At 32 weeks pregnant, I boarded a plane, left my home, my family and my country to fly 10,000 miles across the Pacific and give birth to my first child. It was my dream to have a water birth, which you are allowed to do in hospitals in New Zealand. It may have been my dream, but my daughter had other plans—still does.
My labor began as most TV sitcom labors do, with my water breaking at 6am. At first I thought I’d wet my pants right after I’d gone to the bathroom (for the 8th time that night) since everything else seemed to be malfunctioning— I thought perhaps my bladder was completely giving up. But no, it was indeed the beginning of labor. I felt ready, except that I still needed to finish packing my bag for the hospital. I expected to start labor with mild and erratic contractions, and not go into the hospital until those contractions were consistent—every 5 minutes, lasting a minute, continuing for at least an hour. I was prepared for moving slowly, taking it in stride—easy, breezy. Yeah, right.
An hour later, I was packing my bag on my hands and knees, weathering some strong contractions—like, I could barely breathe. After my mother-in-law (whose house we were living in at the time) hemmed and hawed over how long the contraction really was (‘well, it was only 40 seconds’) we all packed into the car and made the 45 minute drive out to the maternity hospital where my midwife’s back-up met us. My midwife was out of town.
When we arrived, I was a magical 5cm dilated. After another hour of laboring in a big, warm pool, I was at 8cm. The midwife was all excited—we could have a baby before afternoon tea-time. And then we didn’t. I labored, without any drugs or epidural, until 9pm. Upon further inspection, and then a round of acupuncture, it was determined that my little critter had flipped—she was posterior-facing, or ‘sunnyside up’ and banging her head against my tailbone with every contraction. My midwife made the call—it was time to ship me off, via a nice, jolty ambulance ride, to the big hospital.
Once I got to the main hospital (a 5 minute drive from my in-law’s, where I had been just that morning) they loaded me up with Pitocin, popped in the epidural and let modern medicine go to town. An international team of a Canadian nurse, and a Congolese doctor (not to mention the American mother) – all in New Zealand– got to work on having this baby. And so, my firstborn came into this world at 4am, pried from my body by means of a vacuum and the doctor’s large, African hands.