Define “giving birth”.

 This is actually going to end up being quite a serious post I think. I have never really discussed my experience of birth with anyone. After a rough patch in the first couple of weeks after we came out of hospital, Dan and I reflected on parts of it together but I’ve never reviewed it in detail. (Don’t worry, it’s not a gory story.) Also I should put a disclaimer on this and say that this will be accurate according to my memory of it only, and I had quite a lot drugs in the end. So let’s face it, this could be a complete fabrication. 

I had a wonderfully easy pregnancy. In the early days, up to about 17 weeks, I suffered with morning sickness. This led to me throwing up in some quite funny places, such as Tesco car park and my own front garden. Grim! Whilst in Stanstead airport waiting to fly to Majorca, we discovered that the sickness could be negated by scotch pancakes and orange juice. I spent the next few months with a stash of these in my handbag. It turns out that permanent snacking is a real skill of mine, so even this phase passed with relative ease. 

The next four to five months basically consisted of me going about my normal life but just being a lot fatter and heavier. Public toilets seemed to shrink and places seemed to get further away. It was wonderful to start feeling movements and to share these with Dan, but aside from that I was genuinely indifferent to being pregnant. Midwife appointments came and went with also no event. It was plain sailing really. 

At 40 weeks I was offered a membrane sweep and because that did nothing, literally nothing, I had another at 41 weeks. Nearly two days after this, my waters broke. Not like movie style gushing, but just a trickle. I wasn’t in labour though so I called the hospital to let them know. They said if it hadn’t started in 12 hours to go in for assessment. Well, again, nothing happened so we trundled up the hospital at about 8 in the evening. 

Three hours later we were heading home. They had confirmed my waters had gone but also that labour wasn’t happening either. Due to the risk of infection I was booked in for an induction at noon the next day. We didn’t make it that long. 

After an hour in bed I woke up at 1 in the morning, having some fairly serious contractions that were approximately four minutes apart and getting closer. I had a bath and a paracetamol (waste of bleeding time) and vaguely remember eating some Mini Eggs. (As an aside, Emily might be approximately 90% made of Mini Eggs. That’s what happens when you have a baby around Easter time.) We called the hospital and then told us to wait as long as possible, so I waited an hour or two and called back. In the time between the two phone calls the midwife led unit had filled up and gone were my chances of using a birthing pool. We went to delivery suite. 

The delivery suite was perfectly fine. The staff were wonderful and highly professional but it certainly looks like a hospital. There is nothing to make you feel relaxed or at ease. Oh sorry I forgot there was a jug of water and two cups. I knew that having access to a deep warm bath would be my ultimate weapon in the war against the pain but all I had was a tepid shallow tub that wouldn’t even cover all of me. I spent a couple of hours in the bath and it did help a bit, but I constantly had to turn over and Dan used one of the cups to pour water on me. 

Come normal morning time I was having contractions a couple of minutes apart, all hopes of a birthing pool were gone and I was a fantastic one centimetre dilated. I had a bit of a meltdown at this point, which meant that they offered me gas and air. I accepted. I quite liked gas and air. It was rhythmic and gave me something to focus on. Plus I realised that you got the true effect if you took a cheeky extra breath once the contraction was over. I pay my taxes, I’ll get my money’s worth!

The rest of the drugs seemed to come thick and fast after that. Gas and air wasn’t really doing much. If I moved at all, I would almost scream in pain. They offered me pethidine which a begrudgingly accepted. I really hadn’t wanted this one because I knew it could have implications on the baby but I didn’t really have a choice. Dan and I had agreed before we went in that we would follow the advice of the professionals and this was what they were advising. I don’t think I had the pethidine long before an epidural was thrown into the mix. 

The epidural was great. It made me relax and I could completely refocus. It also made me starving hungry but you’re not allowed to eat. With the epidural in, I then spent several hours turning from side to side to try to move things along. Nothing happened. Well not nothing, I got an infection. I suddenly became very thirsty and very shivery but I could feel the sweat on my head. They decide to put me on fluids and antibiotics to treat this. By this point I already had a double cannula in one had for pitocin and something epidural related and now I needed another. I wouldn’t have minded but it seemed that everyone was crap at putting these things in. When I finally left hospital I had bruises on both hands and inside both elbows. Big purple ones too. 

Not long after all this, the room was filled with people and they raised the idea of a caesarean. They said unless I was miraculously fully dilated (obviously I wasn’t-3cm!) that this was the best route to take for the baby. I read the paperwork and signed. 

Quite shockingly, Dan and I had remained fairly calm and level headed throughout. With the epidural working its magic I actually felt like I’d made an rational decision. The procedure went really well and the atmosphere in theatre was calm and light hearted. The surgeons were cracking jokes and I certainly felt at ease. Having had the epidural it meant that I was conscious throughout and could have Dan by my side. He held my hand and looked me in the eyes the whole time. Not even for a second did he look nervous or scared. He was exactly what I needed. At 14:28 Emily entered the World; it was magical! I didn’t get skin-to-skin in theatre but I was able to watch Dan cuddle her. It’s a memory I’ll never forget. 

We spent quite a long time in hospital after that but it’s a story for another day. I have mixed feelings about my birthing experience. I’m not sure I can use the phrase “I gave birth” as it required an entire team. Perhaps I’d be more comfortable using “we” instead. I wish, for Emily’s sake, that it had been the perfect natural experience I’d secretly hoped for and I’ll never quite forgive myself for her having to spend the first days of her life on antibiotics and being born full of drugs. All I can be is grateful though.  Grateful that Dan was the ideal birthing partner. Grateful that I live in a time when medical advances made it all possible. Grateful that the surgeon had a steady hand. Grateful that regardless of how it happened, she is here. And I’d say she is pretty bloody perfect!

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