It seems appropriate that my first post on this blog is about my labour. Do not fear, those of you with a faint heart. There will not be gore. Merely a retelling of the most precious moment in my life.
Was it hard? Did it hurt? Was it as bad as people say?
These are just some of the questions I’ve been asked about labour… And just some of the questions I asked others about labour before I experienced it myself. I spent the first half of my pregnancy being terrified of the seemingly inevitable pains of labour, but the second half was different. All the women I spoke to spoke of pain and tiredness, but mainly of an indescribable feeling. Something they couldn’t quite explain to someone who hasn’t gone through it. And so, around 22 weeks, I began to look forward to labour. I accepted that there would be pain, discomfort, tiredness and that things might not go as planned. I placed those fears at the foot of the cross, and I began to look forward to going through an experience which I have heard talked about for so many years, but never understood. I looked forward to being bound together with all women, through time and across distant lands, by an experience that I had dreamt about for so many years, but never imagined. I looked forward to labouring, with my husband by my side, and meeting the little girl I had so desperately wanted since I was just a girl myself. So… Was it hard? Yes. Did it hurt? Yes. Was it as bad as people say? It depends on what you’ve heard. For me, in the end, yes and no.
My labour was long. Really long. At around 10 o’clock on Monday night, I had some cramping in my abdomen. This came and went at 20-30 minute intervals until my husband and I went to bed around midnight. I actually didn’t think anything of it. We were goofing around and he was making me laugh in the way only he can. I was definitely distracted; I certainly wasn’t thinking, “I’m in labour!” It was when two of these cramps came about 10 minutes apart and had grown in intensity that I began to wonder if this was it. So, I left our bedroom, grabbed my stopwatch, and headed to the bathroom. I stayed there until 3 o’clock in the morning, when my contractions were down to 5 minutes apart and I went and woke my hubby.
“Are you sure?”
And on it went for a few moments, until he accepted that I wasn’t joking, and I was certain. So, we prepared our living room for the home birth we wanted (just a few waterproof sheets on the floor, along with old towels), and I set about controlling my breathing and getting through each contraction. At around 7am we had our first visit from the community midwife, who told me I was only 1cm dilated and I should ring when the contractions got down to 2-3 minutes and were quite intense. So that’s what we did. And another midwife came out, but I was only 2cm dilated. So she went away. And then another came out sometime on Tuesday evening. To be honest, all the days and nights blended into one. This midwife stayed until just after midnight, when the midwife I’d had all my antenatal care with came on duty. I called for her around 4am, when I was certain that the contractions were getting to the unbearable stage, which, I thought, must have meant I was in ‘established’ labour. Wrong. You see, despite the fact my contractions had been every 2 minutes since Tuesday afternoon, I was still only 2cm dilated. My beautiful baby’s head was really low, the midwives kept telling me. It wouldn’t be long, once I got to 5cm. It’s just that that was taking a long time.
So, when, at 8 o’clock on Wednesday morning, my midwife told me that I was still only 2-3cm dilated, that was it. After over 17 hours of contractions, and no sleep, I gave up on my planned home birth. By 9.30am, my hubby and I were booked in a room at Royal Lancaster Infirmary, eating hot toast and drinking tea.
Our journey up there must have been bewildering to the average Lancaster commuter. I decided I couldn’t cope with the speed bumps of Dallas Road, so went around the one way system. In rush hour. In Lancaster. I remember having the window down because I was too hot and felt nauseous. I remember the pain getting worse as we set off. I remember groaning and moaning as we waited at every set of traffic lights. I remember the look one young woman gave me. I remember it all, and it makes me laugh.
Dosed up on morphine, I was able to rest. I can only describe it as an out of body experience. I couldn’t feel anything. Not just the pain, but everything. My mind went wherever my pain did. Surreal, but blissful. I rested, the midwives kept the doctors away, and then headed up to sleep on the ward. Thankfully, around 11pm on Wednesday night, everything really heated up again, and I was finally 5cm. The following 10 hours whizzed by in a blur. They included lots of gas and air; an uncomfortable monitoring belt; an epidural (not originally wanted, but pure bliss); lots of wires and things attached to my body (7 in the end); and a wonderful Greek midwife. Finally, at 9 o’clock, just as new midwives arrived, I was ready to push.
My husband really came into his own at the moment. He moved to the foot of the bed, and was my number 1 cheerleader. All I remember was drifting off to sleep between pushes, and the music playing from my iPhone playlist. Oh, and wondering why the midwife was telling me to really push now, as if I wasn’t pushing as hard as I could. Then, around quarter to ten, three thing happened. The duty midwife came in to tell me the doctors were itching to come in and give me a helping hand, as everything had been going on for a while. My husband went out of the room and told the doctors they were neither needed, nor wanted. And I realised that I really could push much harder. So I did. And at 10.02am on Thursday 21st January 2016, my beautiful daughter came into this world.
So, was it as bad as people said? Yes, in that I experienced tiredness like never before. It was a marathon and so much longer than I was expecting. But at the same time, no. Of course, I had an epidural, so I don’t know how it would have been au natural, but that was the situation I was in. What made my experience so incredible were the wonderful midwives who guided me along the journey. Mainly though: Kelly, who was with me for a considerable amount of time as I laboured at home, and then provided my postnatal care; and Sheena, a South African student midwife. She was on her final placement, and she delivered my daughter. I couldn’t have felt safer, and those who have her as their midwife in the future will be very lucky. The midwives were brilliant throughout, and I felt empowered and in control all the way. Vive la NHS!!
There you have it. My labour of love. It was everything I hoped for, even though it was so different from what I’d imagined. It brought me my beautiful daughter, and I couldn’t be happier.