Since her arrival on April 28th, Baby Piglet has illuminated our lives and been our source of joy and happiness whilst we continue to live in limbo.
This is her birth story, written quickly as a form of therapy for me. If you’ve never given birth or are squeamish you may not want to read, there may be too much information. It’s a long story but it was important for me to put it all down and I do feel better for doing so. I don’t know if I’ll be able to read it again for a long while though.
Ever since I was 28 weeks pregnant, I was told by the French medical professionals that I risked giving birth early and that I was to rest as much as possible. At 36 weeks, I was told that I wouldn’t make it to 38 weeks. Needless to say, when 38 weeks came and went I was disappointed and when 40 weeks came and went my disappointment deepened and I felt as if she would never arrive and that I would remain pregnant forever.
The day before her due date, I spent a sleepness night enduring regular contractions. They were coming every five minutes and were like nothing I had felt before. I had been scared that I would not know when labour arrived, but suddenly I had no doubt. This was it. After several hours of dealing with them (I didn’t want to go to hospital too early and be stuck on a bed), a hot bath and a manic rush to pack my suitcase, Mr Piglet and I set off for the hospital in Valence.
I had planned to give birth in Lyon and had spent considerable time selecting a hospital and then had all my pre-natal visits there, but with the house situation and the fact that we were still at the inlaws, a two hour car journey when in labour was not plausible so we settled for the hospital in Valence.
Upon arriving at the hospital I was examined and told that I wasn’t ready to give birth and that it wasn’t going to be for today as I wasn’t ripe. I was invited to go back the day after my due date (two days later) for a monitoring and was sent home with some tablets to stop the contractions and a sleeping pill.
How could I not be ripe? What did it mean anyway? Bitterly disappointed that it wasn’t my time and confused about being ripe and what it meant, I researched on the internet and then proceeded to eat a whole pineapple (which wasn’t very ripe either!) and was ready to face the onset of awful heartburn. I slept throughout the afternoon and had a few minor contractions but by the evening they were taking my breath away again.
Of course, I’d already been here and had these painful contractions, so I was sure that I was just a wimp and that these were yet more false labour signs and I was just being too sensitive to the pain.
At midnight the contractions were coming every ten minutes. Still not regular enough for me to consider them as being the real deal, I dealt with them as I could and tried to fall back to sleep in between each one. I’d been told categorically by the hospital that until they were five minutes apart for one hour lasting one minute for each contraction it wasn’t time.
I battled through the night in silence, whimpering to myself and trying not to wake anyone up. I dealt with the pain by stomping my feet, banging the wall and breathing. By the time morning came the pain was even more intense, each contraction would start slowly in my lower back, would reach up to my kidneys and then wrap around me and my bump and tighten like a belt trying to cut me in half.
At 7 am I tried to eat breakfast, I woke Mr Piglet up and told him of my pain. The contractions were still 10 minutes apart so we decided to call the hospital and see what they suggested. It was all pretty much déjà vu as I’d been through this the night before so we were reluctant to go to the hospital without checking first.
Whilst Mr Piglet was on the phone I took my shower and the contractions started coming quicker and quicker… 7 minutes, 5 minutes, 3 minutes. I shouted that it was time to go, grabbed a hairbrush and whatever toiletries were close by and panic stricken off we set. Something was definitely going on and terror took over.
The car journey was hell. The contractions were every 2 minutes now and I seriously started to wonder if we were going to make it to the hospital. I didn’t even care that Mr Piglet was in the fast lane, driving at 150 kmh and more, flashing his lights with his indicators going. I think he was pretty terrified as well.
Thankfully the 45 minute journey was over in just under 30 minutes and we dashed into the hospital. By this point tears were streaming and I was beginning to panic. I was examined immediately and the midwife asked a colleague to check me as they couldn’t believe how much I had dilated. They told me to keep the figures to myself as I was over 7 cms dilated and that they would tell the anaesthetist I was at 5 cms otherwise I wouldn’t get an epidural.
