I’ve been thinking a lot about labour recently, being pregnant will do that to you! The first time you’re pregnant you have literally no way to know what it will feel like, how it will happen, or really how you want your birth to go. The second (or third, fourth, fifth) time you know what’s coming, for some mothers that makes it less scary, for others it makes it much more so.
One of my favourite types of blog to read is a birth story. So here’s mine. This all happened nearly six years ago so it’s a little murky, apologies for that. I’ll try and live stream my next one to make up for it.
So settle down with a cup of tea and a good old fashioned gulp of gas and air and lets do this!
I never wanted to labour in hospital. I hate hospitals. Hate them. I wanted to go to the nice calming birth centre that would have the right mix of medical and homely. Unfortunately that wasn’t to be, as I was booked in for an induction.
There was a bit of a misunderstanding when it came to the induction. I was twenty and I’ll be honest had done exactly no research on labour. I don’t think I’d even flicked through the second hand copy of What To Expect I’d been given. So I wasn’t really clear on what anything meant and just blindly followed my midwife’s instructions. My due date had, like many women, changed at my 12 week scan once baby had been measured, unfortunately my midwife only changed this date in one part of my notes, and then abruptly left. So long story short – my new midwife was basing everything on my old dates and I went with it, meaning I was booked in for an induction when I could have waited another couple of weeks and possibly gone naturally. I’d had several sweeps and I was dilating slowly so it’s quite likely I could have had that birth I wanted (if you’re not pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or have been pregnant probably don’t click that link, it’s not something you need to know until you need to know).
So, inductions. Again, I had no idea how they worked (in honesty, I still don’t really) but they poked something up my fanny and then strapped me to some machines. I was in a room with five other women, from what I remember one of them was in on bed rest pregnant with triplets (imagine three), one lady’s waters had broken but nothing else was happening, and the others were also there. I think I had the pessary (just had to Google that) put in around 1pm, and from then on it was a waiting game. Belts around my belly to monitor fetal heart beat and contractions, £75,000 paid for the use of the miniature telly attached to my bed, and a strong urge to ask if I could get pizza delivered to a maternity ward.
At 7pm one of the nurses came round to tell us visiting time was over and my ex would have to leave. She assured me that they would phone him immediately if anything started happening but that was very unlikely as it was my first child and took off my monitors. I closed the curtain around my bed and had a little cry. I suddenly felt far too young to be doing this, I regretted not knowing more, not studying more, I felt like this was the worst idea I’d ever had, and I think part of me probably wished for a time machine and a condom.
The next couple of hours were kind of hazy, nothing really happened. I could hear women down the corridor crying out in pain and midwives, nurses, and doctors were running around like maniacs. Apparently it was a particularly busy day on the ward that day (when they realised my midwife’s error with the date I was the most hated woman on the ward, which was nice). I know it was about 9pm when I started feeling strong twinges in my stomach because I was trying to watch How I Met Your Mother and couldn’t concentrate. I think I started crying again at this point. The lady who’s waters had broken was very nice to me. The staff couldn’t care less.
As my contractions got stronger each one made me need to poo. I’m pretty sure the baby books don’t discuss that. So I spent the next hour or so pacing the hallways and taking trips to the toilet. Handily there was a display on one of the walls about contraction times so I decided maybe now I should study up. My contractions were getting almost unbearably painful and closer together so I thought best to speak to a midwife, this is when I was bluntly told nobody labours that fast, handed two paracetamol, and told to go have a bath. At no point was I checked.
So I had a bath. Rang my mum in tears. Spent a lot more time on the toilet. And generally panicked. The midwife knew more than me and she said I’d have hours yet, she didn’t expect me to give birth until lunch time the next day. I was in so much pain and it was going to get worse than this! Plus I was alone, and bloody terrified. It was a really horrible situation and I honestly cannot think of a time in my life when I was more scared.
I was lying in the bath trying to breath through the pain, getting out every minute or so to use the toilet, when the feeling changed. I’ll be honest, it felt like I needed a poo (again) but stronger. I knew this was different but kept hearing the midwife in my head ‘you’ve got hours yet’. But I had to make a decision, in my head it was between having a baby in the toilet or having a shit on a table. I decided the latter was the better option and pulled the red emergency cord.
About six midwives and nurses came rushing in. There I was, completely stark bollock naked, clutching the edge of the bath, crouching down, and whimpering. A quick check on dilation (the first I’d had) and I was told that yes, I was 10 centimetres, and yes, I was having this baby now.
They got a gurney, on I hopped (or flopped), and they covered my dignity with the world’s smallest hand towel.
I have no idea what time this was happening, I think it was about 11:15. But as if checking the time even crossed my mind. They told me they had tried ringing my ex and couldn’t get through but would keep trying and it was down to me now.
The midwife who I had in the delivery room was amazing. She was so kind and gentle and totally understood how scared I was to be doing this alone (unlike the witch I’d been dealing with all night, who I’m fairly certain was the offspring of Satan).
They gave me some gas and air, but as I was already pushing it did nothing other than make my mouth drier than a well done steak rolled in sand. They tried to let my waters go naturally (what a weird feeling, remember those chicken toys you squeeze and the gooey egg comes out of their butt? I felt like that.) but they wouldn’t break so they did them for me. And then I was pushing and then…she was out…at exactly midnight.
My ex had arrived at the room about 30 seconds before she was born, luckily he’d had a hotel room in town – my mum had barely made it on to the main road (hashtag Cornwall). He’d slept through his phone. You can imagine my reaction to that little bit of information.
But the building could burn down around me and I wouldn’t care. On my bare chest was my baby girl. My beautiful, perfect baby girl. 8 pounds and half an ounce. Long and skinny. Screaming the building down. My little Ava Belle. There and then is where our adventure began.
I was lucky enough to not need stitches, there was one tear they debated over for a while (ever had two women in deep discussion while staring at your crotch?) but decided it wasn’t deep enough to need sewing up.
Ava was born at midnight, on the dot. I was home (via McDonalds) by 5pm the next day.
I know I was very lucky and was blessed with a quick and ‘easy’ labour, as labours go, and I am so thankful for that. We faced our share of struggles in the weeks that followed; especially with breastfeeding, the weight falling off Ava, and PND; but we had a positive start and I think that makes a big difference.
I don’t want my first birth experience to be exactly like my first. I really don’t want to be in hospital, I really don’t want to be alone, and I really will do my homework in the lead up this time. I hope to avoid finding myself alone and in tears and will have the confidence to say what I need based on what my body is telling me, not what an overworked midwife is assuming. But if I can have the speed, determination, and lack of stitches that would be great. That’s what a birth plan is, right? Laying out exactly how you want your birth to go down and it going exactly like that? Thought so.
Our birth wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t close to how I dreamed it would be. But in the end I was holding my baby and nothing else mattered anymore. It was me and her and that was all I needed. I was suddenly stronger than I had ever been in my life because I had her to be strong for. Good labour or bad labour, that’s all that I cared about anymore.
Plus I didn’t poo on the bed…