Just a tad.

In the manner of a drunken Tourette’s sufferer crossed with a headless chicken I began to waddle around the house in a panic. I sat on the toilet and lost a further alarming amount of blood. An ambulance was called.

The paramedics arrived almost as fast as they do on the telly, which was such a relief. They took my blood pressure, felt my pulse, and kept me calm. A few moments later the midwife arrived. I cracked a few jokes, as I always do when I’m frightened or nervous. I apologised to the poor midwife for my lack of underwear (honestly, “I’m Steph, pleased to meet you, excuse my fanny,” just reminded me of how little dignity one can keep during child birth,) and I silently prayed.

I knew it was serious, mainly since Mum, despite her attempts to look calm and collected, was clearly losing it. I heard her ask the midwife in hushed tones whether it was normal to lose that amount of blood. The midwife, under no uncertain terms, replied that no, it was not.

I composed myself and blew kisses at my sleepy daughter as she was carried over to our neighbours’ house. Then in my polka-dot nightie and enormous, fluffy slippers (oh, the shame), I was led towards the blue flashing lights of the awaiting ambulance.

I’m not sure whether it was from sheer fear or the pain of the increasingly strong contractions, but soon after we set off for the 20-minute journey to the hospital I became re-acquainted with the wonders of Entonox (gas and air). I puffed hard with each contraction and let myself relax in a state of dizziness whilst I tried to negotiate some kind of deal with the man upstairs. “Please don’t let me die,” I said, “And I promise to be really good.”

Baby C wasn’t moving. I hadn’t felt him move for hours. Not even a little kick or a nudge. The midwife said she could hear his heart beating on her little Doppler thingy, but I still wasn’t at ease.

I was wheeled straight into my own room and within minutes I was introduced to a wonderful midwife with a lovely, warm smile. They strapped me to a monitor where I got to hear my son’s heart beating steadily for myself and I finally managed to relax, just long enough for the harsh realities of the task ahead to dawn on me.

They didn’t know what had caused the blood loss, but they decided to put a tube into my veins in case I needed urgent anesthetic or something (do I sound like I know what I’m on about here? I really don’t!). That part hurt and was very, very messy since the guy forgot to screw the cap on properly and the blood squirted out like a fountain. I didn’t actually see it, but my darling husband filled me in on all the gory details in the way that only boys can.

At 12:15 a.m. the midwife examined me and gave me the tragic news that I was only three centimetres dilated. Three measly centimetres (for those of you who haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about) is a little pathetic when it comes to dilation. The cervix needs to be dilated to ten centimetres in diameter (which sounds huge, but trust me, doesn’t feel it) before the baby’s head can pass through. They reckon most women dilate about a centimetre an hour in labour. With seven centimetres to go, it looked like we would be in for a long one. Mum, who had been providing me with 100 percent support and attention all the way through, decided to go and get some coffee.

With the possibility of hours and hours ahead of us, my lovely midwife very kindly offered me some drugs, which cheered me right up. The gas and air tube was still glued to my hand and providing me with enormous relief from the contractions, but it would have been rude to decline a little extra. So they gave me Pethidine, which was my saviour when I was in labour with Lorelei. I was hesitant because it had made me feel sick and it made Lorelei fairly sleepy when she was born; so much so that she hadn’t cried and had needed a slap on her bottom to get her to take her first big breath. I worried Baby C would
be sleepy, too, but the midwife assured me the effects of the Pethidine would have worn off by the time Baby C appeared.

They added an anti-sickness drug to my cocktail of pain relief and injected it into my bottom. I screamed louder than you could possibly imagine. “Bollocks!!!!” was the actual word I think I chose to scream in order to convey the overwhelming stinging sensation. Honestly, it stung like a bee and the pain didn’t go away for ages and ages. I’m sure at this point my smiley midwife thought she had a right old wimp on her hands, but I managed to claw it all back in the end.

The warming effect of Pethidine is wonderfully calming and relaxing. Yet even with that tranquil sensation swimming through my body, I could feel the strength of the contractions increasing by the second. That’s why it’s called “pain relief” and not “pain eraser.” I can’t describe contractions, but I can tell you that I had to remain focused through each and every one of them or I would have lost it altogether and become quite hysterical.

