My water broke around 2 p.m. Sunday, September 11, 2016, on a beautiful fall day about 100 yards from the top of Drachenfels, a hill that was formed by rising magma that could not break through to the surface, but cooled and became solid underneath.
I called my midwife Heike to let her know, and Jacob and I excitedly began the stomp down. Something was finally happening with the baby we’d been waiting to meet since January! I felt completely ready for whatever was going to come our way.
Regular contractions started about 5 p.m., an hour after we’d made it back to our apartment in Bonn from Konigswinter on the tram: they’d been between five and six minutes apart for the duration of one episode of The Wire.
The midwife came by and was able to determine I was 3.5 centimeters dilated. As we’d discussed, this was probably too soon to go to our Geburtshaus (aka birth center) so she went home to wait and I spent the next phase in the shower, Jacob holding the wand to my lower back. By 9 p.m. we were ready, and I showed up at the Geburtshaus at 7.5 centimeters.
Continued “rushing” all night, Jacob breathing with me through every one, kissing me, giving the kind of support I’d read about in my books. Eight hours later, at 5 a.m., I was 9.5 cm dilated, and Imogen’s head was down in my pelvis as it had been for months, but she wasn’t positioned in such a way that would allow for any descent, much less a smooth descent, down the birth canal.
It was suggested that we lie down and take a rest: another midwife would be in in the (later) morning and the best way to proceed would be decided upon her arrival. The contractions continued through this “rest” (nodding off while Jacob spooned me and waking up every three minutes with a contaction/anxiety/fatigue cocktail).
Christiane showed up over an hour later and confirmed the fact that the baby was stuck in my pelvis and that my contractions evidently weren’t powerful enough to bring her down. It was during this confirmation I did my one push.
We tried different positions, I was given an enema, Jacob and I went outside for a walk (that was interesting). When I quite literally couldn’t do anything anymore, Jacob convinced Heike that we needed to lie down again. Christiane, the other midwife, seemed to have vanished into thin air.
Heike hooked me up to the fetal heartbeat monitor in my bed and told me that another midwife would be coming to fill in for her because she was so tired. I understood the tiredness and thanked her for her help but could not believe she was leaving us at that particular moment, two first-time parents sweating it out in a bed.
Another contraction woke me up and I saw my my baby’s heartbeat, which had never once dropped below 120 in nine months of doctor appointments, at just 39. Just then the midwife Barbara showed up and essentially played cleanup crew: called the university hospital to tell them we were on our way, asked Jacob to gather our things,
helped me into the bathroom as my bladder had been too full for me to make it there on my own, which was a big part of the problem, I’d find out upon catheterization (read: instant relief) at the hospital, and then into her own car, drove us to the hospital, almost got broadsided on the way, debriefed our new team who induced me to try to establish lost regularity of contractions, which didn’t work.
It was explained to me that since Imogen’s water had broken now close to 24 hours prior, there was a high risk of infection for us both. Her heartbeat was up at this point, but irregular. Keeping my eye on the heartbeat monitor, I decided to get on all fours and try to regulate my own contractions. A 20-something nurse put my hair in a bun and applied cold cloths to my neck.
A female Asian doctor came in and explained the head thing again. Jacob asked if we could have a few minutes to discuss what I of course already knew, that they were recommending a C-section. Another doctor who looked fresh from the set of the “L” Word came in to “assess the situation,” which she told me the next day they commonly refer to as “oh fuck what do we do now” slash “come with us if you want to live.”
From slice to baby takes about a minute, I am told. I am given something to stop the contractions, put into a gown and green shower cap. They try to take my necklace off, a gift from my best friend Jenny which has Imogen’s name and Jacob and my wedding date on it, but can’t untangle it fast enough and leave it.
I am wheeled in bed to the “theater,” everyone seeming familiar with the word in this context but me, made to switch beds, given an ineffective epidural while in the midst of a contraction. I can remember being polite and trying to make small talk even in this situation and thinking at least the theater was cooler than any of the other rooms (I was getting too hot, I was told later) – I am such an optimistic person.
I thought of my baby and my husband the whole time. I remember Jacob yelling at the anesthesiologist and telling me that the Caesarean was named after Julius Caesar, a fact we learned later was actually not true.
Jake says I died and came back to life. It was worth it for who was waiting for me at the hospital in Bonn.
Post script Sept. 12, 2016 5:04 pm – Sept. 13, 2016 5:04 pm (first 24 hours of Imogen’s life)
You were brought to me in a yellow towel. You looked very familiar. I was only able to glance at you because I was dealing with the pain of them rearranging my insides.
The doctor brought you back after having checked you out and laid you on my left shoulder. I tried to focus on you but kept feeling like I was going to knock you onto the floor – I couldn’t be still because of their rummaging around inside me.
Your dad took you and left when they finally put me under (they made him or he would’ve stayed). On his way out they said congratulations to him while they were, as he put it, elbow deep in my gore. Thanks, he replied, not looking at them.
The next thing I knew I was being wheeled back into the room where you and dad were waiting. He told you a little bit about what to expect from the world during that time. This was about the first hour. For the next couple of hours doctors paraded in and out explaining things. Jacob, being Jacob, listened carefully to it all.
There was no family room available that night so dad had to go back to our apartment on the bus. Your head was a bit misshapen from ramming it against my pelvis and your right eye still had some opening to do, but you nursed like a pro and promptly turned yourself a different color.
Your dad rode his bike back in the morning with a bunny for you. You didn’t cry until that afternoon. When you did cry, another midwife said it could be because your first memory (your birth) was not such a nice one. I figure I have the next 18 years to the rest of my life to improve upon it.