So I spent last night dreaming about giving birth.
And no it was not a nightmare.
Falling pregnant at 16 I was determined to be great mum, not just a good one. I was at the time, ashamed of my age, but not that I would be a mum. I was so proud and I was going to do it right from the get go.
I attended two separate ante-natal and birthing classes, one run by my local hospital which I had to pay for and another especially for under 25’s and it was more of a discussion morning tea which overlapped with a young parents play group so we could chat and get some hands on experience.
I had to walk or catch the bus to get to each of these.
I had piles of books I’d read religiously.
I didn’t assume I knew everything about babies and giving birth but I knew everything that was written in these books or spoken in the classes.
I also was babysitter to my cousins babies whenever I had the chance and never missed an opportunity to snuggle up with any baby in the vicinity.
The day I went into labour was exciting.
In the beginning.
I was having regular contractions which I had begun to notice while in the bath. They were 7 mins apart to start with so I got out a note-book and started jotting down the time. Around mid night they started coming at 5 mins apart, but still I couldn’t say that I was in any kind of pain, I was uncomfortable and excited enough to not sleep.
I called the hospital at mid night. They told me to stay at home as long as I left comfortable.
I panicked a little at this point because I thought ‘As long as I feel comfortable? I know the way labour works in theory and contractions are going to get quicker and stronger, when do I come to hospital did you say? Any specific time? No, hmm alright….?’
When I am no longer comfortable?
Is that when the head is out?…
My father woke at 2 am and panicked, I told him I was fine and happy to stay at home and that I had spoken to the hospital, but once the word ‘labour’ was mentioned that was it, he bundled me up and drove me to the hospital.
I felt like a fool. The contractions were still so manageable that when the midwife asked if I’d been having contractions and I replied ‘Im having one now’ she simply did not believe me.
However she entertained me and checked me out.
Her eyebrows just about shot off her forehead.
Your 4cms dilated so you have been busy, is all she said.
Ok, great…… And now what do I do?…
‘Go home, rest, call someone to keep you company.’
I went home called my mum, she was an hour away and also 7 months pregnant herself (but that is another, interesting story entirely.)
She turned up and we chatted, hung around the house, I couldn’t manage to eat anything I was so excited.
By that afternoon my contractions were noticeably stronger.
My mum said it was time to go to hospital when I had an overwhelming urge to swear at ‘things’
Again I was like….’it doesn’t say that anywhere in the books or classes I attended!’
We hopped in the car to pick up my little brother and sister from school. We stopped around the corner from my sisters high school at a reasonable distance as to not be an embarrassment for her and waited.
Oh, ow, *a car drives by* …You stupid, car, bit of Sh*t!
‘Mum I think I need to go to the hospital now.’
And I meant NOW!
My sister, as we watched, slowly sauntered her way to the car, waving and chatting to people as she strode by.
I myself was thinking and possibly mumbling ‘hurry up, hurry up, hurry up.’
She jumped in and was shocked and amazed and happy as we sped off to our next stop. To pick up little Matto. Apparently we’d taken too long and he’d started walking home we stopped by him on the road side and my sister called ‘She’s in labour! GET IN THE CAR!’
Oh my, I was still a teen and that was shameful.
I was in full on labour now, and everything I had heard or read or experienced went out the window. No one can ever be prepared for child-birth. No one. Not the first time.
I walked the hospital grounds until a fresh contraction came. I would stop, sit and bounce my legs on the balls of my feet, hushing everyone and everything around until it passed.
The midwives kept shoving stuff in my face. Try this, try this.
They gave me yoga balls. They put me in the shower, they gave me yoga balls IN the shower.
They sat my ON the toilet with pillows. This felt so wrong.
They gave me heat packs, cold packs.
Tennis balls and lip balm.
Try shutting up and leaving me alone, is what I was thinking.
I didn’t speak to anyone, but there were many thoughts going through my head. I actually thought I DID speak some of these things out loud and was later told I was silent.
I know that at one point I stopped and cried.
‘I’m hungry and tired, I just want to sleep.’
At this stage it was about 6pm. Over 24 hours since I had eaten or slept.
I shut up quickly and kept going. I really didn’t have a choice after all. I had decided the only pain relief I needed if anything at all would be gas.
I asked for the gas, I was told to suck until I heard a rattle. I didn’t hear a rattle, they told me to keep sucking.
I sucked so much I ended up hyperventilating! Every muscle in my body quivered and tensed. So horrible and not what I needed right then.
Anyway…giving birth sucked too.
