Exactly a week after Snorky was due, on September 21, this is what happened:
4.37am – I wake to painful cramps that pulse through my belly at regular intervals. I wait a moment before I wake J-man because this whole fake labour shiz has been going on for weeks. This could just be Thai take-out, I think. Like that scene in The Madness of King George when Helen Mirren tells Nigel Hawthorne to “try a fart”, I do just that to no avail. I wake J-man and tell him it’s on like Donkey Kong.
6am – The contractions are consistently coming every couple of minutes. In the book they give you at baby classes, it says this means the baby is imminent and get in the car now or you will have the kid in the toilet. I am thrilled at how quickly it all seems to be going and I imagine gazing at my baby over lunch.
8am – I have peanut butter on toast for breakfast, as the contractions pick up. J-man rings the hospital and they tell us amateurs to stay at home because this baby is not coming anytime soon. Hey lady, take some Panadol, have a hot shower and chew on some cement, they tell us.
9am – I set up a pain station in the lounge room, where I kneel on a pillow and put my head on another pillow placed on a chair. I cry, I scream, and I grunt. This baby is coming! J-man talks about calling the hospital again. I say if they ask whether the pain is manageable to tell them yes it is, I have a high pain threshold, and I could just as easily have this baby at home. I hear him say these words, words that will come to haunt me.
11am – Everything comes to a grinding halt. I feel like an idiot.
Noon – Oh, hang on. Here we go, something is happening. I want to keep things moving, so I get the broom and use it as a walking stick for my dicky hip and do laps of the courtyard under the hot sun. The contractions continue to come frequently and I moan and groan while our neighbours discreetly usher their visitors indoors.
2pm – Finally, I rate the pain as unmanageable and we hop in our little hire car and go to the hospital. Ouch, ouch, ouch. I distinctly remember sitting at a red light on Victoria Road wishing for death. Or birth. Whichever.
2.15pm – The midwives obviously care not about my views on life and death and send me to a waiting room in the delivery ward. Another couple – a heavily pregnant woman who is not in labour and her dude – sit across from us watching some kind of car race on the TV. I am contracting in front of strangers and it is the height of totes awkward. I squeeze J-man’s hand until it looks like a rubber chicken.
2.20pm – A lovely young midwife named Emily with a nose stud examines me and finds I am measuring – cough – three centimetres. Three. And I have to get to ten. How embarrassing is this? I can’t even take contracting to a three. She tells us to head back home, rest, have something to eat and come back at about 6pm.
3pm – This part is kind of a daze. I don’t remember being in heaps and heaps of pain, but I do remember telling J-man he should get in some nap time and a Red Dead Redemption session before things get real. I eat coconut bread with honey and an orange icy pole. Things amp up about 5.30pm and red hot, raging cramps race around my belly and back.
6.45pm – We go back to the hospital. The short trip to RPA is horrific. I cry and moan and have hand-to-hand combat with my seatbelt, which I’m convinced is making everything worse.
7pm – A kindly middle-aged midwife ushers me in to a delivery suite and shows me how to use the gas. The gas, my friends, is a con. It does nothing. But it does feel surprisingly good to just pretend. I get into a night shirt and ask the midwife whether I should take off my underpants. She laughs and says I can keep my dignity a little longer.
7.20pm – A lovely young midwife named Tori comes in and takes over. She says I now measure four. Fucking FOUR!? Will I still be in labour when they hand me a gold timepiece at my retirement party? She suggests we all get in the shower together. Me, her, J-man and the gas bottle. The shower is (obviously) huge. Tori and J-man chit-chat and discover we all went to the same uni. It’s weird. Here I am, totally naked, having a shower while my husband watches with another woman and there’s drugs in the room. This is not something I would usually be into.
9pm – The feeling of hot water on my body starts to annoy me. And this is about the time that I lose my mind. It is, I believe, the part the books and Satan himself call “transition”. At first I lean up against the bed growling and grunting like a wild animal, sucking in gas and chewing ice chips. Tori tells me to let her know when I am not coping and she will give me morphine. Soon after, I yell at J-man “I AM NOT COPING” in between hitting him on the chest as the contractions start to become just one big, awful contraction. I get the morphine. It does nothing for the pain, only makes me really sleepy in between contractions. With each one, Tori tells me “You can. You can”.
10pm – It’s time to start pushing. I won’t go into graphic detail, only to say that while it stung like a giant bee with fangs, claws, and Swiss Army knife in its pocket, it was such a feeling of relief. I look back now, imagining being naked, on all fours and grunting, as two midwives look up my clacker, and the only way I can explain it is this: I was not there for my own labour. The real me was at home watching Breaking Bad and eating cheese on the couch, waiting for Labour Steph – the unashamed and naked one – to come home with the baby.
11.37 – A little, blue being drops between my legs and starts to cry. J-man cuts the cord. I call my parents. We cry, we laugh, we freak out. We name her Cordelia.