My biggest boy is 11 today. I can’t believe that. To celebrate, as I did with my other children, I am sharing his birth story – what I remember of it. As with his brother, I recorded the story onto a dictaphone to write up when I actually had a computer. And never did. So these are my memories.
My boy was due on Saturday 30th June. On Monday 25th June I woke up early with a ‘show’ and panicked. Then nothing happened and I almost forgot about it. It was a very hot day, the first that summer. I went for a walk, then met my friend for lunch. I was a bit detached and vague and my friend insisted on walking me home as I wasn’t quite myself.
At 5pm my contractions started infrequently. I went to bed at 9pm with the TENS machine on and slept from from 10pm to 2am, managing to control the TENS machine in my sleep. By 2am the contractions were too strong, so I got up.
I spent the day of Tuesday 26th getting increasingly hotter and more uncomfortable and walking through my contractions. The midwives came round at 10am and again at 2pm, but told me I wasn’t ready for hospital. At 4pm, they gave in and let me go to hospital.
The midwife who delivered my baby was the midwife who’d looked after me in the community, in a sadly short-lived pilot project which worked very well for me.
The contractions were uncomfortable low down in my stomach, but also my legs, so I walked and walked until I could walk no more. I tried rocking in a rocking chair, but had the overwhelming urge to get out as soon as contraction started, and I couldn’t manage it.
So I was given a ball to roll around on and it was the best thing since sliced bread. It had the same effect as walking without me actually having to get up.
At some point, I was forced into the bath. I think this was some sort of pain-relieving thing. I had gas and air and trailed my canister along to the bathroom which wasn’t even en-suite. The bath was the worst thing ever. No room to stretch my poor painful legs. And it was SO HOT. It wasn’t pain-relieving, it was stress-inducing. As I recall I ended up with a damp sanitary towel (clean) on my head to cool me down. I can only assume the midwives had a bottomless pit of free sanitary towels because they seemed to have many uses beyond the usual.
So I was allowed out of the bath and trudged wearily back to my room in just a towel, carrying my knickers.
I was a big EastEnders fan at the time and it was about to come on, so my husband went to switch the telly on.
‘Don’t turn that on!’ I yelled. That was my transition. No swearing, I just told my husband not to put the telly on.
At about 9.30pm, my midwife examined me and I was fully dilated. ‘I could break your waters, but they’ll break naturally soon.’
At 10.30, she broke my waters.
My brother, sister and I were all born four days early. My husband and his brother and sister were all born on a Tuesday. If the midwife had broken my waters at 9.30, I suspect my baby would have ticked both these boxes.
And so I started to push in a rather ineffective way. I focused on a fish mural on the wall and pushed for all my life was worth. Involuntary animal-like noises came out. I didn’t scream or cry, that noise helped me get my baby out.
At one point I whimpered slightly and I felt a complete failure. How could I be so pathetic as to WHIMPER?! Having watched One Born Every Minute, I know now I wasn’t pathetic in the slightest.
I squeezed and squeezed my husband’s hand for all I was worth as I rocked on my ball, but it didn’t relieve my pain enough. So I bit his shoulder. Kind of accidentally. Something inside me told me that would be the way to make the pain go away. It wasn’t, but it certainly shocked my husband and the midwife.
My midwife was all about natural birth, which suited me, because I liked that idea. To be honest, she was pretty hardcore. She kept telling me I was doing well, but the baby wasn’t coming. She lied on my notes about how long I’d been pushing because she felt I didn’t need intervention, but strictly speaking I should have had it because they don’t like you to push for more than an hour.
She decided I had to come off the ball and off the gas and air. I had to STAND UP. To give birth. The same woman who couldn’t stand up at 5pm because she was in too much pain was now having to stand up at 12am when the pain was way, way worse.
So I stood up and I pushed and I grunted.
In my memory, the baby fell out onto the floor, but I’m sure that’s not what really happened. I’m sure he was caught and placed there calmly. But my first sight of my baby was lying on the floor below me in a pool of blood, like a dessert which has been drizzled with raspberry coulis. He was unquestionably a boy – everything was quite swollen and very big.
I hadn’t wanted a boy, but all along I had ‘known’ I was having one. I’d called my bump by my son’s name from the word go to get used to having a boy and no-one was allowed to say ‘he or she’, it was always ‘he’. Only my Grandma thought (or hoped) I was having a girl.
My boy cried quickly. He was pretty small for a full-term boy at 7lb 1oz, the smallest child in either of our families.
He had lots of black hair, which surprised me. I’d had bad heartburn in pregnancy and I’d been told ‘the baby will have hair’. Yeah, right, I thought. Maybe it was right, after all?
So at 12.36am on Wednesday 27th June, after a ridiculously long labour, at the age of 27, I became a mum.