Who were you when you gave birth? (aka Noisy Sunday)

I can sum it up in one word: horrified. Give me a few more words and I’d add “distraught”, “hysterical” and “exhausted”. Warning – if you haven’t had a baby and wish to remain blissfully ignorant about the horrors of childbirth, stop reading. If, on the other hand, you are feeling deeply suspicious of people who say, “it’s not so bad”, “it’s only one day of pain for a lifetime of pleasure” or “I can’t even remember the pain now”; or you’ve been there, done that and want to compare notes, then read on … It’s been more than eight years since I had Sprog 1, and I still shudder when I think about how much it hurt. I’m a bit of a wimp, my pain threshold isn’t terribly high, so I was awestruck by the agony. I’m not sure what I expected childbirth to be like – in the movies it’s a noisy, painful but mercifully brief experience. Just a few minutes of anxious screen time, then tears of joy as mother and baby are united at last. In the scary videos shown during ante-natal classes, childbirth is sweaty, messy and painful, but still relatively brief. A couple of edited highlights before the blood and mucous-covered baby slips out. Unfortunately there are no edited highlights in real life, it’s an incredibly long, messy, painful process. There are those outrageous exceptions you hear about – women who deliver their baby after a 45-minute labour and complain that they almost didn’t make it to the hospital on time; or the ones who say they didn’t mind the agony, because it was “pain with a purpose”; or the really annoying ones who say it really didn’t hurt as much as they thought it would. Rubbish. It hurts just as much as you think it will, and then some. But the funny thing about labour pain is that it starts so innocuously. I was a week overdue and booked in for an induction when I decided to try an old wives’ tale to hurry things along – lots of curry. Minutes after leaving our local Malaysian restaurant, I felt a funny twinge in my lower abdomen. “Ooooh, I think I’ve gone into labour,” I gleefully told Husband, who didn’t believe me. I think his scepticism stemmed from the fact that I was so chirpy about it. But, after nine months and one week of pregnancy it was a relief to think something might finally be happening. Also, those first labour twinges just felt like period pain. In fact, I found the next seven or so hours of labour quite fun in a mild periody sort of way.  As I lay in bed that night, trying to nap between contractions, I foolishly decided the whole labour business wasn’t going to be as bad as I’d thought. It hurt, but it wasn’t unbearable. I enthusiastically timed each contraction and the gaps between them, scribbling notes on a piece of paper beside the bed. Those notes stopped when my waters broke around 2am. After dashing, legs crossed, to the bathroom to clean up the mess, I realised the pain had taken on a whole new cadence. I think it had something to do with the fact that 4.3kg of baby was no longer cushioned by amniotic fluid in the womb. Her whopping big head was bouncing up and down on my sensitive cervix and it hurt like hell. We jumped in the car and dashed to the hospital, me clutching the dashboard and moaning at regular intervals. In the reception area, we stood filling out forms before I could be admitted, me bent over double and groaning between signatures. No nice orderlies with wheelchairs to dash me off to a delivery suite like they do on those American TV shows.  