positive birth story 6

Behind The Screen

I don’t think I was ever sure I would be sharing my birth story on here but I really warmed to the idea in my third trimester seeing as I felt so thankful for the many positive birth stories I read and listened to in the run up to D day. I had a real fear of childbirth growing up to the point of wondering if I could bear the thought of having kids in the future. I don’t know where it came from as I’m generally pretty good with pain. Somewhere along the line the urge to have babies became greater than my fear of the actual process but I still went into it in a bit of denial, trying to suppress the haunting thought that there was only one way out for this little person! In my third trimester I came to realise that part of the issue was that I just hadn’t heard many positive stories. It felt like women loved telling gory tales of horror, painting lurid pictures of a complete blood bath or alternatively saying not very much at all but instead giving you that look that says ‘you wouldn’t believe the things I’ve experienced’, accompanied with some nods and ‘mmmhmmm’ noises that fall somewhere between sympathy and patronising you. It was only last year when two friends responded positively to my question ‘how was labour?’ that I realised it didn’t have to be something you looked back on in terror and trauma. I was suddenly really intrigued because I’d never heard the same from anyone else. They didn’t deny the pain but were also kind of in awe of the way our bodies take over and do amazing things. I am well aware that women can have very complicated births and genuine trauma from their experience but to view birth as an awful and terrifying thing from the offset just ends up building anxiety that does nothing good for the process and is apparently proven to actually heighten pain (how crazy is that?) I’m very thankful to be able to tell a positive birth story although as with all of them it didn’t go exactly as I thought and adjustments to my birth plan were made along the way, but such is real life.

My third trimester was actually my favourite. I’d been feeling no sickness, lots of energy and motivation and my hormones had probably never been on such and even keel in my whole life. I was still doing Pilates and pregnancy yoga on top of swimming right up until my due date and feeling really good for it. I was all too aware that birth was very physical and being fit would only help things along. Sure, I wasn’t a fan of my swollen elephant legs, ankles and feet and the one and only pair of sandals I could fit into got pretty boring to say the least. I didn’t love overheating from just a few steps or needing the toilet 7 times through an average night (don’t worry I made it to the loo) or the sciatica that flared up and nicely accentuated my pregnancy waddle to the max but despite all these things I did genuinely enjoy the third trimester more than the others. I loved having a defined bump and feeling her movements so much more as well as getting familiar with her pattern of being awake throughout the day. It was really precious and I was actually sad at the prospect of it ending and losing the bump. I also felt amazingly creative and inspired in that last trimester with so many ideas and gusto for my business.

As I said I was very active right up until birth (I was doing weights and squats the day I went into labour…aah the comedy) but something shifted at 37 weeks, literally…she shifted right down! All of a sudden I understood why pregnant ladies walked so slowly and with such difficulty! It was as if she reached fully baked and boom…’I’m getting ready mum.’ She felt so heavy in my pelvis it kind of felt like my bones would split apart when I walked. The doctor told me this was SPD which is very common especially as far along as I was. I felt like a cripple but was excited as I knew things were progressing, especially when the midwife told me she was very low down. I think my body was doing a lot of the work in advance of actual labour as I was getting a lot of cramping for a month before and the braxton hicks were getting more and more intense and uncomfortable. 

Everything seemed so much more real and I started to feel really nervous about birth again. I’d been reading a great book on prepping for it called ‘Birth Skills’ by Juju Sandin, which had helped a ton but I still felt overwhelmed and a bit in the dark about how I would personally react to labour. The book is great in that it doesn’t pretend it won’t be painful (I’m not in the market for unrealistic fluff) but it’s all about taking hold of the techniques you can use to help you through. The main thing you’re reminded of is that it’s ‘good pain’, something we rarely experience in life. Usually we associate pain with sickness and negativity but contractions are a sign your body is doing what it needs to for a very positive reason. The techniques like movement, visualisation, breathing and vocalisation were all designed to take your mind off the pain and put your focus onto something else which totally makes sense but I couldn’t really imagine which ones I would actually feel compelled to do when the time came. Spoiler alert, it was definitely movement and breathing for me, with a sprinkle of visualisation when it go really tough but the uncertainty before makes you still feel a bit underprepared. It was moments like that that I had to give over to God because whilst I could read and practise lots and be fully informed before hand, I was kidding myself if I actually thought I was in control. Only God was and it was reassuring to know he knew how it would go and would be there each step of the way!

