This is long and somewhat detailed, so be prepared!
Easter Monday is a public holiday here, so I spent the morning at home playing with Annie, mostly digging in the yard. Around 11 I began having light contractions, about every 20 minutes. We ate lunch on the veranda and talked about what to do. I was supposed to have a prenatal appointment that day anyway, but should we bring all our things and act like this was it?
One of our biggest worries was having to drive the bumpy road to the hospital in the middle of the night in the rain (we never drive after dark otherwise). Plus, we had been hearing a lot about the speediness of second-time labors; our local missionary friend Danielle’s lasted 3 hours only! So we decided that we would go prepared to stay. We finished packing our bags (including frozen meals), dropped Anastasia off with her overnight bag at our neighbors’, and collected our local nurse-aide, Rita.
We arrived at Kudjip Nazarene Hospital at around 3:30 pm and saw Dr. Scot Pringle, a visiting retired OB. He checked me and said I was at a 3; we could go home or stay, our choice. We decided to stay. Staci Rutledge, a nurse who teaches at the Nazarene College of Nursing, helped us get settled in the private room on the OB ward. We went for a long walk around the Kudjip campus, checking out their soon-to-be opened hydroelectric dam, and then joined Staci at her house for dinner and introduced Rita to Jenga.
Back in the private room, I decided to see if I could go to sleep. That lasted until around 2:30 am, when I started having more real contractions. I let Brandon sleep and labored alone for a while, bouncing on the ball Staci lent me. Around 6 am we went for another walk, encountering Dr. Pringle on his morning constitutional, who told me to be patient. We ended our walk at Staci’s again for some chai latte and she returned with us to the private room to check the baby’s heartbeat. She assured us that as long as the baby’s heartrate was good and my waters hadn’t broken, the baby could take its own time.
Dr. Pringle came by on morning rounds to check me. He said I was at a 5, and if I had progressed that far overnight he thought the baby would come at 1 or 2 pm. So I labored through the morning, on the ball, squatting, circling my hips, leaning over furniture, with Brandon giving me counterpressure on my back.
At lunchtime Dr. Pringle came to check me again. He said I was at a 5.5 or maybe a 6. He repeated his instructions to be patient and to let him know if my water broke. 1 pm was approaching and I was starting to feel discouraged, although my contractions had gotten strong enough that I was moaning through them. (The PNG women, in the ward, by the way, did not moan during contractions. They made high, singing noises- every one of them that I heard laboring while we were there. )
Brandon thought that we should go for walk to get things moving. I really didn’t want to, but reluctantly agreed. Before we left, I went to use the bathroom, and suddenly entered a phase of non-stop contractions, one after the other. I had abut seven contractions in the kitchenette, leaning over the table, insisting that we were not going on a walk. It took me a while to get back to the ball, and as I leaned over it, I realized that I was feeling kind of… push-y. Brandon got Staci, and by that time, I felt definitely push-y and shaky. Transition-doubt set in, mostly with regard to how I was going to get on the bed for an exam and how I was going to get to the delivery bay. But I did manage to get on the bed; Staci checked me and said that I still had a lip and not.to.push. This was never something I had to do with Anastasia! Despite my attempts at not-pushing, my water started to leak. By this point Dr. Pringle had been called, and Staci decided it was time to move to the delivery bay. This entailed walking the entire length of the ward while trying not to push. But I made it there, muttering “baby soon. baby soon.” When I got there, I had a contraction leaning on the edge of the bed and my water broke. I even managed to clamber onto this second bed on my hands and knees, mumbling “Lord Jesus have mercy on me”.
Dr. Pringle checked me (after some resistance on my part -internal exams during contractions are not my favorite) and declared that I was complete. Two contractions and 8 pushes later (two for her head and one for her body), Tabitha was born – at 2:04 pm on her due date. I looked down at her and said, “my baby! my baby is a girl!”
Brandon clamped her cord after it stopped pulsing, and they put her on my chest, tucked in my shirt.
With both of my labors, the immediate aftermath has been worse that the birth itself. Labor and delivery I will go through again no problem. But with Anastasia I had a hour of agonizing unmedicated stitching by a trainee midwife that then had to be redone, and with Tabitha…
We started trying to nurse, and Staci to see if the placenta was coming out. After half an hour plus of increasing frustration on my and the baby’s part -I couldn’t get her to latch on – and increasing concern on Staci’s part, they gave me oxytocin and eventually coaxed the placenta out. Then they discovered that I had torn after all- way far internally. Dr. Pringle was called back, and as I writhed and complained and screeched, they realized there was no way I would stay still enough for him to stitch me up without help.
So they decided to give me Ketamine, which I sincerely hope is my first and last experience with opiate drugs. It has the benefits of being quick, easily administered through IV, lasting only 10 or 20 minutes, and not passing into breastmilk… but man. It didn’t knock me out- and it didn’t stop me from feeling pain at the time – I apparently said “owie owie owie”- but I don’t remember the stitching at all. I hallucinated that I was stuck in the board game Mage Knight and then spent what felt like a long time trying to regain control of my sense perception. It was like my internal self-narration and my bodily existence became completely detached and I had to fight to reconnect them. At one point I apparently exclaimed “I have legs!” I also apparently instructed those around me to stay off of drugs.
Finally it wore off and I tottered my way back to the private room. I ate a strawberry muffin from our friend Stephanie Peterson, which tasted like the nectar of the gods. We tried nursing again, but she didn’t really get the hang of it until about 12 hours after she was born. Anastasia, Miriam, our neighbors, and the rector Fr. Clement came to visit us. The head surgeon Dr. Jim Radcliffe and his family brought us spaghetti dinner, I talked to my family in the US on the phone, and we all went to sleep.
The next day they checked my labs to make sure I hadn’t lost too much blood, and cleared us to go home in the afternoon, for which I was sincerely glad, because I had never been away from Annie for so long.
Now we are busy re-learning how to get sleep and leaning for the first time to be a family of four, while in a foreign culture and the semester still going on. Pray for us!