The next instances were a whirlwind and before I knew it I was sitting on a bed with a big plastic sheet on my back and a mad woman whom I couldn’t understand was brandishing a large needle and coming towards me. As I glanced at Mr Piglet I could see fear in his eyes so I concentrated on deep breathing and prayed I wouldn’t get a contraction whilst she was putting the needle in. I had originally wanted to give birth without an epidural but the back labour was so excruciatingly painful I decided to get one, as after all its not the labour that’s important but what happens after and if Mummy’s tired then its pointless. Or so I thought.
As the drugs kicked in, the next few hours were wonderful. I could move my legs and could still feel my contractions but the pain had been taken away. I thanked the heavens for such a wonderful invention and started to look forward to meeting my daughter.
After a few more hours the midwife suggested that they break my waters as things had slowed down somewhat (hospitals always have that effect on me). They wanted to take this opportunity to push Baby Piglet down lower as well as she was still too high up and I was nearly fully dilated.
My midwife was fantastic and had a wicked sense of humour. She was mentoring a trainee midwife and suggested that he break the waters. As he came towards me with what looked like a knitting needle I was apprehensive and kept a close eye on him. I’m glad I did as what happened next will remain engraved in my memory forever. He went about what he needed to do and there was a great big gush of water that squirted out from me, all over him! It literally hit him in the face! The midwife burst into laughter as did I and the poor trainee quickly vacated the area, absolutely drenched. I could hear other people laughing in the corridors as he went to get changed. Poor guy!
After a while the ob-gyn came by and checked me and told the midwife that it was time for me to push. The midwife didn’t agree as she felt that Baby Piglet was still not engaged enough so she asked for another half hour. She did some more checks and discovered that Baby Piglet was actually sunny side up which would present a difficulty for the birth. She did what she could to try and get her to change position including putting me on the side, on all fours etc.
It was during this time that I felt the most pain I had ever felt. It was in my butt and came up my lower back. I was positively howling at this stage, what was my epidural doing? It had stopped working!? What seemed like panic broke out in the room and suddenly it was full of people. The Ob-Gyn was back, the anaesthetist was there again doing something to the epidural and there were other people I hadn’t seen. The pain persisted; I just wanted to get off the table and the hell out of there. I couldn’t imagine having to push and expulse the baby whilst in this much pain. I was losing my mind. The epidural kicked back in but the butt pain continued and started getting worse and worse.
Frantic talk occurred all around me, I was no longer fully functional and my French language skills were fading away. I grasped certain words: ventouse, forceps, c-section… I couldn’t care less, I just wanted them to put an end to the pain I was in.
They installed me and it was time to push. Suddenly I was so concentrated on the task ahead that I was no longer in pain. I didn’t even notice the instruments that the Ob-Gyn was preparing and using.
After what seemed like seconds (but was actually closer to half an hour), a blue lump comparable to an uncooked roast chicken landed on my tummy. My first reaction was “urgh, what is that?”! Mr Piglet then cut the umbilical cord and my baby was wiped clean and given back to me.
I was thrilled. The pain had been worth it. Baby Piglet had been born on April 28th at 1613. She weighed in at 3540 kg and measured 49 cms. I was delighted! She was gorgeous and I felt a need a strong need to protect her it scared me.
I vaguely noticed how many people were still in the room and whilst the Ob-Gyn continued to work on me, Mr Piglet and I sung “I’m a Little Pea” by the Red Hot Chilly Peppers to Baby Piglet. I do not know what possessed us to this but we needed to distract ourselves from what was going on and we felt as if we needed to distract her as well. Was this the first maternal instinct that we had?
Later on, back in the room, the epidural started to wear off as did the emotional pain killer of becoming a Mummy and as I got up to go to the toilet it felt as if my insides were going to fall out of my backside. Terrified I tried to explain to Mr Piglet what I was feeling. It was late, no Doctors were on hand to ask, we called a midwife who said it was normal and came back with an ice pack. I pleaded Mr Piglet not to leave me, I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t move – the pain was so bad.