I was working right up until birth which also made it hard to feel ready as I wasn’t really just waiting around for it to happen. I remember the Monday (a week before labour) I had particularly bad cramps through the night and all day. I was convinced labour was near. They would come for about an hour or so and then go for a bit and then come back but were relatively constant unlike contractions. I started to feel fearful and a dark sense of impending doom. Funnily enough that day I was catching up on one of my usual health and nutrition podcasts which just so happened to be about birth that week and the Fear Free Childbirth Podcast was recommended. What timing! So over the course of the next week I blitzed the whole back catalogue. Some things I already knew about but the positive birth stories in particular gave me the biggest boost! I realised being around negativity just wasn’t helpful when pregnant. Don’t watch one born every minute where they love to show you drama or excuse yourself from those conversations with friends about how awful their experience was. It may be true but it just doesn’t help anything at that stage!! That last week I felt so much more excited about birth and meeting our little girl and I knew I could do it, no matter what that looked like in practise. and how it veered from my birth plan. 

Due date came that Wednesday and swiftly went and the talk of a sweep and a possible induction if things dragged out filled me with dread. Suddenly that was what I felt anxious about, not birth itself. I so wanted to have it begin naturally, especially knowing it would be better for me and the baby. It was reassuring to know that no matter what she wasn’t going to set up camp in my belly forever but I was praying she would make an appearance on her own. That week I walked and walked despite how painful it was. I drank buckets of raspberry leaf tea and even opted for a curry for our anniversary lunch. I remember getting an Uber back from that lunch and having the worst braxton hicks I’d experienced. I literally had to use my breathing techniques to get me through the discomfort for the entire 15 minute ride home!

She felt so ready to come out and we were ready for her. I had my hospital bag packed and my labour box full of stress balls, aromatherapy oils, a tens machine and heat packs. We were all set for the birth centre with my birth plan for a water birth with just gas and air if possible. We had a bumper bag of snacks bundled together and ingredients for a natural energy drink. By Monday I was googling induction massages and acupuncture wondering if it was a good idea to give it a whirl. Some context; I was only 6 days overdue. Yup, I was a crazy pregnant lady by that point! I went to post some orders at the post office and decided to extend my walk to make it really long in the hope it might help things along. By that stage a 15 minute walk was what I considered really long walk. I waddled back home and then bounced on the yoga for a bit. That evening we ate dinner together and slobbed out on the sofa watching Netflix. I felt really uncomfortable and kept on changing position. She seemed as if she was lying in a funny way and perhaps was even a bit agitated.

Cheesy Anniversary photo the day before I went into labour

As soon as we were ready for bed and my head hit the pillow at 10.50pm (a bit late to bed that evening for granny here), I felt the weirdest internal thud. That’s the only way I can really describe it, even though it sounds a bit dramatic. I hadn’t felt anything like that before and it was as if something had dislodged and moved down inside me.  Was this it? I lay there as I started cramping, questioning what was going on. I was all to familiar with cramps by that stage so I tried to go back to sleep but suddenly I had the most overwhelming urge to empty my bowels. Sorry if that’s too much information but that was all that consumed my mind for about 30 minutes. I went back and forth to the toilet trying to relieve the situation, whilst still cramping until finally, success! Oh the glamour! I felt momentarily better and then with that out my mind I was even more aware of the cramps. It seemed they were definitely coming in waves but I was questioning my judgement as I was sleepy and probably not thinking straight. Still unwilling to admit this might be labour I decided not to wake Nick. If it was then he’d need all the sleep he could get now and plus from what I’d read the initial stages last a good old length first time around and it’s usually very manageable at the start. I didn’t want to peak too early but I really wanted a bath. If this wasn’t labour then it would be a pretty odd thing to do at 11.45 at night but I gave in and ran one, willing it to fill up faster. The moment I surrendered to the labour train was when I was in the bath and I started involuntarily padding my feet up and down on the far edge the bath as I lay there. It was a natural instinct along with focusing on my breathing and each time the cramping got stronger my movements and outward breaths became more forceful. It was exactly what the book had advised to help but my body but I was doing it without even thinking. This was it!!!

