5:13 am - "Kev," whispered Aimee, "I'm not sure, but I think I'm in labour." The day began exactly as I hoped. Aimee started to feel "funny" around 2am, but kept it to herself,
just in case it was last night's spicy chili. Once she realised that even my chili's abdominal pain is usually over by now, she gave me a poke. It was time.
See, all the way along the due date's been in this 10-day flux. The scan said November 26th, but Aimee's period said December 6th, so we thought of it as a wide window of opportunity,
but that's just us. The midwives, however, were pretty rigid about the 26th, and were pushing for inducing. I'll admit, I wasn't too keen on the idea at the time (I'm a believer in the
body knowing what's best for itself, no matter what a textbook tells you what SHOULD be happening... heck, I don't even like taking aspirin). But as we approached the 6th, one of the best
arguments for inducing was that if it happens on or after the 6th, we're either inducing a full-term baby, or a term+10 baby; either way, she'd be ready. To top it off, our only choices
for booking induction were the 6th and the 14th. Ergo, a baby on my 30th was meant to be...
||Aimee, what does early labour feel like?
Labour pains start in the back
and work their way around to the front. In the beginning, you might think they're a bit of back pain, followed
by menstrual cramps (which you haven't felt for quite some time, but believe me, you never forget).
Later labour is the same idea, only much more intense. Imagine your worst back pain, like the kind you'd get from helping
a friend move heavy things into a basement apartment, but having the equivalent of a full day's lifting
come on all at once. Then that pain shuffles its way around to your stomach and squeezes it, and not in a
big-warm-hug kind of way. In condiment terms, eat a spoonful of wasabi... you feel like you're on fire for
about 45 seconds, then the pain just... disappears.
Or was it? This little baby surprised us all by beating the induction clock by a full four hours (okay, seven hours, if you count the chili contractions). Maybe she'll surprise us more
than once today...
7:04 am - It was the appointed time to call the hospital to confirm the induction. The call (on this end) went a little something like this: "Hi, this is Amelia Lingman calling... Yes, I know
you've got me booked in for an induction, but I think I've beat you to it! ...Yes, three minutes between, then about 45 to 75 seconds of pain... Okay, we're on our way!"
7:06 am - Luckily, we'd worked out the "on-our-way" part before this moment. Living in London, like most big cities, it's usually more convenient not to own a car. Except today.
Our choices were: (a) Ambulance, but only if we absolutely needed it. I mean, it's not a heart attack or a road accident, and I think ambulances should be saved for things like that. (b)
Train, which is a half block from our house, and three blocks from the hospital at the other end, and it's by far the quickest, except when you're doubled over in pain every three minutes.
(c) Cab, which is unpredictable in about as many ways as you or I can imagine. (d) Phone a friend. Helen has a car, lives nearby, and "begrudgingly" "accepted" the "burden" or driving
us to the hospital. Good thing for us, it was still two hours before she had to be at work, and I know she would have been real "choked up" about showing up tardy.
7:08 am - Called as many family members as I could before the phone battery died.
7:31 am - Helen shows up in front of the house, and we pile everything into the car. Aimee, in her state, reverts to her roots and attempts to climb into the driver's seat. Helen
suggests that Aimee probably shouldn't be driving. Zip! Off we go down some back street escape route that Helen planned out weeks in advance. It works like a charm and we arrive at the
7:42 am - Checked in, handed a gown, shown to a bed in a somewhat sterile but ultimately private room, and we begin the process of... waiting. Let's get dilating! Rumour has it
that wandering the hallways at a snails pace helps to move things along (or, at the very least, alleviates boredom).
8:35 am - First visit from a doctor. He makes two observations. One: Aimee's spirits are far too cheery for her to be in "real labour" (obviously they've never met before). Two:
perhaps we should stick Aimee on some kind of drip to speed up the process. At the time, we just wanted things to take their course, and I think we suspected him of just trying to free
up the bed, because during our walk we noticed there were preggies... preggies everywhere! (Note from the future: we found out later there were 18 women in labour simultaneously. Because of
our planned induction, we had dibs on a bed... Score!)
