If I’m completely honest, labour wasn’t something that I’d given much thought to. I think I was in denial that the baby would actually have to come out (!) In fact my denial was so strong that Matt had to pack my hospital bag after my waters had broken (something I really wouldn’t advise – let’s just say a mans idea of big pants is totally different to a womans)…
But, I’ll start at the beginning, and before the mad rush of the hospital bag fiasco it was just a normal Sunday. We’d slept in, had a big breakfast and walked the dog along the beach. By the end of my pregnancy, this activity normally resulted in achey period pains that would disappear once I’d rested, but not on this occasion. The period pains got progressively worse throughout the day – although I was still merrily in denial, despite Matt asking me if I thought I might be in labour.
I went to bed early and was disturbed by Matt getting into bed at around midnight. Half awake, half asleep, I suddenly I felt a trickle running down my leg. I knew pretty much immediately that this was it. The denial was over. I snuck out of bed (as best as a heavily pregnant lady can) and went to the bathroom to check if it was my waters going, even though there was nothing else it could have been. In hindsight, at this point I should have taken some paracetamol and just gone back to bed. But I was WAY too wired – the reality of imminent labour was starting to sink in. So I sat up all night, faffing around doing random things for Rock My Wedding, eating bowls of cheerios, watching stupid TV shows and breathing through the period pains which were ever increasing.
At around 5am Matt woke up and found me on the sofa, in quite a lot of pain. He looked at me wide eyed (I’ll never forget his face) and said…
‘Is it happening?’
To which I replied ‘Yes.’
And we both just sort of looked at each other as if to say ‘What the hell do we do now?!’
We didn’t really have a clue what to do, the midwives, HVs and our NCT teacher had all said stay at home for as long as you can bear the pain but it seemed to come and go in waves, so after calling labour ward just to make sure, I succumbed to those paracetamol and got back into bed. As soon as the shops opened Matt went out to get the final bits I needed for my hospital bag. I woke up at around 11am and felt like at this point I wanted to be in hospital. I wanted to have people around me who knew what was happening. The pain was still bearable. With breathing and crouching over the end of the table I could get through each passing phase but it was definitely building and lets just say the drive to hospital was uncomfortable to say the least.
Arriving At Hospital
Once we’d arrived at hospital things seemed to slow down again. I felt a tiny bit like I should still be at home, we even parked the car in the short stay because we thought we might be sent back. What happened next caused things to progress a little more quickly though. I was lying on the bed being examined when there was a loud popping sound – it the rest of my waters going. And it was like an actual flood and it just kept on coming.
Matt went and moved the car to the long stay, and that was it. We were off!
I’d say about an hour or so after my waters broke properly, the contractions started coming heavily. I had to make the move from a consultation room downstairs to the labour ward upstairs and it involved several stops, bending over double and trying not to cry. Once we’d settled ourselves into the room, the midwife tried to examine me again, but lying on my back was just too painful so I have no idea how dilated I was. For me the most comfortable position was on my knees, with my arms over the end of the bed, which had been pulled up so I could lean over it.
My in-denial birth plan had basically just stated that I wanted as natural a birth as possible, so once the contractions really started to become unbearable, I used gas and air. My midwife asked me to aim for three big breaths in and out during each contraction, which pretty much became my focus. I’d done lots of pregnancy yoga and had practiced breathing but nothing can prepare you for just how much concentration it takes to breathe whilst you’re in labour. To be honest, I’m not sure that the gas and air actually took that much pain away – it’s a pain that shifts from a dull ache, to one that literally rips through you and it was excruciating. But having that focus of three breaths in and out definitely helped to distract me. And it must have done something, as according to Matt I was pretty out of it. In fact, at one stage I took a huge lungful of gas and then promptly vomited into a bowl. Delightful.
My NCT Yoga teacher had told us that you get to a stage during labour where you want to give up, but this is when your body takes over and the baby is really close to coming out. I can remember saying to Matt and to my midwife that I couldn’t do it anymore – and low and behold, it was time to start pushing. The three breaths in and out became deep breath in, out and push, deep breath in, out and push…you get the picture. And by this point the contractions were so close together that there was very little rest time between the breathing and pushing.
At this point I will stress again, it’s very hard to describe how painful labour is. It literally takes over your whole being. It’s really hard to cling on to the thought that each contraction brings you closer to your baby (which is true of course) but it’s tough, tough going. You just have to trust that your body will do it’s thing. You have to go with it. The best way for me to describe how I felt is totally out of control whilst also being the most in control of my body I’ve ever been.
And all of a sudden, we were at the final point, the point where you do short quick breaths and a little succession of pushes to get the head out. That was probably the most acute pain for me – people often describe crowning as a burning sensation and I’d definitely agree. And then her head was out, her shoulders were out and like a slippery little fish, her whole body slid out. The sense of relief was utterly overwhelming. The pain was over. The baby was breathing, crying, gasping in lungfuls of air and she was utterly perfect. At 7.30pm on Monday 12th January 2015, all 7lbs 14oz of little Elle entered the world.
A Positive Experience
Matt was beyond amazing – I cannot even beginning to describe how much his support helped me. My midwife was pretty special too. I love that it was just the three of us. Sometimes hospital births get a bad press, but mine was calm, intimate and exactly how I wanted it to be. I know I was incredibly fortunate, my labour was almost textbook and my birth plan was executed exactly how I wanted. I delivered my placenta naturally shortly afterwards (another delightful moment no-one talks about). And my whole labour experience was very positive – albeit painful. Anyone reading this who is pregnant, I know that labour doesn’t often go to plan, but sometimes it does, and I think it’s good to read about experiences that are OK.
And it really was OK.
A lot of this is down to luck and probably some genetics, but I know that doing yoga, practising breathing and lots of pelvic floor exercises really helped me.
Labour was by far the most raw and real experience of my life. If I’m ever in a situation now where I need to dig my heels in, I transport myself back to the labour ward and tell remind myself that if I can do that – I can do anything.
I found it a truly empowering experience.
(Oh and please, please, PLEASE pack your hospital bag before your waters break. Next time around I’m having it by the door from week 30!!!)