I tried getting out the bath but realised quickly the contractions were actually quite intense already so I got back in, knowing I really did have to get out and tell Nick some time soon. I was confused that each contraction already seemed to be lasting quite a while and with what seemed like very little rest in between. Finally I managed to get out the bath and hobbled back into the bedroom to abruptly announce in the pitch black, ‘Nick, I’m in labour’. He jumped to attention, still dazed and confused. He grabbed my hand and prayed for us and a smooth labour, something that shamefully hadn’t yet occurred to me to do. I’d written a priority list for him to work through and so straight away he asked for my help to make my natural energy drink but I told him to scrap that nonsense and get on with packing his stuff for hospital. I was sure things were moving pretty quickly. I got onto the bed on my side and continued to paddle my feet up and down, whilst smelling essential oils on a tissue to distract me and he started timing contractions which were indeed already pretty long and close together. Ironically I’d said that evening before bed that I should really create a labour playlist but obviously that was too little too late so I asked Nick to put on Francis and The Lights as that was what I’d had on when I’d been practising the birthing techniques. Nick found him on Spotify but managed to click on to a playlist which mainly repeated May I Have This Dance over and over again through all the Sonos speakers. This became her birth song and I still had it playing in my head by the time we arrived home from hospital. I used the beat to help my movement and barely even noticed how many times it was playing! We phoned the birth centre to let them know what was happening and I spoke to the midwife for a little bit. I managed to muster the energy to crack a joke and laugh which may have been a mistake as I think she assumed it was really early days and the contractions couldn’t yet be that strong. We were told to continue as we were. They always try and dissuade first-time mums from coming in too early which I understand. They don’t want to have to send you home if you’re less than 4cm dilated and it is nicer to be at home as long as possible.

Comically, I tried to get up and slap on some tinted moisturiser to make myself look more presentable but I couldn’t actually stand so I gave up on that idea and embraced the fact I looked a wreck. I was confused. What happened to ‘there will be hours of just carrying on with normal life in between contractions’?? The tens machine was redundant as it felt way past that point. It really wasn’t long after getting on the phone that the contractions app started flashing ‘go to hospital!’ We phoned the midwife again and this time, along with the two times to follow Nick had to speak to her as I just couldn’t focus on anything else. Quickly I felt the urge to move more to get through contractions so I attempted to move through to the living room where I was leaning against the yoga ball and padding with my feet. This was to be my position of choice for most of the rest of my labour. I was a bit worried that I was moving too much too soon as everything I’d read said don’t tire yourself out too early on but I just couldn’t stay still. My body took over and seemed to know what I needed.

At this stage I was banging the stress balls together hard and Nick was counting me in time with the music, secretly getting a bit frustrated that I wasn’t able to keep in time for long. As a drummer he’s a stickler for a beat! When I told him a contraction was starting he would talk me through it and started telling me I was climbing a hill, letting me know when I was near the top and then on my way down. This was the point where visualisation really helped. He’d been quite worried about supporting me well in labour but having read the same book that I’d been reading he was ready to help and he was so good! I couldn’t have done it without him. He also reminded me as I progressed to keep on breathing in through my nose and pushing the air out of my mouth on the outward breath. The book had talked a lot about active movement and breathing to release the adrenaline. Using the adrenaline rather than allowing it to build up and cause more pain made perfect sense but it’s not something that comes all that naturaly. I told Nick in advance that I needed him to prompt me on this as my previous default to dealing with pain was to freeze, hold my breathe and sit immersed in it. I knew I’d struggle not to be paralysed by the pain the more labour progressed so he didn’t allow me to be! He kept on coaching me through and reminding me it was good pain from a muscle doing it’s work. 