9:20 am - First exam. You want the good news or the bad news? Good news: she can feel the baby's head! Bad news: she can only feel one centimetre of it. Next exam in four hours.
11:04 am - Midwife pops in for a quick "how is everything?", not unlike a visit from a waiter who's considering another occupation. Answer: The pain is still manageable, we're
still mobile, but it's getting stronger. Still drug-free, but we're willing to listen. Midwife leaves. Aimee suggests, seeing as how we're here for a while, that we pull out the cards
for a Rummy marathon to 2000 points. Three minutes later, that idea is scrapped.
12:26 pm - I think I had a short nap. One of those naps like on a plane, where you don't feel any more rested but you know time has passed. And you awake with an embarrassing snort.
Luckily, nobody has enough time to look in on us for anyone to have overheard it.
I wrote that "I think I had a short nap" sentence before I looked at the photos. It appears my short nap was on Aimee's bed. How shameful. I hope Aimee had a place to sit.
12:50 pm - Lunch arrives. On the NHS menu today: Beef Lasagne, Chicken Casserole, or a sandwich. I try to channel the image of a sandwich into Aimee's brain since it was probably
made somewhere else and sealed in plastic before it arrived, but she's blocked me out with the pain. She orders the casserole. Tell me, why do places like hospitals and cafeterias
always try so hard for extravagant meals, but in the end they all end up looking like TV Dinners from the 80s? And, what vegetable are these white salty cubes?
1:30 pm - Second exam. Four hours later, and we've gained another centimetre. Not the Hollywood labour we were hoping for. Midwife suggests, to speed things along, that we break
the waters manually, rather than waiting for it to happen itself. Seemed like a good idea, until we saw the tool to perform such a feat. Went along with it anyway. Pop!
3:10 pm - We found one of those big pregnancy balls in a storage area in our room. Aimee tried it out to see if they were anything they were cracked up to be. Seemed okay.
3:12 pm - Aimee's next contraction and the change in position to the preggiball cause the rest of her water to break. Aimee moves back to the bed, while I toss the preggiball
into the shower and go find some paper towels.
3:20 pm - As I move the somewhat sterile preggiball back into the storage area, Aimee takes its place in the shower.
3:47 pm - Aimee finishes her shower, at which point we realise we have no towel. You'd think, with the two key ingredients in a Hollywood birth being hot water and towels, that
there'd be a towel around. Sadly, no. She dries herself with her hospital robe, changes into a new one, and gets back in bed just as The Doctor arrives. Capital letters on The Doctor
are intentional, as The Doctor is a robust African fellow with a booming voice who tries to shake my hand, too important to realise it's currently being squeezed into a singularity by
my wife in mid-contraction. He pokes her tummy a few times, says "Hoo! Big baby!" nods to me with a "Good luck!" and leaves the room before the contraction subsides. Now I know where
the word "hospitality" comes from! Order up! Next!
4:25 pm - Aimee thinks we've reached the point where we should start thinking about pain relief. The first, and least intrusive, method suggested is Gas & Air, which alleviates
pain ONLY, and I cannot stress this enough, IF SOMEONE TELLS YOU HOW TO USE IT. I buzzed the midwife buzzer, and a random midwife strolled through the door. I told her Aimee wanted gas, so she
went into the storage closet (home of the infernal preggiball), wheeled out a tank, fitted a mouthpiece, and walked away, never to be seen again. Needless to say, the first few attempts didn't
go so well until another midwife heard the fervent gasping and decided we could do with a quick lesson. Deep breath, hold, exhale through the nose. The end of that first successful gas intake
was punctuated by Aimee stating, "I think I'll float away with the Eye Circus now... wheee!" To this day I don't know what that means.
||Aimee, what's gas and air?
