I had the perfect birth plan, then I went into labour.
Two days early.
At two am I am woken by a simultaneous sound and sensation. A pop, a snap, like an elastic band stretched too tight that broke. A wave of anxiety and excitement preceded a roll of nausea. Lying back in bed the waterproof sheet crackled. Sleep did not come. Contractions came slowly, haltingly, with long gaps between. The hours blurred, my mum arrived as I was face first in a sofa cushion, nails digging in the delicate fabric. Hours must have passed as she lives 182 miles away. A call to my midwife someone made revealed I had 24 hours after my waters breaking for labour to progress before risk of infection required intervention.
Stumbling into the shower, my swollen body responded to the water and in two minutes everything fast forwarded. For me I feared, waters analgesic powers were mis-sold. Bundled gracelessly into the car, I plastered my head against the cool passenger window. Puffs of hot, ragged breath spidered the glass with condensation. My headphones were playing music but I can’t recall the songs. Just a metallic murmur of voices. In the parking lot my mother counted change whilst my body bent double. Waves surged through me and I tensed against them, fists in balls, humming nonsense. The midwife told me to relax. But I could not ride it.
Contractions build, squeeze and wrack your body until you feel like you can bear it no more. An all-consuming feeling not comparable to a cut or break. Peaking in a crescendo of white hot pain. I just wanted a break. To sleep. A moment. But on it went. Relentless, and I helpless with it.
The experience is frightening, primal and alien. I lost myself. My body had been contracting every few minutes for 12 hours. Other women lay in the shadows outside of my gaze in separate rooms, moans and whimpers echoing. I hadn’t the energy for compassion for those I heard screaming. Walk to encourage contractions, step by hesitant step. I moved rhythmically, forgot my breathing, and apologized multiple times. A midwife advised young people tend to make a fuss and I probably wasn’t very far along. Cowbag. Gracelessly begging another to check, yes, at 6cm dilated I could go to the pool. Like I was at a spa for a day of relaxation.
I hate triage.
The birthing room is windowless and hot. I got my own midwives but can’t hold onto their names. They talk about what I wanted in the birth plan that I can no longer remember. Pulling on the Entonox I ask my mother if we can go home. Begged her. I think she smiled. The pressure in my back. God the pressure. Gas made me sick. Monitoring found me to be ‘not progressing’. Unfamiliar words like dopler, Syntocinon, back to back, manual manipulation whirled round. A small plastic epidural tube in my spine and a drip in my hand appeared. It got ripped out twice. The contractions juddered through as I drifted. Floating out of my body and back in with each barbed clench. Rocking, cringing, mumbling. The baby is in distress, a clip is placed on his head. A feeble tellytubby joke is made. I mutter about wanting to ‘do it naturally’ and my mum holds my hand. Worried gazes flicker past me unnoticed. My entire self was weak and delirious with tired. Over the next few hours I am placed on different sides as his heartbeat fades and strengthens again.
We all watched the clock.
The next day a voice says I am 10cm and to push. They ask if I want to touch the head and I recoil. Surely my own head will explode with the exertion. The red emergency button above the bed is pressed. Doctors fill the room in seconds. They top up my spinal which leaves my body shaking and sick but I am held down as they need to get to the baby. Forceps are brought out. Green suits and masks cover faces. All I could hear was my teeth chattering. An episiotomy happens and hands are covered in blood. Pull. Pull. Pull. Like a ragdoll I am dragged halfway down the bed. Two nurses put their weight across my body. I was adrift on a dark sea in a room full of quietly panicking people. The process was so much about pain and exhaustion I forgot about my baby. Did not really care. Out he came scowling and bruised, dragged into the world and thrown upon my chest. A grey, slimy bundle of enormity that my heart could not start to comprehend yet. ‘No’, I whispered. I wasn’t ready to be mother yet.
I wonder if anyone is ever ready.
Lying exhausted, relieved, utterly spent, my void stomach jelly under my hands, a gentle someone stroked my hair. The anaesthesiologist stood above me murmuring warm something’s. I loved her in that moment. They snipped and sowed and put my body back together, but my mind was still shattered and would be in pieces for months. 29 hours in labour, not even one born every minute had prepared me for that. Riding on a feverish riptide of postpartum hormones and PTSD I did hold my son later. There was no immediate thunder strike of euphoric adoration like they say. Our love grew slowly. Depression settled on my shoulders because of the trauma of birth and our bonding not being what I perceived it ‘should’.
That said, this is not a horror story.
If you find yourself having an experience like mine, there is NO ‘should’. Pregnancy, labour, motherhood are not simple journeys. It is nothing like I imagined. Be kind to yourself, ask for help, do not feel guilty or like you failed, have faith. Consider taking additional NCT classes because they are worth it or hiring a doula. This is not meant to take away or challenge those who feel their births were an experience of strength, of calm and beauty. I am nothing but glad for you and even in the challenge of mine looking back I can appreciate the triumph with pride. Its purpose is to give comfort to those who struggled after and to offer an earnest expectation that things can go awry but you can get through it.
Did you have a traumatic birth, was it at home, via c section? Do you have any tips for expectant mothers?
On a lighter note Mummy in a Tutu and I were laughing over the potential title of this post; the more humorous being; bitch with a scissors, it’s not all sun-shine rainbows and fucking whale music, push push aghhhh and scream all you like. And, say yes to drugs.
If you enjoyed his post you may like to check out Did I make a boob? Breastfeeding and me?