Not long after this point I got very confused as contractions were coming on top of each other. Nick’s counting me through stopped working because as soon as one started to go another would surge up, sometimes three back to back.For added comedy, I’d been holding off on taking paracetamol too early and this was the point Nick asked if I’d like some to which I nodded. On realising we only had stacks of Ibuprofen rather than the desired drug, he ran across to the petrol station. By the time he got back I had gotten down onto the yoga mat on all fours, hitting the front of my feet onto the mat in time with the music. I started to feel really nauseous and made gagging noises to the point that Nick went and got a bowl just in case. Needless to say the paracetamol made no difference at this point! With barely any rest in between contractions I started to think I couldn’t do it! I mustered the energy to tell Nick that I wasn’t sure I could even get to the hospital at this point. I’m as sure as I can be that this was the overwhelming ‘transition stage’ from early to established labour. Contractions on top of each other with barely any rest, sickness, losing the plot and thinking I couldn’t go on are all meant to be signs but at the time I couldn’t help thinking surely this wouldn’t be happening yet.

We ignored the midwife who was still telling us to continue at home and Nick ordered an Uber. That’s right, it was that or the bus as we don’t have a car! Don’t worry the driver was pre-warned otherwise that would have been pretty alarming to catch him off guard with. At this point I couldn’t fathom how I would get from our flat down to the Uber, let alone survive the car journey in an upright position, unable to move my legs much. Even getting my flip flops and a jumper on was an almighty effort! Nick gathered all the bags, laden like a camel and handed me a tissue with lavender oil and my stress ball and we set off. I had three contractions on the way down, each time stopping to lean on anything I could find and stamping with my feet until I was through it. Amazingly I didn’t get a single contraction the whole 7 minute journey to the hospital. That was a huge answer to prayer and in fact it was the calmest and most pain free I had felt in hours and hours. I had my next contraction literally as we pulled up while the driver unloaded our bags.

The birth centre is actually attached to the hospital where we are so we got very confused as to how to get in during the middle of the night. Finally we found our way in and with complete conviction I told Nick it was on the 2nd floor. It didn’t really look right upon leaving the lift but I didn’t have time to think and ended up having a contraction against the locked double doors to somewhere unknown. A guy who worked there said we needed the floor below. There I was bent over, stamping my feet and breathing through, thinking in my head ‘he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, I need the birth centre not the labour ward’, until I finished and looked up only to realise he was right. He led the way telling us to walk down the stairs rather than get the lift because it was good for me to walk, at which point I wanted to slap him in the face but alas, I didn’t have the energy. 

our room in the birth centre

Finally we walked into the birth centre and I was so relieved! I just wanted to be in the water now, now, now! It was about 4.30am but I’d literally lost all sense of time. The midwife realised who we were and although she was lovely, greeted us with a slightly patronising smile and tone in her voice, as if she was readying us to be sent home. Another contraction came and I was leaning over the bin, hearing her say something about a urine sample. ‘Are you kidding?’ I was thinking, ‘how on earth do I manage that right now?’ Well it was definitely a challenge, especially as this was the point when my mucus plug decide to come out. It sounds as gross as it was but I didn’t care by that stage. There I was trying to clean that up, whilst aiming my pee in a pot and having three contractions in the process. Finally, success! I managed to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror holding this saturated urine pot, hair in a weird high, side pony tail, like a teenager from the eighties and mascara down my face (I was sure I took all of that off before bed). You really do lose all sense of caring, it’s true.

