Just before 2 am that Saturday, I went back to bed. Within minutes the pain was back, too. So I got up and headed to the front room so D could sleep in peace, annoyed as hell and resigned to the fact that I wouldn’t be able to rest for awhile.

I made a pot of peppermint tea. I turned the halogen lamp on low – it always made a buzzing sound at that level. I turned on the computer and started watching episode after episode of a favourite comedy series I’d seen a hundred times before – hoping for distraction, hoping to be calmed to sleep, rocking and bending over as the cramps kept coming on.

I still thought it could be intestinal cramps. It was still too early to be contractions. If it was contractions, then something was really wrong, all my fears confirmed.

At one point, on one of my many trips to the toilet, more mucous tinged with blood.

The hours ticked by in 30 minute increments, episode by episode, the pain waking me each time I nodded off, the lamp buzzing out dimmed light in a small circle around me.

Just before 7, in and out of sleep, I finally registered it – the rhythm, the regularity of the pain. D crept out into the front room where I was, his eyes swollen with sleep and worry.

We called the midwives. Anneke, the one on duty, said she’d be over in a hour or so.

D and I sat on the bed, surrounded by our pregnancy books, reading and re-reading the sections detailing the difference between false labour and true labour. We timed the pains and they were only 8 minutes apart.

We moved through regular morning routines, hoping and waiting. We made oatmeal, started a load of laundry. Willing everything to be ok. Me pacing the floor, breathing hard and bending over our bedposts as the cramps kept coming.

When Anneke showed up and checked me, she said I was over 4 cm dilated. I was in labour. Then she got her doppler out to check for the heartbeat. A week of worry, hanging in wait to be waved away or – or not. All we heard was the loud, amplified scratch of the doppler searching my abdomen, my own pulse getting in the way of the silence. There was nothing. She asked when I’d last felt movement, good hard movement. I started to cry. She said maybe my baby was just in a difficult position, that maybe it was still ok. But that it might not be ok. We were all going to the hospital. There would be no home birth now.

D started filling a bag, desperate. A change of clothes for me, toothbrushes, a blanket. I only noticed later, after we were back home and unpacking that he’d also put in the framed picture from our wedding; and our camera. Items to accompany a very different outcome. After, alone in our bedroom, I remember registering those last desperate spikes of hope before, and the cracks in my heart spread and deepened.

As we walked out the door, the oatmeal mostly uneaten and the laundry lying wet in the machine, I remember grabbing his arm and making him promise, promise me that no matter what happened, no matter what, we would be ok. Us. I couldn’t lose him, too. I’d seen what losing a child does to people, his parents. I didn’t want to lose everything. He started crying, too, holding me. He promised.

But I felt that feeling of inevitability, a falling down, the speed only increasing as we went down the steep, narrow staircase and into the bright sun of the street outside and climbed inside Anneke’s small car.

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