The Meaning of Life – Part I: The Miracle of Birth. (No machines went ‘ping’)

It was a balmy April evening.  I had my sunglasses on, the hubby and I had been picked up to go for a meal at a nice country pub and I felt ABSOLUTELY CRAP AND FED UP AND HATED EVERYTHING.  You see, children, I was 10 days past my due date, everything hurt, it was bloody hot and this baby would not budge.  I’d had a sweep which failed miserably, and I was mere hours from a second one to be followed the day after by being induced if baby was still staying put.

Little did I know that the lovely chicken and ribs I’d eaten that evening would be hurtling back up into one of those little cardboard sick hats (no, really, hats.  See pictures below) in the loo in triage in a matter of hours.  What a waste.

Sickbuckethats
I had to recreate my Mum’s brilliant photo from my own birth

I want to start off by saying that if you are overdue while reading this, please don’t hate me but the baby WILL be here soon, you SHOULD take as many bloody naps as you can (oh god, why didn’t I nap more?!) and honestly, you’re doing a really good job not to have killed anyone yet (unless you have killed someone, but that’s still totally understandable.)

I’m a little hazy on the details of the last few days before Sophie arrived, they’re right that we have a strange ability to forget the crap bits which makes you think that the whole process was calm and serene and just so bloody lovely that why on earth shouldn’t you have another baby? Let’s have another baby!  It’s a trap!  I remember having a sweep, and I remember not liking it one bit.  Discomfort my arse, I was almost in tears with the pain and it didn’t work anyway as my cervix apparently was just not in the mood that day.  Or the following 7 days.  And actually it was left well alone in the end anyway as I was whisked off to be cut open…I’m getting ahead of myself.

So yeah, sweeps apparently aren’t painful for the majority, mainly just for the tight-cervixed, so don’t worry, pregnant lovelies.

Where are we? Oh yes, overdue and under-impressed.  There are only so many times you can fold and refold teeny tiny vests and cardigans without going a bit crazy so I did other things like a bump photoshoot (do it, you’ll miss the bump!), practicing babywearing a stuffed hippo (wasn’t easy with the actual baby all huge and in the way) and eating disgusting amounts of junk food. (I’d gotten over the first two thirds of the pregnancy where I could hardly eat, and had crossed over to the other side which is furnished with chocolate and KFC).

Not long before we left the pub I started to feel a bit ouchy.  I’d had Braxton Hicks a couple of times, so I breathed a bit (I mean I was breathing a bit before but I put some thought into it, like in, out, etc) and waited.  And it got a bit worse.  A very standard response of “paracetamol and bath” was instructed down the phone from triage so off I trot to the bath and I sit there for 20 minutes (while hubby enthuses over the contraction app he downloaded) chuntering about how uncomfortable I am (I’m a big girl anyway so add a huge bump and cram me into a bath and I’m not going to thank you) so I eventually told the husband to call them back and tell them it’s not on.  Mum arrived (in a TARDIS it seems as I only remember her getting to us minutes after we called, except she lives 25 minutes away), and we were on our way but not before a few towels were placed on the front seat for me in case my waters broke.  I’m a little disappointed my waters didn’t break on their own as I expected some movie-worthy tidal wave but apparently it’s not really like that and usually just ruins upholstery.  Still probably prefer that to what actually happened :/

I don’t remember much between that and lying in a bed being monitored except for being pissed off at the speed bumps and being told to breathe a lot, but there I was, squeezing my toes rhythmically on the bottom of the bed during contractions and being ‘inspected’ and monitored for a while.  They decided to move me to another room to break my waters because Sophie was ready to arrive but my body was taking a rather lackadaisical approach to the situation.  After a quick bout of throwing up I was sent off to the next room (consultant-led, clinical and bare, none of that midwife-led cosiness I got to see on the tour, no, not if you’re high risk i.e fat.  Yaaay.) for more monitoring and umming and aahing.  But also…

GAS AND AIR!!

Oh sweet joy, gas and air!  I need to get me some of that for really urgent situations at home, you know, broken legs, migraines, Tuesday afternoons…

I was off my tits, and happy, and had verbal diarrhoea.  But I don’t care, I felt amazing and I had this ‘breathing through contractions’ stuff down to a T.  I did have a very strange reaction to it though which freaked one midwife out a bit but was utterly hilarious, after I’d finished sucking on the air like it was keeping me alive my voice went DEEP.  Like, Barry White deep.  It wore off within a few breaths each time but it kept me smiling as I was talking nonsense and doing Darth Vader impressions.

It all went a bit wobbly after that, I hadn’t specified much on my birth plan other than “would both like to survive please” and “NO EPIDURALS”.  I’ve got a really weird lower back problem where I can’t even press into my skin without crippling pain so the idea of a giant needle going into my spine was all the no.  I was hard as nails (pfft) and really wanted to just get on with it on gas and air, perhaps pethidine if things got a bit too much.  They wanted to break my waters as I was only 1 cm dilated and was having contractions on top of each other which was leaving me exhausted and hadn’t even started, so break them they did, and indeed out came a tidal wave, of blood.

I was still on the gas and air at this point so I was completely unaware of the blood, the fast conversation about placental abruptions and theatre and the glances between Damien and my mum.  Next thing I know, I’m being wheeled off for a cesarean and I’m more concerned that my mum was being left behind and I didn’t want her to be all alone.  Not that I had bigger things on my mind or anything, but I was worried that she’d be worried.  I worry a lot, it’s what I do.

