We sat in the overheated hospital room, hemmed in by a curtain and feeling very One Born Every Minute. Yesterday had been planned as the last day of our babymoon, with a choice between the museum and a forest walk. Sitting in a bleachy room and having me finally discover what a speculum is had not been on the menu.
We tried to keep chatting so we’d stop eavesdropping on the woman next door but it was nigh impossible. She was due for a C-section and was defending herself against various midwives, doctors and so on, insisting that she was waiting for her husband to get back from London. Without meaning to, I counted five different people who asked when she’d last eaten. By the fourth, I was ready to volunteer the answer: “a granola bar now 45 minutes ago.”
Meanwhile, the fact that no one was attending us, though irritating, confirmed to me that whatever had happened in my body in the wee hours of the morning wasn’t a big deal. A searing pain radiating from my lower abdomen to my back had rudely awakened me from a hopping good dream around 4am. Being a first-timer, I have no idea what labour is supposed to be like but my thoughts went like this: “Crud, if it starts here it’s going to be bloody painful. Wait, if I’m thinking like this when it starts and I’m planning to do this thing unmedicated…” I know. I’m a wuss.
Panicked by my panic, Laurence got me a hot water bottle and would only go back to sleep when I told him I’d wake him if anything else happened. Well, it did. There was water. But the pain had gone and the baby was kicking about as usual so I just went back to sleep. After putting the coffee on in the morning, I nonchalantly rang up the hospital (couldn’t get through my midwife) who nonchalantly suggested I tell my midwife when I saw her in a couple of hours for my scheduled appointment or if I was worried, I could come in now. I wasn’t worried. I nonchalantly agreed to the first option.
The midwife herself didn’t seem too concerned. The creature’s head had recently migrated downwards, so she suggested that she could have just hit a nerve. Thrashing about like always, aren’t you, my love? I was satisfied with that. But she felt that we should go to the hospital just in case.
I went to the loo to test my urine and by the time I came back she and Laurence were talking about something like a pap smear test that the doctor would want to do when I got there. I’ve only just turned 25 so I’ve never had one so I was just like, “OK”, imagining someone having a quick look down there and maybe swabbing a Q-tip inside my sacred place. It’s not like that.
When we were finally attended, the baby’s heart rate was monitored. We had to wait a long time for her to stop kicking the machine. She’s nothing if not persistent. That’s what you get when you make a child with two sets of bull-headed genes.
My blood was taken and then it was time for the fabled speculum. They lubed it up and stuck it in. So far so good. “We’re just going to expand it,” the doctor said. Well, ok. That’s fine. Wait a minute. Bad words. Bad words. That’s not fine at all! “It all looks ok. Your cervix is closed and there’s no water pooling around the amniotic sac.” Great. Whatever. Get that instrument of torture out of me!
Laurence suggested I should have got them to do my pap smear at the same time so I’d be able to put the next one off. He asked what it felt like and his shock at my description confirms to me that it’s not fitting for polite company so I’ll refrain. There, I think you lot are polite company. Also, my parents read my blog and I don’t want to have to explain one of the terms I used or how I know that word. I later giggled that he’d earlier asked if I’d like him to leave when they were doing that bit as it would be strange seeing people look into my vagina clinically. I have no idea what he expects will be happening at the birth.
Uh, no. I know some people are probably reassured having you medical types around them and maybe even like the attention, who knows, but I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather not be spending a sleepless night. So I asked, “Is that necessary? I’d really rather not.”
She seemed taken aback. In fact, she seemed a bit flustered. “Well,” she explained, “It’s just in case the pain comes back. And we might want to have a scan in the morning.” I looked up at the clock. It was nearing 6pm. There were too many hours between now and morning. We assured her we’d come back if anything happened but that I definitely had no intention of staying the night.
She left to talk to the registrar. I packed up my things. It was beyond me why they’d want me to occupy a valuable hospital bed when there was nothing wrong with me or the baby. When the registrar came in she asked a few questions and was happy for me to go. She didn’t suggest I come in for a scan and she didn’t even suggest that I come in if the pain returned but only that I pop some paracetamol and see if it goes away. I was flummoxed at how she could be so unbothered in letting us go when just minutes before the language used made it sound as if I didn’t really have a choice in the matter.
I wonder, how many people just go along with it when they tell them they need to stay? And how much money is this reluctance to challenge the doctor’s first opinion costing the NHS? At any rate, I hope I’ll not be going back. See, here, creature. You’ve just got to sit tight at least three more weeks and you’ll likely be born at home.
Images by Laurence Jarrett-Kerr on his iPhone out of boredom