The GAS is Nitrous Oxide, the AIR is oxygen. Mix them 50/50 and you've got a temporary cocktail of pain relief. It's good because it doesn't cross the placenta (the baby isn't affected by it), and it gives you something to do during a contraction other than hope the pain goes away soon.
How do you use it?
It's a hand-held breathing tube that you put in your mouth when you need it. When you feel pain coming, put it in, take a deep breath, hold it for three, and let it out. Do this over and over until the contraction subsides, and ride the cloud to the next one.
Is it effective?
I wouldn't say I felt any better at the height of the contraction, but it alleviates the ramp up and decline, and takes away the feeling of dread in the few minutes between pains.
4:36 pm - Aimee gets the giggles.
4:58 pm - Aimee asks for a drink. I take some change out to the juice machine in the hallway. The juice machine dumps my money straight into the coin return. I went upstairs to find
another one. The Coke machine on the fourth floor ate my 50p, and the juice machine next to it also ate my other 50p. They must make a hell of a lot of money from these machines. It's probably
much more profitable not to fix them. Not that it helps Aimee out... looks like she's stuck with water.
6:42 pm - Aimee gets the Meptid. Meptid is the next level of pain relief, just an injection that stays in the mom and doesn't cross the placenta (to me, whenever someone says
'cross the placenta' I always think of 'crossing the streams', which, as any Ghostbuster will tell you, is bad). The meptid does its part to dull the pain, and give Aimee a few more hours of
much needed peace (as peaceful as a ward of 18 labours).
8:55 pm - Shift change. Nif joins the room, and I tell you, she was exactly what we needed when she arrived. Teresa was good in a nonchalant sort of way... we weren't in dire
need of constant care at the beginning, but she was good enough to pop in and tell us we were doing fine. Now that the contractions are incredibly painful, what we needed was a nurse
who sat by your side, told you you were fine, complimented you on your breathing and control, and gave you a feeling of constant reassurance. Let's face it: me telling Aimee she's doing
fine is nice to hear, but there isn't exactly any medical backing to my statement, is there? When Nif said it, she meant it. She introduced herself, gave Aimee a friendly pat, and began
to Take Care Of Her.
9:25 pm - In the past half hour, Nif has managed to find every machine on the entire ward, including the Machine That Goes Ping, and wheeled it into our delivery room. I'm surprised
she didn't lock the door behind her. She has also switched out Aimee's gas tank, which was down to an eighth, all the while making copious notes in Aimee's Green Book and patting her on
the leg with her third or fourth arm. I don't know how she keeps up with herself. Aimee is so appreciative, she vomits, coinciding with...
The Administrator is coming! Quick! Turn on all the machines! Now, where's the patient?
9:38 pm - ...a visit from the doctor (a different, lower case doctor) and three observers! Hooray! Exactly what Aimee needs: to be covered in her own vomit at the exact moment she
has the most strangers in the room (and even with five medical caregivers in the room, I ended up disposing of the basin of Aimee's stomach contents). Doc and Nif exchange a few words about
Aimee's progress, and Aimee agrees that, after 13 hours in the hospital with very little to show for it (unless you count the "eye circus"), it's time for an epidural.
They explained that there's a drip they can put her on to get the dilation happening a lot faster. She could benefit from the drip, but it does make the contractions more painful. So,
what they like to suggest is giving you the drip, as well as an epidural, which takes the pain of the drip away, which means they can increase to dosage of the drip, and POINK! The baby
shoots across the room before you can say Jack Robinson. Sounds like a great plan. I concur. Drip goes in, doctors go out. Doctor, doctor, doctor, doctor.
10:03 pm - Another stranger enters the room, this time in green scrubs, who I conclude is a surgeon thanks to all of the medical training I received while watching Scrubs. He looks
very little like Turk, so I distrust him immediately. With a bit of dry wit (also very unlike Turk), he performs Aimee's epidural. In layman's terms, he inserts a thingy into Aimee's back.