Up in the delivery suite at last, a midwife examined me and said I was 3cm dilated. She suggested I have a hot shower, then try a shot of pethidine. I cautiously agreed. Seconds into the next horrifying contraction, I begged to go straight for the epidural, thanks very much. (I got very cross last week while catching up on Offspring episodes. That arsehole who refused to let his wife have pain relief, he made me BOIL WITH RAGE. It’s alright for him, he’s just getting his hand squeezed during the awful, awful contractions. He has NO IDEA.) Bent over, my back exposed so a scarily long needle could be inserted into my spine, I was instructed to keep perfectly still during the procedure. Of course, during those crucial moments of insertion, another hideous contraction swept my body. Thankfully, my fear of permanent paralysis won out over the desire to scream and writhe on the bed. Four hours of pain-free bliss followed, during which I was told to try and get some sleep. Hello? I was about to have a baby, I was way too wound up to sleep! Husband nodded off in the corner while my mind whirred around and around and around. The midwife popped in again to see how I was going and discovered I was fully dialated. She explained they’d be turning down the epidural so I could push the bub out in about an hour. I was so pleased with myself – I was lining up for a textbook delivery. Wrong! That magical urge to push never came. I huffed and puffed and screamed and strained for hours to absolutely no effect. I’m surprised I didn’t have haemharroids the size of tomatoes by the time I’d finished (and lets not talk about the stuff that did pop out of there …). I felt like a hopeless failure and kept apologising to everyone in the room for “not being able to push properly”. They assured me I was doing a great job, but I thought they were lying – if I was doing it right, why hadn’t the baby come out?  The epidural wore off and the pain reached excruciating heights. A doctor, without consulting me, decided to administer medication to make the contractions even stronger and longer, to see if that would coax the baby out. Nope, she was stuck on something called “the spines” and she wasn’t going anywhere. After the sixth person asked if I minded them sticking their arm up my clacker to see how things were going, I put my foot down. “THIS ISN’T WORKING, WE HAVE TO TRY SOMETHING ELSE” I howled. They all stared at me in shock, then hastily agreed. A doctor ran through all the options and risks in long, intricate detail – ventouse, high forceps delivery, emergency caesarean. I was in far too much agony to think straight, so I begged for another epidural. It arrived mercifully quickly, with the encouraging words that I just had to make it through three more contractions before I would be pain-free again. My first thought was “I can’t do this three more times” followed by “But I have no choice.” When the drugs kicked in, it was a pretty easy decision. Ventouse probably wouldn’t work because the baby was too high in the birth canal, and I’d heard enough horror stories about the damage caused by high forceps. We decided on an emergency caesarean. We were both sobbing as Husband rang my family to tell them we were headed for the operating table. I cried all the way to the operating room, too. Once the pain was gone, the enormity of it all washed over me. After 22 hours of labour, I was being prepped for surgery. A drip in each arm, a monitor clipped to my thumb, a nurse shaving my privates and absolutely no feeling in my body from the chest down. Ironically, after all my efforts to push the baby out, the doctors then had to push her back up the birth canal so they could remove her surgically. The operation only took minutes, but it seemed like hours. Lots of weird cutting and tugging sensations as they manouevered the baby out of my body at last. “Whoa, she’s  a big one!” they shouted as she was held aloft. Then she was washed, wrapped in a blanket and handed to me to awkwardly hold as I lay amid the drips and monitors. How did I feel? I wasn’t quite sure. Exhausted rather than elated, which didn’t seem quite right. Then we were wheeled into recovery, where she was nestled to my breast to have her first suckle. She latched straight on and the nurse cheerfully said, “You’ll have no trouble feeding that one.” Brilliant – at least the breast-feeding bit will be easy, I thought to myself. How could I have been so naïve? But that’s a whole other story …


