Today, my little jelly bean turns six months old. I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone, a full half year of being a mama. And it’s been wonderful. It got me thinking though about how she arrived, so I thought it was about time I tried to write about her birth.
To be honest, it’s something I’ve spent a lot of time trying to forget, but I don’t really want to forget, not really, why would I want to forget how my perfect little girl joined us earth side and made my life infinitely better, forever? But I needed some time. It wasn’t a pain free beautiful experience that I see so often written about. That, in itself, made me feel inadequate, as if I did something wrong, and I couldn’t cope with that for a long time. So, family, if you’re reading, unless you would like a graphic blow by blow account of how I vomited in a pool while mooing like a cow, I strongly suggest you stop reading now. The rest of you, get a cuppa, it was 60 hours from first contraction to baby.
When I turned 41 weeks, I was offered a sweep, by that point I resembled a whale, and with all babies in mine and toms family turning up at 37 weeks, I was not envisaging still being pregnant, and anyone who knows me, knows that patience is not my strongest quality, so I wanted out, raspberry leaf tea, Clary Sage oil baths, (I don’t think I’ll ever be able to smell that ever again without flashbacks), bouncing on a ball, did nothing except tire my legs and make me smell like Camden Market. So there I was, hot, bothered, fat, impatient, laying back and thinking of England, (much the same that got me into this pickle), and I swear to god, I saw stars. She was not gentle. I went home, feeling like I had passed some strange right of passage, certain it’ll all get going soon. And it did, of a fashion.
That evening, I started to get progressively worse period type pain, and then around midnight, first contraction *this is it!*. It wasn’t. They were coming every 15 mins, like clockwork., I’ve heard of people just going about their business, having something to eat, gently bouncing on a Yoga ball, smiling into the middle distance and stroking their belly. How I envy these women.
By the morning, I’d had a total of half an hours sleep, and contractions were every 5 minutes and Really. Fucking. Hurt. Also, jelly bean had been a little quiet, so I figured it was time to call the MLU. They weren’t interested, I didn’t even get to speak to a midwife. They told me to go to the maternity day care at the local hospital, when I spoke to them, however, they said, I couldn’t go there and from the sounds of things I needed to go to the MLU or the maternity ward. So off we went. *this is it*. It wasn’t.
We arrived at the hospital, I was on my knees in the carpark. The contractions were that strong. I’m not a wimp, either. But they weren’t getting any faster than 5 minutes apart. By the time we got up to the ward, they were averaging about 7 minutes. I had a lovely student midwife, but they were busy and obviously keen to get rid of me. Which was okay, I didn’t want to be there anyway, but I did want my baby. They gave me codeine. Codeine slows everything down. I didn’t realise at the the time, otherwise I would of refused. Thanks for that. They sent us home. I passed out on Tom in the corridor, given I was somewhere around 17 stone at that point, I’m pretty sure that was fairly traumatic for him.
I hadn’t eaten, nor slept, so decided if I was going to be this tired and in pain I wanted an XL bacon double cheeseburger and onion rings and a milkshake. It was a last supper sort of deal. I sat in the car, in a loading bay, ready to yell at any traffic warden that may happen upon this illegal park, while Tom went in to Burger King. Contractions started to tail off, my mum had driven down in anticipation of her first grandchild and quite frankly, this mama wanted her mama.
That evening, contractions had dwindled to every half hour, but they were still strong. I didn’t really sleep, I was still exhausted and drained. I had a bath at 3am.
Bored of it all now and having decided that my baby hated me and didn’t want to meet me and that I will be pregnant forever, everything stopped entirely for about 2 hours, I sent my mum home. Predictably that was when it all picked up again.
By 6pm I had to wee standing up. If I sat down, I couldn’t wee. That was uncomfortable. Then the contractions ramped up again from “argh” to “moo”.
I broke Toms iPad.. I mooed the coffee table out the way and Fanta went everywhere and drowned it.
At 1am, I was pretty sure my waters had finally broken. *there’s me sniffing my knickers, “DOES IT SMELL LIKE ALMONDS?!?!* and then the contractions seemed to get immediately more intense. Fuck this, we’re going to the MLU.
I mooed my way downstairs and into the car, at which point the balmy late summer night decided to take an apocalyptic turn and an almighty storm hit.
Mooing down the A28 at 20mph as the rain poured and lightening flashed, omniscient thunder, a pathetic fallacy if ever I’d seen one.
I mooed into the MLU, still trickling waters, (for which I apologised profusely), and then sweet relief. Entinox. A lot of mooing goes on in childbirth. You may have noticed that by now. It is the literal sound a cow makes. It’s not flattering, or dignified, it’s guttural and primal and ugh, horrible.
