When it comes to pain, I am something of a drama queen (probably the under statement of the century if you ask Husband). So I was very aware that labour and childbirth may be a wee bit challenging for me. I therefore decided this would be the perfect opportunity to man up a bit and reinvent myself as a zen, earth-mother, pain-welcomer type and shun my wimpish old ways. So, how to achieve this?
The first tactic I employed was not to dwell on labour, or what may happen (basically complete denial). I had an idea of what I’d like, which was as natural as possible, but I was careful not to have this set in stone in my head. It was the one part of my pregnancy where I really did manage to relinquish control and have no preconceptions (read And so it begins for areas where I failed in this). I’d had too many friends have their hearts set on a natural birth only to need an emergency caesarean at the last minute, so I tried to keep a totally open mind. My aim was to simply go home with a healthy baby, however that was achieved. This helped relieve some of the pressure and expectation.
The other weapon in my arsenal (sorry, not particularly zen terminology) was a hypnobirthing audio programme that I bought from a specialist hypnotherapist. I started listening to the first discs around 24 weeks which focus on breathing and creating calmness, that kind of thing. It was actually lovely to have an excuse to take some time out on a daily basis to lie down and be quiet on my own. This was going to be a piece of cake! I was literally going to breathe this baby out, just like the relaxing voice was telling me! Ha, I’d totally got it sorted.
Soooo, flash forward to D-day. I went into labour at 3.30am on Friday morning after Dark Thursday. I say labour, I had mildly painful tightening every 5 minutes which, to be honest, I could almost ignore in the beginning. Husband was there, dutifully timing them all on his smart phone app (ha, we thought we were so in control). By lunch time they had only got a bit stronger, and I was starting to worry that this was all actually a false start. It was a really beautiful day and we have a park next to our house, so Husband suggested a ‘quick’ walk in the fresh air. Now, I’ve known this man for 16 years, and I should have been a bit more suspicious of his ‘shortcut’, but I was a bit pre-occupied with the whole having-a-baby thing. So after AN HOUR of uphill walking, sweating (not glowing) and with regular, now quite strong contractions, I was beginning to have a serious sense of humour failure. I saw my midwife at 3pm to see if she could tell me if this was the real deal or not. It was, she said. 2cm and contracting. So she did a little ‘something’ to help it along (I’ll spare you the detail).
That really kicked things off- the pain was strong but there was definitely a sense that it was purposeful and productive rather than just ‘for the sake of it’. I was adamant to stay zen, so on went Mrs. Relaxy-Pants telling me to breathe and go to my ‘special place’ through my iPod headphones. I was managing to follow her voice during the contractions, until Husband pulled my focus by cracking a joke, for which I promptly kicked him in the shin and struggled through the rest of the contraction swearing and crying a bit. He didn’t do that again. I managed a bath but at 9pm the breathing was only helping a bit and the contractions were coming every minute and a half. So, we called the birthing unit and made our way there in the sodding Honda Jazz. Husband told me repeatedly how proud he was of me and how calm I was being. I smiled gracefully and told him not to get too excited incase I wasn’t very far along (secretly feeling very smug as my mothers intuition was telling me I was at least 8cm by now). We arrived in 30 minutes, parked the sodding Jazz, and I slowly made my way into the birthing unit where I was greeted and examined by a friendly looking midwife, who was about to ruin my life.
“You’re only 3 centimetres.” she chirped. 3 centimetres. Three. Bloody. Centi. Metres. If you didn’t see it above, I was 2cm at 3pm. 6 hours of zen breathing and positive imagery had earned me a single, measly centimetre. She advised we return home in the sodding Jazz as I may be labouring for hours, “or even days.” I’m not going to lie, I lost it. I cried all the way home. Any hope of focussed breathing was lost as I sobbed through each, now very painful, contraction. I shouted at Husband for telling me how he proud he was of me, I shouted at myself for being so weak and crap at handling pain. We got home and I just couldn’t get my focus back, it was hurting so much. How could this only be 3cm?! I couldn’t sit down, I couldn’t stand up, oof, I was beside myself! After 30 minutes and trying to shoehorn me back into the bath to no avail, Husband made the executive decision to take me back to the birthing unit as I clearly needed some pain relief.
So, back we went in the sodding Jazz.
Husband asked if I’d like the hypnobirthing CD on in the car. My response went something like: “If I have to listen to that smug wench one more time-” after which he promptly turned it off. I haven’t seen that CD since.
When we arrived back at the birthing unit I was kind of involuntarily mooing at the security guard on the front desk who kept telling me my name wasn’t on the list and I wasn’t getting in. I sunk down onto my knees for a contraction as the door to the unit swung open and the midwife who sent me home looked me up and down and commented quickly to her colleague “She seems to have progressed a bit, just get her in a room.” Cheers love, would have been great if you’d said that last time.
So, having told them earlier that I wanted a water birth, I had now decided I wanted any drug they were willing to give me. However, I wasn’t asked again so was put in a room with a pool and a different midwife came in and examined me. 7cm. BOOM! Now we’re talking! I high- fived Husband and felt a bit prouder of myself, until the next wave hit and the mooing and crying recommenced. I noticed the midwife had left the room, so (in my head) I politely asked Husband to go and get her so I could try some gas and air. At this point he made his only mistake through the entire labour. He told me to be patient as she’d be back in a second. Tumbleweed. Deafening silence. “Are. You. Freaking. Kidding. Me?” I replied through clenched teeth. I stared him down, thinking of what I could use as a weapon, but lucky for him she returned and handed me the gas and air. I managed about two minutes on it before giving it back as I felt completely smashed, sick and unprepared for the contractions which seemed to creep up without me noticing. So, into the pool I went.
It was lovely. I’m very much a bath kind of person and it definitely took the edge off the pain and allowed me to move about in a (fairly) weightless way, but I didn’t conduct myself quite in the Zen way I’d hoped- a number of choice words were shouted at every contraction, and every recovery period inbetween was spent apologising for being loud and sweary, only for the cycle to start again seconds later. After another 20 minutes I was at 10cm- So much for breathing this baby out! It was going to take helluva lot of pushing, like every other baby in history. It was hard work and it felt like Pickle was never going to make an appearance. I remember asking the midwife after every contraction “Will they be here after the next one?” and her apologetic expression as she told me “Not quite yet”. There’s nothing quite so disappointing as hearing that when you working harder at something than you’ve ever worked before. I fell asleep between contractions at one point through sheer exhaustion, only to pepped up and force fed Haribo Tangfastics and half a banana by Husband to keep me going.
At 03.38 on Saturday morning and after a 24 hour and 8 minute labour we welcomed our gorgeous Pickle into the world, all 7lb and 11oz of her. It was totally worth every second. She was blissed out and calm, just staring around the room and trying to focus on us. I certainly didn’t feel inclined to do it all again immediately, but I finally understood what everyone had been talking about when they said that the pain didn’t really matter once they arrived. It’s very surreal to see your baby for the first time, the little one that has been squirming around and kicking you for almost a year. I knew logically that they’d be a little human, but it still seemed miraculous that she came out so perfect and formed. Standing up and walking afterwards was like watching Bambi on gin- I had no control over my legs and I felt like I was going to quite literally fall apart, but I didn’t care. I’d managed to give birth using only water, although not quite in the zen manner I’d hoped. But you know what, that was good enough for me.
So 8 hours later, Drunk Bambi, Husband and Pickle walked out of the hospital and drove off into the summer sun as a new little family…in the sodding Jazz.