I woke to a midwife gently waking me and asking to me take a shower. It wasn’t even 7am. It took me several seconds to remember where I was, and when I did, I wished I’d not remembered.
I was still pregnant. Nothing had happened overnight and I was quite surprised I had slept at all.
I looked out of the window. It was miserable and grey, just like I felt inside.
We’d forgotten my towel and toiletries in the rush of the previous night so I had to wash with soap and water and then pat myself down with a hospital towel the size of a tea towel.
I wasn’t allowed to eat, or drink, and I was parched. And I still hadn’t ‘been’ to the toilet from the night before. The suppository was still sat on the bedside table next to me, sneering. I had no choice. It was that or do ‘it’ during labour. The suppository it was!
It didn’t take long to take effect, and luckily for you, I’ll not go into the gruesome ins and outs of that delight.
It seemed like an eternity before they took me up to the labour ward. I was met by an Angel. A sweet lady with short brown hair and a kind caring face who could see I was upset and instantly comforted me and told me she would be with me throughout the whole experience.
Now you should know me by now, that I always try to find something to smile about, even in the most difficult of situations. And here comes the first.
My lovely midwife introduced herself. “Je m’appelle Fanny.” Did I hear right? I asked her to repeat her name and could see my immature husband trying not to wet himself with laughter behind her as she replied, “Fanny. F-A-N-N-Y.” (For those of you not accustomed to this term, in England it is a slang word often used by children to describe the female lady parts – or vagina if you wish to get technical).
I smiled and told her she had a very pretty name. She returned the smile.
So Fanny would be in charge of my fanny all day. Good to know.
Fanny examined my… er… fanny. I was no further dilated. (I think I should refer to her as my midwife from now on!) She was teamed up with a quirky midwife called Miriam who provided constant cups of coffee to my husband and sneaky cup of apple juice to me a little later on.
They told me the anaesthetist was on way and began to prepare me for the epidural. Cleaning my back, putting on surgical hats and masks… it was all so clinical.
The fear suddenly crept up on me. I had epidurals with both of my sons, but with both I was in active labour and in so much pain that a needle in the spine was nothing! However now, I was having one with no labour and no contractions, and no pain, except the agonising pain in my heart.
I cried tears of self pity. Tears of “why is this happening”? And as they cleaned my back and the anaesthist began feeling my back for the correct spot to place the epidural, I felt helpless. I wanted someone to come and take this all away. I wanted to wake up and realise this had all been a cruel nightmare.
The warned me for the general anaestetic which would numb the area where the epidural would be placed. I took a sharp intake of breath and squeezed Miriam’s hand so tight I was sure it would break, as several sharp stings entered my back. The anaesthist then felt my lower spine and told me not to move.
Then came the intense pressure in my back, and I looked up at Fanny with tears streaming and my heart racing, and she took my free hand and squeezed it reassuringly. Without warning my lower right leg kicked forward into her thigh and was accompanied by an electric shock feeling in my thigh. The anaesthetist explained she was working close to the nerves and that I shouldn’t move. With that my entire thigh leapt off the bed, moving me and everything around me. The sensation was what I can only describe as a million volts of electric had been passed through my thigh in one go. I screamed – like a girl. This all happened completely involuntarily. Like when you go to the doctor and they test you reflexes by tapping your knee with a little hammer. I had no control over my leg or its reaction whatsoever.
However, my movement had sent the anaesthetist into a bit of a flurry and there was a slight fuss for a few minutes before they started again. By this stage I could barely breathe through crying so hard. The midwifes were telling me to breathe. Just breathe. And following a few more moments of pressure and tension in my back, it was over. My fingers were tingling where I had cut off oxygen to them through my hyperventilation, but I was so relieved it was over.
As always my right leg went numb first, closely followed by my left. Unlike my epidurals in the UK, I still had sensations, I could still feel people touching me and I was able to move my legs. The anaesthist finished clearing up and then quietly warned me I may experience a bad headache as a result of the issues during the epidural procedure. A headache was really the least of my worries.
The midwife told me she was going to insert the tablet which would start contractions, and so she did. And just like that, the process was underway. The midwifes left us in the room and said they would return to check on me, but should anything occur before hand, I should push the buzzer to call them.
I lay there in silence with my husband beside me. We said nothing. There was nothing to say. Tears trickled down my cheek as I turned my head to the side and closed my eyes. I was so tired. So so tired.
