Some things were always the same; it would be just Adam (the husband) and I, a midwife led unit, I’d be in the birthing pool, and it would be calm and quiet (not like what you see on One Born Every Minute!) No pain relief, just using the breathing techniques we’d been practising and having baby placed straight on my chest. This is what I imagined. Every. Single. Time.
I wasn’t scared about giving birth, although I was anxious for Adam to be back in time as he was away in Afghanistan with the army, he was due to be home around the time I turned full term. Everything I’d read helped me believe my body was more than capable of doing this. I only spoke about labour with women who had “nice” stories and swerved the horror ones like the plague.
My labour didn’t quite start like the “nice” stories. It began with me alone in the early hours of the morning, defrosting the car so I could drive myself down to the hospital. I had an awful feeling my waters had started to leak, so I’d rung the delivery suite and they told me to bring myself down with just my notes, no need to bring a bag. I was 35 weeks pregnant. For the first few hours of me being at the hospital nobody really knew what was going on, I wasn’t contracting or dilating. The doctors thought I perhaps had an infection and would go home after my second dose of antibiotics if everything stayed the same. I’d managed a quick phone call with Adam and he was trying to get the ball rolling to get home to me, I started to hope that maybe I would get the scenario I’d imagined a thousand times.
Without really realising it, my contractions started. I went from laying on the bed watching crappy TV to becoming restless, pacing up and down the hospital room, anything to try and distract me from what my body was starting to do. Adam rang again to update me on him coming home and I could barely hold a conversation with him. I think I was in denial, this was not how I wanted this to happen. I look back now to that phone call with Adam and laugh. I was clearly having contractions and they were quite close together, during the pain Adam was counting my breathing for me, in for 4, out for 8, telling me to think of my calm place, describing the beach in Mexico from our honeymoon, the sound of the waves, all the techniques we’d discussed and wanted to try. Then, as soon as a contraction would finish I was back chatting perfectly fine, trying to convince him I was probably just having Braxton hicks and I was sure I’d be going home later that day.
For me that’s the craziest thing about contractions. Whilst having one they are all consuming, but if you can just get through it, just breathe in and out, it will pass and when it does, you’re back to normal, able to refocus and relax before the next.
When I got off the phone I carried on counting my breathing, I tried bouncing on the birthing ball, the midwife massaged my back but focussing on my breathing was all that really seemed to help. The sun had started to come up and everything felt really calm and quiet in the room. It was very surreal, labour is never really shown like this in the films.
After an hour of contractions, I felt things drastically change, the pains were becoming very intense and my rest period in between was all of a sudden non-existent. For a split second I felt like things were quickly becoming out of my control and I shouted “I can’t do this!!” The midwife came and examined me, it felt like I saw her reach out and hit the emergency buzzer in slow motion. Instead of doctors and crash carts flying into the room, my midwife looked excited. She told me I was fully dilated and it was time to get on the bed and push! I honesty couldn’t believe it. I was informed that another midwife would be joining us and that I shouldn’t be alarmed when the doctor from SCBU comes in, she reassured me that his presence and the warming up of the incubator was normal procedures for a pregnancy at 35 weeks.
As I laid on the bed and began to push, I really felt like all that control I’d lost moments earlier was slowly coming back to me. With hindsight, that was the transition phase of labour. The hypnobirthing articles I’d previously read were right, my body was taking over and pushing my baby out. You have no choice but to go with it. I could feel my baby making its journey out and I’ve honesty never felt so in sync with my body.
At 10:36am my beautiful Bella was placed straight on to my chest. It was the most incredible feeling in the world. I’d done it! All the pain instantly disappeared and in that moment I felt I was the most powerful woman and there was nothing me and my body couldn’t do. Now, for some, this might not read like a positive birth story, and you’d be right, it wasn’t one of the “nice” labour stories I’d longed for. My baby was premature, I didn’t have a birthing partner, and there was no birthing pool with dimmed lights and whale humping music. But it was calm, I trusted my body and with no pain relief or stitches I managed to give birth to my perfect little human! I bloody loved giving birth and couldn’t wait to do it again.
Bella’s birth taught me that labour is unpredictable, and things can change at any given moment, but we shouldn’t fear it after all we get to meet our baby at the end of it and when that oxytocin kicks in there is nothing like it in this world. It also taught me never to go to hospital without your bag, not having your big, cotton knickers to put on after giving birth is pretty awful, but that’s a whole other story!!