Chapter 5: Gumby becomes the J-man.
Chapter 4: we’ve contracted, we’ve gone from ACDC to classical, we’ve moaned, we’ve seen a head. I was reaching down to deliver our boy and…..
And as I went to lift him up to my stomach, STOP! He wouldn’t come! The umbilical cord was too short for him to reach! It was like he had a handbrake on! And he stayed there, in mid air, held by the midwife. My first thought, as he was waiting for his cord to be cut, was “He’s not big at all! He’s REALLY little!”.After a bit of open mouthed pausing, Stew was able, through his shock, to get down there and cut the cord, and they put Gumby-Jensen, finally wailing onto my chest. He was lovely, and I could see him reacting to my voice almost straight away. Not as mucky as I’d expected. They put a bunny rug over his back as he nestled in close, and I laugh-cried sobbing-laughing for what seemed like ages, til his crying stopped and his eyes opened slowly, eventually. We cuddled for a long time. It seemed as real as a marching band parading through the ward, delivering this baby.
I was a bit out of it on the gas, and finally being able to let go of the tight tight control I’d had of my breathing and focus for the past however long. Everything we’d fought for, for so bloody long came down to this moment.
And, just as I’d visualised, right then the song playing was a Peter Gabriel cover of “The Book of Love”. Please listen to this song. It is glorious. It is beautiful. (Have tissues at the ready). And just as I had pictured in my head, this was the song playing as our son hit the decks and made us into a family. It felt as though I’d painted this moment into reality. And everything about it sums up everything that brought us to right here and right now. With my boy in the corner of our apartment lounge room, quietly rustling awake, ready for his next feed.
I don’t know how something as simple as words can describe that day. The day that we had all hung on so bloody hard for. The day that arrived like a pre scripted affair, that lived up to everything it promised. The day I had thought about thousands and thousands of times, lying in bed, sitting in emergency, hearing “your baby still has a heartbeat” said to me so many times. The day that came and went quietly, without fuss, like walking to the top of a gentle hill and seeing what lay beyond it, and coasting down the other side. Words cannot do it justice. Music cannot do it justice. Photographs cannot do it justice.
Hope is like a giant beacon that flashes from a lighthouse in the darkest night. And though once I wrote in a previous non pregnant post that hope is like a monkey trap, sometimes hope is all we have. And sometimes it is all we need to keep us going. That and bloody minded stubbornness. That’s where I come in. And I guess, the J-man too. He must be stubborn. Tell me I can’t do something and you’ll motivate me for life. Tell me this pregnancy won’t last, and baby, I’ll show you something completely different. I’ll show you our son. For many days, our hope, and the hope of those around us, was all we had to hang onto. And I am so glad we hung onto it, that we weathered it. That we made it.
But all good things must come to an end, and Dr North Korea did indeed arrive. My sister immediately asked him if we got a discount, seeing as he hadn’t made it. He gave her a death stare I reckon, after his mock good natured chuckle. According to the labour report it was 18 minutes of pushing. Not quite enough for him to make it to North Sydney from the city! His midwife told me he TORE out of the offices when he got the call, but still wasn’t quite there in time. And I was glad. I had the delivery I wanted.
And then the fun started. I saw a flicker of concern pass his face after he got me to push (again? Are you serious?) and deliver the placenta. I never even felt the injection go into my thigh to speed up the third stage. My sister later said there was a lot of blood. The obstetrician had a fleeting look of concern, a moment of indecision, I felt. This was one of those possible nasty turns, and I recognised it. Cathy leaned over and quietly said “are we ok here?” to the midwife. They were looking to him. And after a split second of indecision, of weighing up that I saw pass across his features, gauging me and my tolerance versus the situation, he decided to stitch me up under gas with just a local anaesthetic. I had a feeling he was considering whether to send me for surgery. And I decided I didn’t need to know what was happening and I blocked my ears to their replies, and looked at Gumby/Jensen.
