I adore reading birth stories. I find them fascinating. I love to watch One Born Every Minute now, and Call the Midwife is probably my favourite recent TV series. I felt a little bad that I have been reading all these amazing birth stories but I hadn’t written about my birth experience. Rather than write a long spiel (we all know I can get carried away) I decided to tell you the things I didn’t know about birth which I discovered on the day.
Contractions might not be regular, but you could still be in actual labour! There I was in shitloads of pain worrying that I wasn’t even in real labour, because my contractions were so random. Everything I had read said that when you are in labour your contractions are definitely regular and become more frequent as you progress. With me, some were almost a minute long and 4 minutes apart and then I wouldn’t have another one for 12 minutes. Eventually we went to the hospital anyway as I was in so much pain – which was lucky as I was 4cm dilated and needed to be monitored because bubba’s heart rate was a bit shallow (or something like that?!).
At some points there will be so many staff in the room that you feel like a museum exhibition, being peered at and poked at! I had said yes to students coming in and because I was in the consultant-led ward there were midwives and doctors. To be fair I wasn’t really that bothered by this point at how many people saw me in a seriously undignified position; I was just hoping I would get through it with no major problems for the baby or me.
If you’re stuck in the bed during labour like I was and it’s nighttime, you might fall asleep in between contractions and then find the pain even bloody worse when you wake up to it. Add in the fact that your husband is snoring on the chair next to the bed and it all becomes a little stressful.
Everyone will tell you to listen to your body as you’ll know when to push and how long for…but honestly I don’t think I did. I kept telling the midwives that I couldn’t do it and they were all singing my praises telling me how great I was doing, which was nice but I genuinely didn’t feel like I was achieving much…luckily I was!
They might tease you with an epidural. I am sure this is a particular form of cruelty. They said I couldn’t have pethidine because bubba had pooed (meconium or whatever) and gas and air made me puke. When they offered me an epidural I was all for it; ‘YEAH! You won’t let me out of this fucking bed anyway so I may as well not feel the pain’. Unfortunately they then kept putting it off and eventually decided the birth was progressing too quickly. There’s a special kind of terror that comes with the realisation that you are suddenly having an entirely natural birth in a bed with your legs in stirrups, the staff swapping over and a dozing husband rather than in a relaxing giant bath as you’d once naively hoped.
You might be told not to shout/grunt/scream and to focus on pushing instead. I have a lot of issue with this. I saw it recently on One Born Every Minute where they quite sternly told the mother ‘No, you’re not pushing because you’re talking’ or something along those lines. I get the principle. It’s logical – if you’re expending energy on shouting or screaming (I felt talking was too far, that poor mother!) then you’re not putting all of that effort into pushing. And midwives/obstetricians/consultants have had a lot of training. BUT. You are pushing a baby from your body. Without pain relief in my case. Did I mention that? Yeah. I didn’t have any training for this other than some half hearted breathing attempts they gave me leaflets about in an antenatal class. Prior to that the worst physical pain (other than a hangover) I’d known were some bad headaches and a burnt wrist (I have been exceedingly lucky). You are scared and unsure and honestly it hurts so very much. If you need to grunt or shout or cry or scream I think they should back the fuck off and let you. They see multiple births every day but this is your first (or second or third etc) and it is understandable if you need to shout. It’s my baby’s birthday and I’ll cry if I want to, alright?
This point isn’t exactly something I didn’t know about birth – I probably should have predicted this one. Your husband may afterwards refer to forceps as ‘those barbecue tongs’ when discussing birth with the family. It’s funny but awful.
When that baby is put in your arms you can’t believe it is the same being that you’ve been waiting for and dreaming of and talking to and growing inside you. You love it and you are astounded that you actually managed to get it out of you (with interventions!). Hearing your child’s first cry is a beautiful moment.
When they tell you your baby weighs 7lb 4oz you have an enormous amount of empathy for women who give birth to big babies. How do they do it?!
You might lose a LOT of blood. Like horror film amounts. If you aren’t very careful this leads to an awkward moment where you pull the emergency cord in the loo as there is blood everywhere and you cannot attempt to clean it up alone.
At night when your other half has gone they tell you to leave your baby when you go to the toilet. You’ve read too many novels where babies get swapped or stolen to feel happy about this. Cue a lot of panicked, rushed weeing/changing pads…not an easy feat after birth!
Despite all of it you’d do it again, over and over if you had to, because no amount of pain compares to having your healthy, naked baby placed on your chest.
I’m sure there are other things I didn’t know about birth but we’ll leave it there. Let me know what surprises were in store for you!?