Accouchement: Part Deux

I’m taking this brief moment of quiet and clarity (thank you 4.5 hours of sleep! Yes, 4.5 hours. I am now grateful for 4.5 hours of sleep. Cripes.) to finish telling you the story of how le bébé made her grande entrance. Please excuse any typos, because I’m most likely typing this with one hand while breast feeding and sleeping. I’m a multi-tasker like that.

So, where did we leave off? I think I had finally arrived at the hospital for the second time, greeted by the laughter of the sage femmes. Hilarity ensued. What type of hilarity, might you ask? Well, mostly the kind that comes with trying to comprehend French when you’re in labor.

Have you ever tried to understand a foreign language during a contraction? After you’ve been having contractions all day long? It sounds something like this: Madame, WAAAAAAHWAAAAAAHWAAH WAH WAHHHHHWAH WAH WAH WAHHHHH. 

All I could grasp was that I still wasn’t dilated and that they wanted me to chill out in my room. Perhaps take a warm shower to help with the pain. So they checked me in, handed me a little capsule of something, said a lot of things in French that I couldn’t fathom and shut the door.

The medicine in my hand looked like a suppository. Wary of taking an unidentified medication (but totally game if it was pain reliever!) I asked Husband if he understood what it was for and, ahem, where it was supposed to go.

“I have no idea.”

“Is it for the pain? Or to speed things up? Wait, did I hear them say “anus”? Oh my god…”

Blank stare. “Dude. I have no idea.”

So there I was, in a Parisian hospital about to give birth, holding a strange foreign medication and wondering which hole I should put it in. Not exactly the birth plan I had in mind.

I would have asked my English-speaking, American doctor what the hell was going on, but she was on vacation. This is the risk you take having a baby in France in August – I’m lucky the hospital was open.

Anyway, let’s just say I figured it out (and my doc confirmed later that it was some miracle, cervix-inducing medication). After that I lost track of space and time for a while, sitting in the shower and then trying to breathe and zone out to an iPod playlist aptly titled “Giving Birth Jams.”

Then they came to check my cervix again and HEEEYYYY OHHHHHHH! also break my water. That was a special surprise that got lost in translation.

And finally, after what seemed like days and days and days, the anesthesiologist arrived! And oddly, at that point I was kind of too exhausted and delirious to even get excited about the epidural. Lost in wave after wave of contractions, I was actually indifferent to pain relief. That man could have punched me in the face instead and I probably wouldn’t have noticed.

But he didn’t punch me. He kindly gave me the epidural and Husband almost passed out.

And just a bit later it was go time. With two sage femmes positioned on either side of me and Husband holding my hand, I tried my hardest to do the unthinkable and push that bebe out into the world. Except apparently my pushing wasn’t cutting it, because I could see the midwives getting frustrated and the doctor looking bored. I kept waiting for some kind of rallying cry or at least a good pep talk, but all I got was a lot of stern talking in French. So I kept trying harder, and they kept looking more annoyed and speaking louder. In French. Until finally my head spun around six times and I shouted “I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO!!!!!!!!”

But just before I could really show them the complete colorful array of my English vocabulary, le bebe popped out. Perfect in every way. With a pain au raisins in her hand, of course.

(next week: 4 days in a French hospital. Three course dinner menu and butler included!) 


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  1. Constance Gabrielli

    I beg forgiveness. I totally let you down. Why didn’t I think to come over and swear loudly in French to those pompous old broads. I have been known to ask the postal clerk if her constipation was just this time or chronic? Swear. My poor husband refused to go to that particular post office for a year. It did seem to entertain the 20 people behind me in line as the afore mentioned clerk pretended not to understand my request for stamps for the USA. Odd she had no trouble understanding my question about her internal problems.
    Promise – next time you give birth in Frogland I will be there to swear and catch Husband or Bebe for that matter. I’ve delivered a calf, 2 sheep and several puppies. How different could it be?

    Do a little yoga and go straight to corpse pose after a couple minutes. I think you can breast feed in that position with pillows to help and you might get 4 mins of good sleep.

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