So here I am, a mummy! What a journey it's been these last nine months. A time I have really enjoyed, for the most part, but the very last 24 hours before we welcomed our beloved one into the world, well...not so much!
I guess I had quite high expectations of how my baby's birth would pan out. Perhaps I romanticized it a bit. What I do know now in retrospect, is that perhaps these expectations of mine were unrealistic.
I'm not sure who is to blame for this. Myself? Society? My medical practitioners? The myriad books and websites whose information and opinions I devoured voraciously during my pregnancy?
Blame is probably the wrong word, but I do feel like I need to do some accounting for what happened, as there is a part of me that feels, well, traumatised.
Does everyone feel like this after giving birth? Is this the way it is supposed to be? Is this yet another one of those fundamental truths about pregnancy and childbirth that no one tells you about?
Perhaps I am feeling like this because ultimately, I was rendered completely helpless – relinquishing control has always been difficult for me. And who is to say that if the birth had happened differently (and the way that I had secretly visualised) that I would be feeling exactly the same way?
Before I continue, I must preamble all of this by saying just how overjoyed and delighted I am to have such a beautiful and healthy baby boy. I am truly blessed. But I do think it is important to acknowledge my feelings about the birth experience, now I'm on the other side of it, perhaps as a kind of therapy. And perhaps my experience will help prepare others.
My labour commenced about a week later than my due date, not uncommon, I'm told, for first time mothers. My doctor and I had agreed that if there was no movement by the evening of day eight overdue that she would induce.
One week past due date
Labour starts in the late evening just before I go to bed. I wake up every 40 minutes or so with a contraction, and fall asleep immediately after it's over but it's very tiring. I even have a bath with lavender bath salts at 5am to try and ease the pain in my back. I never take baths, only showers.
Eight days past due date
I'm in firstst stage labour all day, where my contractions come every 40 minutes or so. This isn't so bad, but, I'm told, first stage isn't! I just gritted my teeth through each contraction.
I've had enough of gritting my teeth! We go to hospital where I am admitted, examined, have a cervical sweep and a CTG to monitor the baby's heart rate is fitted to my belly. Examination reveals I am 4cm dilated. The cervical sweep was no picnic, but at this point I just want to get everything going. The duty doctor informs me that baby has still not properly engaged so she doesn't want to give me any oxytocin to speed up my contractions.
I start in on the gas and air. This provides some relief from the contractions, especially when I use my deep breathing techniques from the start of each wave. Once the contraction reaches its peak, the entonox seems to kick in. Then the contraction is gone, and so is the high from the entonox (except of course when I keep to attached to my face and keep breathing it in!).
I decide I want an epidural. It's amazing, how much relief it provides. I feel like I will finally be able to get some sleep. However, after it is administered, everything stops progressing – that is, the baby's movement downward and my dilation, despite continuing contractions (which I can no longer feel).
I have another internal examination, followed by insertion of a probe that is attached to baby's head and connected to the CTG monitor. The doctor is becoming worried that the baby's heartbeat is erratic, sometimes dropping dramatically low after a particularly strong contraction. For the rest of the night, P and I listen to the sound of our baby's heartbeat, slowing and quickening on that machine. It sounds a bit like a golf ball being struck, over and over again.
The midwife shift changes and there are some new, friendly faces. The duty doctor starts muttering darkly about "having to make some serious decisions". I am told by my new midwife that my doctor, the head of obstetrics at the hospital, is due in at 9am. I beg the duty doctor to wait until she arrives. Everyone (duty doctor, midwives, my husband, my mum) gathers around my bed, silently watching the CTG monitor and listening to the baby's heartbeat slow, and quicken.
My doctor arrives, examines me. It appears that I'm only 6cm dilated. She declares I need surgery to get the baby out – an emergency caesarean section. I'm scared, but everything starts to happen in fast forward, including the midwife shaving me, much to my chagrin – amid all the activity and worry, and THIS is what I'm bothered about...
I'm wheeled into theatre and surrounded by unfamiliar, but kindly eyes above surgical masks. My doctor sweeps in at last, gowned and gloved, like one of those big shot surgeons you see in medical dramas on the telly.
Our baby is born. I am shown him above the fabric screen for about two seconds before he is whisked away, despite my feeble protestations. It's still a good few minutes before P (who is at my side, dressed in scrubs and crocs) and I hear him squawk.
The baby is brought to me, swaddled in a white waffle blanket. I speak and he seems to recognise my voice, his head turning towards the sound. His eyes are wide, alert and a very deep blue. He is taken away again. Some twilight drugs are administered to the drip site in my hand and I start to dream of unicorns and rainbows.
I am wheeled into recovery and some fetching thick white stockings are rolled onto each of my legs to prevent DVT. The midwife brings the baby to me and I try to breastfeed lying down – or at least, she helps me to squeeze and release some colustrum, which he laps at greedily. She takes him away again, too soon, and I weep.
I am taken downstairs to my room where P, my mum and the baby are. The baby is in a sort of raised crib, with a grille over it emitting a warm and bright light. Mum brings him to me in my bed and we cuddle, skin to skin. P and I agree on his name, Oscar George. Seeing him like this, we both find it amazing that he could be called anything else.
Pain. Lots of it. At first I think they have made the incision just below my bust line, it aches there so much. But this is because I am now attached to an oxytocin drip that is stimulating my uterus to contract. Anyone employed by the hospital that walks into the room – doctors, nurses, orderlies, hospital cleaners, is treated to a pleading request for more pain medication. Anything to get the ache to go away. But Oscar is here, and every time I hold him I forget about it all hurting so much everywhere.
Three days later
We are discharged from hospital and we are finally at home with Oscar. Our new life together has begun.
How was your birth experience? Was it what you expected?
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