14 thoughts on “Who were you when you gave birth? (aka Noisy Sunday)

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  1. Hi Alana, firstly let it just be said that I have been sneakily living my life vicariously through your blog for a while. A friend put me onto it a little while ago and seeing as tho I have just gone back to full time work it is an absolute relief, joy, distraction to be reading your antics, being amused by your wit, and reveling in fact that it is not just me in a lot of instances!!!
    Loved this one more than most tho …. in fact it really was like a carbon copy of my first child’s arrival!! My famous quote to date was get out you son of a bitch – quite amusing seeing as tho she was a girl! Husbands fave quote was “it was like giving birth to a watermelon lying sideways” hence the final decision to do the caesar. I was that poor lady, the last of the evening to give birth – well actually, it went way passed the evening – quite into the next day and very early afternoon!!
    I do look back on it now, and after 3 caesars, I really would not have had it any other way – bugger this too proud to push – I pushed for bloody hours – just was not meant to be.

    Anyways, thankyou for sharing your life with me and everyone else who loves this blog.

    1. Thanks Nik, you made my day. Such a lovely comment. I will try to keep it up. Sometimes it’s a struggle getting a blog out every single day.

  2. Oh, I hear you. Except, labout and I never really got far. Well, I became aware of labour at contractions about 2 minutes apart (I too was a week over with our first one…) and was crushed when we got to the hospital to be told I was only a centimetre dialted ..they’re going to send me home, I thought…except they didn’t. Because they kept losing the baby’s heartbeat. One moment I’m thinking about a hot shower, next there are people everywhere stripping my clothes off and tossing them to my husband and a dear friend (who is also a priest who’d popped in to see us) on the outside of the pre-surgical scrum. My friend reached in through the surgical scrum to annoint me. She says it’s the only time she’s annointed someone whilst holding their bra in the other hand. This was full blown emergency – I remember as they wheeled me into theatre that I hadn’t had a chance to tell my husband that I loved him. My obstetrician was wonderful and calm and gave me the impression that we had all the time in the world whilst all around the world was moving with that super speed usually reserved for movies. What we want, he said, is a well Mum and a healthy bub. Count to ten…and then I woke up, wondering if I’d had a baby, and if my baby was alive.

    Eventually one of the amazing recovery nurses told me I’d had a baby boy, and he was with my husband. The elderly lady in the bed next to me was relieved to hear this too…as she was coming too, she’d heard my insistent inquiries about my baby, and had wondered if SHE’d had a baby…a big surprise given that she’d come in for a hip replacement….

  3. Great post. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I too ended up having 3 caesarean’s. First baby was sideways, trans-breech, no way he was coming out any other way. I still to this day remember the sensation of having hands tug an pull inside me. Pretty yucky!! Baby number 2 was too big…. Baby number 3 was a 10 pound 2 ounce giant…… I was completely unprepared for the first caesar, terrified by the prospect of the second, put surprisingly calm for the third. Do you have any issues with internal scarring from your ceasar’s? Perhaps it’s because I’ve had 3 but I still experience quite a bit of pain from time to time due to them now.

  4. 1st: Stoic but induced, confined to the bed. My best moment, I almost slapped the obsterician as she was administering the ventouse until I realised that I wouldn’t be able to reach her.
    2nd: Not stoic, suddenly all the pain memory came flooding back and I wimped out completely. Induced and confined to bed, again, fretting about missing out 1st child’s birthday and birthday party. This time had an epidural after hours of fruitless labour and halucinating on the gas (definitely the best moment)! Anaethestist was a bitch and if I hadn’t been in excruciating pain would have turned around and slapped her too, instead told Partner to handle her (which he did with all the charm he could manage).
    3rd: Back to being stoic! My first non-induced labour! It was quick, I was worried about 1st and 2nd being left in the care of friends, so wasn’t going to waste time and there was a 4.6kg baby at the end. Favourite moment, vague thoughts of the poor, young male student that got to watch the last stages of my labour. Not my most flattering poses!

  5. Your blog brought it aaaaall back (though I haven’t really managed to forget yet). I was in absolute shock at the level of pain. I still amuses me that the doctor, after 20 hours of labour told me, ‘Sorry, we are going to have to make a little cut here so the baby’s head can come out. We’ll do it on the next contraction’. They could have cut my foot off on the next contraction and I wouldn’t have felt it over the pain of the contraction.
    A friend who had her first baby just before I did had told me, ‘It felt like being really constipated and just at the very end when I thought it was getting too much, the baby came out’. That is proof to me that people have HUGELY varying levels of pain during childbirth and it seems unfair to put it down to whether you can ‘handle’ the pain.
    Reading your account I feel very lucky that I didn’t end up on the operating table in the end. I am amazed you went back for seconds!

  6. As you know, first child long and tortous, but she came out eventually, I was up and about within an hour. Second one decided that I needed to hang on longer before the epidural, as I was convinced that it would shorten the labour. It did, but only because I had to have an emergency caesarean. What no one told me was what a failure I’d feel at not being able to do it myself and how much pain I was going to be in after the birth and for the following couple of months. If I had it the other way around, I doubt I would have had a second.

  7. Our birth story for Bubba? 8 weeks of round the clock Braxton Hicks contractions, came in a 5cm dialated and was told ‘most of the work was down’. Turns out it wasn’t and 18 hours later the 4.3kg bowling ball had to tonged out of me. When I asked for pain relief the midwife offered me acupunture. I told her to fuck off. I would be needing something synthetic.

    P.S I’m 32 weeks, there is no turning back. Bugger.

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