It’s not like in the movies.
Mango decided to make her intentions known on Thursday evening; ET’s waters broke, with contractions following closely behind.
After a quick call to the midwife to let her know it had started, bizarrely, we got ready for bed. This turned out to be as useful as tits on a bull, as the contractions started coming strong and steady, 6, 5, 4 minutes apart.
This continued through the night and when morning dawned the midwife paid a visit to check on progress. Just 2 centimetres dilation, which was hardly enough to have gotten her in there to begin with, never mind get her out.
Following a few hours of strengthening contractions, the midwife called again at lunch time to find a whopping 4 centimetres.
Being time to move to the hospital, the midwife rang ahead, only to discover the first set-back of the day; they had no room. Open nights, tours, and leaflets about their maternity services went out the window as we had to move to hospital option B.
By 4pm, 17 hours in, the contractions continued to thunder in but no progress was being made. Still 4 centimetres. The doctors advised pain relief, with an epidural being the only option that would hold long enough to be of use when the end came and it was most needed.
In an attempt to bring that end nearer, they administered hormones to stimulate the contractions and help speed up the labour.
7pm, 9pm, 11pm all passed with progress slowly being made. Too slowly unfortunately as 24 hours had passed since her waters had broken, increasing the risk of infection.
It was time to get Mango out of there.
The hormones were increased and the contractions cranked up, ET feeling each one through the epidural. Midnight passed, the date and staff shifts changed, and on it went. First 8, then 9 centimetres on the horizon.
A little after 1am the midwife decided that the 9.5 was as far as it was going to go, and even with no urge from the baby to do so, ET had to start pushing.
And push she did.
On and on, over and over, breathing deep and putting more than I could imagine into each push. To no avail.
By 3am, the obstetrician felt the 50-50 chance that she would be born naturally was dwindling fast, and as a last resort she opted for one shot at a vacuum extraction.
Anesthetic was administered for the episiotomy that would have to follow if the extraction worked, equipment was readied, and everyone was braced for one last push.
The push came and the vacuum clattered to the floor, ET and I both convinced the child had been sent flying across the room. She hadn’t, the vacuum couldn’t get enough purchase on her head and had come loose. More than 30 hours after the start, in what felt like a defeat, the OR was readied for a cesarean section.
The moments between the failed vacuum attempt and the OR were the worst kind of limbo. Excited half brains telling us the baby would be out and safe in just a matter of moments, exhausted and anxious half brains imagining all sorts of scenarios in the small hours.
Within minutes ET was wheeled away and prepped, and I was scrubbed up and beside her behind the magic screen. I have no idea what was said, or what was done, just that all of a sudden I was told to stand up and look.
There she was, being lifted from her mother’s belly like a rediscovered buried treasure. Blue grey from head to toe, knees curled up into her chest, wild eyes staring out in front. Some kind of demented Smurf. No crying, no screeching, no wailing, just the crossest of expressions surely swearing revenge for the inconvenience she’d been caused.
She slipped silently into the world at 3:51am, and barely a moment later the Dutch government collapsed. A mere coincidence, surely.
She lay in my arms staring at me, wishing me a violent death until her mother returned. Cuteness ensued, huge eyes transforming from ‘serial killer’ to ‘puppy dog’ with her mammy’s touch.
Much more took place that will probably dissolve faster than ET’s stitches, only visiting our memories before evaporating forever. Only physical evidence of what happened between the night of the 18th and morning of the 20th February 2010 will remain.
That physical evidence is beautiful. Absolutely fucking gorgeous should the overwhelmingly biased truth be told. Long fingers on the end of amusingly active hands, toes that curl and bend with every yawn that comes from the purest mouth I have ever seen, sending milk breath into my face.
Soft but sturdy arms and legs, simultaneously exhibiting her vulnerability, reliance, and potential all in one.
A warm pot belly, rising and falling. Shoulders founding the nape of her neck created by nature to bed my nose and lips where I can kiss and breathe in her smell that I’ve taken to work on my clothes, releasing itself intermittently to remind me that the minutes will pass and soon I’ll breathe the real thing again.
Cheeks full to bursting, reassuring us she is thriving. Eyes, that while open are so wide and deep I might not make it out alive some day, and while closed dance around to dreams behind almost translucent eyelids.
Hair so startlingly thick and black that I can’t help myself, running it behind her ears, curling it on her neck, cupping her head in the palm of my hand.
Her weight on my arm, the heaviness that ebbs and flows in the crook of my elbow with each one of her sighs, beautiful in itself.
There you have it, gorgeousness, and how it came to be.