My Labour: the Separation
all photos by ALONA VIBE
Skin-on-skin, first and foremost.
Late severance of the cord – allowing all of the blood from the umbilical cord to run over the baby.
– Adam receives him – or I do it myself, if that’s easier. I want us to be the first people he meets.
– Adam cuts the umbilical cord.
– Wait with weighing and measuring him, if everything is all right. I just want him to be with me right away and for as long as possible.
Only Syntocinon as needed for me – the same artificial hormone used to provoke contractions is also typically given to women after the birth to prevent bleeding. I don’t want any unnecessary hormones, why I stressed the ‘as needed,’ in case I was bleeding a lot.
However, because he was delivered using a cup it all happens very quickly. Three pulls from the doctor and my contractions, and his head appears. From this point, the midwife takes over and gets him out. She becomes his first meeting with the world. They plunge him onto my belly, and I still recall the sound of the plunge. That small, greasy, bloody baby, plunge, onto the soft skin on my belly. It must be like landing on a waterbed. Or an airbed. I don’t really have time to reach him, smell him, as it only lasts for a few seconds while the midwife cuts the umbilical cord.
They hold him up in the air by the foot of my bed, the umbilical cord wrapped around his small neck, belly and one foot. He’s totally wrapped in his own life line. I know it’s entirely normal that babies are born with their umbilical cord wrapped around e.g. their necks. It’s not dangerous as such as it’s an elastic thingy. But wrapped this intricately? I haven’t heard of that before. Something is not as it’s supposed to be, and I don’t really know what it is – apart from the umbilical cord fail, that is. Everything goes so quickly.
They take him to a table that’s been prepared for him, and a handsome, curly-haired paediatrician is ready to check him. His oxygen saturation is not great. It has to be at a minimum of 95 %, while his is at 60 %. Adam is still squeezing my hand and gazing towards the baby’s table as the doctor covers his tiny mouth with an oxygen mask. It takes up an excessive amount of space in his tiny face. He’s wrapped in towels and rubbed by eager hands.
I have absolutely no idea how long this takes. Time is an invalid unit in these moments. Baby on a table and me in a bed. While the midwife and doctors are trying to control my bleeding and the giant measuring bag becomes heavier and heavier, more doctors arrive, now with an incubator. They’ve decided to take him to the neonatal intensive care unit – and I still don’t know what’s the matter. They carry him over to me, and I’m allowed to see him briefly and kiss him goodbye, and I am crying. Now, as I am writing this, but also then. Adam has no idea what to do with himself, where should he be? But back when we were preparing for the birth, I already told him that if anything were to happen to him, and they were gonna take him from us, Adam ought to join him. I’ll be all right, and that’s still my opinion when it actually happens.
And then I’m left there, in what feels like an abandoned war zone. The crowd has disappeared. Done with her stitching job, the midwife is done with me. They dress me in padded net pants, after which the midwife trainee brings over my birthday celebration. The famous tray loaded with ‘the best meal of your life.’ Toasted bread, honey, butter, a red soft drink and a cup of tea. And the little flag. It’s baby’s birthday (ed. in Denmark, the national flag is an essential part of any birthday celebration). But lying there in bed and consuming it all alone feels very wrong. That’s not how it was supposed to be. We had champagne in our bag so we could celebrate. We were supposed to sit here together, all three of us, and celebrate his birthday. Gosh, it’s sad to think of.
It’s so lonely, but at that point I’m so incredibly hungry and exhausted. The events don’t really hit me at that point. Instead I try sleeping a little. Speak with my sister on the phone; she used to be a nurse. Alona arrives after a few hours with a status update as Adam doesn’t really have time to be on the phone, obviously.
They let me stay with him for about an hour, and then they send me back down to the maternity ward. This time, I’m bound for the patient hotel and not the labour room. I’m discharged but still under observation so I can’t sleep there – I’m still bleeding, and we end up at 1.5 litres from the first 24 hours. We both hug Alone as she gets ready to leave – she’s been there from the early morning. What would we have done without her?
We are in a bubble for the first three days after the birth. I potter around in Birkenstock and leggings and a night shirt. Even in 7-Eleven, actually a bit crazy to buy baby bites dressed in pyjamas, but pretty convenient. He’s with me wherever I go, and preferably in my arms; I’m not using those plastic hospital cribs at all – I can’t lose him again. All of our parents stop by for an hour or so to meet him, and it’s huge for us to see them with him. But other than that, it’s just the three of us.
On Friday we’re discharged and good to leave what feels like our home after almost four days. I find Christina and give her a hug and a thank you. I’m so deeply grateful for the help we got – everyone should get that. All of those questions you’ve got those first few days!
It’s crazy to pack our things and leave Herlev proudly – with our human being. I remember thinking, ‘shit, now he’s inhaling polluted air for the first time!’ Haha, silly, but he’s in mint condition when he arrives, completely unused and untouched. But we have to go home. We enter the car, put him in his seat, and drive off.