Imagine a bath so big that I, a grown adult of average size, could float away. It was my partner’s job to hold on to my leg and keep me anchored as I dealt with the contractions through a mix of relaxing in hot water, watching Jurassic Park on my laptop (placed out of splash-range), snacking on raspberry liquorice bullets, getting a bit high on gas and air, and telling Laura Dern not to celebrate because it was only the start of the third act. The midwife laughed a lot. I like to think it was because I was hilarious rather than just because she hadn’t fielded a Jurassic Park Raspberry Liquorice Bullet Bath labour before.
To encourage me, she said to imagine afterwards. Imagine holding my
baby potato in my arms. Lots of people find that helpful.
baby potato was hard. Having a baby potato following four miscarriages was harder.
The lost babies were more present, somehow, the closer I got to birth. That wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want to marinade my pregnancy in sadness. I didn’t want to bring five—counting the twins separately—little shadows into the birthing suite. I didn’t want what-ifs lurking in the back of my mind during wiggly ultrasounds, becoming more real, haunting me with everything they never were.
It wasn’t that I wanted them forgotten, I just didn’t want them so close in those moments.
Their presence meant I couldn’t trust the outcome. I couldn’t couldn’t couldn’t refer to it as a
baby potato, so we called it the potato. I struggled to buy baby potato products because I couldn’t escape the fear there would be another tragedy and I would be left surrounded by reminders. When the baby potato wiggled I calmed, and fortunately it was a very wiggly baby potato, but then there was a small issue on my 20 week scan. A follow up showed things were fine, but the damage was done. I didn’t relax again.
How could I? It was only the start of the third act.
Imagine being dumb enough to delay getting the epidural you always planned on having out of a combo of morbid curiosity about contractions and covetousness for that giant bath which looked fun and wasn’t allowed post-epidural.
Imagine a lot of pain.
More than that.
Yeah, no. Still more. It was pain that sent me into panic, even though I knew what was causing it, even though I knew it would stop and give me a break until the next wave, even though I knew everything was going exactly as planned, even though I was a bit high on gas and air and Laura Dern was holding her own against the velociraptors.
Okay, close enough, we’re burning daylight.
I finally wised up and asked for an epidural please and not to be a bother but could-that-happen-ASAPthanksinadvance. But the midwife was pretty sure based on my contraction strength that I was almost ready to give birth. So I got out of the bath and hobbled toward the bed—acutely aware for every shuffled inch across the linoleum floor that my feet were wet and slippery and my legs were shaking from the pain and that it would be unbearable if I slipped and fell and hurt the
baby potato when we were so close. Part way, the midwife recommended I visit the bathroom first, so I added a way-point and a slow, careful pee break to my road trip. When I eventually reached the bed (although I’m pretty sure Frodo and Sam overtook me on the way), the midwife remembered I was due for my next round of penicillin. Except it was also shift change and all the handover chat had to happen before that. When, finally, I was in the bed, the shift had changed and the penicillin was dripping into my arm, it was exam time. I failed miserably. Zero dilation had occurred since water breakage. I had ages to go. And then of course it was still 4am and the epidural guy was at home in bed.
That makes it sound worse than it was. Really, after I crossed the floor I didn’t even notice that time passing. Everything hurt too much for temporal normality. When my partner told me later it was at least an hour and reminded me of all the little delays, I was shocked.
Once the epidural was installed in my back, the pain was so, extremely, amazingly gone I fell asleep.
Pregnancy gave me vivid dreams.
My worst pregnancy-induced nightmare wasn’t the one where I was living in a house under the sea with hundreds of great white sharks swarming outside. It was the one where I was in labour, and then just when the
baby potato was about to come out, my belly deflated. The doctor, who had been bending over between my legs as per every Hollywood birth scene ever, straightened and said that it was a false alarm. There was no baby potato. That this happened sometimes. I should go home. And she and all the midwives packed up and left me, confused and scared and alone, on the hospital bed with no baby potato.
Imagine the slow horror of realising you don’t get to keep the epidural for the pushing bit.
No one warned me about that. They were all oh, epidurals are so good you can sleep through contractions! Which was the truth. It just wasn’t the whole truth.
Imagine discovering that pushing hurt hurt hurt in a whole new way.
