5 years ago on December 1st, I woke up at 7 am to the feeling of menstrual-like pain gnawing at my lower abdomen. I had been looking forward to giving birth in Denmark, but I wasn’t due for another week or so. I jokingly told Allan that I was going into labour, and it felt like the onset of precipitous labour, or madness.
It is hard to trust my seriousness when I hide anxiety with laughter. Nonetheless, this wasn’t a case of the boy who cried wolf. I had experienced rapid labour and birth with our first son.
Meanwhile, sensing the urgency of the situation, my husband got Fadhili ready for daycare and off they went, cycling through the dark winter morning. By the time he got back home, I was pacing in the kitchen, fully dressed. He spotted my packed suitcase by the door.
“Are you sure it is active labour?” Allan queried.
“Of course it is…”
While he was away, I had called the hospital and insisted that I was in active labour. At first, the midwife was sceptical, but she called me back and said they would be ready for me.
“But doesn’t the baby have another week?” Allan interjected.
“The baby comes when he is ready, not when we are ready. This one wants out. Can you please hurry, unless you want me to give birth in the house…and please call for a cab. Tell the driver your wife is in labour, and he shouldn’t piss her off.”
By this time, my husband was running around like a headless chicken. The urgency of the situation had caught him off guard.
“Do we have time for breakfast or at least a shower?”
The look that I shot him was enough to tell him all that he needed to know.
“I guess not. I will call a taxi.”
By now, I was groaning in pain, a feeling of constipation pushing on my rectum. From my time with Fadhili, I knew better than to attempt to poop while I was at home.
Furthermore, I remembered when I gave birth in Nyeri, the midwife insisted on joining me in the toilet. “I don’t want you to drop the child in the toilet,” she remarked on seeing my confused look. “Some girls can be very reckless.”
In retrospect, I wish the midwife instead of harassing me, had educated me about precipitous labour. She would have used the time she spent barking orders to tell me, for example, that the urge impossible urge to push the baby out is the first sign of precipitous labour. If a new mother knows this sign, she will be better prepared for the madness to come.
Besides, I shudder when I remembered how rough the midwives had been with me when I was in active labour. I don’t know if it is my petite frame then that made them treat me like I was a teen pregnancy, but I had hated their cold, and rude treatment.
Oh shoot, the baby is coming!
At length, I thought this might be false labour, yet after the emotional and physical upheaval of this pregnancy, I was ready to meet my baby.
What’s more, I knew the gender of this baby, unlike his older brother (who after 4 scans had refused to reveal his gender- well the scanning machines in the Nyeri hospital did look like a grainy black and white TV), this baby reveal his genitals within the first scan.
The drive to the hospital was brief and quiet. The drive kept shooting concerned glances at me via the rear-view mirror, perhaps praying and hoping that I wouldn’t give birth in his car.
“Don’t worry. I won’t give birth in the car.”
My comment caught him by surprise. “That wouldn’t be a problem. A car can always get cleaned. It is more important for you and the baby to be ok.” he replied as he simultaneously pulled into the hospital entrance.
“Thanks for the quick drive,” Allan remarked as he made his way out of the taxi.
Meanwhile, I was already out of the taxi and waddling my way into the labour ward. I could sense this child was like a case of bad diarrhoea. One wrong move and it is out.
A smiling midwife met me at the entrance. By now, my panting husband had caught up.
“Hi, Judy. Do you come in,” the midwife motioned to the empty waiting lounge. “You do realise this might be false labour, if so, will you be willing to go back and labour from home, and come back when you are in labour?”
“I don’t think this false labour. The same happened with my first child when I gave birth in Kenya. I had precipitous labour!”
The annoyed tone of my voice must have jolted the midwife into action. Plus the second birth comes with experience, so while a new mother might be naive and unable to advocate for herself, the second time and other consecutive births come with a sense of well-earned authority.
A race for time
We had only been at the hospital for 15 minutes when the midwife performed a vaginal examination (VE) and discovered that I was already 4 cm dilated.
I shot both her and my husband the look of, ‘see, I told you this baby is in a hurry!’
There is something about vaginal examinations during labour that feel like sorcery. One minute a woman can be labouring with a sense of decorum, but as soon as the midwife inserts her fingers into the vagina, all hell breaks loose. At least that has been my experience.
I went from mild labour to shooting pain into unfolding minutes. Despite the pain, I had the presence of mind to call my mum, who was preparing to leave Kenya for Denmark. I wished her a safe journey and told her the baby was beating her to the race. She let out a burst of nervous laughter and said she would recite the rosary prayer for me and the baby.
10 minutes later, the midwife made another intrusive vaginal exam, and this times I was 6 cm dilated. The situation was getting intense. I was wheeled in the delivery room.
“Would you like to relax in the bathtub as you Labour?” asked the cheery midwife.
“Uuumh, ok”. I replied, grinding my teeth at the gnawing pain.
She started to run water into the inviting tub. I noticed a music pod, a whirlpool and scoffed. This baby was not going to let me get pampered into delivering like Royalty. He was coming hard and fast. He wanted out.