So I focused really hard on my breathing. Every time I felt my body begin to seize up with the pain, I sucked hard on the gas and air and filled my lungs to the brim before exhaling slowly. I repeated this until the pain had gone and I could relax again for a few moments. Later I found I needed more to focus on, so I came up with the genius idea of reciting lyrics to songs in my head whilst I was breathing in. “Flying without Wings” was the main one. Every time a contraction came a little voice in my head began to sing, “Everybody’s looking for that something . . .” So in effect, I had gas and air, Pethidine and Westlife as my pain relief during labour.

Then I got that all-too-familiar urge, the one that all women get in labour: the urge to do a number two. Well, that’s what it feels like, but it’s really the signal to begin to push the baby out.

And then my waters really did break. Like the Tidal Wave ride at Thorpe Park. A sudden gush and everything—and everybody—was soaked. I think I started to cry because I just knew at that moment that the pain was about to become unbearable.

The rest of the actual labour is a bit of a blur. In my head I see it all as a sort of flicker book, a collection of images all flashing one after the other. Feelings of panic. The sweat and heat of my hand gripping my husband’s. The hustle and bustle of the room as extra assistance was called for and uniforms came and went. The silver utensils and bowls. The excitement. The adrenaline and the determination I felt when I knew the entire situation was in my control. I was the only one who could do it. It was all up to me and the pain wouldn’t go until I pushed it away.

I don’t know where the strength came from, but I am once again in total awe of my body’s capabilities and the bravery and power that I never knew I had within. When I tell you what Leo weighed I think you’ll agree: 8 pounds 14 ounces, just 2 weeny ounces shy of a whopping 9 pounds! And you know what? I don’t think it hurt any more than when I gave birth to his big sister, who was a whole pound lighter.

Here is the point in my story where the euphoria kicked in. They put him on my chest, his body warm and wet and tiny and tender, and I fell head over high heels for him.

I think the injection to help with the afterbirth came next. But I didn’t feel it because I was completely high. I was told it looked lovely (personally, I didn’t agree) and healthy. The cord was cut and shown to me (it looked like a purply-coloured, old-fashioned telephone cord), and then Leo was whisked off for a little oxygen. He had been born, as I had suspected, a little sleepy, as the Pethidine effects just hadn’t had time to wear off.

My husband went out to the family room just down the hall to let his Mum know her Grandson had been born whilst my Mum and I remained in the labour room with the midwives and doctors. They poked and prodded me a little and then I heard the dreaded word: stitches.

I wanted to hop off the bed then and there, gather my things, put my pants on, grab my naked baby and head for the carpark, politely smiling and waving. “Thank you very much, but that won’t be necessary,” I wanted to say. But before I knew it my bed had turned into something out of the Transformers movie. My legs were up high in stirrups.

By the time my husband came back and bubba was wrapped up, I was like a rabbit caught in headlights. I didn’t know where to look. At the end of the bed, between my spread-eagled legs, was the doctor, thread in one hand, needle in the other. The midwife was carrying an enormous torch as though she were going pot-holing. The doctor assured me I would be numbed and wouldn’t feel a thing. He would be injecting me with a very good pain killer. I thought, “Tell that to my private parts, mister, ‘cause I’m not sure what’s worse down below: a needle and thread or an injection!”

I considered the consequences of not having the stitches. The prospect of accidentally peeing myself on a regular basis in the future, or simply being a little out of shape “down there,” was enough for me to grin and bear it. One final word on the matter right now, before I erase the stitches ordeal from my memory for all eternity: OUCH.

I think I suffered more after the birth than I actually did during the labour. I nearly kissed the doctor when he told me it was all over and I could now have a wonderful pain killer that would keep me relaxed and comfortable for over sixteen hours. But you’d never believe what he said to me next. He lifted a little capsule that marked the finale of my entire ordeal and cheerfully exclaimed, “Right then, so I’ll just pop this up your back passage!”

So there you have it: the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Childbirth is not pretty. It’s not dignified. It’s not glamorous and it’s not fun. But my goodness, it is an utterly amazing experience and the reward you get at the end of it is absolutely priceless.

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