As another day of endless rain descends on the UK during the height of Summer and I look desperately at my toddler hoping she won’t grow up and hate me for taking her to Sainsbury’s for the third time this week (look its indoors, it sells a great selection of flowers AND there’s a Starbucks), I have a small glimmer of hope that in 5 weeks we will be on holiday!!!! The blue skies and hot Mediterranean sun makes me happier than nothing else in this world (apologies if that’s sounds shallow) but my husband will agree. I’m a completely different person on holiday yes Vitamin D and me are the best of friends. But there is the small issue of bikinis, and with bikinis comes the 2babies/haven’t done exercise since last summer/always says yes to cake, tummy.
So I’ve started running. Only once around my local park (it has a huge hill) and I hate it. I really really hate it. I know I could have joined the gym but I would have only sat in the sauna for 2 hours and to be honest I really dislike exercising in front of skinny people especially in confined spaces. So the park seemed like the best option but when I reach that point (usually 10 minutes in) when I feel like I’m going to die, the stitch in my side is unbearable and that disgusting taste has developed in my mouth I think about labour. Not just when I was in labour but when I’m with a woman helping her through the toughest points. Let me tell you a little story of Zoe.
Zoe and Ben were having their first baby; she came into hospital at 39+5 weeks during one of my night shifts and was found to be 6cm dilated, membranes intact contracting strongly. I suggested she should try the birthing pool and an available room was found. As the pool was filling she started using gas and air and was finding the contractions really painful and difficult to cope with. The pool was ready and she got in and immediately relaxed. Her waters broke half an hour late and she started making involuntary pushing sounds with each contraction. My student and I stood back and waited quietly as we observed this amazing stage of labour. After about an hour of pushing, Zoe started getting really tired and fed up. She couldn’t understand why her baby hadn’t been born yet and wanted to get out of the pool and have an epidural. I reassured her that her baby would be here soon and she was doing such a fantastic job. I suggested putting her finger inside her vagina to see if she could feel her baby’s head (I hadn’t examined her at this point) and she said she could and it didn’t feel that far away! This gave her some encouragement that she really was close to meeting her baby. But exhaustion had kicked in and the contractions had started to wear off. I asked Ben what snacks they had in the bags and he produced some Flap Jacks and a bottle of Lucozade. We fed this to Zoe and with a bit of nipple stimulation the contractions came back with a vengeance. But Zoe still found it difficult to get through those last few pushes. I asked Zoe if she had ever run a marathon which she said she had done a 10K a long time ago so I used this analogy to help her focus and visualise.
Labour is like running a marathon; it’s really hard, really physically painful and you will push your body in ways you never thought possible. But you will do it, you can do it and there’s a finishing line, meeting your baby. Zoe gave her absolute everything in those last few pushes and birthed a beautiful 8lb 5onz baby boy.
And that birth story isn’t the exception. So many times I have heard (and also myself) women say ‘I can’t do it’ during labour. Birth is probably the hardest thing your body has to go through but self-belief, a bit of preparation and support from your birth partner means you most definitely can do it.