I used to be an avid watcher of the TV show, One Born Every Minute. I loved that in the space of an hour (well with ads maybe 40ish minutes) the audience would be introduced to three different women, their journey and we would watch their bubs be born. I remember one particular episode where a lady was in labour and she was utterly panicked because of the pain amongst other things. I watched the episode thinking that this woman was going waaaaaaaay over the top. That she needed to just get on with it, calm down and get that baby out. This is of course just another example of me thinking that I knew what I was talking about. Of course I knew that having a baby would be high on the ouch factor, but I somehow imagined that I would be dignified and grit my teeth to get the job done.
Fast forward to my actual labour and yes, you guessed it, I was anything but dignified. This isn’t something that I have really talked too much about. Which is actually pretty surprising for me, since I am with the words, all of them…. usually all the time. Up until a few months ago, casting my mind back to Ollie’s birth made me feel anxious and upset. It made my pulse quicken and my mood darken. These days, it doesn’t exactly make me feel like bounding through daisy covered meadows, but it is something that I can discuss or write about (well here’s hoping!) without having too much of a flip out.
As I’ve already mentioned, pregnancy and I weren’t the best of friends. We started off as mortal enemies and worked our way up to a tolerable and at (rare) times even pleasant relationship.
Two days before my due date, I had been to my Obstetrician and we had agreed that if our baby had not made an appearance on his/her own by DD, an induction would be happening. We had discovered at a previous appointment that my cervix was still very much posterior and hadn’t started to make it’s way to the front. The OB assured me that while this wasn’t ideal, it was fairly unlikely that it would stay posterior.
So with our baby now five days overdue, Aaron and I headed to the hospital for phase one in the induction process. We met with the OB who examined me, confirmed that unfortunately my cervix was still very much posterior (thanks for nothing cervix! Oh you know apart from being able to conceive and carry a baby and all) and with that, phase one (cold gel) was administered and we were under way. The doctor told me that if it worked, I could expect to wake up sometime in the middle of the night in labour and we would go from there. Aaron stayed with me in my hospital room until around 10pm to keep me company. I waved to him as he left to go home, all tucked up into my hospital bed with heat packs on my tummy to help with the stomach cramps. I was pretty certain that this would be a non event and that we would be onto phase two in the morning. Off to sleep I fell.
I woke up a little while later to a popping sensation somewhere at the bottom of my belly. I lay there and thought about how strange that felt. Weird. Anyway, I got myself out of bed and went to the toilet. When I came back to my bed I realised that I was still peeing, just a little bit. Oh wait, no that doesn’t sound right because I’d just been to the toilet. Oooh, maybe my waters had broken? I called the midwife and asked her to come to my room. She came in and I explained what had happened. She told me that it didn’t sound like I was in labour and that I should go back to bed. After she left the room, I lay down and called Aaron. We talked about what she had said and that she was probably right, she was a midwife after all. As I spoke to him, my stomach cramps started to get worse. After only ten minutes, they had already surpassed the worst period pain I’d ever had and I was starting to feel sick. I decided that if I wasn’t in labour, I at least needed to get some sort of bucket or container to be sick into.
I set off on a mission down to the nurses desk to acquire some sort of vom bucket. The same midwife was at the desk and I explained that I felt really sick and asked if there was something she could give me to be sick into. She offered an injection in my butt which would help with the nausea. I jumped at the opportunity (it’s amazing how quickly the fear of needles disappears when one of those needles might make you feel less like power spewing all over the place). She told me to head back to my room and that after checking on another patient, she would meet me there for the jab in the tail. About half way back to my room, the pains I had been experiencing suddenly took on a decidedly more stabby feeling. The pains were so sharp that I grabbed onto the railing for support. I staggered back to my room and leant against the bed. If this wasn’t labour, then I had no idea what it was.
The midwife came into the room and said that she could hear me moaning and calling out in pain from up the hallway. I was so embarassed and immediately apologised. She laughed and said that, there was no need to apologise and that she could tell by the sounds I was making that I was genuine. She gave me the jab and suggested that she and I make our way over to one of the labour rooms. I was still quite overwhelmed with what was happening to me and followed her to the labour room. I could not believe that the gel had actually worked. Once we got there, I called Aaron and told him that this was not a drill and we were all systems go. In the 5 minutes that it took for him to arrive in the room with me, I had made a new best friend, Mr Gas & Air.
