I’m scared of needles. And, quite frankly, after reluctantly watching an episode of One Born Every Minute, I sat there thinking how excruciatingly painful labour must be for someone to actively CHOOSE to have a rather large epidural needle stuck in their spine. “Holy sh*t”, I think, were my precise words. That show and my phobia stuck in my mind for a long time, and career and life – rather than family – took centre stage as a result.
Incidentally, on the subject of One Born Every Minute, does anyone else think it would make the most effective contraception if used in Sex Ed in schools?!
Preparation was pretty simple
Anyway, fast forward a few years and no more gory TV watching, and my first birth is done and….yes I would do it all over again. Empowering? Yes. Euphoric? Er, maybe. Did it go to “my” plan? No. But I’m OK with that.
Despite the earlier fears re birth, I felt pretty chilled about the labour during my pregnancy. NCT classes prepped me for different birth options and pain relief (these classes are also a great option if you want to meet people to build a mum/dad network, everyone I know who has attended them has formed a strong group for when the babies arrive); hypnobirthing gave me the tools to welcome and embrace the labour as it happened; and creating a playlist was the only other real prep I did really (and that was just something nice to focus on). The birth plan was pretty basic (as little intervention as possible and preferably no pain relief, as the NCT classes and hypnobirthing highlighted the impact some of these can have on the baby), and the hospital bag was packed.
Due date came and went
Although you know it’s rather rare for a baby to arrive on their due date, you can’t help but secretly work towards that date as d-day! However, nearly two weeks overdue and we were taking long walks, I was scrubbing the floor on my hands and knees, raspberry tea was being consumed and then two stretch and sweeps in an attempt to get things moving.
…and my waters finally broke, overnight, just two days before I was due to be induced (this was something that was booked in for me; I was still undecided whether to go ahead or let things go naturally and have my baby decide when it’s ready – something it is very able to do! The UK’s guidelines on what is classed as overdue is pretty tight, in Europe they can go up to three weeks before considering any action). Anyway, there was blood in the waters so we called the hospital and, under advice, took a trip in for monitoring of the baby’s heart rate and my surges (aka contractions). Everything was fine, and I was allowed home with a leaflet on what to do when your waters break with “no contractions” – “no contractions?!” I thought, “I can see them on the monitor and I can feel them!”, that confused me a little, but I was more than happy to head to the comfort of home.
Ah, the comfort of home
When we got home (about 7am), I went back to bed and slept for a couple of hours before joining my husband downstairs. We watched films and chatted. It was such a relaxing time. I moved around a lot and timed the surges on a free “contractions timer” app (available on the App Store here). We didn’t really know when we should go back into hospital. So, I bounced on an exercise ball, moved around and every now and again the surges felt really quite strong. But, by around 3pm – and after throwing up my lunch in the toilet – the surges became incredibly strong to the point I couldn’t stand up to pull my pants up. Rather embarrassing.
We called the midwife and asked if we should go into hospital. She wasn’t particularly decisive and said we could if we wanted to. I could barely walk and so we decided to head in. Which was a good job really…
Birth plan? What birth plan?
When we arrived at the hospital, the midwife took one look at me and ushered us straight through to the labour ward. After examination, I was over 9cm dilated…nearly time to push. I could understand now why it was hard to walk and why the car journey over had been so uncomfortable, with immense pressure to push starting. I am positive the calmness I felt through the hypnobirthing techniques helped things to progress so swiftly.
Most of the birth plan went out the window, though. Because I was so progressed, things moved quickly at the hospital; there wasn’t a water pool available; my cherished playlist stayed unplayed as the ipod station didn’t even make it out of the bag; I was just on the bed, on my knees, on gas and air and going with the surges.
The gas and air didn’t seem to have any effect, and after 30 mins it was taken away and I just went through the rest of the labour as is. I don’t know the exact timings, but I was told at one point that my baby’s heart rate was dipping and there was meconium in the water – these, I was told, are signs the baby is stressed and so I needed to actively push to avoid intervention (the consultant said she wanted to give me every chance to do this naturally). So that was it. Things notched up and I had to mentally and physically push instead of going with my body’s natural rate, as I’d hoped.
It’s a girl!
I didn’t want pain relief and that was lucky as most options were out due to the stage we were at. It was a tiring experience but, less than three hours after arriving at hospital, our little girl was delivered and checked over by consultants. She was absolutely fine, perfect in fact, and rushed straight onto my chest for skin-to-skin as I had requested. She also breastfed shortly after birth. I forgot to ask for delayed cord clamping and, although my birth plan said no to the injection to speed up the birth of the placenta, I just went with it; the ward was busy, my midwife team’s shift had finished and I just decided it’d be fine. It didn’t work quickly and the midwives had to massage my tummy to help it release.
I needed a little repair work after the birth and – having avoided most needles to that point – I was now faced with the prospect of a trip to theatre for a spinal block. But the phobia had gone; our baby was here, I’d just been through child birth and everything else paled in comparison. I hear this is quite normal!
Apparently, during a spinal block, most new mums use the time to rest but I was wired (even though it was about 1am!) and chatted to the anaesthetist and surgeon about everything, including who would be the next Bond (they dismissed my Christian Bale suggestion and were both convinced it would be Idris Elba, in case you’re wondering).
Before I knew it, the stitching was done and I was wheeled to the ward for recovery. The midwives had offered to take our baby away while I was in theatre, but my husband wanted to hold and bond with her and did so during this time – I know this time is ingrained on his memory as a beautiful time just him and baby M. I love this; so much of birth is about the mums, but the men have just become fathers and watched their other halves birth an actual real human baby; it’s a bloody massive time for them too.
Sleep? What’s that?
Back in the ward, and I wish we’d have remembered to ask for a private room. The ward was cramped and, even though my baby was sleeping, I couldn’t rest due to other babies crying, visitors repeatedly coming in and turning the lights up from their dimmed state, and a clanging bin lid (that bloody bin lid), the sound of which is forever ingrained on my mind.
My husband was sent home at 3am as he wasn’t allowed to stay with us, and alone and awake, I fed M. I remember being exhausted and starting to fall asleep, only to have an almighty telling off from one of the nurses to never sleep with my baby on me. That really upset me; I sobbed there, alone in the cramped ward, so tired and so upset I’d done something so bad as letting my shattered eyelids close for a moment.
BUT, then morning arrived, my husband came back, I managed to do a few wees once the catheter was out (catheters, btw? I’d always thought they sounded horrendously horrible! In reality? I couldn’t even tell it was there until they told me!) and we were discharged late that night, just over 24 hours after birth. And that was it, we journeyed home – very cautiously and so proudly with our precious little girl.
Be proud of your body
So, the fear of needles? It was fine. And, actually, pregnancy and birth have pretty much eliminated it. And I honestly would do it again in a shot. It didn’t go exactly to plan and the impact on my body was a bit unexpected, but I think it’s how you frame these things and I honestly feel OK about it all. I feel so proud of what my body achieved, and so overwhelmed by the miracle that is life.
Oh, and I still avoid One Born Every Minute; I find it unnecessarily worrying for people about to go through labour and it narrows the perception of the choices women have for their birth, but I know many love it and I totally get why – the miracle of life is an amazing thing!!
Lauren, the Mother Side xx
Ps, you can read here about Lauren’s journey post-birth, getting to grips with the new identity of being a mother.
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