I screamed. I screamed with each push so loud that I couldn’t hear myself within my own head.
I remember my mum saying ‘look at all the hair!’
Sarcastically I was thinking ‘Your looking at the wrong stuff mother!’
I was so uncomfortable laying up on that bed, I knew I thrashed around a bit and in the end gave birth to my first daughter laying on my side with a midwife propping my leg up in the air.
I felt like an idiot. I looked like an idiot.
I can honestly say that not one minute of that birth was enjoyable. Memorable yes, but that was because it was traumatic!
But the first thought I had when seeing my baby was ‘I could have done it a million times over for this.’
So five years later being pregnant with Sophie, I knew what I didn’t want.
A traumatic birth. Screaming didn’t do anything for me. Such a waste of time and energy I didn’t have.
I wasn’t going to scream, I researched everything myself. And decided on a water birth. I also took calming music asked to have the lights dimmed and was totally in charge of every aspect of giving birth to my baby, I didn’t listen to anyones opinion, I threw out all my books and skipped on the classes.
Except that not everything goes to plan and Sophie was induced, but once labour started I was it was my experience and it was going to be a good one.
The music I ditched almost immediately. I liked the silence.
I soothed the labour pains in the hot shower and once it got worse and close to the end I asked for the bath to be filled.
The shower gave me two things I knew would calm and relax me. No annoying clothes and things touching my skin and water.
Naked and water.
Thats my thing.
I jumped in, well, I wasn’t that energetic. I was helped in slowly and reclined back against the side and was given an icy cold cloth for my forehead and icy water to sip on.
I was sweating from the warm bath and well, you know from being in labour! But the contrast between warm bath and icy cloth on my face.
The water was such a different experience. I could feel every muscle working together, I felt weightless and the bath gave me something else I hadn’t thought of.
Anyone on the outside of the bath had a distance to get to me. They couldn’t touch or harass me.
I needed space to work people!
I knew when I began to push I hit the button and the midwife came back. I was concentrating so hard on what I was doing.
But had a thought of ‘I can’t do this’ creep in and I began to move around as if to get away from the situation, and started moaning. My midwife just told me to concentrate.
‘Think about what your doing.’
‘oh yeah giving birth. Thanks!’
It helped. I stopped fighting it and gave into what my body was doing. I worked through it and gave birth shortly after. I was not traumatized. I felt relieved and happy and so at peace with what I had just achieved.
So another two water births down and my last birth experience (Molly) I can honestly say I concentrated so hard I felt like I passed over into a meditative state. I convinced my body into thinking the pushing was a good thing. How is it not a good thing? I’m about to see my baby!
I was more concerned for Glen. I chatted to him in between contractions and tried to distract him. I was fine. He wasn’t so much.
My waters broke. He left quick smart to get the midwife. (There was a button right by where he was sitting.) He came back and saw her head. He left. He ran into the midwife at the door. Molly was in my arms.
I am not saying I do not feel pain, but I have had each birth to perfect what works for me. I have had each baby to remind me that the rewards far exceed the work needed to have them.
I don’t fight with my body anymore, I relax, take a breath and let it all go.
In my opinion, labour wards need way more pictures of fresh slimy newborns, puffed out sweaty mothers with smiles. It’s so easy to forget in the midst of all that….. ‘work’ I’ll call it, what your there for. You just want someone to make it all go anyway.
And we give up way too easily.
We’ve been created to do this amazing thing and again, in my opinion, caesareans and epidurals are handed out like candy to crying children.
Take this and be quiet.
So in my dream I was in labour. I was happy.
I was excited and I know I can do this.
Pain is not a word I relate to giving birth. It’s a beautiful thing and is a purposeful means to an extraordinary end.
Sometimes I think one day I would like to become a midwife or perhaps a doula (among many other things.) I can’t keep having my own babies forever, but women will be having babies forever and if I can help just one woman have a beautiful, meaningful, natural experience that they can look back on with joy and happiness, and without the trauma I felt with my first then I’d be happy with that.
So I feel that Buddy will be a happy relaxed baby as I have nothing to fear and haven’t got a single thing to feel anxious about. (Which I think is why some mums have difficult newborns first time around, I know that my was my case.)
So until the day I feel my first contraction I will be peacefully awaiting it with a smile on my face.
Well, chasing children around and wiping marks from walls, dealing with tantrums and playing tea parties.
Maybe not peaceful, but certainly a part of it.
Giving birth is but a small moment of a very fulfilling and painful job that is being a mum.
To all the mums I admire and give me inspiration to be a better one every single day.