It wasn’t that it was impossibly bad from a physical standpoint. I mean, yes, it was that. It super hurt. But so does life. There are worse things than pain that will go away eventually. Really it was that, unlike the contractions, pushing didn’t just happen to me—I had to do it. It was no longer about endurance; it was about choice. There was no way out the other side of the ordeal other than to actively, knowingly hurt myself. To choose pain, more pain, escalating pain, over and over and over. Psychologically, it was a lot to process in the moment. Too much, really.
No one warned me about that, either. I think they should have. That kind of thing leaves a mark if you’re not prepared.
Again, I was told to imagine my
baby potato. Again, I couldn’t. My mind would not go there. Instead, I focused on following the instructions. When to push, how to change position to help things along, how to push more effectively, when to move back so the doctor could check the progress since it did seem to be going on a bit.
That was when she asked if she could cut me a little bit.
I said not unless it was absolutely necessary.
She said she did think it was absolutely necessary.
I said but … really absolutely necessary?
She said well technically no, and then explained what was, in her medical opinion, the most likely alternate scenario. It included the adverb ‘horrendously’.
I said well then, let’s add some scissors to this party, sounds fun.
I was supposed to be induced a day earlier, but when I went to the hospital as scheduled, half the town immediately went into spontaneous labour. We were told to wait while they got on top of things, so my partner and I set up in my hospital room with a takeaway pizza and Star Wars Episide IV on my laptop. Midwives and doctors popped in with brief updates—someone else had arrived in labour, a baby who had gone home yesterday needed to come back in for extra care, a birthing class everyone had forgotten about just showed up and the midwife on duty would have to drop everything and take it. Eventually, a doctor told me told they were too busy for me that evening. I should go home.
He said even though it would probably be okay to start the induction anyway—since inducing means preparing you overnight for labour to start the next day and everyone else should be done by morning—they couldn’t risk it because occasionally someone goes into labour as soon as they’re prepped. He said he was sorry.
I said he didn’t need to apologise. I understood his decision (and he was right not to risk it, since when I came back the next evening, my waters broke 10 minutes after I was prepped). I said I was so sorry for crying.
He said I didn’t need to apologise. He explained that even if I was induced anyway and went into labour that evening, it shouldn’t be an issue if everything went smoothly. The problem was there wouldn’t be enough staff to provide prompt help if it didn’t. Although it should. But they needed to be cautious. He said he was impossibly sorry.
I said he didn’t need to apologise and I didn’t need reassuring. Because I absolutely agreed with him. I wanted to be cautious too (and he was right to be cautious, since when I did give birth, I immediately haemorrhaged approximately 1.3L of blood). I said was so sorry about the crying that my sorry could bring the dinosaurs back to life.
A nurse who wasn’t usually in the maternity ward at all (they were that short staffed) came in to help me pack up. She saw me crying and said she was so sorry her sorry could probably win a Guinness World Record if she was tacky enough to submit a moment like this to a judging panel. She said they would never send me home if they weren’t satisfied things looked fine.
I said she didn’t need to apologise and promised that, really, there was no need to comfort me. I understood everything, and I did want to stop crying, I just couldn’t for some reason. I knew I’d been checked thoroughly and the uterus situation looked great. I said I knew the crying was uncomfortable for everyone and I was so sorry that if I heaped up all the sorry it would be a mountain big enough to attract tourists who would take selfies and possibly die in avalanches of sorry near the peak.
She said I didn’t need to apologise. She said she was so sorry that if she put her sorry in a rocket engine it could take unhealthily rich people to space and probably not even explode them. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to happen right now. She believed everyone has a set birthday and everything happens for a reason.
I said I’d had four miscarriages. I couldn’t believe that.
She said oh.
That night, I fell asleep at home in my own bed, still pregnant, still crying. The next morning I woke up teary.
I hadn’t lied. I understood delaying the induction was the best decision under the circumstances. But I was also trapped in my nightmare, belly deflating, being told to go home because there was no
Imagine the unimaginable. My baby.
It’s now over 7 months later. For the first time in years I’m happy with where my life is, but I’m still dealing with the aftermath of the miscarriages. I think I always will be. It isn’t as overwhelming now, though.
The potato is doing very well, but ‘very well’ for a 7 month old doesn’t always include sleeping, which is why posting here has been sporadic of late. I’d apologise about that, but I’m not sorry at all. Babies gonna baby, and I’m loving it.
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