I didn't see it go in, but I saw the effects later, so I have to assume he did it as well as Turk would have done.
||Aimee, what's an epidural like?
You know, it wasn't as fantastic
as everyone made it out to be... I've heard it described as being splashed by a wonderful warm wave
of relief, but it wasn't really like that at all. For me, it was more like the absense of pain than
a gift of pleasure, and at tidal speeds rather than that of a tsunami.
It could have been, however, the type of epidural I received. I've heard some epidurals knock you out
from the waist down, completely numb, so you can't feel a thing. I had some sort of "Lite" version,
where the tube goes in and they top me up every hour... I could still feel the contractions contracting,
they just weren't painful (like a dentist's drill after novocaine... you know it's happening, and it's
uncomfortable, but not necessarily painful). Anyway, it may not have been the glorious epiphany of
pain relief they say it is, but I'd recommend it anyway. It was better than no epidural, I can tell you that much.
10:34 pm - Aimee falls asleep. I stick next to the bed in my somewhat comfy chair and begin a rousing game of Crazy Kings Countdown with myself. What's Crazy Kings Countdown you may ask?
Have you ever heard of Crazy Eights? Of course you have! Well, start with the rules of Crazy Eights (2 = pick up two, J = skip a turn, etc), except start by dealing out 13 cards each. In
Crazy Kings Countdown, the Kings are the wild cards in the first round. When you get rid of all the cards in your hand, you pick up 12 more, and the Queens become the wild card. Get rid of that
hand, pick up 11 more, and Jacks are wild. Keep counting down (that's where the "Countdown" part comes from!) until you pick up one card and Aces are wild. Get rid of that hand, and you win! It
usually involves shuffling the deck about 30 times, and it's only something you should play if you're not likely to be going anywhere for some time. Like me, now.
December 7th, 12:01 am - Looks like baby missed my birthday. That's okay, I didn't want to share it anyway. However, now that it's the 7th, and the 65th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, I
wonder if her birth will contribute further to The Day of Infamy. Then I remember Katrina, my niece, was born on September 11th, and she turned out fine. Aimee was also doing fine, and after
an hour and a half of Crazy Kings Countdown (score being 9s to 7s), I needed a walk. Nif had everything under control, so I stepped out to make a few phone calls to family. Nobody was home.
1:30 am - Another exam. Very little to report. Only four centimetres dilated.
"Amplify the Ping machine..."
3:12 am - I must have fallen asleep again. Checked my messages and found out that everyone back in Canada is home now, and anxiously awaiting updates. Aimee's still snoozing, so I slip out the back.
I was happy to find out that Aimee's brother had been sending out all of my text updates to the recipients of the email list from yesterday morning's labour announcement.
(Aimee's brother has a cell phone in Ottawa, Aimee's sister has one in Thunder Bay, and my dad has one in Indonesia, but my mom and brother don't, so thank goodness everyone was getting
the news). I hadn't done a text update in a while because, really, there wasn't much to say. I let them all know what I knew: dilation is slower than usual, the baby seems bigger than
usual, and the labour's taking longer than usual. It seemed that the docs were slowly warming us up for the idea of a C-section, but nobody had said it outright as of yet. That's all I
had to offer, but I got plenty of hugs and kisses to pass on.
4:05 am - Returned to the room to find that I'd missed the exam. Great news! She's up to 7cm!
5:42 am - Tried the Ribena machine in the hallway again, only this time with a handful of change. I inserted about £8 worth of 50p coins, and it just kept chucking them all into
the coin return bin. Piece of crap. Then I went on a scouting mission with my pocket of chump change and found a working machine on the 5th floor. I came back with a Ribena and a Lucozade
(for Canadians, that's like a purple Snapple and an orange Gatorade). I opened the Ribena and found it was quite possibly the worst drink I had ever tasted.
5:45 am - Nine centimetres! Woo hoo!
