Just give me one more push

THERE is an unanswered question swimming through my head: will I have more children?

The answer varies, depending on my mood and the rigours of the day. My husband seems relatively content to have no answer locked in, but the constant surfacing of a major decision is just about doing my head in.

I struggle with unresolved conflict, unsaid emotion and especially unanswered questions (which comes in handy in the field of journalism).

A lady told me once, “you’ll know when you’re done”. By that logic, I mustn’t be. But if I try to picture a third or even fourth child (an even number of kids seems right, somehow), they’re this interloper intruding on my time with my two current children. I don’t even know their names!

Bearing this in mind, I must be done. And then I start to feel a little sad – if my child-bearing days are done, then I’ll never again experience the wonderment of bringing life into the world.

I ought to count my blessings (and I do) that I was able to have two natural births but I’m simply not done with the most amazing experience of my life. I wonder if that’s why mothers are so quick to recount their horror labour stories with others? Because ultimately, it was the single most life-defining thing they have ever done.

During my two labours, I have suffered thousands – hundreds of thousands? – of contractions but I pushed just seven times: four for my son and three for my daughter.

Perhaps I have more push left in me?

During my first labour, I can recall things in vivid detail despite the gas, the pethidine, the horror…  I had been quite sick and my son was induced seven weeks early. I knew things could get much worse before they got better, so I didn’t allow myself to lose the plot. Instead I counted, and I counted and I counted. I would grit my teeth till “seven” then the pain would subside, the gas would make me giddy and I’d fall asleep, to be woken just moments later with the next contraction. I counted past my exhaustion, I counted even after the clock stopped making sense.

Then I could feel him coming and I knew I had to stop counting and push… and pray.

I can recall the stinging, splitting, tearing feeling. I can remember the gush of fluid that I thought was my blood, I can still feel his limbs flap against my thigh like he was a fish. I remember the indescribable emotion as they placed this small, mewling, wet boy on my chest. A luxury I didn’t think I’d get. My first words to him were “ssh. It’s okay.”

My second labour by contrast was two days overdue and when the contractions started, they meant serious business.

I remember going to the hospital and my husband, son and mum-in-law leaving me there while they went home to sleep. I called later saying they should probably start to come in, but take their time. I called again 10 minutes later and told them to hurry. The pain was already terrifying and I had already lost my count.

After that, things got blurry, but it went something like this… By the time I was in the birthing suite, I was holding onto the black behind my eyelids, so I wouldn’t cry in front of my son. I remember asking my husband to keep count, because I couldn’t anymore but either he stopped or I couldn’t hear him anymore and I worried how much longer I could stay lucid.

When the midwife told me how little I had dilated, I cried for an epidural.

I was sitting on the edge of the bed, drooling around the gas pipe in my mouth while they put a needle in my spine. I came dangerously close to passing out when I began to feel my daughter’s head.

I was so relieved – I sensed it was almost over. But that’s as far as my memory goes. I don’t remember pushing, I don’t remember how she came out, I don’t remember her loud cries, her flesh, our first cuddle.

There is this kind of hollow blank. I know I would have held her and comforted her – in fact, I do remember breastfeeding her – but all those exquisite, sensuous memories are dulled by the pain.

The contractions continued for another 90 minutes while a gum-chewing midwife pushed on my belly and pulled on the umbilical cord to wrench out a giant placenta. Giving birth to the power of two. In the end, I had to have my epidural just for that.

Is that how it ends for my most female of functions? I know things could have been much, much worse and I’m always grateful it wasn’t. But to be plain, I want that experience back and if I can’t have it back, then I think I want a “do-over”.

I know it’d be wrong to conceive another child solely for the birthing experience and, for the record, I do wonder about all the infinite variables another life creates in our family. But just for the moment, I’m letting myself feel that pain of the labour I can’t remember.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Brooke
    May 06, 2010 @ 16:08:50

    It’s such a Catch-22, isn’t it? On the one hand, I majorly want a do-over (homebirth-turned-c-section after 24 hours of labor), because my daughter’s birth was the most traumatic things I’ve ever experienced. On the other hand, I’m horrified at the thought of having another c-section, and I’m not confident there’s a doctor in my city who will follow through with me doing a VBAC…

    I do hear from people with three kids or more that going from two to three is MUCH different than going from one to two.


  2. marketingtomilk
    May 09, 2010 @ 20:05:09

    Your post moved me to tears.
    I prayed for a “do-over” for a long time, having had two emergency c-sections, but i think i may be done.
    I won’t be shutting the door that firmly though. never say never.
    birth story on my site, post on this subject in planning stages.
    Thank you for sharing this.



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