This is the story of two very different experiences of childbirth, by one mother…
So the day arrives and you pee on that stick and you know your life will never be the same again! You’re filled with a whole array of emotions, hopefully more positive than negative but here it is; your day has arrived.
With my first I was thrilled, I was 26 and already feeling that I was the only woman in the world who wasn’t a mum! I got through the first half of my pregnancy pretty unscathed, nausea and sickness tailing off by 12 weeks and I settled in to the changes my body was feeling. Then one Saturday morning I was at work, I must have been around 20 weeks and it hit me! OMG I’m going to have to give birth to this thing! It was pretty quiet so I often spent my time looking at the Babycentre, believe it or not in 2004 the internet was pretty limited on birth and pregnancy-related items, but there it was, ‘Congratulations you’re now half way through your pregnancy and you might be considering your labour options!’ WHAT?? I read on in trepidation and then burst in to tears at the sheer magnitude of what I was facing! What are you putting in your hospital bag? Have you thought about pain relief? What’s an epidural actually like? There was no going back now! My body would soon be birthing a bowling ball!
So I got pragmatic, I started reading, I bought the New Active Birth and read it from cover to cover, I watched some twacky VHS about massage in labour and I wrote my birth plan. I asked for an active birth, a water birth. I planned for the eventualities in great detail, drugs only when needed, not on my back, no episiotomies I’d rather tear, ventouse over forceps and a managed third stage. I remember ending it ‘A nice cup of tea 🙂’ I imagined a lovely calm birth, relaxing in the pool…but what I got was drugs offered to me every 20 minutes (well, that’s what it felt like), a brand new pool that couldn’t be used as the steps where on the wrong side, my waters broken (I really hadn’t anticipated how that would step things up a gear) and a second stage that went something like, ‘right you’re 10 cms, you wanted an active birth so here lean over the bed…so on the next contraction I want you to push…(I was being monitored by this stage) and push…and push…and push.’ I do believe I actually faked some of those pushes! So an hour later and a baby that hadn’t moved an inch I was put on my back to birth with a ventouse and I pushed him out with the threat of a caesarean. Ten stitches later, but at least I didn’t get an episiotomy, my first had been born.
‘That sounds quite Eastenders to me?’ (minus the ventouse and stitches) you might be saying. Well that’s not the birth I’m talking about.
What I realised about this birth was a) I’d asked for all of the things I didn’t want by writing them down in the way I had and b) theory counts for nothing without practice, well it did for me anyway.
So last year when I birthed my second son I made a promise to myself that this birth would be fantastic, this birth would be easy and this time I would prepare in a way I hadn’t done last time.
I wasn’t scared of this birth I saw it as a challenge, a physical and mental challenge that I would succeed at. So I prepared. I attended birthing classes that taught me everything I needed to know and then some about how my body worked in labour. I learned how to breathe, how to combine this with movements and how to stay calm, relaxed and focused. I wrote a birth plan that asked the midwives to help me use the skills I’d learned, a hands-off birth with no offers of pain relief. My partner also prepared and we attended a couple’s course so he could support me with my choices.
At just short of 37 weeks we decided on a home-birth. I wasn’t missing out on my water birth this time round! So in a panic we got ready. Son number one arrived at 38 weeks so you can imagine the rush, but at 40+9 my second little man still hadn’t arrived! I really felt the pressure of an induction looming but I was going to stand my ground as we were low risk; it wasn’t my turn to be Kat Moon this week! Not that she was induced, but you know what I mean!
So at 40+10 at 12.30 am my waters went all by themselves. The pool already ready, (had been sat there for 4 weeks) began to be filled. I rang the midwives and said ‘I’m fine no rush’, but within half an hour of I was contracting every couple of minutes. The midwives arrived as my body started to go in to transition and I remember thinking ‘shit this is going to be quick’ and I crawled downstairs to the pool. Getting in was amazing and I breathed, I focused, I visualised and I stayed relaxed. Not long after I felt the urge to push and it was the most exhilarating feeling I’d ever experienced. I put my hands in the water and I could feel my babies head and I breathed him out whilst working with my body and the strong urges I felt. This stage lasted for 14 minutes and the whole process was only 3hrs 14. I looked down in to the water and I picked my baby up. I was back in the room, or pool, like nothing had happened chatting and laughing and holding my baby.
This is why I didn’t get my EastEnders birth: there was no screaming ‘It’s coming’ there was no ‘pull your knees up, put your chin to your chest and PUSH…PUSH…PUSH’ there was no ‘I can’t do this get me out of here’ I wasn’t wild-eyed and I wasn’t dripping in sweat.
I had achieved the incredible, I was one of the lucky women who’d managed to have a fantastic, life-changing, positive birth. No drama, no pain relief, just me, my body and my baby working together as one. It wasn’t a fluke and I wasn’t ‘just lucky’; I had learned how to birth.
To read Jo’s last (rather brilliant) blog, ‘Breastfeeding: Don’t Go Crying Over Spilt Breastmilk’ click here
About Jo Fellowes
I’m mum to two boys, 12 and 17 months and I’m a Daisy Birthing and Parent Teacher down in sunny Somerset. Originally from the North West, we relocated a couple of years ago. I’d like to think you’ll be reading my posts with a Coronation Street-style accent in your heads.