Saturday, October 9, 2010

The BIG Day

On August 12th, one day after her French due date, Colette decided that she was ready to come out and greet the world. At 5am I was up and having contractions that seemed like they meant business! I left Grégoire to sleep, knowing he was going to have a long day ahead of him involving screaming and hand squeezing and thus he would need his strength.

I hopped online and was thrilled to see my best friend Katie was online too. I immediately called her on a video chat and sat on the couch with her chitchatting between contractions. Soon Grég was up and we decided to call our midwife Sylive to tell her that we think la fête had officially begun. She was in her car at the time, coming back from a patient's home, so she offered to swing by our apartment to check on us. How luxurious! She came in, we had tea, she looked at my lady parts and said that things seem to be progressing nicely. She suggested we take a little walk through the neighborhood to help move the baby further down the shoot, then come in to la maternité in a hour or so. And so we ventured out..

Paris is mostly drained of Parisians during the month of August but that doesn't mean it isn't busy. Tourist spots are buzzing with Italians, Spaniards and Americans. On that day our neighborhood of Montmartre was crawling with visitors meandering the confusing little lanes of our village on their way to Sacré Coeur. As we left the house and lumbered down our street I know we bewildered a tourist or two, who was likely already a little turned around because if they were hoping to get to the church they should have turned left not right on to our street. No time for tourists today! I had a baby to get out! So I walked for 4 minutes, paused, leaned against Greg or grabbed a lamppost and groaned through a contraction, and then continued on my next 4 minutes of walking and so on and so forth until it was time to call Kristen, our fantastic friend and driver.

By noon we were at the hospital and up in our penthouse pre-birthing suite. Sylvie was drawing a bath and Grégoire was running around making sure I had everything I needed. There was a third person there that day, a fresh-faced intern who was there to experience her first natural birth. She was full of questions and asked me an hour later how many centimeters I had dilated? Sylvie snapped at her and said that she doesn't clutter her patient's minds with that sort of extraneous information! Sylvie turned to me and said "You are dilating beautifully and things are progressing nicely and that's all you need to know". I was in fact thankful for her ambiguity because otherwise I probably would have started to make some sort of cacamayme excel spread sheet in my mind about how many hours it took me to get to this many centimeters, multiplied by the amount of pain I was in now, divided by the exponential increase in volume of my moaning...

Luckily there wasn't much time for that because moments later it was determined that it was time to go to the birthing room! I put my clothes back on (that's right! even when giving birth in a hospital you don't get a paper gown!) and made my way to the elevator which is the size of a phone booth thus only had room for me, my belly and Grégoire. Sylvie waved and dashed for the stairs saying, "I'll see you down there! Try not to have your water break in the elevator!".

Eight floors down we arrived in a much more serious room, no bathtub, no view of the eiffel tower, no jazzy background music... it was time to get down to business. Sylvie asked if I felt like pushing, I said I was willing to give it a try. I pushed a little and Sylvie said she could see the head. "Fantastique!" I thought. We arrived at the hospital at noon, it was now 3:30 and we could already see the head, this was going swimmingly.

And then bébé stopped swimming and decided to tread water for the next three and a half hours. Some something about my tailbone getting in the way but I am persuaded that the delay had more to do with the increasingly fickle French nature of this baby.

At this point things were getting tricky for the baby and I, so Sylvie made a call to the back up doctor and said the words Emergency and Vacuum... given that she only gave information on a need to know basis I decided that if she was saying those words it must be serious. Dr George however did not pick up his phone nor call back so it was up to us! We had to get this baby out old-school style. We launched in to an exhaustive effort to find the perfect birthing position. Sitting up, laying down, on all fours, on a ball and finally the birthing stool which looked more like a small garbage can with a toilet seat glued on top of it than a stool.... I told her that esthetically that one just wasn't going to work for me. During labor your mind wanders and while I was in pain and huffing and puffing this baby out all I could thing about when facing that so-called birthing stool was 'where is my camera?! I wish I could take a picture of this ugly contraption for the blog!'.

But alas, after doing every posture in the karma sutra book of birth bébé wasn't budging so Sylvie decided we needed to call in the big guns, Willy the Baby Whisperer. Willy is an extraordinary character and a superstar in the world of midwifery. He is short and stout with a thick mustache, curly chest-hair that tuffets out of his slightly unbuttoned chemise and sparkly gentle eyes. Willy walked in, introduced himself to me, Grégoire and my belly. He asked bébé by if they felt like coming out to meet their parents, he then paused (possibly for dramatic effect, possibly because he was listening carefully) and declared that the baby did indeed want to come out and we should get on with it!

Willy then climbed up on a stool alongside the bed. I was laying back at this point with my feet in the air. Greg was holding on to one leg, the now throughly traumatized intern was holding the other. Sylvie was squatting in catchers position at the end of the bed and Willy had both hands on my belly readying to help push this baby out!

On the next few contractions Willy's was pushing, I was pushing and everyone in the room suddenly switched to English and started saying "Puuuuuuoooosh! Again again again! Puuuuuuuuuooooosh!" in the most hysterical French accent I have every heard. Speaking of hysterical, I was obviously starting to loose it because in that particular moment all I could think about was the fact that French people often translate the word encore by the word again and that in this instance again is not the best way to translate encore.... but before I had the time to decide what a better word would be little Colette came shooting out like a champagne cork.

Colette - 8lbs3oz


Sam-I-Am said...

I stumbled upon this blog when I googled "how to marry a frenchman" (a sudden fantasy I had), and I've come to absolutely love it! Your wit and your style and your life is so entertaining, and I look forward to every new blog post that provides an American take on all-things-french. I really just want to say congratulations though, Collete is a beautiful French-American!

amyp said...

Lucky that little baby is cute, b/c my brow is still furrowed and I'm cringing inside. Nice snub on the birthing stool, btDUBS.

Anonymous said...

Bonjour, Je suis tres heureuse pour ton enfant. Meilleurs voeux!
Glad to see you are back on the blog. Practicing a little very awful french where ever I can. Love the insight you are a very entertaining writer!.

Matt said...

And what a lovely champagne cork she is.

Elisa said...

Congratulations again Mary (Greg and Collete)! You did it! I hope it was as an empowering and magical (although next to impossible feeling) experience as mine was. You deserve all the best. Much love, Elisa

Jonathan said...

Hi there, my comment have nothing to do with this article, but my girlfriend and me are in the same situation, she's American, I'm French, and we plan to get married.I'd like to have some advices about hum, everything, seems to be a tricky situation (how long it takes? how much it coast? easier to live in France or in the US?). If you get some time to help me, that could really give me a hand. Thank you already and congratulations for the little shrimp :).

Karin (an alien parisienne) said...

Ahhhhh! It has been an age since I checked in on your blog, et voilà, I do today and see the baby has arrived! Wonderful! Many congratulations to you and Grégoire!