Despite the fact they took my precious gas and air off of me (it’s OK, they gave me a bit of plastic tube to ‘pretend’ with) I was feeling a mix of adrenaline and exhaustion and that serious head you get on when shit goes down, like when you’re drunk and you’re trying to convince the bouncers that your equally drunk friend doesn’t need to be chucked out.  Everything went a bit quiet and slowed down but sped up at the same time, and next thing I remember I was sitting on the edge of the bed in the operating room awaiting a spinal block.  I know that I was still a bit out of it as I have since asked Damien if he was in the room when I had the injection, “yes, I was stood in front of you, holding your hands”, and also because I kept referring to it as a Spinal Tap. Oh no.

I was pleasantly surprised when the injection didn’t reduce me to a puddle of pain on the floor, infact it didn’t hurt much more than any other of the countless injections I’d had during my pregnancy, and was amazed at the novelty of being completely numb from just below the boobs all the way to my toes and while knowing full well they were yanking around bits of my belly and digging to find a baby I couldn’t feel a thing.  Clever science, love it.

I was too busy asking anyone I could see from my restricted view behind the curtain if my Mum was ok and if anyone had told her what was going on to realise that Sophie was born, and didn’t click straight away that she hadn’t cried straight away.  I didn’t even consider the fact that she could be born with complications, it never even crossed my mind, but I didn’t get long to think about it because before I knew it I heard a little squawk, followed by Daddy getting that first cuddle and Sophie immediately sneezing in his face.  Very fitting, I’d say, as Daddy sneezes like a frigging bomb going off scaring the hell out of me daily.  I’m happy to report that Sophie does not sneeze like that.  Yet.

Intermission

I know, it’s a long story.  Put the kettle on, stretch your legs, have a wee etc.

So Sophie was born!  A tiny wriggly pink potato all of our own! It was a fairly straightforward day of tests, checkups, Bounty reps knocking on the door and cuddles with my absolutely wonderful baby girl.  I was powered by adrenaline, love, and tea and toast.  Most women will tell you how absolutely wonderful tea and toast is, the first bit of food and drink to pass your lips in forever, so good in fact I had that for breakfast most days for the next few months in hope that I’d get that post-birth buzz back, but actually I was just stressed about getting crumbs on the baby.

Unfortunately, the wonderful day turned into a dark and lonely night.  That’s not to say that the midwives weren’t fantastic because they were so lovely, but without Damien there to reassure me I was so scared and miserable.  (And a bit traumatised and in the WORST pain of my life after the hydraulics failed on my bed, making the head of the bed drop suddenly while I was leaning back on it and my body instinctively tensing to stop myself dropping….with my stomach muscles….that had recently been sliced apart and stitched back together.  The midwives were surprised I hadn’t ruptured the wound, I was surprised I wasn’t dead or passed out from shock it hurt that bloody much)

Things are different at night though, it’s quiet and eerie and everything should be asleep, but not many are on a maternity ward, especially not me. After a good start where Sophie was calm and happy she had started to protest at being in her cot, so if she was being cuddled it was all good but the second she was put down she would howl to be held again.  No amount of breastfeeding attempts or rocking to sleep would result in her sleeping in the cot, so obviously Mummy didn’t sleep either.  I had been awake for around 45 hours at this point so I was starting to lose it a bit, I felt delirious and I had burst into tears so many times I’d lost count.  I was relieved but consumed with guilt when a midwife offered to take Sophie into the office for half an hour of cuddles so I could sleep, (she even offered to give her some formula if I didn’t think breastfeeding was working so I could get a longer break, but I refused, absolutely definitely not, not happening.  Come to think of it I dread to think how many breastfeeding journeys might have been ended right there and then before baby is even a day old.  Not everyone is as headstrong about breastfeeding and might not realise how introducing formula in such a way could seriously affect it, especially in those early days building a supply)  I felt so selfish when I finally accepted the offer of a quick nap and felt like an absolute failure.  How on earth was I supposed to cope at home without her there to cuddle Sophie so I could sleep?  What was I doing wrong that meant my baby wouldn’t go to sleep and that I needed to send her off to someone else to care for her?  Of course, I was being silly, and just being at home made a world of difference, it was calm and familiar and just right, and this was just temporary, just one night.

So I slept, I think I slept for about 2 hours, and the midwife brought her back to me when she needed a feed and things just felt so much better! It was daytime, it was light outside, I had slept and Sophie was breastfeeding successfully, I felt such a relief.  The midwife told me she was pleased I managed it without formula, and I was too.  I’m not here to criticise formula, but for me it was so important that I breastfed Sophie, and for now she was building my supply perfectly.

It’s all gotten a bit serious hasn’t it?  I think with how that night went there wasn’t much humour I could inject into the situation, and I’m glad that night is well in the past and over with.

I think I’ll wrap the story up there, the rest is just a lot of waiting for paperwork and a giant bag of needles for me to inject myself with daily for SIX WEEKS.  Six weeks, I kid you not, of having to wear hideous compression socks and jab myself in the belly to prevent blood clots.  Another joy of being overweight, you get to inflict pain on yourself 6 times longer than everyone else.  If’s enough to make you put the cake down.  Or not.

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