Dr North Korea explained they would do it then and there, the internal stitches, but that I’d need to use the gas. More bloody gas. The next 30 minutes were harrowing. So so hard. He SWORE I would not feel the pain, just the pressure. I SWORE I felt the pain. And the knots. And the thread pulling through my skin. OH HORRID. And in my head, I was so so concerned that I was squeezing the baby as I sucked on the gas, and no one would notice and I’d kill him. I was SO convinced this was going to happen, but I couldn’t vocalise it because there was no way I could let go of that gas. Eventually I got out the words to tell my sister to watch me with him, and she assured me they were, that he was fine. I swear Cathy and Stew did more coaching in that half hour than in the whole labour. It seemed to go on and on and on. It seemed harder than the labour, perhaps because this was not part of my visualisation. At the end of it I felt very shaken up. The stitches were all internal, but god it took a long time, and EVERYTHING I had left. I was so relieved when they took the baby off me so I could just regroup.
They weighed Jensen/Gumby and finally hub-in-boots held him. Stew looked close to tears but despite me thinking it was odds on, he did not cry. I think everything happened so fast, and he was so worried about me, that he had no time to get that emotional. And for me, God it felt good just to sink back and stop being in control, stop with the focus already.
Sometime later, the midwife led me off for a pee (terrifying) and a shower (glorious), with Cathy poking her head in to scrub off the random bits of WHATEVER stuck to my skin. I remember being fascinated by the fact that my right foot was ENTIRELY caked in blood. I had no idea how that had got there. Apparently nightmare on elm street in the labour ward had passed by without me so much as noticing. Just how I like it. Oblivious! My sister said there was a LOT of blood. I found it hard to believe that was my blood. The shower was incredible.
Later on, they asked would I like to see the placenta. The bastard organ that almost gave us all that trouble. You bet. Everyone was surprised that I agreed, but I’d read accounts of women’s birth stories who said it was important to see it, and although I did think it kind of gross, anything that helps your head catch up to what your body has just done has to be a good thing. The midwife showed us the sac, the placenta, where the umbilical cord was attached. It was amazing. It was HUGE, stashed in this giant silver kidney dish which she lifted up with both hands.
I did not say the word “curry” to hub-in-boots, though I thought it. Every time anyone said placenta in an antenatal class I would tell hub-in-boots stories of people cooking and eating the placenta, or planting trees in it, or drying it out and turning it into capsules they took like vitamins. Just to gross him out. I always said “we could make a nice curry out of it”. So I’m sure he heard my head saying the word “Curry”, even if my lips weren’t moving. It was cool to see, anyway, and helped make the connection between baby in there and baby out here, which is, basically, sorry to be crass, a complete “mind fuck.”
From that point on, I was focused on me for a while. I ate like I’d never seen food before, when they brought toasted sandwiches all round I ate everyones. The cup of tea was just amazing. I proceeded on to eat museli bars, le snaks, you name it I ate it. I didn’t hold the baby for this bit. I think I was in shock. I felt like I was in shock for another two hours, and it was only when I held the little man again in the ward that I started to understand what had really happened, who this little guy was, and what we had accomplished that day. I think for a while there, I just had to come back into myself, to be me for a bit, before I was able to be mum. They had brought him for a feed in the labour room, and I fed him before my shower after he was weighed and towelled off. I can’t remember much about that first feed. We have a nice photo of it though.
Dr North Korea did a good job at the stitching up I think, and really, that’s where you need an expert like him. We didn’t need him for what, amazingly, incredibly, turned out to be an uncomplicated delivery. A calm, lights low, music playing, perfect delivery. We got our happy (natural) ending.
The printed labour report says I was in labour for 3 hrs 38 minutes. THREE HOURS! Are you serious? Helped along by all the pre labour I did at home, helped on by the calmbirth breathing, and focus, I think it was incredible for a first child. I pushed for 18 minutes. And stage three went for 5 minutes.
I didn’t want to commit to a name straight away, because I felt so out of it. But sometime the next day we finalised what was, really, already final, and Jensen Angus Eckermann was named. At 3.125kg or 6 lb 14oz, he’s not a big guy, not for my family at least. He was puffy, with puffed up eyes and a pointy head, and a funny lamb like cry. He changed immensely in those first 48 hours.
I am amazed that the birth went exactly as I had visualised, though I expected about another 15 hours of it. I am amazed that I could do this, though I always believed I could. No epidurals, no c-sections, no crazy post partum haemorrhages, just a bright pink boy who was attempting his first cry before he was quite out.
And just like that, with the long hoped for arrival of Jensen Angus, we were a family.
I’ll write for you very soon about our hospital stay, three trips to special care, our time settling into being home, melon boobs, cabbage leaves, the mind numbing killer sleep deprivation, and most of all the wonders of our little J-man as we get to know each other. There’s so much to say about him already.