My water broke around 2 pm last Sunday, about 100 yards from the top of Drachenfels, a hill that was formed by rising magma that could not break through to the surface, but cooled and became solid underneath.
We made the initial call to our midwife Heike and excitedly began the stomp down. Something was finally happening with the baby we’d been waiting to meet since January! I felt completely ready for whatever was going to come our way.
Regular contractions started about 5 pm, an hour after we made it home on the tram: they’d been between five and six minutes apart for the duration of one episode of The Wire. We called Heike again.
She showed up 15 minutes later, checked me, and found I was 3.5 centimeters dilated. As we’d discussed, this was probably too soon to go to our Geburtshaus (birth center) so she went home to wait for our call.
I spent the next phase in the hot shower, Jacob holding the wand to my lower back. At 9 pm we called Heike and said we were ready. At the Geburtshaus I hopped in the tub for a bit, and when I got out I was at 7.5 centimeters.
Continued “rushing” all night, Jacob breathing with me through every one, kissing me, giving the kind of support I’d read about in my books. By 5 am I was 9.5 cm dilated – but the remaining .5 cm was not the problem.
Imogen’s head was down in my pelvis as it had been for months, but she wasn’t positioned in such a way that would allow for any descent, much less a smooth descent, down the birth canal.
It was suggested that we lie down and take a rest: another midwife would be in in the (later) morning; the best way to proceed would be decided upon her arrival. The contractions continued through this “rest”.
Christiane showed up over an hour later and confirmed the fact that the baby was stuck in my pelvis and that the contractions weren’t powerful enough to bring her down. It was during this confirmation I did my one push.
We try different positions. We do an enema. We go outside for a walk, Jacob and I. When I can’t do anything anymore Jacob convinces Heike we need to lie down again. Christiane seems to have vanished into thin air.
Heike hooks me up to the fetal heartbeat monitor and tells us that another midwife is coming to fill in for her because she is so tired. I understand the tiredness and thank her for her help, but cannot believe she is leaving at this particular moment.
A contraction wakes me up and I see my baby’s heartbeat, which has never once dropped below 120 in nine months of doctor appointments, at just 39. At this point the midwife Barbara shows up and essentially plays cleanup crew:
she calls the university hospital and makes sure they can take us. Asks Jacob to gather our things. Helps me in the bathroom as my bladder is too full to go (or really to walk, I’d find out upon catheterisation at the hospital).
Drives us to the hospital. Debriefs our new team who induce me to try to establish lost regularity of contractions. (This doesn’t help.)
It is explained to me that since the water had broken now close to 24 hours prior there is a high risk of infection for me and for the baby, whose heartbeat is now up but irregular.
Keeping my eye on the fetal heartbeat monitor, I’m on all fours trying to somehow regulate my own contractions and of course I don’t have a hair tie. The 20-year-old nurse somehow knows I’m thinking this and puts my hair up and applies cold cloths to my neck.
A female Asian doctor comes in and explains the head thing again. Jacob asks if we can have a few minutes. He tells me what I already know, that they are recommending a c-section.
Another doctor who looks like she came from the set of the L Word comes in and stares at me but she is assessing the situation, which she’ll tell me the next day they refer to as “oh fuck what do we do now” (and, later, “come with us if you want to live”).
From the cut until the baby is out takes about a minute, I am told. I am shaven, given something to stop the contractions, put into a gown and green shower cap. They try to take my necklace off but can’t and leave it.
I am wheeled in bed to the “theater” (everyone seems familiar with the word in this context but me), made to switch beds, given an (ineffective) epidural while in the midst of a contraction.
I remember being polite and trying to make small talk even in this situation and thinking at least the theater was cooler than any of the other rooms (I was getting too hot, I was told later) – I am such an optimistic person.
I thought of my baby and my husband the whole time. I remember Jacob yelling at the anesthesiologist and telling me that the Caesarean was named after Julius Caesar.
Jake says I died and came back to life. It was worth it for who was waiting for me at the hospital in Bonn.
Post script Sept. 12 5:04 pm – Sept. 13 5:04 pm (first 24 hours of Imogen’s life)
The midwife first brought you to me in a yellow towel. You looked very familiar to me. I was only able to glance at you because I was dealing with the pain of what felt like them rearranging my insides.
The pediatrician brought you back after having checked you out and laid you on my left shoulder. I tried to focus on you but kept feeling like I was going to knock you onto the floor.
I was so over whatever they were still doing inside me that hadn’t been explained to me ahead of time. Finally I told them I couldn’t take it anymore and wanted to get knocked out.
Your dad took you and left for this part (they made him or he would’ve stayed). On his way out they said congratulations to him while they were, as he put it, elbow deep in my gore. Thanks, not looking at them.
We were both pretty exasperated with not having been given any opportunity to discuss this ahead of time. The next thing I knew I was being wheeled back into the room where you and your father were waiting.
He told me he told you a little bit about the world during that time. This was about the first hour. For the next couple of hours doctors paraded in and out explaining things. Jacob listened to it all.
There was no family room available that night so Jake had to go. You nursed like a pro and turned yourself a different color.
The girl in the next bed called the nurse because of your breathing but I knew you were fine. Your dad rode his bike back in the morning with a bunny for you. You didn’t cry until that afternoon.
When you did cry the midwife said it could be because your first memory (your birth) was not a nice one. I figure I have the next 18 years to the rest of my life to improve on it.