I was the first of quite a few friends who had babies so whilst I was honest about how it went I think I also spared some of the more ‘gory details’ in case they weren’t helpful for those about to go through their own labour experience.
However, I read a comment on a Facebook group recently where a Mum asked for some honest accounts of less ‘perfect’ birth stories and so, I wanted to reflect now before it becomes too distant of a memory in case it is helpful to anyone.
When the little guy was born, in part it was straightforward. However, there were parts of my labour that were complicated.The night before labour started we had a curry. I wasn’t overdue, we just fancied curry! And, that evening I definitely suddenly felt more uncomfortable. I had a sort-of ‘sense’ it might happen soon. Who knows whether that was accurate or if it was just that I was the size a house and therefore, uncomfortable?!
My contractions started around 1pm on the day before my due date. It was just like period pain at first, cramping and uncomfortable. I sent a text to a husband to say something along the lines of, “I think it might be starting. But don’t come home we want to start your paternity leave as late as possible”. I can’t help but always think of the practical details.
Then I messaged the friend I was meeting for coffee and said, “I think I might be in labour. But, please still come”. She was also pregnant and due very shortly so I knew she’d be good company.
I got my TENS machine on and switched to comfy leggings and got myself some lunch as I figured I might need some energy! N.B. If you’re deciding whether a TENS machine would be useful, my answer is yes! I found it so helpful.
I got restless so I wandered to meet my friend who was walking over and then we sat and chatted whilst I bounced on my inflatable ball and gritted my teeth. In the early stages the TENS machine seemed more painful than the contractions at points which is partly why I liked it. It was a really helpful distraction. (As were the questions from my friend’s toddler about why I was bouncing on a ball!)
Around 4pm my husband came home and took over with the chatting and my friend went home. I attempted a bath. Awful. So uncomfortable. I attempted to lie down. Again, awful. It was at this point that contractions moved to a ‘I really can’t talk through this’ sort of pain. My husband phoned the hospital and we were advised to hold off as long as possible.
During my pregnancy there were a few things I’d decided that I’m sure helped the whole process. Firstly, that I wasn’t going to have a specific birth plan in mind. If I got to go in the water, great. If we got to do it without an epidural, great. But, I’d had so many friends who were disappointed that they didn’t get the birth they planned that I decided if I didn’t plan it then I couldn’t be disappointed. Secondly, I was not going to be sent away from the hospital. I did not want to go and be told I was not ready. I was determined to wait as long as possible before we headed in.
So, I was adamant that we would stay home as long as we possibly could. So, I went back to bouncing on my ball and cranking up my TENS machine. I learnt that the Hunger Games was not a good film during labour, as my husband said, “intense film + intense pain = not such a pleasant experience.” We switched to The Muppets movie instead. So much better! My husband dutifully timed my contractions this whole time whilst I batted him away and told him repeatedly not to touch me. Poor guy.
My brother had said he’d give us a lift when the time came. So, having been prepped by my husband that seeing me in pain might be weird, he came round about 8.30pm to take us to the hospital. I vividly remember interrupting them both to give ‘better’ directions to the hospital before pausing to get through another contraction.
We made our way up to the birthing centre, and walked what felt like the longest corridor as I had to keep pausing for contractions, only to be sent to the waiting room for what felt like an age. It was very clear they didn’t think I was going to be that far along from the way they said the phrase, ‘first time mother’. Eventually we got examined and I felt triumphant when she said, “oh! You’re 7cm dilated. Let’s get the pool running!”
She broke my waters during the examination so things got moving quickly. I got up onto a bed to kneel and lean on my front and I got my first taste of gas and air. This is when I decided that having gas and air was just like a night out at Uni and I wasn’t sure if I liked it but again, it was distracting. At this point I was sick and I felt the little guy move down and engage. That was a weird feeling.
During this time my husband had run down to tell my brother that ‘it was happening’ so he could head home. My brother then went home to ask his wife what 7cm dilated meant. Was that how far out his head was?! I feel like I’ve definitely done my sister-in-law a favour by giving him some experience of labour before they have kids one day!
Next, into the pool. If you’re not sure about the pool but you love a good bath then I so recommend it. The warm water was so soothing. This is the point where labour gets a little more foggy.
Most of you will be aware of my faith and it is this part of labour where I spoke to God most. Being on the gas and air made me feel like I experienced everything in slow motion then it rewound and I saw it again in super speed. This happened over and over again. So, there were moments I felt I was with it and listening to instructions and music and then suddenly it whizzed past and it was like I was watching from the outside. Amidst this I also asked my husband why he was letting the playlist go on repeat for so long. Turns out one of the songs was just really long and not as much time had passed as I thought!
All this time I chatted to God. I prayed for my son. I prayed for his protection, for strength and energy for me. I thanked God repeatedly for my husband.
After my labour I spoke to a friend who said she felt guilty she didn’t talk to God but instead focused on her husband. Labour is so different for everyone and I don’t necessarily think it’s going to be an amazing God-connection for everyone. I think, for me, I needed that focus for what came next. For my friend, she was connected with her husband and they focussed together. God knew what we needed.
I have a bad back so when it came to pushing I found it tricky. I wasn’t great at physically getting into the position they needed me to and I did hear the midwife say, “I think we might need an epidural”. At that point I thought, I have came far enough I am darn well going to push this guy out and I asked for clear instructions as to how to position my body to push well and got to it.
The little guy got distressed and there was meconium in the water so they got me out onto a birthing stool (a horribly potty like stool) and then eventually up onto a bed for the final push.
Att 11.22pm our little guy entered the world. When he was born he had the cord wrapped around his neck. It was at this point, out of sheer exhaustion and the gas and air, that I wasn’t totally with it but they rushed him out of the room. They asked my husband to go in order to ‘connect with him’ as they resuscitated him and he sung over him as they started him breathing again.
I, on the other hand, was delivering the placenta and getting stitches. It was during this time that I had the deepest sense of peace and certainty that everything was going to be ok. I felt so connected with God and was able just to rest with Him whilst I waited for my family to come back.
Eventually I got to meet my little bird (affectionately nicknamed by the midwives because of his squawking!) and have our first cuddle. Understandably he didn’t feed for quite some time (those of you who know him will find that hard to imagine now). Having been cocooned up inside I cannot imagine the shock that labour must be for them. I’m sure they forget but I found myself thinking about that often as I cuddled him in those early days.
We had to spend a few days in hospital just to make sure he was ok and he pretty much immediately was scoring highly on all the tests. Being in hospital for two days was an interesting experience and I was so grateful when it was time to go home and I could get some rest!
One of my proudest moments post birth was being told by one of the midwives that I didn’t push like a first-time Mum. Winner! People say that you forget the pain when you hold your baby. I’m going to be honest. That’s absolute rubbish. My kid is 17 months old and I’m still not sure if I could face having another one yet. I did it. I pushed him out. And he is completely worth it. But, you know, it was full on.
Whatever your experience of labour, you are a star. We managed a ‘natural birth’ but I am so convinced that all that matters is that your baby arrives safely. He or she won’t care whether they were born into a pool or on the operating table or whether you stuck to your birth plan. All they care about is getting close to you so they can hear the heartbeat they’ve been so close to for the last 9 months. Oh, and milk. They really care about milk.