I had an unspectacular show, mid-afternoon on Saturday June 14th, a few days before my due date. My waters began to trickle out at about 5pm, so I called my mum to ask her to travel down one night earlier than planned, to save any middle of the night journeys.
I was happy that the baby was coming a bit early, and that we wouldn’t have to worry about the risk of induction for my planned vbac. Al cooked up a pot of pumpkin soup, I bounced on my fit ball, wondering if my baby was still posterior, and waited for mum, while my waters continued to slowly trickle.
I breastfed my little boy to sleep for what turned out to be the last time, and went to bed not long after mum arrived. I found it very difficult to get to sleep, expecting contractions to start. I lost more and more water through the night but nothing else happened until I got up at 7 the next morning and went to the toilet and experienced the ‘pop’ of waters breaking and gushing in earnest. It felt like whole oceans of amniotic fluid were released over the course of 24 hours.
The contractions finally began 15 minutes later, 4 minutes apart and lasting about a minute. I called my midwife’s number and got a back up midwife, who said that she would meet me at the birthing suite in an hour.
We drove into the hospital and met Margie, the midwife, and Danielle the OB on that day. They assessed me to be in active labour and wanted me to stay in the birthing suite.
We set up the iPod dock and put on Leonard Cohen’s Live in London double CD and set to the job at hand.
I had to have constant fetal monitoring because this was a ‘trial of birth’. I bounced on a fit ball or stood and leaned on the back of a chair, rocking my hips in a figure 8. The baby was indeed still posterior, and Margie would massage my hips with downward pressure during contractions to try and help the baby turn.
I vomited my breakfast and didn’t eat anything else except a few sour snakes for the rest of the day and night.I went to the shower and knelt against the fit ball under the endless hot flow of hot water held by a student midwife but found that I didn’t enjoy the sensation. Likewise, I didn’t enjoy the sensation of the TENS machine and took it off quite early. I shrugged off Al’s attempts to massage me and hated being touched during contractions.
Danielle the OB checked my dilation through the day (ouch. More painful than the contractions!), and I progressed steadily.
When the contractions got too painful to breath through anymore, I asked for gas, which made a huge difference, once I was shown how to use it properly. I visualised an opening flower through the contractions, and used the tips of my fingers to demonstrate the blooming to myself, though my eyes were ever closed, during.
At about 6pm I was pronounced fully dilated, and I had a change of midwife from Margie to Heather, who I had met before, as she was part of my MGP team.
Heather started getting me to push during contractions, but I was hindered in bearing down by the ragged end of a five week old chest cold. She asked if I could feel pressure in my bottom or the bodily urge to push and I felt neither. She said that the baby was in the “S bend” of the pelvis, and when I couldn’t hold my breath in, the baby would slip back again.
At this point the night OB, Patrick, and his associate came in and said I could only have another half hour of pushing, because it was vbac and there was a risk of uterine rupture involved, and after that time I would have to have intervention to assist getting the baby out.
From this point time became slippery to me. I was very tired, and frustrated by my difficulty in holding my breath. I was sick of the pain, and feeling unfocused, much as Heather and Al tried ever harder to get me to bear down through the contractions. When Patrick came back in, he said that my time was up and did I want a c section or else he would try the ventouse. I wanted a c section and for it to be over but he said we could deliver now with the ventouse.
Through the blur of that intense pain, I don’t know when things went wrong , as no one told us that there was an issue, there was just a sudden urgency in getting the baby out. The ventouse failed and forceps were employed. I thought that I had done so well going all day without drugs but I never knew what pain was until that end point, where I found myself screaming and begging them to stop. At that point Patrick told me that he had to stop what he was doing when I said stop, as it was a matter of consent, but that he needed to keep going. Heather told me to tell her when a contraction was coming and to look right into her eyes and push as hard as I could, as many times per contraction as I could. I told her it all hurt so much now that I couldn’t tell when I was having a contraction anymore, so they had to go by the CTG and tell me when to push. The room had a lot of people in it now. Heather held my hand on one side and Al on the other, and I was aware of digging my finger nails deeply into both of them but couldn’t stop myself. I don’t know if he was foolhardy or brave or both, but Al offered up his knuckle for me to bite at one point after Patrick said I couldn’t have any more gas, and I bit it hard, and he didn’t take it away, which is love, truly.
