I gave birth to Luna on Wednesday 8th June 2016.
Yes, that was a while ago. To be honest, I never really thought about sharing my birth story before, for the same reason I don’t share many things about my pregnancies or motherhood. My experiences weren’t extreme or traumatic; it sounds silly, but they weren’t exciting enough for others to want to hear about them. Labour has always been portrayed to me as this experience filled with excruciating pain that you think will never end; contractions always described as period cramps, only 50 times worse. I was often met with a disturbing amount of glee when I’d tell them that I’d never had cramps with my periods. “You’re in for a treat then”, or some variation would be the response as they basked in my impending agony. I don’t understand why other Mothers feel the need to do this, but that’s another post entirely.
The approaching arrival of our second child is what spurred on this moment of reflection. I don’t know how different this new experience will be and when it comes to labour there isn’t much you can do in preparation except come to terms with the fact that anything could go wrong. I know it sounds really negative but it’s just being realistic.
I was 5 days over when my waters broke. I woke up at 8.30am, waddled to the bathroom and as I sat down, they went. I had been told by my Mum and others that they’ll want you in when your waters break; not true. I called the Midwives Unit and told them I wasn’t having contractions yet; was this something to worry about? I was told I’d be fine and to wait.
My contractions started around noon but stopped again after half an hour. It wasn’t until around 2 pm that my contraction properly kicked in. To begin with, they just felt like strong movements and they got steadily more intense as the evening approached. The only way I can describe the contractions of the late evening is to compare them to the cramping feeling before diarrhoea; I know that’s so tmi, but that’s my only point of comparison.
I started timing my contractions around midnight. They were very regular and getting more intense, but not painful. I had done some research on labour previously and found some breathing techniques that were coming in really useful. When they were 5 minutes apart I called the Midwives unit again. They said to hang on until they were roughly 2 minutes apart and to take some paracetamol to ease the discomfort.
Being as I wasn’t in pain, just experiencing the pressures of contractions, the paracetamol didn’t really do much. But within the hour my contractions had sped up and I was finding it harder to breathe through them. So I called the MU again and they said I could come in. I called a taxi and was admitted around 2 in the morning.
They showed me to a room and told me to take off my bottoms and someone would be through to give me a check over to see if I could stay or be sent home (because apparently, they’ll do that at 2 in the morning). The internal hurt worse than any of the contractions. No one thought to warn me about the pain that comes with a Midwife ramming their hand up you. It turned out I would be staying as I was 8cm
I had intermittent monitoring for a few hours and I even managed to doze a little between the big contractions. And, thankfully, there wasn’t another internal. They gave me more paracetamol and around 6 am I asked for the gas and air. But things didn’t seem to be progressing beyond longer and very intense contractions, which my partner held my hand through.
The midwives suggested walking about a bit. Then it hit; the sudden urge to poop. Yeah, you read that right. The final stage of my labour was marked by the intense need to poop. Of course, they let me go to the toilet and I tried to go, but nothing happened. I went back after it dawned on me how awful it would be to give birth in a toilet. But still, urge didn’t go away.
The midwives helped me back on to the bed, which was a struggle, and got me positioned on my knees, holding on to the back of the bed. It was at this point something came over me and I turned to Nick and asked him to wait outside.
I knew he wasn’t comfortable being there. Before I get any judgey comments, we had discussed this. He felt pressured to be there, which isn’t fair. If someone genuinely isn’t comfortable with something, you shouldn’t force them. It didn’t come from a mean place and I respect his honesty. And it felt right, I didn’t feel like I needed anyone there. The Midwives thought it was strange so I lied and said he didn’t like the sight of blood.
From there it was just a blur of pushing, breathing and the Midwife monitoring the heartbeat. It actually became a bit of a rhythm; she would check the heartbeat and it would bring on the contraction. There was intense pressure, but it was painful. Sorry to use this analogy again, but it was like trying to pass a big poop.
The pain came with the crowning. A burning feeling as the skin stretched to capacity to let the head through. I’m not sure if I just have a high pain threshold or if the adrenaline in my system acted to numb things, while this hurt it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had been led to expect.
The head was out, but the cord needed to be moved before the rest of her could come out. And with that last push, I felt a sense of calm. Our little girl was here. Then I was given the injection to help pass the placenta quicker; getting a needle in a tensed thigh muscle was not fun. And because of the position I was in I hadn’t yet seen her. I had to turn over, lift my leg over the cord and try to disturb the cord as little as possible.
She was a scrunched up and mucus-covered and all mine (well ours, but y’know what I mean). She had a full head of hair, long lashes and was coated with a layer of dark downy hair. She was so peaceful until they gave her the vitamin K injection; it was the first time I heard was to become her trademark cry of distress. She also turned the most terrifying shade of beetroot, but it was long before she calmed down again. The skin to skin contact really helps.
Once the afterbirth had passed they gave me an examination to check for any internal damage and tearing. I needed some stitches and someone would be round soon for that (the needle to get numbed up for that was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life) otherwise, I was fine. So they got me cleaned up and made sure the baby was warm enough (I felt like an oven) and then let Nick back in to see us.
Like I said my labour was very straightforward and not at all like I was expecting. I was very lucky with my experience. I was able to stay in control and keep my breathing steady throughout. While I didn’t have any pain management beyond paracetamol and the gas and air; I don’t want that to come off as me trying to act superior it’s just the truth of the matter, I’m built to deal well with pain. But if I’m honest, I think sometimes women get so freaked out by the scare stories that they hit the hard stuff before seeing what they can do on their own.
The rest of my experience that day wasn’t quite so straightforward and at times rather unpleasant. But I’ll save that tale for another time.