This part of the story was, for me, the most traumatic. As part of the healing process I will seek to recreate these painful scenes as accurately as possible. It may be a little graphic, so reader discretion is advised.
My baby girl was being resuscitated in the corner of the room, surrounded by a host of doctors and midwives. Now it was my turn. I was still losing blood, and I heard the doctor saying that clots were coming out. A midwife pushed down on my tummy, a wretched feeling not half an hour after giving birth! The doctor was looking up my hoo-ha and that wasn’t pleasant, either. I could feel the tear already, a stinging feeling like a bad graze whenever it was touched. Medical staff – at least ten people – buzzed around but I couldn’t see their faces, couldn’t keep track of what was happening. I was in pain, and these people were hurting me more.
They told me the tear looked like it had gone right through to my “back passage” and they needed to have a look. My best friend and birth support, Sarah, took my hand and the torture session really began. Some sharp-feeling implement was used to probe my bum. It was incredibly painful, besides the complete indignity of having such a procedure performed. I squealed and writhed, I begged for them to stop as they continued to fish around and press down on my belly. I had thought transition was hard. I had thought the crowning was painful. This, however, was the hardest, most painful thing I have ever experienced. It was worse by far than the whole birth experience.
“We’re going to have to fix you up in theatre.”
Suddenly the room was spinning and I felt like I was floating. I couldn’t have been more terrified.
“Can you knock me out?”
“No, you’ll have an epidural….”
I could barely hear them explaining that I wouldn’t feel it. They were asking me something, or so I assume, from the expression on the midwife’s face and the tone of her voice, but I was ready to pass out. Sarah squeezed my hand. She had had stitches with both her children. I listened to her comforting words, telling me it would be OK. A cannula was put in my arm and we were waiting. Later I found out they were waiting for their top surgeon to come in – they wanted it done properly. And then, happy news, they told me I would go under general anaesthetic – I wouldn’t be awake for the procedure!
Then my brief reprieve was over: they wanted to put a catheter in. Karen began attempting to insert the tube.
“Try to relax, it’ll make it easier.”
I couldn’t relax. I was now being stabbed in the urethra. After so much trauma, this really felt to be the last straw.
“Can’t you do it in theatre?”
I was a broken woman, sobbing pitifully, desperately pleading for mercy. They explained that because of my ongoing bleeding, they needed to do it now, before I went into theatre. They asked me to let them have another go.
“Please, please don’t.”
“If you really don’t want us to…”
“I really, really don’t. Please don’t.”
Then a woman was bending down close, her face moving into my line of vision, commanding my attention so that I finally looked at her, let my eyes come back into focus enough to see that she was a brunette woman with friendly, deep brown eyes, probably in her late forties. With soothing tones she asked me if another woman, a doctor, could have just one try. She’s very good, she told me. Evey fibre of my being wanted to say no, but somehow she had drawn out enough trust for me to simply nod.
From that moment, everything improved. This doctor, a small Indian woman, she was good. I barely felt the catheter go in. The surgeon arrived, theatre was prepped, and Mum came with me downstairs to the surgical ward. She said they were running, it seems they were keen to get me in quickly. She said a hurried goodbye and then I was in. The main nurse there was a big woman who looked like a man beneath her scrubs, with colourful tattoos up her arms and a bob cut just visible beneath her theatre cap. They asked me over and over if I have any allergies, or dentures. No, no.
With a bit of assistance I wriggled onto the narrow operating table. I was shivering violently – had been since right after the birth until I’d been brought a blanket, all the warmth of my efforts gone. They brought me a warm blanket. Then an older gentleman was leaning over me. The anaesthetist. He was injecting my arm, and then a mask was being lowered over my face. Air, they call it. Breathe it in deep, they said. I breathed. I waited. This was my fourth time being put under general – once for a colonoscopy, once for my wisdom tooth extraction, once for a laparoscopy. Those first three times I was out so quickly. Why was it taking so long? I didn’t get much further past this thought before I was waking up again in recovery.