I returned to the room where Nick and the midwife were waiting. ‘You took a while, we wondered where you’d got to’, the midwife said. If I had the capacity to shoot her a ‘daggers’ look I would have done but oh no, here was another contraction. She asked if I’d like her to examine me which once again the answer in my head went more like ‘ummm yeah, we didn’t just get an Uber and bring all our bags here for a fun night time excursion!’ But what I really said was, ‘yes please’. Getting on the bed seemed like a task in itself! I don’t know what came over me but I remember that outwardly I was just so polite and kept on apologising. I definitely wasn’t swearing the place down like in the movies. She had a look and low and behold I was 8cm dilated, well into established labour. I was so relieved, petrified that I was going to in fact have been just 1cm dilated and sent home. She looked very surprised telling me I’d done some great labouring at home and announced that they’d fill up the birthing pool straight away. 

As I waddled along the corridor various people I assume were midwives were giving me bright looks and ‘well done’s’ and if I hadn’t been slightly distracted by the pain, I would have taken a moment to enjoy that I’d made it this far, relatively quickly and with ease. My midwife announced that we should have a new little arrival in a matter of a few hours with me already at 8cm. A flicker of excitement lit up inside me but little did I know the road ahead wouldn’t be quite that smooth.

They noticed ketones in my urine and said I really needed to eat and drink something which was the last thing I get like but I remembered my friend had given me lucozade tablets so Nick shoved a couple in my mouth with some water. I hate them but the thought of real food, even hairdo made me feel sick! I think energy tablets really helped, particularly as things became more lengthy than we’d expected. She told me she could set up the gas and air but didn’t think I needed it. I wasn’t so sure and part of me was like ‘hold on I’d quite like to try it’ but I was in polite mode as I said and deferred to her wisdom. The birthing room was dimly lit and Nick put on some music while the pool was filling up. It had such a peaceful atmosphere and was instantly calming. Nick helped me with my bikini top with a few breaks for contractions and finally I was in the water and it felt amazing. It was such a relief to be surrounded by warm water again and I started wondering why everyone didn’t want to have a water birth. I’m so at home in water, it was no surprise. I had a bath every day throughout pregnancy, sometimes two and my happy place was swimming each week. The only problem was it actually relaxed me too much and my contractions started slowing down. I was still progressing but it was definitely slower than before. Each time a contraction came I would push one foot against the far side of the pool, semi stamping as I had done before. I was so glad to be in the water for some of the strongest contractions I would experience. It was those ones where you feel like you need to bear down and you’re told to not fight them and yet you’re not allowed to push yet. Basically it’s the point you feel like you really might poo yourself.

I really hadn’t been vocal the whole way through the process but this was when I couldn’t help but let out little groans and whimpers. Nick said that was the part he really didn’t like. He was holding my hand and over the side of the pool and trying hard not to fall asleep at this point. Unfortunately he didn’t have the same rush of hormones and oxytocin running through his body to keep him energised as I did. After nearly every contraction they’d get a mirror to check the progress under water and take the baby’s heartbeat. Finally the midwife said it was time to push but I needed to get out of the pool as it was relaxing me too much and the contractions were getting further and further apart. I couldn’t believe my body had really done all the things to get me to that point. How on earth was that possible?? I was so happy it was time to push but had really wanted to deliver in the water! Out of the water seemed like a harsh and hostile place that I didn’t want to step into. The midwife helped me out and tried to get my bikini off and a gown on but I was beyond dignity by then and would have been more than happy to be totally starkers for the rest. This was where the hard part really began.

