Pain-phobic Leah Chapman had planned a birth filled with every type of pain relief available and absolutely no heroics. But little did she know how naturally childbirth would come to her! Here she tells us about her totally unexpected experience.
How was your pregnancy?
I had a great pregnancy, which was fantastic as I am a pain phobic!
How scared of pain were you?
Before I was pregnant, I was probably a bit of a hypochondriac and thought things like headaches were the end of the world...let's just say I didn't have much of a pain threshold! I know most first time mums are terrified, but in my case I was literally frozen with fear thinking about it as I have never been a great one for tolerating pain.
When did your fears hit home?
The crunch came when a friend, very honestly, told me to imagine the worst pain I'd ever been in and multiply that by 100. The most pain I'd ever experienced was bruising my ankle and I just couldn't begin to comprehend how bad labour might be.
Did you have a birth plan?
Yes I did, and I stated that I wanted gas and air, pethidine and then an epidural in that order. I also put down that I didn't want any messing around – just give me the drugs!
When did you go into labour?
Ten days after my due date, I finally went into labour. I tried all the usual things like eating curries but nothing happened. Then one evening I stood up and...whoosh! My waters broke! Rather than being surprised and nervous I was actually skipping around, even though I was a great big lump. I was just so relieved – it meant my chances of being induced were instantly lower!
What happened next?
Once I had calmed down I waited for something to happen...and it didn't. About an hour had passed since the waters broke, so I phoned the hospital and they told me to go straight in so that they could assess me.
What time do you go to hospital?
My waters broke at 6pm. By 7pm we were in the car and on our way. By 7.30pm I was in a labour room having been assessed – in 90 minutes I had reached 3cms.
How was the pain by this point?
Given that I had always considered myself to be a giant wimp, I was surprised to find myself breathing through the contractions and squeezing on a stress ball to cope with it all. I was offered gas and air but, very strangely, I didn't want it. All of a sudden I felt superhuman and felt I wanted to continue as I was.
And how did the labour progress?
I had the luxury of a midwife with me at all times and she assessed me hourly. I was dilating at a rate of 2cms per hour – and still no pain relief. For some reasons the contractions, although very painful, never seemed to feel unbearable and I just had no desire to take anything for the pain.
Why was that?
Something in my head just kept telling me that it was going to be over soon and all I had to do was breathe, concentrate and squeeze the stress ball. There was definitely a strange sense of calm in the room – my partner says he couldn't quite understand the transformation in me.
When were you ready to push?
After a five hour labour, I was ready to push. So I began, and just three pushes later our daughter Chloe was out! It was the strangest and most wonderful experience.
What was it like to see your daughter?
I felt elated. She was the most beautiful little thing I had ever seen. I couldn't believe I'd made her and I couldn't believe I had delivered her. And there she was in my arms, looking up at me and chewing on her fist. I remember thinking I was the luckiest person on the planet.
What did the midwife say about your labour?
The midwife told me that, in all her years of experience, she had never seen such a straightforward delivery and that my body must be designed for pregnancy and labour. Whether or not this is true remains to be seen – the second one might be different!
How do you feel looking back?
I have been extremely lucky. I have lots of friends who have given birth so I know that most women have a very tough time giving birth. I definitely got away lightly – and even now I still feel guilty when I tell people about my absolutely wonderful birth experience!