Several different techniques were used before finally my baby was coming out. Heather explained that I would feel intense burning, which was normal, but when it came, it was as nothing in comparison to the agony that had preceded it while they tried to turn the baby from posterior to be born.
My baby was placed directly onto my chest, and Al told me joyfully “We got a little girl”, while Patrick and different people said what a good size she was, but I was frightened of how still and pale and quiet she was. She was taken from me and checked, and needed some air but all of the nurses were telling me that she was doing well, and they asked Al if he wanted to go over and look at her, which he did. I heard mention of me losing  blood and was aware of several people working on me, but thought it was a bleed similar to the one after my c section, of 600ml or so. I didn’t find out until the following day that I lost over 2 litres. Al said that the amount of blood on the floor when he got up to see Suzanne was shocking. It was gotten under control soon enough though. It was only then that I was told that my babies bones were possibly broken from the birth, and that things had indeed gone wrong and the birth had been officially “traumatic”, and that what had occurred had a name, Shoulder Dystocia. The only poster on the wall of the birthing suite,that Al and I had looked at over and over that day, was a pneumonic with the techniques that should be employed in the case of shoulder dystocia. Al went with Suzanne while she was x rayed.
 Patrick asked if Suzanne’s name was from the Leonard Cohen song (the CD had still been playing over and over), and when I said that that was part of the reason that she was named Suzanne, he asked for the  pin on my iPod and found the song to play. I had been on oxygen while I was losing blood, and then was allowed back on the gas while they began stitching me up from the episiotomy. I think that those things combined with adrenalin made me suddenly very, very drunk, and I babbled away to Patrick about Patrick from Offspring, and the other meanings to Suzanne’s name, and who knows what else.
Al came back and it was confirmed that our baby girl had a broken clavicle on her right side and a broken humerus on the left. I was appalled. I held her on my chest and asked if I could do skin to skin with her. Various doctors did various things to me for a couple of hours, prompting me to ask when they were going to stop hurting me. I was growing steadily weaker from the blood loss and lack of food, until I couldn’t lift my head any longer, or raise my voice above the tiniest whisper. Al held my hand and I looked into his eyes and thought how they were ocean like, and how deeply I trusted him, and loved him.
Suzie’s first feed was expressed breast milk, as we were both too weak to do it any other way, and I think that I must have fed her again that night, but I can’t remember it.
Al stayed until about 2am and though he was offered a cot to sleep on in the birth suite, I told him to go home and get a decent sleep. I stayed in the birth suite until the following evening, but I barely slept more than 20 minutes at a time that night, and twice I wept uncontrollably about the birth and my baby girls broken bones. The second time, one of the midwives who had been at the birth, and who had helped me to put Suzie skin to skin, saw that I was crying, and sat down and held my hand and talked to me about it. Shoulder dystocia had occurred in the birth of two of her daughters, and she said that she cried too, but that broken bones were the best outcome, as things could have been much worse if they hadn’t have been able to get her out when they did, and that newborn bones heal quickly. 
I don’t think anyone can really console a mother about her baby being born so wounded (she was marked and bruised and swollen from the forceps too), but her wounds are temporary and she won’t remember how awful her entry into the world was, cherished and cushioned as she is. I remember thinking right after the birth that it had been the worst day of my life, and such an horrific experience that I wished that we could not celebrate that day as Suzie’s birthday, but the next day instead. As the days and weeks have gone by the trauma lessens and Suzie and I both recover, I am happy that she arrived in the world on June 15th, and to be grateful for that.