So the mooing stops as I make friends with gas and air. Quite frankly, I felt pissed, and I loved it. After 2 and half days of no sleep and constant pain, at that point, I probably would have offered a kidney and half a liver for some gas and air. I huffed so much it made me sick. In the pool.
Until you have had a midwife chase you around a big paddling pool with a sieve trying to fish out vomit, then, your dignity is intact, my friend.
My birth plan was simple. Gas and Air, water birth, delayed cord clamping, quiet serene, skin to skin, home a few hours later. Done.
I’m tough as nails. I’m not a wimp.
I thought, if there’s one thing I can do, it’s have a baby without much fuss. 52 hours in though… I’d run a fucking marathon, twice, and I’m REALLY unfit.
It got to a point, where, for 2 hours I could feel her little head, but it wasn’t getting any closer. The midwife didn’t think I was pushing hard enough. I was doing best I could. I wasn’t allowed any more gas and air. I pushed like my life depended on it, but still nothing. I asked for help, I couldn’t do it anymore, I was aware of ‘transition’, I think that’s what the midwife thought was happening. Her words were ” You want a water birth don’t you? So get back in and push.” But it wasn’t Transition. Something wasn’t right, it was taking too long, she wasn’t coming out no matter what position I was in or how hard I was pushing. I carried on asking for help. Something was wrong.
It was 7am, shift change. I remember blacking out and Tom catching me as I started to fall under the water, then a new midwife walked in, took one look at me and said, “get her out”. It all went a bit Casualty, after that. Jelly Bean’s heart rate had fallen to 60pbm. That’s low. Really, really low. Alarms sounded, 5 people ran in, I was shouted at by a doctor and told not to push, which was a bit like Canute telling the tide to stop rolling in. Impossible. Nature is doing its thing, I can’t stop it.
More mooing, this time butt naked in a lift. More mooing, as they tried to put canulas in both hands, (one of which I pulled out mid moo and successfully showered the room in blood in a fashion that Wes Craven would be proud of. Mooed a bit more as two midwives shaved my foof and took off my nail varnish, they had an argument about whether or not to use a Bic or a Lady Shave, which seemed like a terrible trivial thing to discuss as I had machines beeping and lines coming out of me and drips going in to me.
I didn’t have time to consider just how not to plan this was going.
It took EIGHT attempts to get a spinal in. Eight. That was fun.
Then I was in theatre and I couldn’t feel my legs and suddenly, everything was great! Oh morphine, you sexy, sexy, bitch.
I asked if I could take some home.
I told the surgeon that he had the ‘best view in the house’.
I remarked on the forceps, something along the line of “Bloody Hell. Massive. Salad Tongs. Giant Tomato.”. I didn’t realise until later that I had just inadvertently referred to my lady parts firstly as giant, and secondly, as salad.
At some point, (09:18, to be precise), Florence was born.
She looked exactly like I had imagined. Beautiful. Gunky. Puffy. And with surprisingly defined eyebrows. Big black eyes (which went blue, Go Gene Pool! 3700:1!), stared up at me. Oh man, total love.
She promptly pooed on Tom as soon as he held her, he changed his first nappy while asked the surgeon,”what’s the damage?”, cackled to myself and then thanked the surgeon, anesthetist and midwives for their time and wished them a pleasant day. Morphine.
We had to stay in overnight, I lost a lot of blood, I had a catheter, I named him Jeff. I was off my tits.
I hate that I didn’t really get to ‘feel’ her be born. I hate that the first thing she saw was some green cloaked figure and a giant spot light and not me or her dad. I hate that she made her entrance with a pair of salad tongs wrapped around her head. I hate that my body didn’t do what it was meant to.
I feel really guilty about it. About how she got here. I had wanted a natural birth, I’d read countless articles. Doulas, home births, hypnobirthing, even free birthing, (although not so keen on that one). I’m far from a hippy, but definitely in the ‘childbirth is over medicalised’ camp. I figured it’d all happen as it was supposed to. All these women penning blogs about how your body knows what to do, how much better it is to home birth along with smug birth announcements citing ‘no pain relief!’, initially empowered me, but after Florence’s birth, they left me feeling like a big old failure. Like I wasn’t a proper woman, like I didn’t properly give birth, not like you’re supposed to.
Six months on, I’m able to look at it a bit more rationally. I didn’t do anything wrong. She got here safely. She’s still here and is healthy and happy. It obviously hasn’t affected her negatively. She’s clever, cheeky, spirited, beautiful, funny and we are so completely in love with her it’s ridiculous.
I’m still not able to entirely look back on her birth with out a slight twitch in my eye and a far away stare, but it brought me the most wonderful little person to look after, forever, so that’s pretty cool.
She won’t be getting any brothers or sisters any time soon, though.