Labour up until pushing was definitely hard work and it was painful but time went very quickly and for the most part it was manageable. I feel like I was in some kind of outer body state for most of it, aware that my body was capable of doing it, but when it came to pushing I felt taken aback by just what hard work it was. I had to be 100% present to actually make progress, really focused on where I was pushing and what was happening inside my body. For even just this part of labour alone, my biggest bit of advice would be to get fit! Although your experience may well be quicker than mine (I hope) it really is the biggest and most exhausting workout my body has ever done. I would take 2 hours in that horrendous British Military Fitness Training I did over 2 hours of pushing and yes, that’s right, I pushed for 2 hours! First time round they would generally expect about half an hour to an hour but oh no, not for me. We tried 3 different positions and kept on cycling through them. First up was on all fours, leaning against the back of the sofa bed and then on my side, pushing against the side of the pool and then on my back with the midwife holding one leg and Nick holding the other. The tricky thing was that my contractions were now 5 minutes apart and so any progress made with her head kind of backtracked by the time the next one came. You might think that gave me ample time between each one to rest and prepare for the next but my body just couldn’t relax in between. My legs were pushing so hard onto other people’s hands and the pool that in between they were spasming like crazy. I was remembering all the training from the book, locking my breath in and pushing as if I was doing a poo. And folks I know there’s been lot of talk of poo in this post but that really is what it feels like. It feels like the baby is actually coming out of your bum. I was so glad I knew that in advance because you kind of have to embrace it and not worry if there is actually some poo escaping into the big wide world.

The midwife was like a fitness coach shouting ‘harder, harder, more, more, stronger, stronger…give me your best!’ When I say shouting, I really do mean shouting but she was brilliant. The pushing part wasn’t what I would describe as painful, just very intense with a bit of stinging. The main thing was that it was just so much hard work. I did kind of feel like I might split in half but I can’t say it was actually painful. At the one hour mark the midwife mentioned they would have to cut me if baby didn’t make enough progress soon. She said I was pushing well but I was just a bit tight down there. At the mention of a cut, I was thinking, ‘do it to me know, please!’ If she’d suggested a cesarean at that point I would have sprinted on to the operating table, that’s how much I wanted it to end but I persevered despite the internal monologue.

There was one point where I made some really good progress and she seemed positive we’d get her out but it just wasn’t happening. They don’t let you push past 2 hours but they’d only let me carry on that long because much to everyone’s amazement baby was still totally happy. They’d take her heartbeat after each contraction and couldn’t believe she wasn’t in any distress. What a trooper! However by the two hour mark she told me she was going to numb the area and on my next contraction I needed to push and she’d cut me just 1cm. Well none of us were prepared for the next part. She did her little snip and immediately, out Magda came…all of her! I never experienced the part of pushing where you have to pant to slow things down or have the baby rotate to get the shoulders out, she just rocketed out all in one. That was the weirdest feeling I’ve every felt. For a whole human to make there way right through you so quickly was bizarre and amazing. It was probably an even stranger feeling as she was a very long baby right from the start. It was as if she was going on and on and on. Straight away they put her on my chest, opening up my gown so we could have skin to skin. She only cried on the way out but as soon as she was on me she was silent, just staring straight into my eyes. They kept on trying to get her to give them a scream but she was just so content for the rest of the process. I on the otherhand was crying hysterically, part in shock and part in total awe that I was meeting my baby for the first time. She was real and beautiful even if she was covered in blood and her own poo. Yup, she did a poo on the way out. I can’t explain the feeling of the moment we first met. This little person that had been growing inside of me for 41 weeks, feeling her movements and hiccups and here she was in my arms. It was an amazing mix of joy, relief and a crazy rush of endorphins. I couldn’t properly see but Nick was a blubbering mess too. He’s not a crier and he’s often been made fun of for being an emotional flatliner. He didn’t even shed a tear on our wedding day so I’d always said he better cry at the birth of our first child and he most definitely did!

