I always knew I wanted to share my birth story, I guess in an almost cathartic kind of way, but just kept putting it off. Then I saw the new Bumgenius print ‘Strong‘, and in a strange way it was like a little nudge telling me to just get on with it! This nappy print is the first in the new ‘Gift’ series, designed to inspire strength, beauty, and hope. They are designed to support Postpartum Progress, an organisation that is dedicated to supporting women who are battling postpartum depression. So this is my birth story, my experience.
Before my first son was born we did every class under the sun: NCT, hypnobirthing, active birthing. You name it, we did it! We practiced the techniques religiously and both felt prepared to welcome our baby into the world. I had a 93 hour labour, ending up with an epidural and vontousse delivery. I had no regrets, although was disappointed that I was not able to have the home birth we had so hoped for. Our baby was here safely and that was all that mattered. The second time around we were not so organised. Working full time in an intense job, and now with a toddler in tow, limited our available time to dedicate to preparation for the new baby. You could say anyone can make time, but whatever the reason was, we didn’t. Maybe we were just a bit rubbish.
I started labour at 11.50pm. Yes ten to bloomin’ midnight. Why can’t I be one of those ‘lucky’ people who goes into labour when they wake up feeling fresh?! Things seemed to be progressing pretty quickly, so after a few phone calls we made the drive to the hospital and went straight to the birthing unit. Then the words no woman in labour wants to hear, “you’re only 2-3cm”. What the hell? You must be kidding me! Surely I’m about to pop this baby out! I had ketones in my urine so was already needing food and energy but, funny old thing, didn’t fancy the toast they kept trying to get me to eat. So then followed a lot of old faff (you know) in and out of the pool, trying to move around. I was just exhausted, I could barely put a drink to my lips. There were lots of helpful comments such as “there are other women walking around the ward in the same position as you”. Actually, no, not helpful at all. All I kept thinking was how you hear of women virtually sneezing their baby out, so why was I making such a fuss? I still remember repeatedly apologising to my husband what a mess I was making of it. “Sorry, sorry, sorry…I’m so bad at this”. I felt like such a failure. At one point I was called a ‘control freak’, heck she was probably right, but I wasn’t about to change for her, the baby or anyone else at that precise moment.
18 hours later I’d been fully dilated for 2 hours with lots of “well we don’t know why baby isn’t here yet…they should be”. You’re kidding me, right?! I don’t flipping know why either! They decided to move me to main ward, start induction drugs and ‘pop in’ an epidural. Longest corridor in the history of time, by the way. We got around to the ward and I knew something was different (it might have been the lack of gas and air which I had just been trying to wrestle off the midwife). The next thing, I grabbed onto the bed rails, let out a scream (I’ve always been pretty dramatic) and said “I want to push!” The midwife sent the doctor away (as I was begging her not to leave). At that point I decided to cross my legs and say that I didn’t actually want to push thank you very much. Okay, so that really wasn’t going to work. A few pushes later and he was out. Our baby boy was here and I had done it all naturally (high fives for me). But…
Then the words no parent want to hear…”he’s arrested”.
The emergency buzzer was pressed and a thousand people descended upon us. He was blue and lifeless, the cord tight around his neck. I was so afraid. We were so afraid. They took him away to resuscitate. Thankfully, there was a short gap and then a sound. Not really a cry, just a small noise in the background over all the chaos that surrounded us, me calling out “is he ok, is he ok?”. They reassured us that all was well. The crowds dispersed, quite quickly it seemed.
Then just as things seemed to settle, the emergency cord went again, I didn’t know what was happening. The consultant stood by my side. I was having a post partumn haemorrhage. For a split second I thought the worst. After losing a couple of litres of blood they finally managed to stop the bleeding. Again, the crowds departed. Such a strange feeling of desertion. This traumatic thing just happened but everyone had just vanished. Next baby to be born, possibly another emergency to deal with. I was weak, my whole body drenched and dripping with sweat, could barely move my arms. Then the vomiting started. I wanted so much to hold my new baby in my arms but I knew I wasn’t able to. I could barely speak. My husband held our baby boy as I just lay there. I felt so guilty. Guilty because I should be scooping him up in my arms and feeding him, skin to skin, but I just couldn’t. An hour or so passed and I finally felt I could hold him. He went straight to the breast and latched on. It was the best feeling in the world and such a relief. I just stared at him in disbelief of what had just happened.
I was desperate to come home so eventually, within about 24 hours they let me go. I know now it was too soon. After about a week though, I started to feel better, able to walk about as my iron levels improved.
It was so hard to process what had happened to us that day. My mind was full of doubt and anxiety of all the “what ifs”. People want to be helpful, I know that. When I talked of my experience people say “oh but that’s very common though, isn’t it?” or “oh but you’re both fine now aren’t you” and of course “aren’t you glad you didn’t have that home birth?”. Those statements may be true in part, but it made me feel like what happened was nothing, and easily forgotten. It closed the door on me expressing how I might be feeling. But it was so hard to comprehend, sometimes it still is. I felt anxious for a long time and I still wake up in the night and jump up with a bolt to check he is ok.
So really, I just wanted to say, if someone chooses to share their birth experience with you, however it went, whatever it involved, just listen, acknowledge and support. That is probably all they need.
Mamas you are all amazing, be kind to yourselves, and to each other.