It is a little hard to know where to begin with the birth story and how much to share. One thing I’ve learned since having Nate is that sharing experiences with other women is a very powerful tool. In the hours before Nate’s birth, I read several birth stories that gave me the courage and strength I needed to endure the labour.
Let’s get some things out of the way first. I had a natural, active birth and loved the experience. I think a lot of people are afraid of the pain, but I kept telling myself that my body was built to take on this challenge and there’s nothing more natural and beautiful than childbirth. And I was right! Luckily, I had a lot of help in getting mentally prepared: I took prenatal yoga and active birth classes with the amazing Lou at Yoga Dublin; I was part of the Community Midwives Scheme at Holles St; and I read Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Natural Childbirth.
“Congratulations pet, you’re about to have a baby.” Those were exactly the words I needed to hear to take this from being scary to exhilarating.
Nate was late. Ten days late. The longest ten days of my life. I was beginning to give up hope that he was going to set up shop permanently in my uterus. For ten days I drank cup after cup of raspberry leaf tea, walked vigorously around the block, bounced on my birthing ball and pleaded with the baby to come out. I ate three pineapples, tons of spicy food, tried reflexology and had two sweeps by the midwives. I also reorganised our home office, sewed three pillow cases, knitted a blanket and played Angry Birds non stop to contain my nervous energy. (In hindsight, I should have slept and read all those books I’d saved up for my maternity leave!)
On Thursday, August 12, I had an appointment with one of the midwives, Kate. She gave me a sweep (again) and went through all the induction process. It was sobering to hear that if the baby didn’t arrive by the following Tuesday, I’d be admitted to the hospital. We scheduled a fetal scan for Saturday morning and I left determined not to make that appointment. That night, Chris made a ridiculously spicy pizza with lethal peppers grown in our garden and I washed it down with several pints of pineapple juice. I felt really nauseous, but chalked it all up to an atrocious diet that day.
At 2:00am I woke up with terrible stomach cramps. This really made me angry, because for the first time in weeks I had found a comfortable position in the bed. Then I realised, I’m about to have a baby. I called the midwives at about 2:30am and got a really cheery woman at the end of the phone, “Congratulations pet, you’re about to have a baby.” Those were exactly the words I needed to hear to take this from being scary to exhilarating. She told me I still had a long road ahead and to let my husband sleep, and try to get some rest myself. Yeah, right. I tried for about 15 minutes to not tell Chris what was happening, and by 3:00am we were both up and ready for baby!
I spent a good deal of time the rest of the night in the shower to relieve what I thought was intense pain (little did I know what was to come) or being cuddled by my hubby. We read through all the paperwork we got from the antenatal classes and got the hospital bag in order. At some point we moved to the living room and put on Muppets Take Manhattan to distract us. We made toasty sandwiches and waited for a visit from Kate.
At 12:00pm, Kate checked me and I was only 1cm dilated and instructed me to stay home. The cramping had eased off at this point and for the next few hours, it seemed that everything had stopped. The road seemed longer and longer. Chris tried his best to distract me and by 4:00pm the contractions were beginning in earnest. Eventually the shower and back massages weren’t cutting it anymore so we called my brother-in-law to drive us to the hospital. (Holles St annoyingly doesn’t have a parking lot and I didn’t want Chris to miss anything to feed the meter)
I read in Ina May’s book that some women slow down their contractions en route to the hospital. I felt very calm in the car and could feel the pain easing off, but I knew I could get the contractions back on track if I concentrated enough. At 6:30pm, I was formally admitted to the hospital at 2cm. It was a quiet evening and I got the fabled room 9 –complete with power shower and birthing ball!
Everything felt so intense, not painful like a cut or a burn, but like your muscles are all engaged, running on fuel you didn’t know existed.
The only pain relief I used was the entonox gas and the shower. I spent lots of time in the shower. So did Chris, who spent most of the evening in wet jeans! Fiona was our amazing midwife for the delivery. She was so sweet and supportive and exactly the type of person I needed in the room with me. At 8:30pm I was still only 2-3cm, so I decided to have my waters artificially broken. What follows is a blurry haze, thanks partly to the entonox and because I didn’t have my glasses on. At some point I remember shutting down. Everything felt so intense, not painful like a cut or a burn, but like your muscles are all engaged, running on fuel you didn’t know existed. My head felt like it was going to explode and I wanted tell someone to stop it all, but I couldn’t even make myself talk. I kept thinking about Angry Birds. As each contraction came, I imagined dropping a white egg and exploding the pain. It’s ridiculous, but it worked. I remember tugging at Chris’s plaid shirt. I wanted to rip it off of him, to tear something up just to get rid of all the energy pulsating through my body. But instead I just huffed and puffed on the entonox (and broke my tooth in the process).
Fiona examined me again at 10:30pm and said I was well underway, but had more time to go. I said I felt like I needed to push and she said that I probably could start soon and that we should talk about what position I wanted to be in for the birth. Chris and I had discussed and practiced many positions. I was adament that I would not give birth on my back. I wanted a natural, active birth. But as soon as she said I could think about pushing, I was ready to push. Fiona had turned around to write in my chart, I was laying on my back breathing through contractions after the examination, and suddenly I had to push. I had to have my baby. Fiona turned back around. “You’re ready to go. Do you want to get off the bed or roll over.” As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t bring my body to move. Within three massive, mind blowing, terrifying pushes, Nate was out. The song playing was “3 is the magic number” by DeLaSoul. 11:08pm. Just in time to be born on Friday the 13th.
Fiona placed Nathaniel, my gift from god, on my chest. He was amazing. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t stop shaking. I couldn’t stop crying. And to be honest, it was about 30 minutes before I remembered to put on my glasses, so I really couldn’t see. Chris cut the cord, which was far bloodier than I expected. I cleaned up a bit, had toast with marmalade (which tasted amazing, and I hate marmalade). Eventually we settled down and settled into the room we’d stay in for the night. At one point I woke up to find Chris holding Nate on his chest singing “Build me up buttercup”. That first night was honestly a little scary. I wasn’t sure what to do with the baby, but seeing Chris and Nate together was the most amazing sight I have ever seen.
By 9:45am the next morning we were on our way home from the hospital. Labor was easy, the real work was about to begin.
All birth stories and images featured in 42 weeks have been generously shared by members of the public in Ireland. If you would like to take part and share your story, we would love to hear from you. Get in touch through the website http://www.42weeks.ie, through Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/42weeks or follow us on Twitter at @42_weeks.