Despite having the best excuse in the world as to why I’ve let this blog slip, I haven’t totally abandoned it! Maybe I’ve just been daunted by the prospect of writing this post – “the birth”. Don’t worry, I think I will try and spare you most of the gory details. That said, it’s a weird experience and I want to capture some of the more peculiar aspects before they slip my mind…
Firstly little Miss decided she’d arrive a good ten days over her due date. I think after about a week it ceases to be fashionably late and starts to become worryingly late.
The days past the due date are a strange limbo period where you’ve kind of done all you can to prepare and just have to meander around with the giant spectre of impending labour looming over you. Although Mum was 100% convinced from day one that I’d need an induction, I was cautiously optimistic that she’d arrive of her own accord.
Ant chose this uncertain time to dust off this interesting sartorial option:
I am eternally grateful that the contractions did not kick in on any of the days (yes, days) that he wore that.
Induction processes kick in at eleven days over, so we’d been up at the hospital at around day six gamely listening to an hour long presentation about medical induction entirely in Danish, surrounded by a sea of other extremely pregnant (and uncomfortable) women.
Let’s just say I learned a lot of new words, and realised that Danish terminology is way more fun/harrowing/visceral than the English equivalent. For instance the placenta is revoltingly called ‘the mother-cake’, while the cervix is dramatically called ‘the life mother’s throat’…
I ended up spending the rest of the time taking a lot of veeeery slow solo walks and started eating all kinds of weird old wives tale foods that are supposed to get things going.
On day nine I panic-ate a whole pineapple and box of liquorice Skippers Pipes, and lo and behold the very next morning the contractions started at around 6am so pineapple and liquorice totally work because science…?
I didn’t know this before getting pregnant, but you’re expected to go through a lot of the early labour at home, and only come in to the hospital once given the all clear over the phone by a midwife. I live in fear of being scolded by the Danes so no way was I going in early only to be sent home again. Also, I wasn’t really sure I was in labour to begin with, though in hindsight my hesitation seems a bit crazy. Ant uses this early uncertainty to explain why he attempted to stay at work that morning instead of working from home as I suggested, though we both know the lure of the staff canteen was the real reason.
By about 10am I was convinced they were real contractions, though it wasn’t until about 4pm that I sounded sufficiently deranged enough on the phone for them to let me come to the hospital. The contractions were coming every 3-6 minutes for that whole six hours – so much for all the ‘try and get some sleep’ advice in the early phases. What a joke.
Our journey to the hospital was thankfully not via Christiania cycle (Ant’s preferred option), but it was via taxi. Waiting downstairs for a taxi then getting in said taxi and being driven to the hospital while having contractions was intense. I’m sure it was also pretty full-on for the poor driver, although he seemed totally unsurprised and unconcerned. I bet he’s seen some shit ferrying pregnant Københavners to the hospital.
As a side note, my friend here started with a home birth and eventually needed to transfer to the hospital… at which point she got in a taxi and the attending midwives followed along on their bikes. Only in Denmark, right? Her taxi driver was far younger and greener than ours, and definitely had an eye opening experience by all accounts…
Anyway, we made it to the hospital just in time, and thankfully far enough along to be admitted. This being Denmark there were no wheelchair service or anything, just an instruction to walk along the corridor to the birthing suite and ‘just grab onto the rail if you have a contraction’.
Despite their slightly tough-love approach, I have nothing but praise for all the midwives we encountered. We were also lucky enough to have one main midwife -Sara – to see us through almost from start to finish. She was awesome, although weirdly wore Haviana thongs throughout the whole process, giving the delivery a casual beachy vibe befitting an Australian baby…
We were at the hospital from about 5pm and the actual birth took place at 11.54pm. I don’t need to go into details about how fucked up labour is, but seriously – it’s reeeeeeally fucked up.
I got through thanks to an immense amount of nitrous gas, much to Ant’s glee/pride. I got extremely upset when it came time to push and my beloved nitrous got swapped for shitty pointless oxygen… this all goes somewhat towards explaining why I had a mask-shaped tender area on my face the next day, and a weird grey pallor and numb fingers in my right hand for weeks after. Oh nitrous, you were the best.
My other strong memories of this time include being internally furious every time I could hear Ant eating all the tasty snacks we packed in the hospital bag. I couldn’t eat anything, though in his defence Ant was a very diligent water-boy (cordial-boy?). Also vivid was the woman in the next room going full primal scream, prompting Sara to pause and then sagely reassure us ‘it doesn’t have to be like that’.
Anyway, we eventually got a baby at the end! Hurrah. A 4kg chunkster with so many of Ant’s features that a paternity test was definitely not required.
She’d been thoroughly gross in the womb and soiled the amniotic fluid, so was instantly whisked away to get flushed out – none of the romantic Dad cutting the cord/delayed cord clamping from our slightly crunchy granola birth plan. At that point I really didn’t care too much about what was happening, as long as I didn’t need to do anything more myself…
The first fifteen minutes or so were a blur of feeding and stitches and measurements with a load of doctors and midwives present. The good news is she was strong and healthy, and apparently trying to a crawl straight out of a the blocks. Such a little viking.
Eventually we were left on our own for a little peace and quiet, and finally delivered some food – complete with celebratory birthday Dannebrog of course. Some time after this point Ant was also offered a celebratory go on the nitrous, thus achieving his personal objective for the birth.
Somewhere along the way and much to Ant’s horror I lost a litre of blood, so we weren’t sent home after the threatened 4-6 hours that is the norm with an uncomplicated birth in Denmark. We instead spent two days in the hospital bombarding any nurse dumb enough to come near us with a million questions that all boiled down to ‘how the fuck do you look after a baby?”.
I’m really glad we had those few days buffer before going home, largely because I’ve never been more exhausted – it was astonishing how hard it was to execute basic tasks. Ant was immediately thrown in the deep end changing nappies and fetching supplies while I was effectively bed-ridden.
This is a gross tangent, but during this time we somehow got stuck using the hideous baby doona that we’d had since the delivery. We nicknamed it the murder blanket because it looked like something you find wrapped around a body in a dumpster. Only on the last day did a nurse think to tell us we could get a new cover. The lesson here is it pays to be more assertive in the Danish hospital system!
Eventually our two days in hospital were up and we psyched up to head home, after first retrieving my shoes from the delivery room etc. I think Ant was looking forward to having a designated bed again having spent two nights sleeping upright in chairs or sneaking naps in empty hospital beds, or mostly not sleeping at all because he was holding the baby while I slept. That said, we were obviously terrified at the thought of being left to parent this small human on our own when we clearly had no idea what we were doing. The baby seemed up for the adventure though…
That’s of course not all the details, but I don’t think it would be very interesting for me to wax lyrical about just how awful contractions are and/or how much I hated the yoga ball and being ‘rebozo-ed’ by Ant and the midwife. I just want to conclude by saying anyone who says you forget the pain once it’s over it totally tripping – I can definitely recall how brutal the whole experience was, and plan on holding that over my child much as my own mother holds our respective deliveries over me and my sisters. It’s only fair.