It was the summer of 1974. I was 24 years old, married for one year. I was pregnant for the second time, but this was going to be my baby to keep.
My pregnancy was fairly uneventful. The only craving I had was for fried shrimp at 2 in the morning. The closest I could get was a can of tuna. I ate tuna salad sandwiches almost daily. (This was before the scare of mercury in fish.)
My due date was July 9th. We moved on July 1st, just a block down the road from a one bedroom to a two bedroom apartment. So many people came to help us move, I was not allowed to lift anything. By 4 in the afternoon, everything was unpacked into the kitchen cupboards, the bed was assembled and made up and I was sitting down with my feet up and a cup of tea.
But, July 9th came and went. I was still pregnant. The baby came two weeks early in my first pregnancy. That wasn’t happening this time around. By July 15th, I was refusing to answer the phone. People would call and ask why I was still there. By July 20th, I was telling people that I had decided not to have a baby after all. On July 24th, I went to the doctor and asked why the baby hadn’t come yet. He said that he thought the baby was still a little small. That had me worried. How could this baby be small? My first baby was over eight pounds. I know that today, doctors won’t let women go that far past their due date, but he didn’t seem to be worried about this.
I can’t remember any more exactly when I went into labour. I know that she was born on Saturday afternoon, July 27th and I know that all my labours were at least 36 hours so I am guessing it was Friday morning that I first started feeling contractions. I’m not sure when I went to the hospital by taxi, but I know why. I was afraid that my back was going to break.
With every contraction, the baby’s head was pushing on my spine. She was face up and pressure that should have been against the cervix was hitting my spine. I finally asked for an epidural since I just couldn’t take the pain any more.
I was in the delivery room, on the table, when the anaesthesiologist arrived to administer the epidural. And he had a student with him. He instructed me, “lie on your side, curl up and try to touch your knees to your nose. Take a deep breath and hold it and don’t move.” And this I had to do while having a contraction.
To add insult to injury, the anaesthesiologist was showing the student where to put the needle into the spinal column and said, “She’s a little well padded, but you can feel the vertebrae here if you know how to look”.
I wanted to turn around and punch him, but I didn’t want to jeopardize the epidural so I just held my breath and hugged my knees and hoped it would be over soon.
Finally, I had some relief, but I wasn’t progressing.
I was in the delivery room with a couple of nurses who decided that the only way to get things happening was to make that baby turn around. So, they had me flip, onto my back, onto my side, onto my back, onto my side. Between each contraction, I was flipping. My legs were shaking and flapping around in a very unladylike way. I was numb from the waist down but I was flipping. And then it happened. I had just moved onto my back again when I felt this funny movement, my belly rippled and the baby rolled over to present face down.
With the next contraction, I could feel the change. No more pressure on my spine, lots of pressure that made me want to push. I have no idea how long the pushing went on. I remember the nurse telling me to look in the mirror as she was crowning. She pulled on a thatch of dark hair and said, “Well, this one isn’t bald!”
The doctor finally used forceps to help me along and all of a sudden she was there. She had an Apgar score of 9 due to mauve hands and feet, just like her sister. Eight pounds, three ounces two days after the doctor thought she was a little small. Hah!
My brother had a daughter shortly before I did and he used the name I had chosen. If she was a girl, my baby should have been Sarah Alethea (Greek for truth) but my brother’s daughter is Sarah Elizabeth. So, I went looking for another name. I happened to be reading Lord of the Rings while pregnant and came across a name that just slid off my tongue. Arwen Evenstar was my beautiful baby that I could take home and love.
Shared by Beth from B.C., Canada
To read about Beth’s first birth, please click here.
To read about Arwen’s own firstborn, please click here.