At this early stage, all I could feel was a little tightening at the top of my pregnant belly. A nurse asked me if I was in any pain and I wasn't - just the feeling of wearing snug maternity pants. I was so pain-free that I even flashed a victory sign for the husband who was taking photographs.
About half an hour later, the contractions felt less like contractions and more like period pains. That old stab of fear returned. I stopped modelling for the husband and started focusing on my breathing. I reminded myself that this pain is not to be feared because it's natural.
I felt like walking to ease the pain and asked a youngish-looking nurse to unhook the IV. She refused and I think at this point, the dosage increased because the pain amplified into wowee, this is painful.
Up until now I could talk and keep my eyes open through the contractions but suddenly, I couldn't. I was finding it hard to stay centred. There were too many people talking around me (there were 3) and the room was too warm (it was air-conditioned).
The wonderful well-of-strength husband had packed his iPad and these wireless Bose speakers, which he hooked up to YouTube. With Om chants playing in the background, I could tune out the chatter and focus on the work my baby and I needed to do over the next few hours.
I started gripping the side of my bed to work through each contraction and boy, was it work. Trying hard to not judge the pain as bad, I realised that this was becoming unbearable because I was lying down. In those moments, all I knew and felt was that I needed to be upright. Almost as though every mother who birthed me was telling me stand up you silly child. In that pain, my lizard brain hatched a plan.
I grabbed a nurse and told her I needed to pee and if I could go to the toilet. She unhooked me and let me walk to the toilet. Once I returned, I felt a powerful contraction and just doubled over a table of meds next to the bed. Oh this is sooooo much better. The pain wasn't unbearable anymore and I could go back to working through each contraction.
Eventually, a nurse came by and told me to get back into bed making a big deal about my broken waters. I was getting tired of her superior attitude that most Indian maternity nurses and doctors have.
I read. I educate myself. I know what I'm doing. You have no right to treat me like an illiterate slum-dweller.
I flat out refused to lie down again. That nurse went and got some other nurse who told me to get back into bed and I refused again, this time crying. This lady, Nurse Mary Kutty, agreed. She stood next to me while I laboured, monitoring IV flow, and rubbing my back. I actually have no recollection of the various back rubbers. My eyes stayed closed for 3 hours.
Meanwhile, the pain kicked up a notch and I started swaying my hips. My lips were dry and I asked for ice chips and some water. Amma had noticed my pathologic ice eating habit during the two weeks she was here before E arrived. I would go through a tray a day and I understood why pregnancy is sometimes called having a bun in the oven. Awesome Amma made sure we had ice chips using the mini fridge in our birthing suite.
Crunching on the ice decreases nausea from the pain. It also helps with the all-important hydration during labour. Working through the pain was like running 5 back-to-back marathons.
Using the Om chants playing in the background as my vehicle, I began to stay with the pain, letting it take me on a journey to the centre of myself. I became my pain. Through the kaleidoscope of my tightly shut eyes, I could see the journey that every particle of star dust made in creating my E.
In retrospect, this was the most liberating, most emancipatory feeling of my life. Being able to experience that pain, and knowing that from that murderous pain, I created life. I feel comfortable in my own skin now more than ever.
When labour is induced, each contraction is more painful than the one before. I was in intolerable agony and I asked for an epidural. The husband, duly instructed, piped in with a, "Are you sure, baby? You want to wait 15 minutes?" (See my birth plan here)
We were all surprised that I was that far along because it had hardly been three hours since I was hooked to the Syntocin pump. I kept waiting to get to the screaming bit of labour that Hollywood dutifully shows us any time anyone delivers a baby in a movie. The childbirth book I read, The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth, suggests deep breathing and making low, growly sounds as an alternative to epidurals and opiates.
Getting from 9 centimetres to 10 was the most pain I've experienced in my life. I'm not going to lie. My knees were buckling from the pain. If all labour until then is like a corkscrew getting into the cork of a wine bottle, then transition was how the cork is yanked out of the bottle. Still, the amazing nurses at Motherhood Hospital helped me into various positions to help me get there.
Then, I needed to poop.
My OB who was absent this entire time, came running in about 5 minutes later. I may or may not have pooped myself in this time. I was no longer in agony from the pain but I was in agony from an overwhelming need to push. My brain couldn't rationalise it. I had no control over it. It was like I was hacked.
With the OB, the hospital followed and the peaceful LDR turned into an OR. As I hadn't spoken to my OB about an episiotomy, she gave me one while guiding me through each spurt of pushing. In about five pushes and thanks to the episiotomy, our beautiful baby girl E was out and laid on my belly. As I held her and wept with my husband, I delivered the placenta.
I was a mother. We were parents.
Click here for Part I of Childbirth
Click here for Part II of Childbirth