My son has just turned two and as I contemplate the birth of my second child in May 2017, I’ve found myself reflecting on labour number one and just how life changing it was…
Long before my husband and I even considered having children, labour to me was a dirty word; a horrific form of torture that could only feasibly be dealt with by a swift elective caesarean. I was well and truly birth phobic, due largely to that fact that all the women in my family have experienced terrible labours and only ever speak of them with looks of ashen fear. With gynaecological genetics like this, how could I possibly be any different?
Fast forward a couple of years and with a beautiful swelling belly, something switched in my brain. When you’re faced with the reality of actually growing your own wee babby and pushing it out, something primal and natural and hopeful genuinely does take over. Add to the mix my number one saviour and
Hypnobirthing Hero, Hollie de Cruz aka @theyesmummum, she miraculously helped to transport me from a place of fear to a place of positivity.
About a month before Ivor was born my midwife told that me that he was posterior, which would most likely cause a longer, more painful labour. She also asked if big heads run in my family? Nice; just what every expectant mother wants to hear. I’m not going lie, having to do a myriad of special exercises, sit bolt upright on the sofa / on a pilates ball when all I wanted to go was vegetate and have acupuncture session after session was a right royal pain. But unlike the old me, I didn’t panic and freak out. I used my newly learnt hypno tools to breathe through the spiking anxiety.
The midwife wasn’t wrong. My birth was long – 48 hours from waters breaking, spine shatteringly challenging and yes, to this day, Ivor has a massive head. But what I still can’t quite believe, over two years later, is that I managed it and still feel positive about the whole experience.
My waters broke at 2am and due to some discolouration we had to go to the hospital to get checked out. Fortunately all was fine and a couple hours later we were sent home again but with the explicit warning that if we weren’t in active labour within 24 hours I’d have to be induced. The next day was spent mostly relaxing at home, walking, resting, eating donuts and embracing my ‘surges’ (or contractions to non-hypnobirthers) in a surprisingly (to me) calm way. We shipped off to hospital again, now 24 hours after my waters had broken, because of reduced foetal movements and what we thought were 3:10 surges.
Disappointingly I was only 4cm dilated and the doctors were pushing me to be induced given the time that had already passed. I was adamant that I didn’t want this to happen and luckily a kind midwife took pity on me and explained that the impatient doctor wouldn’t be back for at least two hours and to see how I got on in that time. Luckily I had dilated another 2cm and the army of doctors let me continue to progress naturally. This part is all a real blur of sickness, pain that I increasingly felt I couldn’t cope with, delirium and exhaustion – at this point I’d been in labour for almost two days and was utterly exhausted. On a cheery note, and I’ve no memory of this, apparently I ate some fish and chips in the middle of it all (you can take the girl out of Glasgow…).
In the end, I was given some kind of induction. Was it a hormone drip? I have genuinely no idea. I was just too zoned out. I relented and agreed to any help possible to get this baby moving and thankfully within a couple of hours the drip had worked and I was pushing. No-one warns you quite how vigorous this part is! I thought I would breath Ivor out like I’d seen in all those wonderful hypnobirthing videos but no, this stage was something akin to running a never ending marathon. But bloody hell do you feel like a hero at the end of it!
And so bang on his due date and after almost 3 hours of pushing (during which time I was continually told that if it didn’t happen soon I’d be having a caesarean) my beautiful wee Ivor was born. My husband delivered him, put him on my chest and eventually cut the chord. Nothing, absolutely nothing, prepares you for that moment of complete and utter emotional euphoria. So consuming is it that I was only vaguely aware that at this point I was haemorrhaging quite badly and needed an injection to stop the bleeding. Oh and the stiches – what joy!
Recounting all these details initially filled me with utter fear about doing it all again in May. I was in hospital for a good 5 days in total and it really does take every fibre of your being to grow, deliver and nurture a baby. I may not have had a dreamy home water birth on half a paracetamol and a couple of oms but I did break the pattern of birth trauma in my family and coped with all the challenges in a calm and controlled way. I have reminded myself of just how incredible the female form is and once I have shrouded myself in hypnobirthing confidence, I know that delivering number two will be just as positive and empowering an experience.
And now to life beyond birth… There are a million ways in which having a baby transforms your life. For me, beyond the joy, chaos and exhaustion, it gave me the confidence to leave my demanding commercial fashion producing job – a highly stressful, round the clock environment – and set up the business I’d been dreaming of and was only able to dabble in part time for many years. Dress Yourself Well is a styling service for individuals in need of a confidence boost, particularly following periods of life change, ill health and body transformation. Before having Ivor I had no idea how many wonderful mums I would work with, all adjusting to their new lives and bodies at varying stages of motherhood. Having gone through that journey myself I completely understand how challenging it can be.
Every week I meet mothers who are impatient with their post-partum bodies, struggling to feel themselves again or grappling with how to transition their wardrobe from the playground to the work place. My advice is always to be very, very kind to yourself, embrace your new body and learn how to dress efficiently and for your new shape. Lusting after old clothes that make you feel rubbish is the worst thing you can do and investing in some mood and confidence boosting alternatives is a great step towards reclaiming your sense of self. Mums, just as our birth stories shape and inform our lives, so too does taking the time to look after ourselves and feel the best we possibly can at such an unquestionably tender time.