Some women will tell you child birth is empowering, a beautiful and magical experience where they felt like they could conquer the world. I am not one of those women. I appreciate the beauty in the moment that is bringing a child into this world, trust me; I am a mess every time I see a child being born on TV. I understand what an absolute miracle it is that this perfect tiny human has grown inside you and is now in your arms, but after the birth of my son I was not empowered, I was exhausted. I felt like I had been hit by a truck and then forced to run a marathon.
In hindsight I wasn’t mentally prepared for labour.
My whole pregnancy I had avoided that section of the pregnancy books. My husband and I never really discussed what we wanted to happen in the delivery room. My birth plan consisted of 1. Get the baby out and 2. Keep us both safe. I did not have big ambitions for a peaceful, calm and drug free birth, I just wanted the baby out and if possible no scissors or forceps would be used. I did not want an epidural, not because I wanted to experience the feeling of labour, but because the idea of a catheter really freaked me out.
As a pregnant woman I would swing from being scared of labour to being excited about it. It was never fear of the pain, I knew it would hurt, although I couldn’t have imagined how much, it was always more fear of the unknown. What was about to happen to me? How would my body react? Would I stay myself, or would I transform into someone else, swearing violently at the doctor and my husband? Or the worst thought of all, would I be one of those urban birth myths that you hear about, the horror stories of emergency caesareans and blood transfusions?
Forty one weeks into my pregnancy I was no longer scared of labour, I was praying for it. I spent majority of my last day of pregnancy bouncing on a Swiss ball, watching Revenge and telling my baby it was time to come out. When my legs were too tired to bounce anymore I laid on the couch and there it was, my first contraction. My husband, Duncan, was at work. Panic, I didn’t want to be home alone when this was happening. He raced home and there we were, me in labour and Duncan checking the chart that the hospital had given us, trying to match my contractions and pain levels to see how far along I was. Like I needed a chart, I knew this was it, the baby was coming.
My preparation for labour did consist of hiring a TENS machine and for that I was grateful. We put it on at home and despite the initial shock I received from having it on the incorrect setting, I found it helped. It kept me at home for four more hours. When we finally made it to the hospital it was 1am, I was a private patient in a public hospital and because of that the midwife would not examine me. I was devastated. She couldn’t even tell me how far along I was, couldn’t give me an idea of how well I was doing or how long I had to go. That’s when the vomiting started. Violent and uncontrollable. It was disgusting. I lasted until 2am before they had to call my doctor for permission to give me an anti-nausea injection. It was my saviour. Now all I had to worry about was the contractions. Easy, right?
By this stage the TENS was no longer working, the hot water could not get hot enough to help me and the gas made me feel like I was going to faint. I wanted and needed something stronger, Pethidine. The drug that made me see little French speaking bugs on my bed also gave me a rest for an hour or two. The edge was taken off and both Duncan and I were able to have a break. Somewhere in my drug affected haze the doctor had come in to break my waters and conduct MY FIRST examination of the night. A process that can apparently be quite uncomfortable I hardly felt, thank you to the inventor of Pethidine for that one. I was 9cm. Not much longer now… Or so I thought, it was 5.30am.
I was going into this stage of labour with false hope. About a week before I was due to give birth a very cruel person had told me that once you get to the ‘pushing part’ of labour it doesn’t hurt anymore. I was holding on to this. I was in labour telling myself, just get to 10 cms and it won’t hurt anymore. After experiencing what it is like to push a child out I am now calling bullshit on this person.
Twelve hours after that first contraction on the couch I had finally reached the time where my body was ready to push this baby out. This would have to be one of the most frustrating things I have ever done in my life. I really did not know what I was doing and I think the fact that I was pushing for an hour and a half before we had any progress showed that. Body position at this point in labour is crucial. Nothing was happening until I moved on to my back legs in the stirrups, a position I was trying to avoid because I was told it was not an easy way to deliver, proving there is no one right answer for childbirth. Whatever dignity I had left was now gone.
With every contraction the midwife used the Doppler to check my baby’s heart rate, a process I begin to find extremely annoying as I didn’t want anyone to touch me. I was clueless as to how to push for long enough to move him anywhere. In the end I was asking the midwife who I had previously asked to please stop touching my stomach to tell me when I was having a contraction. I reached the point where I told Duncan I couldn’t do it anymore, I was just so tired. I honestly don’t remember much else from this stage of the labour that is until 10.50am. Someone had come into the room asking my doctor when he would see patients at his clinic in town to which he said ’11.30’ that meant I had 40 minutes to get this baby out. At 11.00 he said to me ‘three more pushes and if it’s not out I’m getting it out’ he pulled back a sheet that was hanging over a surgical trolley and I could see the scissors and forceps. That was it. We had a baby in three more pushes, 11.15am on the 13thof November my baby made his entrance into the world.
When I think of my labour I can’t remember exactly how it hurt but I remember that it did hurt. Looking back beyond the point of what happened after Leo was born is actually pretty hard because once he was born, the getting there part doesn’t really matter anymore. When I think of the delivery room I don’t think of the pain I felt or how I spent most of the night pacing the room in and out of the bathroom, I think of the moment I had a slippery and perfect baby on my chest. I found my son beautiful but I did not find the labour beautiful, I found it undignified, long, tiring and frustrating.
I am not the one to tell you how horrible labour is, as you can see I do not have a horror story. Duncan and I got through it with minimal psychological scarring, I will do it again and he will come with me. I wear my labour story like a badge of honour. I am proud of the fact that I delivered a 9lb 13oz baby naturally, it is only now, months later that I am able to see how wonderful that makes me feel as a woman and mother.