I didn’t sleep that night. I felt too bad. All I could do was stare at my beautiful baby daughter sleeping next to me and at my darling husband sleeping on the floor. This was not how I had envisaged things, I hadn’t had the perfect pregnancy, we didn’t have a home, I had hoped to have at least a perfect birth and be a smiley happy Mum in her bedroom with her newborn. I’d even had my roots done a few days earlier so I could look good in the photos!
I should have known not to tempt fate, I only appear in one or two photos since she was born and they were taken immediately after I had showered. Generally I was slumming it in the hospital night gown and had dreadlocks for hair. My suitcase and make up bag remained untouched.
Over the next two days my pain persisted and I was given paracetemol and an anti-inflammatory. It seemed as if the staff were annoyed with me and I was told that I didn’t look like I was in pain. My parents had arrived and were horrified when they saw me try and go to the toilet. My Mum broke into tears.
Mr Piglet had had enough and demanded that someone come and see me. I was in pain and even though it may not be visible to them I am quite a tough cookie (to have endured what I had already endured was proof enough) and I was over the moon with my daughter so I was distracted but it didn’t remove the pain. I was eventually taken for x-rays and later on told that I had dislocated my tailbone and that I would need to see an osteopath once I left hospital.
Leaving hospital in that state was not a possibility, I was due to leave the next day under normal French medical care. The staff were being nicer to me now that they knew I had a valid reason for sitting in bed in my PJ’s all day long. Mr Piglet demanded a copy of the x-rays as we couldn’t see how I could leave as I still couldn’t stand up. An orthopaedic surgeon was summoned (and appeared within an hour) on a Sunday, which in France is miraculous) and I was told that my coccyx wasn’t dislocated but broken!
By this point Baby Blues had set in and I was howling in misery. Upset I couldn’t look after my daughter I watched as her Daddy bathed, changed and cuddled her. She would lie next to me in her bassinet and we would look at each other but if she cried or if I wanted to pick her up I had to call for help. I felt so helpless all the time and the fact that I couldn’t even go to the toilet or wash myself was demeaning. This was a new lifetime low for me.
All I could do was feed her and it was if the hospital were set against me breastfeeding so I really had to fight for the only thing I had to offer my baby. Several times a day they would come and tell me she had failed her tests and that she needed supplementing from a bottle. Each time I refused. At my lowest point they actually came in with a bottle and I totally lost it! The midwife had warned me that the charts used by the hospital were for bottle fed babies but these people were making me feel so guilty I just had to get out of there.
It was now recognised that I was going to be in bed for a while (at least three to four weeks) so I was offered a transfer to another hospital, but I refused it as it was even further away from Mr Piglet and my friends than where I was! We enquired about home hospitalisation and whilst it is very rural at my inlaws, everything was quickly set in motion and before I knew it the ambulance was there picking me up.
We dressed Baby Piglet up in her going home outfit and I took a few pictures from my bed. She looked so serious, as if she was promising to be a good little girl for her Mummy that my heart broke. I cried all the way home in the ambulance.
Back at my inlaws it was fantastic. The house was all set so that I could sleep properly on an electric hospital style bed with the hand thing so I could hoist myself up. My Mum & Dad delayed their return home to stay and help us set things up so that Mr Piglet and I could cope. There was so much stuff I hadn’t prepared as I had just assumed I would be able to do it once I gave birth. Never did it occur to me that I would be in such a state.
So this is where I am now. Still in limbo at the inlaws, still not being able to look after my daughter and feeling sorry for myself but so proud of her and proud that I am able to offer her what she needs in terms of love and milk at least. I now have a wicked UTI and can no longer get out of bed. Right now it is one thing after another (I ripped my stitches whilst laughing also) and I’ve had enough of being me but my daughter gives me an incredible strength which allows me to keep going and that has enabled me to come off the stronger pain medication I was on for her benefit.
Thank you Lily-May, you have made this manageable for your Mummy. I love you.