It's never taken me this long to make a cake. Every time I remember where I am in the process another contraction sweeps me away. I am also repacking the bag I packed last week because I don't trust anything that I did last week. Anything I felt before this morning must have been wrong. That phrase, take the rug out beneath your feet? Yeah, like that, except its the deserted wilderness and the whole ground is being pulled out from under me as I walk.
Everything is changing.
But I must make this cake.
Where was I?
Gluten free flour. Sugar. Butter. Where's the recipe gone? Woah. Steady now. Breathe. Did you write that one down? Its 20 minutes now in between. Or is it still 25? Did you write that last one down? Is it ten actually? Oh sod it. 150 g of butter. How much is that in Tablespoons? Where's the recipe gone? Do I have enough juice in my bag? Will I be thirsty? Am I thirsty now? Where the hell is my husband? Why isn't he writing down the contractions? I still need to make a group on my Blackberry of people to sms when .... woah. Ok. breathe. breathe. breathe.
Dammit I must finish this cake. The phone, the phone. Who gets a new phone the day before they go into labour? How does this damn thing work anyway? The timer. Time your contractions on the timer. Is that the timer or the stopwatch? What the hell is the difference? Oh shit, I'm getting stressy. Don't get stressy, be in the moment. be in the moment. Make the cake. Make the cake.
In my notebook for the 18th October 2010, it says:
"Beautiful crazy day. Blood/birth/mucus show at 9ish.
Surges mostly 40 minutes apart then 30.
Sex! good sex.
Bit more blood. Is that ok?
Cake. Trying to make a bloody cake. Bernd funny and wonderful and hilarious."
There's a stringy list of times that get closer together, some in Bernd's handwriting some in mine. Then at about 6:30 they are 5 minutes apart and I write that I'm going to sms the midwife. Also: the cake is done. The cake that I started at 11 o'clock that morning. Put the cake under foil. Put the icing in the fridge. I want to be in one place now. I want to be settled. Ok Bernd, take me to Genesis.
This was a bad idea.
Note to first time birthers: do not sit. Sitting is bad. Do not sit in the front. Be on all fours on the back seat. Your baby car seat does not need to be in place yet. I guess I thought I was bringing home a baby at midnight. Or something. I guess I thought it would be a piece of cake. Car is bad. Motion is bad.
For the first time it feels like pain. Deep, knock the breath out soreness. Stop the car you fucker let me get out and walk. Wait for it to pass, this universe expanding sensation of... how to you describe a contraction? The words we have are puny: "a tightening"..."a hardening".
As the uterus moves through a surge your whole consciousness turns inwards like a sock folding itself inside out, folding in on itself. Breathe, focus, visualise. Expand.
Walking into Genesis I pause to lean at the counter before politely explaining that I am in labour and Xoli is on her way. Being the experienced midwife she is, Xoli is of course not on her way, or not immediately anyway. She had said I must only call her when the contractions are a minute or two apart. I am early. Woess. And also, the beastly car ride has slowed things down considerably. For a minute I wonder if its all true. Maybe I'd just imagined it. Maybe I can go home and eat that cake.
Instead I submit to the kindly doula on duty, who shows me where to press on the inside of my calf to help dilate the cervix. Which is of course, what we are trying to do here. But when Xoli comes with her snappy rubber gloves I hear the impossible words, "you are not dilated at all. Maybe, like your sister, you will have a slow dilation and a long labour. It could be that it's genetic. You can stay here if you want, but perhaps you should rather go home and get some sleep. I'll check you again at about 2am."
I didn't want the car. Again. But did it. With many many stop and let me get outs. At home I lay on the futon with my new Blackberry in hand and tried to time contractions. And dozed off. There is a snaky list. It seems they were about three minutes apart, sometimes more, sometimes less. They lasted 30 seconds. Or 45 seconds. or 20 seconds. Never the same.
At 2 am (after another murderous drive) she says the same thing. At 6 am the same. How is it possible that after a full night of at least as many waves as Dungeons* gets on a gnarly Sunday I have NO DILATION AT ALL?
Walking down the 200m road from Genesis to Zoo lake at 6.30 am. Leaning up against the lamp posts for contractions while commuters start their day alongside us. I say to Xoli how many do you want between here and the end of the road? She says, three. Big slow surges that I breathe through. I don't know how long or how far apart. In between I talk to her. How does it work with Notmbi, your partner, do you take shifts or work at the same time? We do both she says. I feel badly calling her because you don't have a relationship with her. But I like her, I say. It would be fine if you called her. I know Xoli is tired. She didn't sleep after 2. Didn't go home again. I am concerned about her.
Call Ntombi, I say. Apparently I will be doing this all day.
All day. In retrospect, that night was a piece of cake.
*Dungeons is a surf spot in Cape Town