Guest Blogger: Birth
In the weeks leading up to the birth, I worried. It wasn’t just about how I would face up to labour, but also, a little bit, about how the masochist in me would feel if I couldn’t take the pain. Not that anyone would know, apart from my boyfriend, and I don’t think he was considering it in those terms. Certainly when I asked him to add the Royksopp CD to the hospital bag, I think he thought I was kidding. Royksopp frequently featured on the soundtrack at our favourite play club, and I figured if I was going to be naked on my hands and knees in front of strangers, it might as well be to familiar music.
I worried because, despite being no stranger to positive pain, I felt that I had never been truly tested. Just having no idea of what levels of pain I was going to have to endure made it difficult to prepare for on a mental level. Also, this time it was serious.
Labour is a funny thing, it comes on slowly, not a sudden panicky gush of waters like you see on TV. On my due date I was having mild contractions, set far enough apart for me to take no notice. If anything, the mysterious uncomfortable workings of my body were giving me confidence that it knew what it was supposed to do. I had lunch with friends, relaxed, walked around and sat in the garden in the very hot sun. Three days later, early in the morning, my waters broke.
I sat quietly in the bathroom for a while, not really thinking about what was going to happen. The sun had already risen starkly on what would be another stinking hot day, and I was probably going to have a baby. There were no contractions, but there was a steady warm seepage of fluids. I went back to our bed and woke the man, who gradually came to. We are both practical people. Our thoughts were on timings and bags and phone calls, and clearly nothing much was happening other than the milestone moment of waters breaking, and apparently continuing to break. No-one tells you that: it keeps on coming.
He went to work. I made myself a nest in the sitting room: duvet, cup of tea, dvd. I was starting to feel uncomfortable, and eventually recognised that these low sustained aches cinching my waist: these were the contractions. By the time I remembered I was supposed to be timing things, they were too strong for me to focus. This wasn’t the gentle hug I had been feeling earlier; this was a strong pair of hands grasping me around the middle, pressing pains up my back and down my thighs. Too much for me to sit still, impossible to watch TV, yet far enough apart for complete lucidity in between them.
The discomfort and excitement of the short car journey slowed the pains down, giving me a window to walk up the stairs to the unit. The staff on shift didn’t really think we were all that close, and left us in a side room feeling a bit stupid and scared. Were we wrong? Should we have stayed home longer? It was a small room, mostly taken up by a bed, but I didn’t want to sit or lie down, except my legs didn’t want to hold me up, either. I didn’t feel in tune anymore, I didn’t know what to do, he didn’t know what to do. We waited.
When the contractions picked up the pace again, I yelled. A midwife put her head round the door and told me, perhaps in nicer words, to shut up or I would exhaust myself. I still think they were underestimating how far along we were, but they offered me the gas and air, which was nice, but it was hard to find a balance between taking the edge off, and feeling completely pissed. I tried breathing it between the contractions, and focusing during them: breathing them down, believing in them. They had ramped up again, a thick steel belt being twisted tighter and tighter, until quite suddenly I was squeezed hard by some phenomenal force, and this time it was different. I wanted to push. I told him I wanted to push and that meant we needed a midwife, and so he yelled for a midwife and she came, and she stayed, and did stuff, but I have no idea what.
In a scene I consciously lose myself into the pain, I breathe it down and my body slides into it, soaking it up. The second stage of labour, when your body involuntarily spasms, huge thrusting squeezing thumping waves power through your body, pounding and pounding, is physically incomprehensible to one who has not experienced it. The sensation of your body dividing, the awareness of the warm hard mass pressing down, travelling through your very core, the ripping open, tearing, moving forwards but sliding back as each contraction recedes, the thirst, blinks of awareness when they monitor the baby’s heartrate, when He tells me how well I’m doing, the midwife’s fingers on my perineum cool and comforting, blasted out by another wave of bright white pain.
At one point I am convinced I should be on my hands and knees, and I lumber over into what I think is the proper position to have a baby. Everything slows down and I feel disheartened and tell them I can’t carry on. It hurts and I’m not getting anywhere, I want it to end. “You were doing fine on your back”, the midwife says. They help me get comfortable. “But this is wrong”, I say. I’ve read all the books. “It’s working”, she tells me. “Keep going.” They give me a glucose tablet, her and Him working together, my team. Sigur Ros is playing, He can see the head, dark hair, another few pushes, one more she says. I can’t wait anymore; without the help of a contraction, I bear down and my baby is born. Reach down, she says. Take him, and she helps me to lift him up to my chest. I lie back with this damp sticky fragile thing, my son, and wait for it to become real. The three of us, stunned, whisper quietly in our own little bubble as the sun goes down.
This post was written by a RWL Guest Blogger – Emma writes a blog and some people read it, so you might know her or you might not. Either way, she’s not planning to tell you who she is, but she will tell you that “you don’t know me as well as you think you do”.