My nearest and dearest friend is about to give birth. This got me thinking about babies and labour and how exciting that time is.
My own two births were amazing and exactly the way I had hoped. We had that middle-of-the-night dash to the hospital, driving through red lights and deep breathing; all the time praying that baby didn’t make a break for freedom while we were on the car park. I was whizzed through the hospital, clinging onto a wheelchair, cursing the idiot who decided to put the labour ward as far away from the car park as humanly possible. I had two wonderful water births and had absolute minimal intervention. My midwives were fabulous. The midwife I had for Little Panda’s birth was an absolute angel in blue who knew exactly what I wanted and did her best to make sure it happened that way. It was exciting, liberating, life changing and surprising.
The biggest thing I will take away from both of my births is that feeling of absolute pure love and relief. Holding your own baby and placing him on your chest for the first time, looking into those eyes, as big as buttons, and listening to him take those first few croaky cries. There’s nothing that even comes close to that feeling.
I am not daft enough to imagine that everyone has a lovely birth, exactly to plan and trauma free, I know plenty of women who have had awful experiences which physically and mentally scarred them for life. Growing up my best friend and I have heard just about every horror story you could possibly imagine. Her mum was a midwife for over 35 years and let me tell you, the very best form of contraception is to listen to tales of women who lose hundreds of pints of blood and give birth to 15 pound babies. Ok, I exaggerate, slightly. My point is that I know how lucky I am that the stars were aligned, the gods were smiling on me and both of my babies happened to be in the right position.
My sister in law was not quite so lucky. She got the birth she wanted; a home birth with little medical intervention, surrounded by family but baby Firecracker decided that a back-to-back labour was the way to make her grand entrance to the world and popped out stargazing. Ouch.
A friend of mine gave birth to an 11 pound baby with the help of forceps and a LOT of stitches and another close friend ended up with an emergency section after labouring for over 30 hours; both her and baby almost didn’t make it. It’s not all plain sailing and a lot can go wrong.
In the run up to Little Monkey’s birth I became obsessed with watching One Born Every Minute. Absolutely obsessed. Watching those families change and how the mothers coped (or didn’t cope) with labour was amazing. It was also bloody terrifying. I am the biggest wimp going; I will moan about a paper cut for days, I bruise like an old peach and period pains leave me doubled over in agony. I did not want to go through what those women were going through but at the same time, I kind of did. I wanted to know what contractions were like, I wanted to feel every pain and sensation of giving birth to my own baby and I wanted to remember it, I did not fancy being high off pethidine or puking up into a bowl while pushing a baby out. I absolutely had to be an all-or-nothing kind of girl: gas and air or epidural and nothing in between.
Once I’d made that decision I had to find other ways of coping with what I was sure was going to be immeasurable pain. Hypno-birthing seemed like the way to go; I quite liked the idea of drifting off inside my own head while I concentrated on breathing through the pain, or whatever it was you were meant to do. So my sister in law lent me her book and CD and after a nice relaxing bath I lay on my bed and played it.
‘Let your mind empty of all day to day thoughts’
Ok, nooooo problem.
‘Forget the stresses of the day and concentrate on your own heart beat and the gentle movements of baby’
Stresses, forgotten. Gentle movements? More like can-can style kicks to the groin but ok.
‘Let the thoughts come into your mind and leave again’
I need a wee. No I don’t. Yes I do. Bugger.
‘Now breathe deeply’
I need a wee.
‘In and out.’
I NEED a wee.
‘Now imagine your contractions as a surge of pressure, like a wave.’
Don’t mention water.
‘A wave which washes over you and then goes back as you breathe it away’
Seriously, enough with the waves.
‘And breathe iiiiiinnn and ouuuuuuuut.’
I never managed to get past that part. Her silly, whispery, sing-song voice annoyed me and every time she called contractions ‘surges’ I wanted to smack her. So maybe traditional hypno techniques weren’t for me but I still liked the idea of being distracted from the pain so I made myself a labour playlist instead. This worked much better. I downloaded Bon Jovi’s acoustic album, ‘This Left Feels Right’, and played it all the time; in the bath, the car, while cleaning the kitchen, wherever I was I had the vocal genius of Jon Bon Jovi singing me into relaxation. When it actually came to the labour my head was immediately in a Zen-like state and the 4 hours I spent bobbing around in the birthing pool went past in a flash. It really helped to have something to concentrate on and having Little Monkey born to my favourite song, ‘Always’ was the absolute icing on the cake.
The husband, however, did not agree. As we prepared for the birth of Little Panda he did threaten to throw my iPhone in the birthing pool with me or hijack my iTunes and play four hours of Motown so I had to mix it up a little bit. I spent a few days scrolling through iTunes and compiling a playlist of nice soothing songs and some suitably motivating ones. Obviously, giving birth without the help of Bon Jovi simply wouldn’t be possible so I stuck a few in there for good measure and by the luck of the gods, Little Panda entered the world to the exact Same song as his brother. It seems fitting that the words in that song are about loving someone eternally.
As I said, both times I was incredibly lucky that my labours went well and even though I’m pretty damn sure I’m done having babies, I can’t help but be a teeny bit jealous that my oldest and most treasured friend is about to go through all that pain and exhaustion to bring her little bundle into the world. I really enjoyed labour and would do it all again in a heartbeat.
So this blog is dedicated to Chicken, Auntie Daz and DubDub and the perfect little family they are about to become. I’ve chosen a suitably motivating song which you can listen to Here.