In the weeks before having my first child, I googled “what does giving birth feel like?” so often, I missed hours of days and too many episodes of EastEnders.
I’d all but forgotten the terror, anxiety and paranoia until yesterday in a cafe I overheard an antenatal group of women discussing what they expected and what they’d heard.
Even as I went through child birth, I remember thinking I had to put the experience into words – as I hadn’t come across anything close in description to the actuality online.
So, this is what it was like for me – me alone.
Many women describe contractions as like acute period cramps.
For me, it was more like ..well, have you ever had mild food poisoning?
Not all-out vomiting but stomach cramps which tense all your abdominal muscles and are all-consuming for a short period of time? That’s what it was like but heightened – less localised and more starting in the stomach and taking over your body – for a short period of time.
I’m sure ‘beautiful’ is not the word I’d have chosen in those moments of ‘pain’ but I look back now and think it was one of the most beautiful experiences I had. A baby ready to come out was doing that to my body and what could be more natural?
Eventually, the pushing stage came and I’d liken it to..you know when you’ve run a long distance and the finishing line is almost there and you know you’ve got to muster just a bit more strength and stamina?
Just like that. Your lungs don’t hurt – I can’t see any reason they would – when having a baby.
But for me it was that feeling – when your organs have worked so hard and you have to summon all your determination and oxygen to make a final push.
Everyone has their own story. I started in a birthing pool and bouncing ball eating sweets and nuts.
Twenty five hours later, Jamie could see Monty’s head (I kid you not) – I’d done the pushing bit. I feel I can say I ‘did’ labour. Then I did the forceps. Then I did the emergency section. I could have been there five days and Monty wasn’t for coming out…in the words of one midwife. I’m small and my husband is big – it’s perhaps that simple.
I’ll leave out the bits in between (not because they’re scary or bad, just to stop this being a novella and I guess a lot of it is personal – beautiful moments between my husband and I) but my point is so positive.
Even though this was not my dream birth and far from it, everything was amazing (albeit partly in retrospect).
Ah yes, I remember thinking I should tell you this truth too: it hurst. Contractions hurt – there’s no getting away from that. I can hardly remember that now. But it’s ok, you get through it and in perspective, it’s so fleeting. An hour or two even for some (lucky ducks).
After 16 hours I took drugs – an epidural and diamorphine and the pain went away completely. It was bliss because I’d been through a lot of effort and was tired. I was asking one of the surgeons if they were wearing ‘Happy’ perfume by Clinique and she was telling her colleagues they had a ‘relaxed one’ on the table. I can see why you shouldn’t take diamorphine too often. It was amazing.
You might have your dream home birth with candles, or in a pool with hypnotherapy waves crashing in the background. Or you might opt for (or have no choice) pain relief and lots of it. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for the choices you make What’s stronger than your own instinct?
My second experience was totally different – a planned section.
From a practical point of view, the only thing I’d say is that (first time) I was told to go into thee midwife centre – where there are no drugs save gas and air. I tried to check in to the normal hospital ward (instinct) but had to start in the midwife centre because I was ‘green-lighted’ and so had no health issues. I stayed there for 16 hours before it was clear I had to be moved. Thankfully the hospital labour ward with docs and surgeons was just down a corridor and up a lift.
And ultimately, we were lucky and blessed enough (so overused as terms it can sound trite – but, seriously, it feels like a miracle) to have a healthy baby boy at the end. Then another second time. And what they all say is true – that wipes out all the stuff that came before. Otherwise, no one would go back for more.