I seem to be surrounded by people sharing their negative birth stories at the moment – everyone is so quick to tell you how painful, awful and traumatic the whole process is, but d’ya know what? Mine wasn’t like that.
Whenever I tell my story, I’m told that women hate me. I’m told that I probably should keep quiet about it because people will be jealous.
But you know what? I want to tell my story. I want people to know that it isn’t all screaming, painkillers and a floof torn in two! That birth can be amazing!
I will admit straight from the start here that I was lucky. Yep, I was. I know that.
Here goes… Felix’s birth story, one year on…
Around twenty weeks into my pregnancy I suddenly started to panic. Not about the labour, but about how the hell you ‘parent’. How do you know which cry means what? How do you change a nappy and are you sure poop is supposed to look like a Korma?! Are they getting enough milk from my sore, swollen boobies?
Worrying about the labour itself was just never a thing for me.
I had no idea what birth would be like, I literally couldn’t comprehend it so why would I sit and stress about it?
My birth plan was pretty vague.
Ideally a birth pool – I’m sure we all remember that amazing woman in the red bikini on One Born Every Minute who smashed a water birth, right?!
Painkillers? Minimal but I’ll take whatever was need. Who knows how my body was going to react?
We packed a speaker and created a playlist of some of my favourite tunes, getting hyped about what our little man might enter the world to.
Alas, this went straight out of the window…
The night before my 29th birthday, three days past my due date and two sweeps later, I was in hospital for the third time with reduced movement. It was at that point, at around 23:50 that they decided they would book me in for an induction. Expecting for them to come back with a date later that week, it’s fair to say that we were a tad taken aback when they told us to go home, rest and be back ready for 8am the following day.
I remember getting home at just gone midnight, my husband singing happy birthday to me, and walking into our house with the realisation hitting me that the next time I did that, our son would be with us.
We didn’t sleep much that night.
Both sets of parents descended on us early that morning to give me birthday presents – my sister insisting that I wore my birthday badge all day in case the hospital gave me special treatment, ha! – and wish us luck, knowing they were soon to meet their Grandson…
The induction process started at around 10am. Before I go any further, a midwife post-birth asked me what I thought of the ‘process’ because many women hate it. I’ll say now that it wasn’t exactly the exciting, waters-breaking, heart-thumping moment I expected the start of birth to be, but if you’ve already had a sweep, then it’s certainly no worse than that!
I was strapped up to a machine where we were able to monitor the contractions in little spikes on the chart. I loved watching this, and it was great for my husband, too.
After two rather disappointing meals, three failed attempts at watching a movie and a game of cards later, we seemed to be really cooking on gas now.
The contractions were ramping up, discomfort kicking in. At about 7pm a student midwife suggested I take a bath to try and relax. It wasn’t quite the water birth experience I had hoped for but because of the induction that was a no-no now.
It was at this point I discovered the best thing I had packed in my hospital bag; a handheld fan.
OMG, seriously it was amazing. A must-have for sure.
It was a summer birth and hospitals seem to be hotter than literally anything, ever, so the use of a fan during every contraction was mind-blowingly relieving.
So there I was, chillaxing in the bath, fan on my face during each contraction, my husband by my side cracking jokes, when I felt something.
“Darryl, have my waters just broke or have I wet myself?”
Thankfully it was the former. I remember looking down over my whale-sized bump into the bath to a cloudy stream of liquid vacating my nether regions.
We grabbed a midwife, all dignity officially gone (although I suppose that’s the case the second you have a sweep anyway!).
As I stood up to get out of the bath, my body seemed to leak. And I mean leak. Everywhere.
My husband is pretty good with blood and gore, but as what looked and felt like half my insides fell out onto the bathroom floor he couldn’t help but laugh and gag. And gag again. It was hilarious but it was at this point I realised the discomfort had notched up a level or two.
The next hour or so was a bit of a blur.
It’s worth nothing that due to a lack of space, I was in active labour but not on the labour ward. So there’s me, contractions every minute or so, letting rip on a ward at about 10pm.
(Apologies now to anyone else there at the time!)
It’s also worth noting that the only pain relief they had given and offered me was two paracetamol. Because obviously that’s effective in dulling the pain of childbirth…
At around 10.30pm they measured me and said I was about 3cm dilated. At this point I will admit I pretty much wanted to give up. I didn’t think I was up to the challenge.
Apparently I shouted “please can you just suck him out of me?”.
Yes, cos that’s a thing…
The next thing I remember was the Senior Midwife coming through and telling my husband to get all our belongings onto the bed because I needed to move. Quickly.
What I hadn’t realised was that they had lost track of his heartbeat and were quickly shifting me to the labour ward.
Once upstairs, I remember hearing the familiar sounds of my Community Midwife who happened to be working overtime that night on the ward. I couldn’t have asked for anyone better to help me through!
I was carted into a labour suite and transferred from the trolley to the bed.
“Are you pushing, Paula?” I was asked.
Now having never been in labour before I didn’t know.
I remember thinking that the pain levels had changed. That my body was doing something different, but I didn’t register it was ‘pushing’, as such.
She checked me and I was 10cm.
I had gone from 3cm to 10cm in about 30 minutes.
They couldn’t find his heartbeat because he was trying to get out!
“When you feel ready, just start pushing!”
It was at this moment I remembered something they said at NCT classes. Don’t waste your energy on screaming or shouting, scream inwardly. Channel your energy inwards and just push.
Let Mother Nature and your animal instincts take control.
I trusted my body, it seemed to know what it was doing. I could feel him moving, I could feel myself getting ready to push him out.
Now, just quickly back to the room situation – because they weren’t exactly ready for me, the room wasn’t setup. There were no stirrups and no way I was moving from my on-back position (despite having decided earlier on that I wanted to give birth in a different position!). And there were no painkillers available. I was too far gone for anything too strong, and the gas and air wasn’t ready for me yet.
With my husband clasping one leg and the midwife the other, after about ten minutes I was finally given some gas and air to suck on.
This was goooood stuff. Apparently I came out with some cracking lines and pretended to be an elephant once or twice, but mostly it was perfect for regulating my breathing.
The best way I can describe the crowning of a baby is it’s like having a big, solid poop.
I remember reading that before on a blog and laughing thinking that was a ridiculous analogy.
Actually, it’s bang on.
I could feel myself stretching, firm and taut. There was pressure and sure, it was hardly comfortable, but I wouldn’t describe it as unimaginable pain.
With every push, every pang of pain, I knew I was one step closer to meeting my son.
So at this point it’s about 11.45pm on my birthday and I was adamant that I wasn’t giving birth today. I wanted him to have his own special day.
The midwife and my husband had other ideas…
Encouraging me to push, to breathe and to push again when I was ready, his head came out at about 11.58pm…
I took a moment. I breathed. I sucked on the wonderful gas. I knew I could do this.
With one enormous breath, more strength than I knew I had in me, my animal instincts well and truly taking over, just one more push released his body from mine.
Our crying, slightly purple, 7lb 8.5ox baby boy was here.
The time was 23:59:30 on my 29th birthday. On his birth day.
Four days late, one induction, two paracetamol, 30 minutes of gas and air, no stitches required, no pooping myself.
Felix Jasper Atkins had arrived…
I don’t know why I have never written my birth story before.
Maybe I was scared to share it with people. I know I was lucky and that not everyone has a story like this. But I want people to know that it doesn’t have to be this big, scary event, that it can be something incredible.
Trust your body. It was made to do this.
And it CAN do it.