The wonderful Hattie over at Free Our Kids has shared her birth story with her first baby Johnny. She is currently pregnant again and trying do parenting with a toddler free for a year. Yup I’m talking no clothes buying, toys buying, those expensive organic rice cake are a no no too. I really admire what’s she’s doing follow her journey over at her blog, it really will make you realise how much money we waste on unnecessary crap for our kids which they don’t really need. I recently wrote her a piece on ‘What Do You Really Need During Pregnancy’ and I’m currently writing her the next section for labour and birth.
Blog: Free Our Kids
Yesterday I was listening to two women talking about childbirth on the bus. “Yeah, it’s awful,” said one to her goggle-eyed friend, “but you totally forget about the pain afterwards.”
“HOW can you have forgotten pain like that?!” I wanted to leap over the seat and interrogate her, but the weight and size of my second baby bump kept me firmly in my place behind her. There are lots of things I can’t remember about my first labour. But the pain isn’t one of them.
Not that this is a scare story. I had a good birth. And here I am, two and a half years later, about to do it again, looking forward to it even, despite the fact that I can remember exactly how painful it was. I just don’t understand why everyone says that or how anyone can forget pain that searing, pain that rips you apart and welds you into a new person.
It’s one of the few things I can remember accurately about my son’s birth. It was almost exactly a fortnight after my due date, in the middle of a record-breakingly cold winter. It was early evening, I was due to be induced the next day and suddenly contractions started. I knew this was it, as soon as they began, and I felt strangely peaceful in the realisation. What I didn’t know was that:
a) he was nearly ten pounds
b) he was back to back
c) the car was going to get stuck in the snow so that we almost didn’t make it to hospital
d) that we’d be sent back when we did make it there, and told to wait until I’d progressed further even though contractions were the regulation three minutes apart already and I had no idea how we’d tell whether progress was being made on our own
e) that we’d spend the next hour walking diligently and slowly around our local neighbourhood in the deep snow, pausing for me to lean heavily on my husband with every contraction and terrify the children who were out building snow men
f) that when we finally made it back to hospital and were admitted at six centimeters dilated, the water birth I’d quite fancied would work so well and I would relax so deeply that labour would slow almost to a halt
g) that at some stage my waters would be broken and the four horseman of the apocalypse would gallop into the peaceful birthing centre to begin torturing my body and pillaging my sanity
h) that at another stage I would look over at my husband and see him bouncing on a birthing ball, reading Mojo magazine and eating a steak and ale pie and, in a strange moment of clarity, wonder how on earth the women I thought I was had become the woman in this room
i) that gas and air would make me feel sick to the pit of my stomach, that I would beg for an epidural and, in its absence, would settle for a half dose of the one drug I’d explicitly ruled out in my birth plan – pethadene
j) that at some stage there would be another moment of clarity and I’d find myself weeping in a bathroom, looking at my swollen, tear stained face and body, hearing the voices of full clothed, sane strangers next door and think exactly how degrading the whole process was
k) that I would stomp naked down a hospital corridor to another room where the promised epidural would materialise at the door like a trippy tea-trolley door at exactly the point when they realised it was too late, the baby was coming.
l) that I would be made, against an instinct so strong it felt like a brick wall, to lie down on a bed rather than stay standing up
m) that I would be so British that through all the pain, I would smile and say, “sorry, sorry, thank you, thank you”
All these things I remember as flashes through a fog of pain and sweat and strain. What I don’t remember, clearly, is what my husband tells me: the moment the baby emerged with the cord round his neck, that they took him to the other side of the room, briefly, to check he was okay and I shouted, “My baby! My baby! Give me my baby!”
I remember, next, him appearing on my chest. I remember him disappearing again while my husband supported me, shaking like an earthquake, in a shower. I remember tea and toast and a rectangular, clear plastic cot beside our bed, in the room that the midwives sneaked us into so that we could spend the night as a family.
I remember thanking the midwives, over and over again, and promising myself that I would go back with chocolates, and cake and champagne for the most amazing women I’d met in my life to date. I never did. But I still regret that I didn’t. And it’s pretty much the only thing on my birthing plan this time round: cake and thanks for the midwives.