7 things I Learnt About Labour: A Birth Story
The prospect of giving birth evokes many feelings on a scale, from excitement to fear and terror.
If you’ve done it before, you have more of an idea of what to expect (although no two labours are the same!).
As a first time parent, you might scroll the internet for hours on end reading birth stories.
Pre-pregnancy, I’d listened to friends and family describe their experiences at length and found it mostly disgusting and boring. However once I’d come to terms with the thought of giving birth, I devoured stories in the hope of preparing myself for all eventualities.
I wasn’t sure whether I’d feel the need to share my own story; but I conducted a poll over on my Instagram and everyone who answered, said they wanted to hear it. Everyone except my husband… who was possibly still scarred from looking at the wrong end at the wrong time!
So here is the story of how our baby girl entered the world, and what I learned along the way. If you feel triggered by birth stories, or would rather skip the gory details – then perhaps this isn’t an article for you.
It’s nothing like the movies
I know everyone says this, but it really wasn’t.
That image of waters gushing everywhere just didn’t happen (not until later anyway).
I was reviewing a local Air BnB at just over 38 weeks when I felt like I might have wet myself a little. This isn’t unusual in pregnancy, of course.
But when it was pink, I decided I should phone the LabourLine.
A brief visit to the maternity ward confirmed that it was indeed my waters which had gone. I was promptly booked in for an induction at 9am the next day, in the event labour didn’t start before.
Induction was not in my plan at all but then again, neither was a May baby. So I went home to bounce on my ball and hopefully get labour started.
I was having what I thought were contractions (oh how I chuckle now) and even phoned Labourline again, to be told that I wouldn’t be able to talk through them and to stay at home.
The one positive of being given ‘notice’, was that my husband and I were able to finalise a couple of work bits and say our goodbyes to colleagues for a while.
Out of Office on.
Make sure your bags are packed
Make sure you have the actual essentials. I took two nighties; one was messed up early on, and the other fell in the shower and got wet so always overpack.
My labour essentials were:
A handheld rechargeable fan, which I repeatedly requested to be held in my face, and a water bottle with a straw because all that heavy breathing really dries your mouth out.
Post birth it’s all about the Bridget pants bought two sizes up!
Midwives are superheroes
Ok, you probably already know this but they really are fantastic.
They’re the ultimate experts in childbirth and we were lucky to have Alison, who came with 35 years of experience.
We also had a student midwife and although I was hesitant about allowing students in, we all have to learn somehow right?
Unfortunately giving birth in your hometown does mean there’s a chance you went to school with both your midwives’ sons… as was my case. Weird.
At this point, I’m in a delivery room, about to have my forewaters broken. If I’d known what was coming I’d have asked for some pain relief. Because the equivalent of a crochet hook being forced through a tightly closed cervix and wiggled around was quite possibly the most painful part of the whole experience.
Fortunately, the midwives have seen it all before, and are not easily offended by swearing, crying or waters gushing all over their crocs.
It’s ok to change your mind
If you read my previous article on birth planning you’ll have seen that I had a plan. But it’s also ok to change your mind at the time.
For example, my plan was to try gas and air for pain relief – I wanted to try and avoid anything else.
The reality was, gas and air just made me feel dizzy and sick and once the contractions were progressing it wasn’t even touching the sides.
Following my next examination, I heard those dreaded words ‘You’re only 2cm dilated’. For any midwives reading; please try and avoid the word ‘only’ because it does nothing except make us feel like a failure.
The decision was made that I would need to be put on the hormone drip to speed things up. At which point I changed my birth plan once more, and requested the epidural.
This was the best decision I made (except for the purchase of the handheld fan) because it transformed me from a mute woman in pain, into someone who could hold a conversation and just relax.
I believe that relaxation was the key factor in me then becoming fully dilated before they could give me the drip I’d been dreading.
Eat while you can, and take snacks
The one thing I wish I’d been told before the epidural is that it would mean I wouldn’t be allowed to eat. Because I would definitely have eaten some more snacks before it went in!
Fortunately the hospital food offering was lacking, so I didn’t feel I missed out too much. Bobbi ate the sandwich which came, along with the side of mash and melted ice cream pot.
I always wonder why hospitals insist on serving ice cream whilst also keeping the temperature at furnace levels.
Push like you’re doing a poo
This was some advice I’d received, and it really is true.
Once I’d been left for an hour for the baby to start making her way down the birth canal, it was time to push. Following an epidural this is quite challenging, so all I could do was push like I was trying to poo! And don’t worry if you actually do; again the midwives have seen it all before.
It’s also at this point the midwives start lying to you. They tell you it’s just one more big push and that you’re nearly there. This is a lie. However, you are one push closer to meeting your baby and that’s all you have to keep you going at this point.
It’s actually when you say ‘No, I’m not pushing anymore, I’m too tired’. That’s when you really are only one push away.
*Tip from husband* – Do not look ‘down there’ to see if the head really is nearly there. You will regret it.
You do forget the pain afterwards
There’s suddenly a rush, a release of pressure and the rest of our baby came sliding out like a slippery seal.
Once she was placed on my chest and I could see her perfect face, the previous pain was a distant memory. Bobbi announced the sex (after a double check with the midwife) cut the cord and we were left in peace to stare at our baby girl. I didn’t feel the few stitches because I was too busy on my endorphin high as we became a family of 3.
So on reflection, you can’t meticulously plan your labour experience to the letter but you can definitely remain in control of some of your preferences.
You won’t use half of your labour bag, but you will not regret that Amazon Prime purchase of a handheld fan. And at the end, when you’re gazing at your newborn baby, you’ll forget what’s just come before. At least until the endorphins wear off anyway!
For more positive birth stories, I’d suggest https://thepositivebirthcompany.co.uk/ who cover all types of birth.
And now, the parenting adventure begins!
Now Read This...
5 Superfoods for Pregnancy
Superfoods are foods of high nutritional value thanks to their active components. Most of us associate superfoods with foreign, expensive and somehow fashionable ingredients, such as spirulina or goji berries, but here are 5 foods that...
C-Section Recovery: The How & Why of Scar Massage
Currently, the rate of caesarean section births is at its highest. At least one in four women in the UK is giving birth via c-section and yet information on how we recover from this surgery and the discussion around it, seems limited.
Doing the Juggle: Balancing My Family With My Career
Many women are now choosing to have both and dual-career households are increasingly common. But how do I juggle my family with my career?