The notion that women release a hormone post-birth that helps them to forget about the pain of labour must be a real one; my first thought after labour (obviously following the joy of meeting Taylor for the first time) was ‘I am NEVER doing that again!’ Yet now, I look back and think it wasn’t so bad at all…
In the grand scheme of things though, I think I was one of the lucky ones. My labour was considered ‘low risk’ from the off – baby had been engaged for weeks and she was in the right position for a natural, uncomplicated birth.
I requested a sweep at my 40+1 morning appointment with the midwife which she told me was apparently a ‘good sweep’ – my cervix was thin and baby was at the marks ready to get set. She told me that I might experience slight cramping so when I woke in the middle of the night with exactly that I didn’t panic too much. The cramps were a little too painful to sleep, but nothing too unfamilar, so after consulting Google about ‘how to tell when you’re in labour’ I decided that I wasn’t. I did feel though that labour was imminent – a feeling that was further confirmed when I had a show the next morning.
Throughout that day, the cramps had pretty much disappeared until 5.30pm when they started up again. I’d planned to cook tacos that night – as the pains increased it changed to Mr M cooking tacos, and then tacos being replaced with filled pasta which takes 4 minutes. I had visions of taking a long relaxing bath at this stage and maybe watching a film to sit it out until the contractions became more intense. The reality was quite different – I had a quick dip in the bath, wolfed down as much of the pasta as I could (my appetite was non-existent) and then frantically ran around the house throwing my tolietries, nightie, spare pair of clothes etc into a bag since although I’d packed for baby’s needs, I’d left my own packing thinking that I’d have more than enough warning to get sorted.
The cramps (I refused to fully believe they were contractions at this stage) were increasing in intensity, but they were all over the place in terms of timing. My midwife had advised me not to call the hospital until they were 4-5 minutes apart. They were varying from 7 minutes to 4 minutes, back up to 10 minutes, and then down to 5 minutes again. By around 8.30pm they were pretty intense (too intense to talk) and after having a handful at 3-4 minutes apart we called the delivery suite to tell them we would be coming in. They told us that we shouldn’t really go in until they were 2-3 minutes apart or ‘until I needed something more than paracetamol for the pain’. I sat it out for another half an hour before deciding that I was definitely in labour and I was going in.
We arrived at the hospital at 9.30pm when they put us in a delivery room and told us that a midwife would be with us soon to examine me and see if I needed to stay in. I made quick work of changing into my nightie and slippers much to Mr Ms amusement. Admittedly, the contractions has slowed down since leaving home (apparently this always happens) but I definitely was not going home. I was examined at 9.50 and told I was 4cm dilated but would not be sent home as my cervix had thinned out which meant that everything could happen quite quickly. We were told to take a walk around the hospital to try and increase the frequency of the contractions.
In the run up to labour I often wondered what contractions felt like. I definitely would compare them to an intense period cramp that lasts over a minute and is combined with the feeling you get in your lower back and pelvis when you have a real urge to go to the loo (I’m not talking about for a wee). They come in waves and the more intense they get the quicker the peak of the pain comes on (within seconds) and the longer it lasts (well over a minute). I sat on a birthing ball and took long deep breaths throughout mine which I found really helped. So, although they definitely are painful, I would describe the pain as manageable – because a) it’s not totally unfamiliar and b) it’s not continuous.
When the contractions increased to between 1-2minutes the midwife asked if I’d like to try gas and air which I readily accepted. I’ve never had it before and after my first breath I felt as though I’d stood up too fast after 10 tequilas. I couldn’t figure out if I liked it or not since it seemed to space me out but never quite kicked in in time for the peak of the contraction pain. It did provide me with some sense of control though and a bit of a distraction so I kept going with it. By this point I was also scared of how bad the pain might be if it stopped but I do wonder in hindsight if I could’ve done without it. It did make me quite sick and a little paranoid at times because I couldn’t make sense of what was really going on around me. Mr M however told me that I was super loving on it so he was all for it!
At midnight the midwife informed me that they examine every four hours, so the next time would be at 1.50am. I said that was fine. At 12.30am I was demanding that Mr M get her back in the room “I want an epidural!” As soon as the midwife came back in the room my waters broke. She examined me soon after and said ‘”you’re going to have your baby very soon”. I was 10cm dilated and an epidural was out of the question.
From that point on it was all a bit of a blur and everything happened quite quickly. I remember thinking that I needed to go for it and pushing as hard as I could to try and get baby out as quickly as possible. This was met by a stern word from the midwife telling me to slow down otherwise I would tear. I know at one stage after a particularly energetic and excruciating push, Mr M said to me encouragingly, “you can see baby’s head!” To which I replied, “I thought the head was out already!?” And then all of a sudden the most perfect little baby was placed on top of me and nothing else mattered in the world.
I think I’d previously thought that once baby was born that would be the end to labour in the true sense of the word, but I remember thinking at the time that I was most definitely still in labour up until the placenta was delivered – however, I was so overwhelmed by those first moments of looking at our beautiful baby girl that the pain no longer mattered. She was born at 2am on the dot, weighing 7lb 9 and is perfect in every single way.
So, labour in my experience was definitely painful, tiring, completely undignified (bare in mind that you will likely poo yourself, be sick and need stitches amongst other things) and at times very scary, but I would go through it all again 100 times over for the little miracle that awaits at the end.
My advice to any Mum to be:
- Try and sit out early labour for as long you can at home – I found a good indication was to wait until the contractions are too painful to talk. You will know in yourself when the time is right.
- Don’t get too hung up on creating the perfect birth plan – in the end your body will decide how the baby gets delivered
- Take a dark coloured dressing gown and change of clothes for yourself and be prepared for them to get messy
- Prepare meals for your freezer in advance for after the birth – I didn’t do this which was a huge faux pas. You will definitely not want to be cooking in the days after you get home from hospital.
- I took raspberry leaf tea from week 36 which is supposed to help speed up the second (most painful) stage of labour. I obviously don’t know for sure if that’s what made mine so speedy, but I will definitely be taking it again if there’s a second time.
- Take some of your favourite snacks and drinks along to the hospital. I took some Irn Bru which helped with the sickness