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 doctor came in and explained the head thing again. Jacob asked if we could have a few minutes to discuss what I already knew: that they were recommending a C-section. Another doctor 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 the moment you are sliced until you meet your baby takes about one minute, I am told. I am given something to now stop the contractions. I am put into a gown and a green shower cap. They try to take my necklace, a gift from my best friend Jenny which has Imogen’s name and Jacob and my wedding date on it, off, but they can’t untangle it fast enough and leave it.
I am wheeled in my hospital bed to the “theater,” everyone seeming familiar with the word in this context but me, made to switch beds, given an epidural while in the midst of a contraction, which does nothing (luckily). 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 then in the next breath calmly telling me that he believed the Caesarean was named after Julius Caesar — a “fact” I learned later was actually not true but I think he was just trying to give me something on which to focus.
Jacob says of this experience it was as though I died and came back to life. If that is indeed the case, it was worth it for who was waiting for me at the hospital in Bonn.
Sept. 13, 2016 5:04 pm (To Imogen: these were the first 24 hours of your 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 the doctors rearranging my insides, but I felt your warm weight in this towel that felt as though it had dried in the sun.
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 the doctors were STILL rummaging around inside me.
They asked your dad to take you and leave when they finally put me under general anaesthesia. 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 it had just been the two of you.
For the next couple of hours doctors paraded in and out explaining things. Your dad, being your dad, listened carefully to every single thing they said and asked all of the important and pertinent questions.
There was no family room available at the hospital that night, so dad had to go back to our apartment in Bonn on the bus. He told me later that he got some takeout from a little place next to our apartment.
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 you had been doing so your whole life 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.
As your mom, I figure I have the next 18 years to the rest of my life to improve upon it.
I know, ‘how lame to update your blog while on your honeymoon,’ but I’d like to remind you that I am already pregnant (28 weeks today, as a matter of fact), and the end of a travel day plus Jake not needing/wanting his laptop equals the time is right for my first post!
We left Bonn about 8 am for Berlin where we caught the train to Gdańsk, Poland. I only slept from about 1 am to 5 am the night before but Jake didn’t sleep at all so this is what the majority of our 11-hour train journey looked like to the casual observer:
We were able to find our place just fine, went out for some mushroom and cabbage pierogies (me; Jake went with ‘Gdańsk guinea fowl’ which was actually chicken) and after checking out the town square and getting some stuff for breakfast (and pistachio ice cream) climbed into a bathtub surrounded by candles.
The next day after checking out a pretty cool ship we found a really beautiful restaurant where I ordered trout and Jake was just in general really excited.
Our next destination after Gdańsk was Kaliningrad which was just about 120 km away, but we’d heard it might take a bit longer at the Polish-Russian border which turned out to be true in our case.
Our driver was gruff but patient and we were able to get a walk to the old part of the city in before it got dark, after which time we lit all the tea lights again and watched the Tetris documentary The Ecstasy of Order we’d been saving for Russia.
After breakfast we walked to an aquarium/submarine museum which was pretty fun, then an art cafe Jake had read about, and then an art/history of Kaliningrad museum.
After all of that walking my city dogs were barking and we got Sushi Love for the second night in a row, watched Silicon Valley and ‘chillaxed’ (even though I hate that word and all made up words).
Now we find ourselves in the Curonian Spit, just an hour away from Kaliningrad but right on the Baltic Sea! Let’s see what happens…
Left Bonn at 4 am for our 10:30 flight to Pisa from Frankfurt. It wasn’t too bad getting up at 2:30 am but after lunching in Pisa and our train to Casciana (3 pm) we had about a 5 km uphill walk to our countryside B & B. It was worth it, though – stunning, quintessentially ‘Italian’ views, good lighting in the room. (There was other good stuff too but those were the highlights.) Worked for awhile and fell asleep to rain on the skylights.
Our first morning after cappucinnos and bruschetta we got a ride into Casciana where we were gonna soak in a thermal bath but were told pregnant women weren’t allowed! Had fun instead picking out stuff for Ted’s birthday and goind for lunch – I got a ‘bianca & verde’ pizza on crust Jaco correctly referred to as a big saltine (which incidentally I’ve wanted and haven’t been able to find.) Jaco had seafood calzone with octopus.
Feeling rested after our second night at the B & B outside Casciana, we left to go back to Pisa and then caught a train to Livorno – where we met our overnight (MOBY) ferry to Sardinia. Was happy we’d booked seats in advance – we were using it as our accommodation that night – as we were able to turn the lights down and stretch out in our own ‘zone’ – being halfway through my first trimester I took advantage of being able to sleep anytime, anywhere.
Left our second B & B after a nice Valentine’s Day full of sunshine, walking, gelato, and Cheers. The next leg of travel entailed train from Olbia to Sassari and Sassari to Alghero, and a bus from Alghero to Bosa, with Bosa being the next destination. For Valentine’s dinner I had clam spaghetti because it has been looking really good to me (I know preggo mamas aren’t supposed to eat shellfish but I was okay) and Jaco had a steak.
And just because I feel like it here are a few incidental Valentine’s Day deep thoughts by Jame: single life, while fun (albeit not mutually exclusive) ‘heart-lonely;’ something I miss – past (static) childhood; something I don’t miss; grandmother’s house now with pictures of me from 1996; miss people who are gone, don’t miss people who are still here but act gone.
Our guide Antonio picked us up after our stay at the Bosa B & B, took us to the supermarket, and then drove us to his house in Porto Alabe, which was so close to the ocean we could hear it when we were lying in bed at night even with the windows closed. Found a path which led to a four-hour seaside walk to a tower: the view from the top – and from the ‘pill-boxes’ along the way – quite spectacular.