Léon (english version)

[Note: This is my transated version of my earlier German blog entry.]

On June 30, 2013, 6:21 am, Melissa gave birth to our son Léon. This is
my report of the great event, of the nine hardest hours and the most
beautiful moments of my life.

When I woke up on Saturday, June 29, I couldn’t conceive of having
one extra person around us just 24 hours later. Everything was as normal
as it can be in the ninth month of pregnancy. After a lazy morning and
a Chinese lunch (‘à volonté’), we went to the Royat hot springs in the
afternoon. Two hours of playing in the water, Melissa realised that
we better leave for the hospital to see the gynecologist or midwife.

First we went home, where Melissa got a back ache that kept coming and
going. Luckily of the two of us it was her who kept cool. She correctly
interpreted the back ache as contractions, and told me to pack for the
maternity ward. In a flurry, I dumped clothes, laptops, documents and
other stuff into my backpack, closed the windows, packed usable leftovers
from the fridge into a bag, did the dishes as much as I could, and
in between stuffed my face with baguette and Fourme d’Ambert.

Melissa had packed all essentials for herself and the to-be-born already
a few weeks ago, using Carmen’s bag.

We left by car for Beaumont, up the hill of the Faille de Limagne.
If until now it was false alarm, by the latest our ride over the bumpy
road up to the clinic must have caused the contractions to start.
We went to the maternity ward where the midwife (sage-femme) on duty,
Maryline, determined a dilation of 1cm. The first phase of birth had
begun.

We left the labour room to spend this phase in her maternity room.
I got a foldaway bed. After one hour the contractions came regularly,
every 3-5 minutes, and were very painful. This state of hers remained
for the next 5-6 hours, but with increasing pain. Long before the birth,
Melissa had decided to try without a epidural anesthesia.

I felt more and more helpless. Except for holding hands, give water to
drink, and spray her face and neck there was nothing much I could do.
She was exhausted and only wanted to sleep for a bit. But the continuous
contractions didn’t let her. Massaging or hugging was also not possible
most of the time, since every movement increased her pain. A hot shower
helped for a while, and Melissa spent quite some time under the shower.
Eventually I laid down to sleep for a bit, although with a guilty
conscience to let my girlfriend suffer alone.

Around 2:30am the contraction pain was so strong that I called the midwife,
who finally transported Melissa to the labour room. There however
it just continued as it was for some time. Once in a while Maryline came in
to examine the mother to be. The pain was getting worse. I played
some soothing music on the iPad, Dvorak’s 8th symphony.

Another examination at around 5am showed a near complete dilation.
The end phase (expulsion) could finally begin. Melissa got the strong
urge to ‘push’. Unfortunately the baby had not turned yet, his head
was pointing up. To move the baby from its ‘sunny-side up’ position,
Melissa got on all four, and I was assigned the task to press her back
with my thumbs at each contraction. I had to force myself to do this,
because she had stronger pain than ever, and I did not know whether my
pressing would make it worse. Maryline tried to help move the head of the baby.
This stagnation phase seemed to be endless. Melissa hardly found moments
of peace and relaxation between contractions, and her legs hurt. At times
I sat behind her in the bed for her to lean against me. Dvorak was over,
and Die schöne Müllerin (the fair miller’s wife) followed. I thought that
this music was too agitated and reached over to change it. This caused
more pain to Melissa so I left the iPad continue on its own.

The sunny-side up position is not very common. Luckily we only read afterwards
that this position is more painful than normal.

Finally it was time! Around 6am the baby had turned sidewards into the right
position, accompanied by Schubert’s Schwanengesang (‘Swan song’).
I asked the midwife whether Melissa was allowed to feel the baby’s head. She
did and took courage for the last phase. Lying on her side she pushed as
hard and long as she could. Afterwards she told me that this phase was the
most painful period. I don’t know from where she gathered the force and
energy. With screaming, cursing, and gesticulating, but without a single
tear in her eye, she gave birth to the baby’s head.

The worst was over. One, then another shoulder followed, and then the rest
slipped out. After just a few moments the baby did his first cry. Immediately
he was placed on Melissa’s chest to rest in her arms. She showed the
happiest and relieved smile since quite some time. Fischer-Dieskau had
arrived at the Winterreise (Winter Journey). The nurse nagged a little
and complained that we had not chosen a name yet (“on va mettre ‘bébé X’
où quoi?”). We decided for the name Léon.

Then the placenta was delivered. I took a quick look. Without going
too much into detail, I noticed how big it was. Finally the umbilical
cord was cut, and the baby was brought for his first examination
to another room. I accompanied the nurse. Léon’s head was cleaned a bit,
he was weighted and measured. Supplied with his name tag, he was
brought back to his mom.

We could stay two hours in the labour room. Then Léon was dressed (I
helped clumsily) and put into his cot, his bed for the next five days.
I pushed the cot after Melissa back to our room. After a short time
both were sleeping like a baby.

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