Watching 'One Born Every Minute' whilst doing the sit-ups to remove the last of my baby flubber, it struck me that:
a. although each labour is individual, you learn a little each time; and
b. I finally know how to give birth; AND
c. 'OBEM' probably taught me more than any antenatal class ever could.
After a couple of false starts (which I now put down to paranoia, first pregnancy nerves and my characteristic impatience), I sat up at 5am on 11th December 2009 (my due date) with a gasp. That was definitely 'something.'
I was surprisingly calm; I went downstairs, leaving Ray to doze, and began timing things. As we live in France and, at the time, were in a remote village, we had an hour and a half's drive to the hospital. It was winter, snow was forecast... need I go on? By 9am, we were heading to the hospital.
I coped with the contractions quite well, was sent to walk around a few times, and by 5pm, was deemed ready to go to the birth suite. I duly wobbled along, was given an epidural (pretty much the only pain relief available in French hospitals, and the 'expected route' (they were shocked when I said I would 'see how it went' and told me it was better for baby to have one... I thought, sod it then!).
Because I had moved to France when 20 weeks pregnant with my first (I don't do things by halves...), barely spoke a word beyond 'Bonjour' and therefore hadn't known about or attended antenatal classes, my experience of labour came from watching it on films and TV. All I knew is that I was meant to make a LOT of noise... And so I duly obliged.
What I didn't know is that squawking like a parrot or howling like a wolf with constipation, doesn't actually help the pushing process - actually, it hinders it. It took six hours of active labour, an episiotomy, FORCEPS, more stitches than I care to remember and several doctors to wrench Lily from my lady parts... (what was left of them).
My labour mirrored one of the really embarrassing ones you sometimes see on 'One Born' - lots of hot air, screaming and emotion, little progress and then panic at the end... Luckily, I've forgotten most of it... I just remember apologising afterwards and being told 'c'est normale'.
Labour 2: TWINS
Completely different kettle of fish (or uterus of foetus) this one... Waters broke - all very dramatic! As I'd had a stitch put in my cervix at 28 weeks, I was on standby for months... but in the end, it was 36 weeks and 1 day when my body said ENOUGH, Joe kicked through his sac and waters gushed all over the floor. At 10pm at night. When we'd just decided we were knackered and going to bed... no such luck!
After this shock, we had to take Lily to a friend's. I can't believe how lucky I was not to contract even once before we got to the hospital. Because when I did contract, OMG, did I contract! I was riding a wave of pain, with barely a breath between the strongest contractions ever experienced. The stitch was snipped, and I was instantly dilated to 2cm.
I was begging for some sort of pain relief, with the midwife telling me I was only 2 cm, when she gave in and checked again. Shockingly, I was 5cm! They rushed me to a birthing room, but I would progress to the theatre for delivery, in case they needed to perform an emergency C-Section.
After the epidural was put in at great length, I lay down and instantly had the urge to push. This was only about an hour and a half since admission... The midwife raised her eyebrows (which seemed to say, I don't THINK so, girlfriend!) (they were very expressive eyebrows - what can I say?) had a quick peep then said: 'try a little push if you want.'
I duly did, felt a movement, heard the word 'STOP!" Suddenly the room was filled with people and I was rolled, with the worst pain in the world (ever tried to hold on to a large poo? Well, let's just say holding on to a baby is HARDER) to the theatre, then asked to move from one bed to another...
MOVE?? I couldn't feel my legs!! I tried to shift one over (no-one helped me for some reason (Health and Safety?!)), and felt Joe coming! Luckily, Ray ran in the room (he had been getting suited up for theatre), helped me across and Joe flew out almost instantly.
The midwife showed him to me, before he was taken to be wrapped up - my job wasn't over yet!
Two pushes later, Timmy was with us. (3 minutes apart - go me!). Unfortunately, he needed a bit of help and was rushed straight off.
Looking back to OBEM, I honestly believe that watching that programme helped me to understand how to get Timmy out quickly - and that may well have saved his life... Chin on chest, shut your mouth and go! go! go!! That did the trick!
The nurse then informed me that I had been given a sedative (I hadn't asked for or wanted one... but I was soon sleepy and happy!!).
Luckily, both boys were healthy and I was taken to see them in NICU about 2 hours later. Phew.
Labour 3: The Perfect Labour
Induction, slow to start, then speeding up. Very little pain, only accepted epidural because they said I might need a Csection if things didn't progress (worried about Evie's heartbeat) and didn't want that to be delayed.
No pain. Then lots of pain which I breathed through on my side. Quick examination - shocked MW telling me that Evie was nearly out! A couple of pushes and POP, she was born "like a bullet" in the words of the Midwife.
Labour is something you can only go through when it happens to you. But what a shame there isn't better 'training' out there to make the first time as good as the last. Some sort of 'birth simulator' would be good.
Hey, maybe we could get the hubbies and partners to have a go on it??
Mind you, perhaps it's not just experience: things are (ahem) probably a bit less restrictive down there after four babies... and who knows, if I DID have another (WHICH I WON'T!! INCIDENTALLY!!) it could be just as difficult as with Lily. But somehow I doubt it.
My tips: Try not to worry, do as you're told, keep your mouth shut, keep as calm as possible and remember it doesn't last forever (it just seems like it sometimes)...
Any scientists out there want to start working on that simulator?