6:30 am - I think right around here there was a shift change, but my notes get a little sketchy at this point. Nif introduced us to our new midwives, Julie and Daniella, and bid
us farewell. Julie was a full-fledged midwife, and Daniella was a student midwife. This was made obvious not by a difference in skills, but in the fact that Julie had been in the baby
business so long that the magic of birth had all but left, but Daniella still believed in faeries. Daniella was cheerful and reassuring, while Julie had very much a "how do you expect
to have this baby when you're doing it wrong AGAIN?" attitude. In Aimee's birthplan, she had stated "no students or observers", meaning she didn't want anyone else just standing around
watching the process. In our case, we were quite thankful to have the student.
7:30 am - No more top-ups on the epidural. From here on in, Aimee's on her own for the push.
7:45 am - Quick exam, and we're fully dilated! Well, AIMEE is fully dilated, I am merely holding her hand. Still no one has said the word C-section, though they continue
to drop words like "good size baby". I'm sure to a woman in labour, a "good size" baby fills her with the same excitement as a "fun size" Mars bar - there's nothing particularly "fun" about
it, and in fact what you mean to say is "small", but it's all about marketing.
8:15 am - Prep time. Gloves and papers and absorbant things come flying out of ever cupboard. All machines get switched on (including the one that goes Ping!), and Aimee's epidural
is allowing the pain to slowly seep through, like the ballroom windows on the Titanic (and we all know how that ended).
8:50 am - Push! We're almost there. Aime'ss got the urge to push, and thanks to 12 hours on the epidural and a couple of little naps, she might just have the energy to do this
naturally. The student takes the helm (like airline pilots, students need to rack up flight hours to earn their stripes) and we're glad she did, since the midwives fell into the
always-effective Good Cop Bad Cop routine. Daniella was supportive: "Great, you're doing great! Push, Aimee! You've got it! That's it! Can you do one more? Good!" Julie was more like
a drill sergeant: "You must push. Hard. Push harder. You are not pushing enough. Push." And then there was me in the middle (well, i was off to the left, really), squeezing Aimee's hand,
and doing what any unskilled person would do when something far beyond their abilities is happening around them: counting to ten and hoping it'll all be over soon.
||Aimee, could you tell us what it was like to push?
When I look back,
the anticipation of pushing (off the epidural) was much worse than the pushing itself. I thought that
once they took me off the pain relief that the contractions, which have been building without my knowledge,
would come back in full force and knock me to the ground. Luckily, the epidural was a slow decline, so it
was like starting from scratch with the contractions.
The difficulty of the actual pushing was with concentration. With my legs up, grabbing under my thighs,
chin to the chest, deep breath, pushing for a 10 count while holding my breath, these muscles, those muscles,
push this down, relax that... so many instructions to get right. Couple that with not knowing how long this
is going to go on for, and it's pretty scary. But then, that moment when you push the baby out... ahhh.
9:20 am - Still pushing, still counting to ten. Until now, I've been of two minds about watching the actual birth. Half of me thought the whole baby-emerging-from-the-womb thing
could be the exact opposite of a magical experience, filled with fluids and blood and goop and my wife's naughty bits stretched beyond recognition and general medical scariness... A bit
like finally meeting the Tooth Fairy, and finding out she's a slimy abomination of science that eats teeth and shits quarters. The other half of me thinks, "when am I ever going to see
something like this again? Other than on late night Discovery Channel?" Just then, the student draws my attention to a small tuft of hair on its way into the world. Dark hair! I'd
decided... I'm watching.
9:50 am - Still pushing, and the little tuft of hair is now a big tuft of hair. But still only hair. I remember thinking, with the curvature of the crown pointy as it is, that the
head gave the illusion of looking smaller than I would have thought, about the size of a big Mandarin orange. Then Aimee gave a huge push and I realised what I was looking at was an orange-sized
curve at the peak of a cantaloupe-sized head! What a melon! A red, hairy melon!
And with one more Herculean push from Aimee at 9:52...