Snakes left yesterday morning. I drove him to the Gautrain station to catch a quick ride to the airport. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Despite his five day extension, it hurt to see him go. Tough to watch him holding and coo-ing his goodbyes to Colette, imploring her not to forget him. I had to walk away. She’ll have tripled in age by the time we all meet again. (Sounds so dramatic that way, doesn’t it?) I haven’t a clue how people do this sort of thing regularly, namely: military folks. I recognize there’s little comparison. Hats off to you all, ladies and gents. I’d be a mess.
Now he’s back in Luanda reacclimating and reassuring the dogs that we didn’t desert them. He said he’s never had such a warm and enthusiastic welcome in all of his life. Reggie won’t leave his side. I miss those guys and actually look forward to returning if only to scratch behind their ears and kiss those snouts. They were definitely loved up in our absence, roaming the embassy grounds on Sundays while our beloved dogsitter played volleyball. But I know they missed us. I hear Banjo is still a little withdrawn and depressed, my sweet boy misses me.
Before I forget, I want to document our experience bringing our sweet little (primarily nocturnal…) bushbaby into the world. If you’re flipped out by this sort of thing then this is your warning to leave now. If you’re into this kind of thing- which I was, obsessively, while “preparing myself”- pull up a chair and grab yourself a beverage, it’s going to be a little wordy. Already details are fading and the intensity of the experience has dulled. Thank God.
Two weeks ago today I woke up after a fitful night of what I perceived to be fairly regular crampy contractions and pretty substantial spotting. I phoned the midwives and gave them an update. They advised me to carry on with my day, get plenty of exercise and a nice big breakfast. Snakes’s cousin was in town and the three of us had organized a trip to Soweto for the afternoon. After my eventful night, I decided it was best to sit this one out.
Snakes and I opted for a late breakfast at a sweet little cafe in Parkhurst called “Nice”. We spent a good part of the afternoon wandering through the shops. As usual, it was a gorgeous, sunny day in Jo’burg. By this time all of the potential signs of labor had stopped. From what I’d heard, “false” labor is easily walked off. Harumph. I was eight days overdue. My midwives had informed me that we would need to induce at two weeks if she’d not come on her own by then. Not the biggest deal in the world, but we were racing against time here. Snakes return ticket to Luanda was for the 28th (though, thankfully, it was extended to the 2nd). That would’ve given him like half a day with our newborn.
We came home, took a nap and decided to go for a long vigorous walk. There’s a park near where we’re staying and whenever we walk through we spy people zip-lining across an open field. To extend our walk and mix up the regular route, we decided to go investigate. Seriously, what we found was amazing. Nestled into the trees was a network of rope walks, bamboo bridges, inclined nets, ziplines, etc. Glancing upward into the trees revealed groups of kids swinging and climbing and monkeying around through this maze of what must have been an 8 year-old’s idea of heaven. It was perfect. I sat down on a huge lumbering rope swing and took it all in. Shame I didn’t bring my camera…
Around 5pm, with shadows stretching out across the fields, I’d pretty much given up on having this baby today. We started the trek home and I found myself having to stop for some wicked (and regular? HEY! Are you timing these?) crampy episodes. Still not willing to call them contractions for fear of jinxing. Once home, “cramps” not abating, I decided to take a bath, per recommendation of the midwife, V, who I’d called to update. Longer and stronger and closer. I was told to stay put until I was too uncomfortable to remain at home. This didn’t take long. They were about 3 minutes apart and close to knocking me off my feet. We decided to head over.
We opted to use a birthing center instead of going to a hospital. I found The Genesis Clinic on line and coincidentally, one of Snakes’ colleagues at the consulate here in Jo’burg had given birth there just four months ago. She gave us a glowing report of her experience and the professionalism and competency of the staff. I had planned to take photos of the room and each other between contractions, but by the time we arrived I was close to cross-eyed. I had just enough time to have a contraction in the car, walk the 20m across the lot and have another in the lobby. Strong and fast.
Hooked up to the monitors told us that baby was happy enough, tolerating the squeezes. V said the contractions were incredibly powerful, close to end stage labor. Then she examined me… I hadn’t dilated AT ALL. Things were just getting started. While I was in the bathroom she told Snakes that I’d likely be in labor for the next 10-12 hours followed by another 2-3 of pushing. Thank the heavens no one shared this useless information with me. It was around 9pm at this point. Between contractions, I’d taken to vomiting profusely. No rest for the wicked. The pain was so intense, I had a nauseating suspicion that’d be my body’s response. I tried to keep hydrated but it was useless.
Yoga ball, kneeling, squatting, shower, “PRESS MY HIPS!”, “JESUS! DON’T TOUCH ME!”, “my sacrum…pant, pant, press my sacrum!! THAT’S NOT MY SACRUM!!!!!”, “use that washcloth on my back…GET AWAY FROM ME WITH THAT STINKING WASHCLOTH”, “turn off the shower…I….can’t…… brea..t..hhhh..e”, “TURN THE SHOWER BACK ON- NOT SO HOT!! NO WAIT!!!! I can’t brea…t..hhh…e” Snakes was there. By my side. Trying so hard to decipher what the hell it was that might make me feel better. I could hardly communicate. My mouth was so dry, my voice like a raspy old drunk long since pickled on whiskey and camels, no longer making good sense. sooooo thirsty…….ice cubes… my kingdom for a cube…
This went on for 2 hours. Midwife returned. I crawled back to bed for another excruciating “check”. (BTW: NO ONE ever told me how insanely painful THIS would be. Maybe it’s different here in SA??? WTF people? Through the roof.) Dilated to a 2. Come on!!! She advised me to breathe “into” the pain. Come again?? Hooked back to monitors- baby’s hangin tough, contractions are still wicked intense. We decide I need an IV for fluids. Great. No problem. She suggests a mild muscle relaxer to help me relax into the contractions and visualize my cervix opening. I’m willing to try anything.
For the next two hours Snakes and I lie in bed, he’s petting my back, sort of snuggling in next to me. I feel so much better. Comparatively relaxed and now the vomiting has stopped. I think I even doze a little between contractions. I know there’s still so much to come. I wonder if I’ll make it through this alive. I kind of wish I’d just have scheduled a C-section.
Two hours later it’s around 1 am. The drug has worn off and LORD OF ALL THAT IS HOLY…. I NEED TO PUSH NOW. The midwife appears from nowhere. “Checks me” one last time- her eyes are wide- “oh my goodness, Eve, you’re ready to go- get the camera ready! this baby is coming now.” And then she did. 20 minutes and maybe 6-7 pushes later our little girl slipped into the light, face up & cord wrapped. A “stargazer” with a flair for drama.
V placed her on my chest and I tried to catch my breath. I couldn’t see her face, just the top of her little (well, huge actually) matted head. I wanted so badly to see her sweet baby face. It was all so dimly-lit and dreamy, overwhelming.
Snakes was right next to us taking it in. I remember him being sort of awestricken and amazed. I was so glad he was there with me. I can’t imagine any other way. We stayed in the king-sized bed, the three of us, together snoozing and snuggling until around 2-3 that afternoon.
He told me later he thought she only had one eye since that was all he could see from how she was smushed up against my chest. “Our little pirate baby”, he thought to himself, “I just love her so much no matter what.”
And we do and we do and we do.
Colette Maxine 8/21/11, 1:31am, 7#, 19 3/4″, no eye-patch necessary