Magda just hours old

At this point they saw in my birth plan that I wanted to deliver the cord natural rather than with the injection and delay cord clamping but they were worried about me losing too much blood with how far apart my contractions were and advised me to have the injection. I was happy to go with their opinion in the moment and they were able to delay the cord clamping at least a little. Even with the injection my contractions still weren’t picking up again so she decided to massage the placenta out which sounds much nicer and more luxurious than it was. It was incredibly painful to have her pressing hard on my stomach but didn’t last too long thankfully. I was also catheterised to empty my bladder to make room for the placenta to come out and apparently it was jolly full. I have no idea how as I’d barely drunk enough through labour and probably sweated 90% of it out anyway! People just casually throw into their birth stories, ‘…and then I delivered the placenta.’ Whilst it seems totally insignificant after you’ve just given birth, it’s also quite a sizeable organ that plonks out with a lot of blood! It’s totally bizarre but a completely amazing organ and it felt like another weight was lifted getting it out. I had opted to have my placenta made into capsules. Yes, I’m ‘that’ person. You may think I’m a bit of a hippy, most of my friends and family do but I’d read so much about the benefits and with all I know about nutrition it made perfect sense. It’s meant to help with rebalancing your hormones and post-natal depression, boosts blood supply for healing and encourages milk production, not to mention it’s full to the brim with nutrients. I almost felt like it was a big ol’ waste to just chuck it away after 9 months of growing it. We’d come prepared with the cooler bag, ice packs and zip lock bag and included it in the birth plan so that we could store the placenta with them until it was picked up afterwards. I’m not going to lie, watching the midwife hand Nick the bag with this big beast of an organ inside was very strange. He phoned the lady carrying out the process and it was picked up on a vesper shortly after birth.

With the placenta out and shipped off to become my very own magic potion, I was still lying with Magda on my chest and I was so surprised at how big she was, after the doctors and midwives had told me I’d have a small baby at each aptointment, with my very ‘compact’ bump as they put it. The midwife stitched up my small cut which seemed to take forever and whilst not painful (thank you local anaesthetic), did feel quite uncomfortable. Being able to see her pull and tug what looked like a fishing line and hook in and out wan’t that pleasant. I was willing it to just be over so I could enjoy being with our baby but it was nice to be able to chat to the midwife as I hadn’t previously been in any fit state for light conversation. She hilariously asked if I was an athlete to which I spluttered with laughter and responded with a resounding ‘no!’ She asked because she’d only seen athletes that were as tight as I was and that was partly why the head wasn’t budging despite all my pushing efforts. She’d been hoping I’d stretch more or even tear but nada. I told her that perhaps it was all the pilates I’d been doing but weren’t pelvic floor exercises meant to help not hinder you at birth?? I feel somewhat shortchanged.

When she was finished stitching me up like a rag doll Magda was taken to be weighed and checked over. The midwife told me she was going to help me stand up and take a shower. This suggestion seemed like a crazy talk at the time. How was I ever going to move again? What if I stood up and everything fell out of me? I decided to trust she knew what she was doing and leant most of my weight on her whilst she helped me up. It was so odd to be standing up and I couldn’t help feeling light headed. Standing in the bathroom like a zombie, the midwife wiped me down and got me fully undressed to shower. There was no thread of dignity left but I couldn’t care less. It felt so good to have a shower even though I didn’t wash my hair and still looked an utter state by the end of it. As a team effort we put on my nightie and a bumper size maternity pad that’s essentially an adult nappy and felt vaguely human again. When I walked back into the room Nick was having some skin to skin time with Magda, which was adorable. Thankfully in the birth centre you get your very own room as a couple for the night. As an American you may be reading that thinking ‘of course’ but you don’t get that kind of treatment on a labour ward and your hubby gets sent home for the night which probably would have broken my heart at the time. I was still riding high on all those sparkly hormones that are a truly genius gift from God. I didn’t feel tired despite my body feeling like it had been hit by a truck. I had that feeling you get that next day after an intense workout except ten times worse. I couldn’t even straighten my legs to walk properly.