Whoosh. I awoke. Startled. Something had burst and emerged from me. Was it our baby?
I called for my husband. “Somethings happened,” I whispered, “I think it could be the baby.”
He went to push the buzzer but I stopped him. I didn’t want to alarm the midwives unnecessarily. It could just be blood. As always, in true Wimpy Mum fashion, I didn’t want to disturb or inconvenience anyone or pull them away from anyone more “needy”.
Instead I made my husband linger at our door waiting for someone to casually pass, which they quickly did.
My waters had popped and the baby was in my “birth canal” (which is the most pleasant word I could find in this case). The midwives continued to inspect me and then Fanny gathered up the waterproof padding beneath me and left the room with it. I assumed she was removing it because it was soiled.
Fanny returned and informed me delicately that the placenta was stuck inside me, and a gynaecology doctor was on way to try to manually remove it. I kept asking “Mon bebe? Mon bebe?” She was responding but I was so panicked that I didn’t quite grasp what she was saying to me. My husband came over and put his hand on my arm and told me, “The baby has been delivered.” That’s why Fanny had left the room with the waterproof padding. Our baby had been wrapped in it.
I wailed and I cried for my baby. My baby who was no longer inside me. Our hearts were no longer beating besides one anothers. I felt empty. It was truly over.
But it was far from over. The midwives placed my heavy numb legs into stirrups as another doctor I didn’t recognise entered the room and told me she was going to attempt to remove the placenta. My heart rate increased by double. I was paralysed with fear. The last time I was hurriedly placed into stirrups like this was whilst in labour with my eldest son who suffered shoulder dystocia. It was a life or death situation, an emergency and a trauma I will never forget. In this moment I felt as though I were back in that labour room, waiting for news of whether my son were alive or not, and whether I would survive or not. The gynae doctor stroked my head tenderly and told me it would be okay. She smelt lovely. Her perfume made me think of my mum, and it comforted me.
I don’t know what she did, but it didn’t work and without time to prepare myself I was being rushed into the operating theatre down the corridor whilst she explained I would need to have the placenta surgically removed otherwise I could heamorrage. I can’t tell you how many people were awaiting me, dressed in green with masks covering their faces. Just a horizon of eyes, except for one man who squeezed my hand and smiled warmly at me. “Ca va,” he said, “Ca va.”
I was unable to catch my breath as they hurried around me, placing covers over me, putting up sheets and preparing utensils for the procedure. I was uncontrollably physically shaking. My legs and hands were jutting around as though I were having a seizure. I wasn’t cold but they put a cover over me which they blew heat through to keep me warm. One of the doctors tried to stabilise my hands and told me “c’est normal,” before giving me something to calm me. And it did. My breaths slowed and I felt woozy and dreamy.
One of the pair of eyes asked if I would like my husband to be there. At first I said no, but after a quick reflection, decided that yes, actually, I would like him to come through and witness the troubles us poor women have to go through to keep humankind thriving.
A large green sheet went up in front of me, blocking the view of my waist down. All I saw was eyes. Eyes everywhere. Big brown Mediterranean eyes above me with beautiful long lashes. Young pretty green eyes to the right of me. I wondered how young those young eyes were. I searched for eyes I knew. Where was Fanny? Ah there she was to my left. I reached for her hand which she held securely as the operation begun. I couldn’t feel pain, but I could feel the tools inside of me, moving around. I winced.
My husbands eyes appeared over my left shoulder and his hand replaced Fanny’s. He squeezed it tightly. I felt so vulnerable. So scared. So sad. Just laying here in a sea of eyes, drowning.
“They’ve finished” my husband said, and someone verified in French that the operation was successful. But they were still inside of me, I could feel that, and I argued tearfully, “They’ve not finished. I’m still open! I can feel it!”
But seconds later they were finished, and the sheets came down and the covers came off. And all the eyes glistened and smiled at me as they wished me good luck and a speedy recovery.
I spent a brief few minutes in the main recovery ward before they moved me back to our labour room so I could recover alone. Fanny tucked me in and told me to rest. I lay there shivering, not quite believing what had just taken place. Not quite ready to face what I knew would be an even harsher trauma. Just relieved that for now, I was “ca va”. No stirrups, no needles, no physical pain, no surgical instruments.
The numbness in my legs and lower abdomen was diminishing, yet the numbness in my heart was overwhelming.