In HuffPost Birth Diaries we hear the extraordinary stories of the everyday miracle of birth. This week, Priya Joi, 42, shares her story. If you’d like to share yours, email email@example.com.
I wish I would’ve been conscious when my daughter was born. I wasn’t. That part of her birth is a total mystery and it’s a weird disconnect for me. I remember hearing from a mum who gave birth during a thunderstorm and it sounded so powerful. My story is very different – I don’t know how long I was out for. Two, three hours? In the ward after Leela was born, people kept coming up to me and asking how I felt because the ordeal was so traumatic, but I didn’t really know how I felt.
Nothing about childbirth is ever predictable, but neither my husband and I ever thought we would get to this point. I’d had a super easy pregnancy – not a shadow of the morning sickness that makes many pregnant women lose their minds – and I had been doing yoga right up until the end. My bump wasn’t even that big and unwieldy, but that turned out to be the problem.
The day before my due date, I had a routine appointment and the midwife thought my bump was way too small. What followed was being rushed to hospital, being booked in for an induction the following morning, and spending my wedding anniversary in labour.
You’d think by my due date, I would’ve clocked that my bump was small – but I never picked up on it and nor did anyone else. Now, when I look back at pictures of me and my NCT friends, I can see it was. No one had said it. No one had alluded to the fact it might be a problem. I looked pregnant, sure, but it wasn’t the big beach ball size you’d expect by nine months.
The routine appointment wasn’t with my usual midwife. It was another person on duty, so when she told me she was worried about the size of my bump, I didn’t believe her at first. It was incredibly jarring, having spent nine months with everything being so easy. I had an appointment the next day to be looked at and see whether I needed to be induced – they decided I did, the morning after.
That day – our first wedding anniversary – my husband and I went into hospital. I swallowed a tablet to be induced, and waited for things to get going. Nothing happened. We were bored.
I was encouraged to go for a walk to try and get things moving, so we ended up having a strangely nice day by the seasidem sitting in a lovely coffee shop by the beach, eating brownies, reflecting on how our lives were about to change. The calm before the storm, you could say.
That evening, upon having a second tablet, my labour went from 0 to 60 in minutes. I didn’t have that build up of contractions people talk about – all of a sudden I was in excruciating pain. I managed to get my doula to come but her suggestions – such as a hot bath – didn’t curb the pain.
I asked for an epidural. “Okay, we’ll sort that,” they told me. They did, but as it was such a busy hospital, the anaesthetist was called away for an emergency as she put the needle in my spine. Yep – I had to sit hunched over, as still as possible, for 10 minutes until she came back. I got my husband to talk to me, distract me, keep me still. She came back and finished the job, but it didn’t work entirely so I still needed gas and air.
Leela was being pushed out forcefully by the drug and she hadn’t quite caught up with it. Things just weren’t in sync and a scratch test showed staff she was getting stressed. All of a sudden I was rushed down the hall into the operating theatre to have a C-section. That’s the moment my husband asked if I was going to be okay – the answer “we’re doing the best we can” didn’t give him the reassurance he needed.
The situation catapulted from labour to an emergency – it was scary, yes, but equally, because everything was explained to me, I didn’t have that panicky, out-of-control feeling. I had to be put under general anaesthetic and I remember vividly saying, as they put me to sleep, “I’m not asleep yet, don’t start!” I panicked they’d cut me open while I was still awake.
I woke up in a recovery room. No one was around... at first. And then: “Do you want to meet your daughter?” I felt relief – she was okay, I was okay. Leela was teeny tiny, she was so small, but she was healthy and I was in love.
My birth advice?
Some things are not going to be in your control and that’s okay – we are given a lot of choice, but there are some things you can’t control and it’s important to make peace with that. It’s crucial to remember that it doesn’t mean you had a bad birth if it didn’t go as planned.
As told to Amy Packham.