Settled into the room together the midwife helped me start breastfeeding and then left us alone, together with Maggie. It finally dawned on us that we were a little family and Nick was a teary wreck, possibly the most action his tear ducts have seen in the whole time I’ve known him! He maintains I was laughing at him but I was just smiling because I felt so much love for him and Magda and it’s hard not to smile when someone’s telling you that you’re their hero! That time was such a hazy and wonderful blur and is possibly the happiest I’ve ever felt. I couldn’t get over her finally arriving after our journey of losing Zion and I was totally amazed at the whole crazy process that God created to bring each human into this earth. How mad that babies heads squish out of shape to squeeze through and how genius to pump our bodies full of hormones that give us energy and help us relax despite being in a stress situation. How clever that contractions push the baby down, down, down without you actually doing anything yourself and how mad that babies come out not needing washing because they are the most sterile they’ll ever be. I was probably cross eyed just taking it all in! Nick reminded me that I’d done the whole thing without pain relief, bar the two paracetamol at home! I hadn’t even really thought about it. I as obviously hopeful to do it with as little as possible but wasn’t against gas and air or even the pain killer injection if necessary. My main ideal had been avoiding an epidural. I knew there were definitely some situations where you need one or are so exhausted that you need something like that to provide you with rest so I was really glad that I hadn’t had to face that scenario. 

Like a kick in the face I realised I was actually starving. By this point it was lunchtime and it really hit me that I hadn’t eaten anything bar a few sips of a smoothie and energy tablets throughout a whole night and morning of activity. Flavours suddenly seemed appealing to me so we asked our pastor to pick us up a cheeky Nando’s on his way in to visit. Chicken and chips literally never tasted so good. The midwives had tried to give me tea and toast on numerous occasions but they seemed bamboozled by the fact I could’ve even eat gluten free bread. I had to prove there were nuts and naked bars in my bag as well as a takeaway on the way before they were satisfied. So our first meal as a family was Nando’s…well I guess Magda was on the colostrum but pretty much Nando’s all round! 

As Maggie had decided to give us the gift of her first poo on the way out, we had to stay in the birth centre for 24 hours following delivery, so that she could be monitored. They said it was more a formality and nothing to worry about as they knew it hadn’t happened whilst the sac was still in tact otherwise we would have seen when my waters broke in the pool. I was secretly pleased to stay longer so we could be taken care of for a little longer and have them show us what on earth we were meant to be doing. Seeing as Nick could stay there with me it was a win, win! His parents came that evening and brought us dinner too which was amazing! That night I slept for about an hour in total. As with many newborns she was super clingy with adjusting to not being permanently attached to me anymore. Poor little thing. It’s such an massive event for them as well as mamas. She wasn’t happy unless she was in my arms all night so I just sat with her, bolt upright in bed, in the pitch black all night long. My eyes would close and my head bop down and then I’d spring back to life but for some reason I didn’t mind too much when I was holding our warm little bundle. It has to be said that sitting bolt upright was possibly the most uncomfortable position for my stitches but I was so in love that it ease the discomfort somewhat. By the time I slept the night after I’d essentially gone 48 hours with about and hours sleep which is totally mad but those hormones really are an amazing help to get you through. 

When a friend came to pick us up from the hospital the next day it felt very odd to walk outside, partly as I felt a bit like a mole coming out of a hole into daylight and partly because I realised how hard it was to walk. Every part of my body seemed to hurt from that crazy workout called labour. Muscles were hurting that I didn’t even know existed but once again, who cared because we were carrying our sweet little Magda back into our home, swimming in her baggy baby grow and drowning in her hooded cardigan, a proper little poppet.

And so there it is in lengthy novel form, my birth story. I love that I have a positive but realistic tale tell and I’m glad that with a whole lot of prayer and a more positive outlook before hand I was able to go into it free from terror. Surely that can only help the process! I may have another baby in the future and that labour could be a whole different story, with complications and all sorts but for now let me be another story that encourages any of you having a baby or wanting to, that it’s not something to just grit your teeth and bear. It is painful but it’s also the most positive pain you’ll ever experience and there really are so many things you can do  to help get you through. I’m so thankful for having been able to experience it as I know many people don’t get to. I’m in awe of how God designed the whole process and the intricacies of the human body. The whole thing really is the biggest miracle! 

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