It was 3:00 a.m. when the pains started. She could feel them; minutes apart and she knew the day had come. The birth she had expected never to arrive, was here. She hadn’t prepared, in any way at all. She shifted herself, stared at the ceiling and sighed, nothing to do but wait. Wait for the right time to take action. It was now 6:00 a.m. She sat up on her bed and decided to take a bath. She had invisioned her first birth in a very different way.
Her back was in excruciating pain but even then she couldn’t let her roommate know what was going on. Slowly, she got off the bed and made her way slowly outside. Today each step felt like 1000 pins prickling her feet. She could spare a few tears this morning so she let them run to alleviate her pain if only for a few minutes.
She opened the door, put on her slippers and made her way to the washroom. Her stomach rumbled intermittently and she felt sick. Out of the washroom into the bathroom and the shower could not have been colder.
There were two books and a biro in her bag. Her walk to school was slow and agonizing, all the while heaving and consoling herself that pain was all in the mind. The ordinary 15 minutes’ walk took half an hour and she could feel her face growing pale with each second. She made it to school all the well, sat down outside with her friends barely saying a word. She felt the sun was harsh that morning but had no intention of taking her jumper off.
The pain on her back grew stronger. She decided that perhaps the town’s maternity hospital was the best place for her first birth. Her heart pounded as she walked through the gates and straight to the reception. Puzzled looks received them and they grew more surprising when she requested to see the doctor. Her friends led her inside and waited, too shocked to say a thing.
“I think I’m in labour,” were the words that blurted out of her mouth and all the doctor could muster as a response were ‘where’ with a bemused look. She took off her jumper, lifted up her shirt and looked to her expecting some sort of approval or acknowledgment which did not come. The doctor moved towards her and touched her tummy and laughed, it now seemed like she believed her. She asked her to lie on the bed and remove her trouser, which she did, reluctantly at first. She lay down and waited for the verdict. From her lying position, she saw the doctor shake her head.
“There’s fecal matter in your amniotic fluid,” is what the doctor said. “Is that a bad thing?” she asked and the doctor looked at her, nodded and asked for her pre-natal information which she didn’t have. She’d never gone to the hospital through all those nine months and all those pregnancy sites online were the closest thing she’d come to in terms of understanding her condition. She’d always consoled herself with the fact that people from long ago had no pre-natal check-ups and they had turned out okay. They had given birth and had turned out fine. Hello, we’re and their descendants and we’re alive.
“So you mean to tell me you didn’t go for any check-up. You young girls with your phones and your internet, you don’t know anything. You think that’s all you need, right, a due date calculator and a symptoms confirmation,” the doctor started. All she could do was stare at her apologetically. She knew she’d been wrong but she’d denied her condition from the beginning and going for check-ups would only make it real to her and she was not going to have that. “Does your mother know?” was the question that came next and she shook her head. “We need to let her know immediately because there is no way that you are leaving this hospital without having given birth.
The doctor with the midwife assured her it wasn’t the first time something like this happened, that her mother would come around and she needn’t be afraid. She was adamant herself too, afraid that this would be the end of her life if her mother found out. As she took her place in the ward that had only three beds, the previous occupant told her not to worry; that she had laboured for one and a half days and still given birth well. She walked out a baby in hand, her relatives beside her, carrying her belongings and a smile on her face and for a moment she didn’t feel so depressed.
Her friends left. The solitude added to her pain. As soon as she lifted her legs trying to find comfort on the bed, the midwife walked into the room and handed her the phone. She didn’t want to take it but she had no choice. “Is it true?” yes, “Are you okay?” yes, “Listen to what the doctors tell you, do your best and I’ll come and see you tomorrow after the birth.” That’s how short the conversation went, a far off version of what she’d expected. The midwife took the phone back and told her she’d come to check on her later.
Despite her lack of appetite, she ate, convinced she needed the strength for birth Her friends came back, rubbed her back soothingly and for the first time that day she felt cared for. The pain was growing but she couldn’t bring herself to tears, she felt empty; drained.
Just as she was getting used to the relief of the rubbing from her friends, they were sent away again. She was left soothing herself but her hands were too tired to do the massages as much as she’d liked. The midwife came back asked to lie on her back, placed what looked like a small plastic red horn looking-like device on her stomach and placed her ear on the other end. She could feel the apparatus pressing on her tummy and she tightened her muscles to reduce the pain. After about 10 seconds, she removed it and told her all was going well and left.
It was then that she began feeling she needed to defecate which she told the midwife who told her to it wasn’t yet time. So she went back to her bed and continued in her distress. Her patience grew thinner and her pain grew stronger. she’d insist that it was time but was told to wait. This happened about five times and finally, she was led to the delivery room. She took the overall off and lay on the bed waiting for instructions.
All she wanted to do was push and get rid of this situation she’d been in for a long time. She did just that, thrice, then the midwife told her that she would have to make an incision which she refuted and assured her she’d push harder. The next push made the incision a necessity and she felt the cut more deeply than she’d expected. She let out one sharp scream after the cut as the felt the midwife reach inside her and pull the baby out. There was no sound after that, no nothing.
It was a new beginning, the birth of her first.