Much of the actual birth experience is still a blur for me. I feel as though that is some kind of self preservation technique. I’m incredibly lucky in that I’ve never had any serious injuries or experienced anything seriously painful. I’m a sissy girl all the way. What I remember of the next three hours is more short spurts of time here and there.
From being on the labour table, I was in the bathroom (gas in mouth of course!) leaning on a gym ball and Aaron was standing behind me with the shower head spraying hot water on my back. Every now and then I would look up to make sure that he was still there with me. I remember the intense waves of pain that would come all too frequently, the rest in between and the sound of Aaron’s encouraging and soothing words. The midwives would come in every so often and examine me and go back to the labour room again. At one point, I heard them say that we would hopefully have a baby in the next hour. I don’t know whether I thought it or said out loud, “Another hour of this? I can’t handle another hour of this!”
The urge to push came and I told them. Told…. shouted…. screamed, whichever. They told me not to push and that I needed to get back on the labour table for them to check how dialated I was. When they examined me, I was at 10cm (which for those who aren’t in the know, is the number of cm dialated when you can get to pushin’). The problem I had, was that my pesky cervix still hadn’t come forward. I assumed that it would have come to the party sometime over the last few hours. Apparently not. Nice work cervix. The midwife was explaining something (I have no recollection of what she said) and then got to what’s called ‘walking forward the cervix’. I won’t go into detail, and if you are keen on the specifics I’ll leave the info to your friend Mr Google. Suffice to say, during this process the pain was so intense that I jammed my eyes shut and screamed continually. I remembered shutting them so tightly that I could see white spots starting to appear behind my eye lids. The entire labour to this point combined could not match the pain that I experienced in that short (I’m guessing maybe thirty – sixty seconds) period of time. I heard the midwife tell me that it was over. It took some time for me to be able to pry my eyes open again. (Funnily enough, when I talked to Aaron about this part of the labour later on, he told me that I wasn’t screaming out loud. I guess I had been screaming in my own head. I had retreated into myself because I was so distressed.) When I did, my OB had arrived. It was baby time apparently.
The next half hour (maybe less, maybe more) went by in another blur. I remember them talking to me, telling me to keep pushing and to listen to the things that they were telling me. I remember clutching Aaron’s hand/ arm/shoulder/whatever I could get my greedy hands on and squeezing harder than I ever thought possible. (Turns out I did pretty well, he had to have some remedial repair work done on it as a result). At some point I got an injection in the top of my leg which I think may have been Pethadine. The OB said that it looked like the baby was stuck and that he might have to cut me. I remember telling him to do whatever he had to do. He gave me some needles in preparation. He then said that he thought he might be able to manage to get the baby out using suction. In the next few minutes it was over. My eyes were still shut, I think they had shut when I saw the OB walk in. I heard voices telling me that I had done it. That it was over. That our baby had been born.
I felt a warm, wet and squirmy weight on me and they told me to open my eyes. After a few seconds, I relayed the messages to my brain and pried my eyes open and laying on my chest was my Ollie. He was small and his eyes were wild. They took him away to clean him up and Aaron and I looked at each other stunned. After three and a half hours, we had a baby. A baby boy.
I have always heard women talking about how you forget the pain of child birth. I suppose for me, that is partially true. While I wouldn’t trade our beautiful (baby model worthy apparently according to the super keen lady we met the other day at the gardens) boy for anything, the experience of child birth is an experience that well and truly continues to play on my mind. Granted, not as often as it once did, but it’s still there. There were a couple of times while writing this post that I had to stop, for just a second or two and take some deep breaths to keep on going.
In the early days I felt an enormous sense of guilt for feeling this way. After all, I am so very lucky to have a healthy baby first and foremost. I know so many other women who have had legitimately traumatic child birth experiences. I felt as though I wasn’t deserving to feel so dark and consumed with my own seemingly routine run of the mill birth. The truth is that everyone deals with things differently. Some people are able to just get on with it and work through it in their own way. For me, it’s been an ongoing process that has been at times difficult and dark to say the least. I feel that after ten months of being a mother, I am finally feeling more like myself than I have in the last year and I’m proud of that.
Oh, and I no longer enjoy watching One Born Every Minute.