My birth plan was fairly simple.
There was a midwife led birth unit attached to our local hospital. Once my contractions started, I intended to turn up. If I was lucky, one of the rooms with a bath would be available and I’d have a water birth.
I considered having a home birth but, while the current thought seems to be that it’s more relaxing and a better experience doing it at home, I thought I’d find being in hospital a lot less stressful.
I was quite happy to let nature take its course and have my body push the baby out on its own but I wanted to know that if anything went wrong, there’d be a crack medical team right next door ready to whip into action.
For me, that meant the smell of disinfectant was a much more relaxing notion than any amount of whale music, or scented candles. I’d researched the various pain relief options, and knew the choices and the risks. My plan was to avoid pain killers as far as possible, but I was aware that I might change my mind once the pain actually started.
I was as prepared as I could be, and quite relaxed about it.
When I went past my due date I didn’t worry because I knew most first babies are overdue by an average of eight days (although the constant cries of ‘Is he here yet?’ from friends and family was intensely irritating)
I put off induction because I knew that it came with increased risk of complications, but in the end I wasn’t given an option and I went into the hospital to be induced at 15 days overdue.
I went in at 9am and was given medication to induce labour. I can’t remember what it was called but it was kind of like a tampon.
Contractions started almost immediately.
What I didn’t know and wish I’d been told, is that it needs to be removed as soon as contractions start or you risk something called uterine hyperstimulation. This means that your uterus contracts too hard, and too long for your stage of labour. In other words: super contractions.
The pain was immediate and intense and overwhelming. I’d intended to go without pain relief as long as possible but I didn’t last long.
I was offered gas and air. This made me throw up.
Then I was offered pethadine and I took it. It’s supposed to relax you – so much for some women that they fall asleep until they’re ready to give birth.
All it did for me was make me pass out in between contractions and wake up every time the pain hit, so it pretty much felt like that for the four or so hours it lasted that I was having one big long never ending contraction.
I was relieved when it wore off, and I could think in between the pain.
During this time I didn’t dilate much – only two or three centimetres if I remember correctly – and because I was being induced I was stuck in bed with a monitor strapped to my stomach, so I couldn’t move around.
By eleven o’clock that night, nothing much had happened although I was still in a lot of pain and going through the super contractions. Finally, I was offered an epidural.
Like so many women in labour, I was torn. I wanted the pain to end but I’d been schooled to believe I should leave it as long as possible.
It didn’t take the first time, so it had to be done a second, and at about midnight, I realised I was an idiot. I’d put up with hours of intense pain and I hadn’t had to. It was wonderful, and I even got to have some sleep.
Not much happened overnight, although I do remember thinking I never expected to have so many people putting their hands up my bits in one short period.
Finally at about ten the next morning, it was stated that I was at nine centimetres and almost there. Yay!
The epidural was dialled back and I was ready to go.
A little later, someone else checked and told me I was at four centimetres.
Someone else came to check, and then the consultant, and finally it was decided that my cervix had collapsed.
I was told to sit forward. I’m not sure what this was supposed to do. Make it fall open, I guess.
It didn’t work. What did happen is my body, not knowing I was waiting for my cervix to fall open, decided it was time to start pushing.
This is how I got into the situation of spending some time with my body trying to shove the child out all on its own and the midwife shouting useful tips at me like: ‘Stop pushing’, and my personal favourite: ‘Just hold it in!’
Ultimately, there wasn’t enough space to get him out through my cervix and he stayed where he was.
This was when I was offered a c-section, and I said, ‘Yes, please.’
The epidural was dialled back up and after a short wait for a theatre to become free, I was wheeled in and cut open.
It all happened remarkably quickly, and I could feel all of it: not the pain but I could feel them kneading my stomach and pushing the baby out.
Then I heard him cry.
It’s common not to bond with your baby immediately. It’s normal to take some time to love him. I was prepared for that.
I didn’t expect to have my world reset (to steal the words from a well known columnist). I started crying.
My husband handed me my son.
I know what newborns are supposed to look like. They’re red and angry, and their features are swollen with hormones – maybe a bit pointy and squashed from going through the birth canal.
I didn’t get one of those. I got this perfect, calm little baby with smooth creamy skin, and big dark eyes. He looked back at me with definite curiosity.
It was a perfect moment.
I haven’t mentioned my husband much in all this. This is because he spent most of the labour doing what most husbands do during labour – standing around feeling helpless while his wife was in pain.
It didn’t matter because he did what I really wanted from him – just to have him there and know he was there.
Finally, these are the four things I learnt from my birth experience and am keen to pass on:
- Avoid being induced if you possibly can.
- If you are induced with one of those little tampon things, take it out as soon as you get your first contraction.
- Don’t be a martyr. No one will give you a medal for going through unnecessary pain, and if they did that would make them an idiot. Don’t be shy about asking for an epidural.
Finally, remember the pain is finite. It will end, and then, sooner or later, you will also have your perfect moment.