“I need to lie down, or I’m going to die!” I exclaimed. A thin sweat trickling down my forehead.
The pain was coming in massive waves. I was hyperventilating.
“Please lie down. We want to examine the intensity of your contractions”.
I obliged. The treatment I was getting was a stark contrast to what I had experienced in Nyeri.
A white band was wrapped around my belly, and wires were connected onto the computer.
“Oh dear, your contractions are powerful, and very close to one another.” explained that the midwife.
I tilted my head towards the computer screen. Indeed, those contractions were reading like a seismic activity. I was delirious.
“I want to stand. Can somebody help me stand?” my request fell on deaf ears.
“Judy, breath, breath. The baby’s head is crowning…” the midwife shooed at me.
“Wooi Mami, Mami nduuke udaithie. Maitu, wiku. Nduuke, na nigukua“. I was
“What she is saying?” asked the midwife, concerned that this gibberish that I’m uttering could be some hallucination.
“Oh, she is calling her mother in Kikuyu, I don’t understand the rest of what she is saying.” my husband calmly reassured her.
“Mami, ndigaguchínura. Mami nduuke…”
My mother was not responsible for getting me into this situation. But for some reason, this baby wanted her in that room.
My husband and the midwife were working hard to rub my back whenever the contractions would strike.
“Can I sit in that bathtub now?”
“Unfortunately we had to turn the water off, your baby will be out any minute now. Please let us help you sit on the “birthing stool”, you will be able to relax more and push the baby easily from it.” the midwife was by now talking to me in a very calming voice. I felt spoilt.
The fast and furious baby
“No! No! I’m not moving from here!”, I was shaking my head, standing on my tiptoes, unable to move. Defiant.
Suddenly, I felt a warm trickle run down my legs. My water broke. I was no longer coherent in my speech.
Amidst my protests and crying, I was helped down onto the birthing stool. It felt like I was sitting on a big potty, ready to poop.
The downside of the fast nature of precipitous labour is that it doesn’t give the body nor the mind time to prepare for the baby’s arrival. Everything happens in lightning speed. It is up to everyone to catch up.
My husband sat behind me, and I slumped my weight onto him. A midwife handed him some cold to towels to dab my forehead.
Another midwife positioned herself in front of my wide spread legs. She was ready to receive the baby.
Everything seemed to stand still, except the excruciating pain.
My cervix burned. I pooped, pushed, and pooped so more. The cervix burned again. I could feel the baby’s head. It burned. The sweat was stinging my eyes. My husband dabbed it off.
“You are doing great, you are doing great. I just need you to push again, when I tell you to”. The midwife sat there, looking like a cheerleader, encouraging me to surmount all my inner strength.
“Ok, now, push!”
I obliged. A couple of heavy pushes and out slithered my boy.
He was placed on my chest; something was wrong. My baby was covered in green meconium and he wasn’t crying.
One of the NICU staff that was on standby in the room quickly grabbed him away from my chest as soon as his umbilical cord was cut.
The room was suddenly too bright. There was a CCTV camera in one corner of the wall. This room had too many high-tech equipment. It was too white. What was happening? I started to panic. I felt like I was going mad, and someone had tricked me into a psychiatric ward.
“Judy, Judy, can you hear me?” Someone was gently slapping on my cheek. “Are you ok?”
As I began to unravel. I might mention here, that in hindsight, I know the shock and postpartum depression that followed my births, was the effect of trauma of speedy delivery. Precipitous labour is often linked to trauma.
“Where is my baby?” I cried hysterically.
“Det er ok skat, baby er ok. I am so proud of you. You have done so well. You are very strong.” My husband’s voice emerged from behind my head.
I had forgotten how hard I had slumped my weight on him. How hard I pinched his calves as I pushed his child out. By the same token, I thought of how helpless he must have felt to watch me go through madness, yet there wasn’t much he could do, other than dab my hot forehead and give me his body as my anchor.
I was shaking. Tears burned my eyes. Adrenaline and oxytocin were pumping through my body in almost equal measure.
Suddenly, a sharp cry pierced the tense room. Faraji let out the cry of life. My husband and I were beside ourselves with relief. Our baby was well.
The fast and furious drama of precipitous labour that had precluded his birth, surely meant he couldn’t come into the world without an extra theatric up his sleeve.
Precipitous labour and childbirth was up and done in one hour, 45 minutes.
He was placed into my bosom again. This time I saw him, I noticed just how beautiful and different he was from his older brother.
My heart was glad. Moreover, my mother arrived in time to hold her grandson. Instead of going home after her first-ever international flight, the midwives allowed her to lodge overnight with me in the hospital room. We spent much of the night laughing and catching up while cuddling my little miracle baby.
It’s five years, today since Faraji was born. His presence is a constant joy. He runs fast in kindergarten, and wherever anyone remarks about his speed, I always remember his precipitous labour.
Plus, I like to joke that he is Kenyan, and that predisposes him to fast running genes. I might be bringing up the next Usain Bolt!