This birth story is really something special. I first met Judith during a meal back in 2005. She had prepared a Sunday roast dinner for her husband and 3 children and I was guest of honour. There was some element of pressure during this meal. I was on my best behaviour. Ensuring I used my cutlery correctly I tried to maintain my up most to impress her with my knowledge of the war in the Middle East whilst coming across as the sort of 20 year old young woman she may want to one day welcome into her family. The meal was a success, her cooking was delicious and I must have made an OK impression as I can now call her my Mother-in-law. She is an avid reader of my blog and very sweetly asked me if she could share her birth story when she had my husband 31 years ago this Friday! In honour of his birthday here is the story of how he made his entrance into the world. I like to think of this as a vintage birth story.
“I’d had a straightforward pregnancy – if you didn’t count the 16 weeks of non stop vomiting that is. You can really get fed up with mashed potato and fizzy water as sustenance, but otherwise, all was good. I’d been to a few NHS antenatal classes, after which all I could recall was the advice not to cross my ankles as they’d swell….
Right, bag’s packed, husband’s sandwiches are in the freezer – it’s September 18th 1982 – D day – so where’s the baby?
Being blissfully ignorant, we took as gospel the date we’d been given for our baby’s arrival. The day passed and I’d virtually given up hope of the baby arriving, and was sitting on the stairs watching my husband putting a new letterbox in our front door, when I became aware that I was sitting in a puddle – waters had broken!
No sign of contractions but after about half an hour, gentle waves started to break across my stomach and I became fascinated by looking like a beach ball being pumped up as each contraction hit. As per instructions from the hospital, we went in when the contractions were 5 minutes apart. As we drove into Cambridge, we were both nervous but excited. Blissful ignorance had kicked in again, but our rosy picture of peace and serenity was ruptured by a) the football sized crowd of other ‘parents in labour’, and b) the business-like ‘seen it all before’ attitude of the staff. Did they not know that we were having a baby??!!
We went into what looked and felt like a holding pen, where having been examined (3cm dilated), I refused to be shaved, but was badgered into having an enema – emerged feeling like c**p. Eventually, we were taken to the delivery room – to this day my husband and I think it was a stationery cupboard, not a delivery room (see photo), but hey ho…
The contractions were getting much stronger, and I was struggling to work with them. 2 cylinders of gas and air later, I was given pethidine and nodded off for an hour or so. Stuck on the bed with a monitor strapped round me, I felt like a beached whale, and very little was happening – except the baby was getting distressed – as was I as he had a foetal scalp monitor screwed into his head (or that’s what I imagined).
We’d arrived at the hospital at about 10pm, and it was now about 7am the following morning. Clive had been sitting with me, but we hadn’t brought any music (did anyone do that in those days?), no massage oils, no cushions, no anything really. A midwife had popped in from time to time to check on me – I didn’t have an assigned midwife, so it was whoever was passing, it seemed to me.
Another hour or so, and no further progress. I was in significant pain and started asking for an epidural (our birth plan had gone out of the window at the point I had pethidine). After a discussion between the midwives and the doctor who had turned up, it was agreed I should have an epidural and the anaesthetist arrived a few minutes later.
Blessed relief as the pain disappeared, but then the calm was broken by the doctor saying that the baby was passing meconium and needed to be born soon. Up to this point, we had been accompanied by a midwife, a trainee, and a doctor who called in from time to time. Suddenly the room filled up – and I do mean filled up. I counted 9 people in the room, some of whom looked as though they were on their way home from a party – a string of coloured beads round her neck in one case. I think they were hoping for something interesting (emergency C section?) to happen.
Clive moved to the head of the bed and gave me lots of encouragement, as at this point I felt I couldn’t go on any more. The anaesthetic was stopped (reduced? – can’t remember), and I was told to push after the next contraction. The baby wasn’t keen on emerging and I had an episiotomy – mention of forceps being made at this point! Eventually, after 14 hours of labour, and just about every chemical and medical intervention we could have had, Simon James arrived in the world at 10.10am on 19th September weighing 6lbs 13oz. The crowds melted away, and we were left to come to terms with our new world.
As I was stitched up, Clive and I sat with our new son, feeling shell shocked – the happiness would kick in later. All either of us wanted at that point was a cup of tea and a good sleep. When I was eventually wheeled to the ward, I was given Simon to hold, but for all the emotional attachment I felt at that moment, he could have been a bag of potatoes! Because of the epidural (?), he was very sleepy and didn’t really come round until much later in the day – when he did, he more than made up for it!
Simon was the first baby I had had any involvement with – I’d looked after babies as a babysitter, but the youngest had been 4 months, so a newborn was really scary.
The antenatal classes I went to were pretty well useless in terms of giving me real practical advice – we went to NCT classes for number 2.
At this point, we were still in the era of mothers (patients) being told what to do, and ‘active’ birth was considered faddy.
I was in considerable discomfort after the birth and finding it difficult to breastfeed, but had no help from the ward staff, who just told me to keep trying. Two weeks later, I gave up breastfeeding and Simon went onto a bottle.
Would I consider my first experience of childbirth a ‘good’ experience – no. But on the positive side, by the time number 2 came along, I was more confident about what I wanted, and didn’t want, and it was altogether a better experience.