When we woke up on 7th August 2012, I thrust a hastily wrapped birthday present at the Boyfriend and hoped he’d appreciate the thought and effort that had gone into the salt & pepper grinders, I’d grabbed from the supermarket the day before. It was the first of his birthdays that we’d celebrated together and the effort I’d put in was less than minimal. In my defence, I was 41 weeks pregnant and could think of little else than getting this child out of me. I’d resigned myself to the idea of being induced in a week. She clearly wasn’t going to come under her own steam; despite my NCT stylised birth plan that demanded a completely natural labour, with no medical intervention, in a birthing pool, probably whilst mermaids played harps and unicorns galloped by. I hadn’t even bothered packing my bag yet. After being refused a sweep on my due date because she still hadn’t “dropped”, I’d given up all hope of a movie-esque scene in which my waters would break with an almighty gush and I’d have to hail a taxi to rush me into hospital, where I’d promptly pop out my perfect first born.
So when I realised that the cramping I was experiencing that morning was coming every 4 minutes, I refused to believe that I might actually be going into labour. That was until my waters actually did break with an almighty movie-esque gush. Sadly for me (and my carpet) it looked more like a horrific bout of diarrhoea. Seems the tiny human was not yet toilet trained. I called the hospital and when Juliet from One Born Every Minute answered the phone, I gabbled at her incoherently in a starstruck stupor and eventually informed her of my predicament. “Come straight in”, she said. The Boyfriend took her at her word and began throwing things into an overnight bag with little to no regard for what we actually might need. Although, he did pack approximately 300 straws because he’d remembered someone at NCT suggesting we take some.
Meanwhile, I hurriedly tackled my bikini line and defuzzed my legs. This was, after all, my first child and I still had enough dignity intact that I wasn’t planning on whipping out my unpruned foof for just anyone. The Boyfriend was becoming increasingly panicked and as I sat down on the edge of the bed to put my face on, he practically scooped me up and threw me into the car.
We stopped at the corner shop to pick up some snacks and enjoyed another movie-esque moment as he hopped impatiently at the back of the queue before involuntarily screaming “my girlfriend’s in labour!” I panted cooperatively to the many faces who turned to look at me and we were quickly ushered straight to the till. Result.
It’s hard to recall now, but I think the drive to hospital took only around 20 minutes, which in Leeds’ rush hour is quite an accomplishment. But to the Boyfriend, it clearly felt like a lifetime. He was so worked up by the time we reached Leeds General Infirmary, he abandoned his car at the entrance and rushed me inside. A quick examination confirmed that labour had definitely begun and that our daughter had definitely done a massive sh*t. The Boyfriend went off to retrieve his car (and presumably apologise to the traffic warden) whilst I was sent for a walk around the hospital to “get things moving”.
By the time he caught up with me, the contractions were strong enough to make several people stop and ask me if I needed a wheelchair. I wasn’t really sure how much moving things were supposed to be getting. I’d never done this before. How much pain was I supposed to be in before I should head back to the Delivery Suite? I’m from Blackpool. I’m hard. What if the baby just fell out onto the floor because I was too brave to realise that we’d reached the correct level of pain? I once broke my foot without even realising. Sh*t. What if the baby was sticking out right now and I hadn’t even registered. With these (perfectly sane) thoughts whirring around my mind, we made our way back up to the Maternity Ward. They promptly diagnosed that I was clearly nowhere near in enough pain yet and sent me into the waiting room to bounce around on the birth ball. I was torn between the thrill of meeting more OBEM cast members and frustration at them clearly not acknowledging how incredibly hard as nails I am.
The Olympics was on. I bounced around the room on that birth ball for what felt like hours whilst the Boyfriend became evermore entranced in sports. Eventually, they checked me again. I was wholly expecting an, “I can see the head!” moment. Instead I got a “3cm. Ok you can go through to delivery now”. 3cm?! Are you kidding?? I’d been on that pissing ball for hours! Surely the baby should’ve been jiggled right out of me by now?
We got settled into our room on the Delivery Suite about lunchtime. I had spent an obscene amount of money on a birthing gown that promised to regulate my body temperature, allow me to labour in comfort, massage my back etc; but it was scrunched up in my bag and I wasn’t sure of the correct etiquette and when I was supposed to change out of my trackies and vest. So I didn’t. To this day, that sodding birthing gown has still never been worn. I was beginning to discover that perhaps I wasn’t quite as hard as I thought and the contractions were becoming increasingly painful. I waited in vain for the midwife to offer me some pain relief (I thought it’d be rude to ask), but instead she said she’d come back to check on me at 6pm. 6pm?!! That was FIVE HOURS away! Oh my god, how much worse was it going to get!? Suddenly, we remembered the TENS machine in the bag. This successfully took my mind off the contractions for approximately 2 and a half minutes when the Boyfriend stuck the pads haphazardly onto my back and flipped the switch whilst the thing was set to full voltage; sending me about 3 feet into the air with an electric spasm.
I’d been strapped up with belts around my stomach to monitor things because of the poopy baby, so the water birth that I’d clearly underlined in the birth plan that no one had read because I’d left it at home, was a no go. And so five hours ticked slowly by. I bounced and walked and swayed around the tiny room. Finally, the midwife returned to examine me again. “Good good. 6cm.” Is that it?! “Wait, hang on, that doesn’t feel like a head up there.” What the f**k is up there?! “I’ll be right back”. Oh. My. God. Several incoherent thoughts spilled through my mind at that moment and I don’t think any of them were rational. Mr Consultant breezed in shortly afterwards and reassured me that there was indeed a human baby in there (phew), but she was breech. Oh. So what now? “Well”, he said, “you can have a section, or we can give the forceps a try.” Now, I have this terrible affliction of overt politeness (hence why I’d been in labour for 12 hours without even the sniff of a paracetamol), and thus I am unable to make a decision when offered a choice by someone else. I’d hate to insult by choosing the wrong thing! But apparently it was not his decision to make. So the Boyfriend asked him, “If that was your daughter, on the bed, what would you do?” “Section.” he said, without hesitation. Right then. Decision made.
And just like that, I was being ushered into an anaesthetics room to have a spinal block. Shit suddenly got very real. There was no build up. No preamble. Just simply a case of getting the baby out right away. As I was poked and pricked and wheeled into theatre my head was swimming. I’m about to become a Mum. Any minute now I’m going to meet my daughter. I can’t feel my legs. I’m not in pain anymore. Where the f**k have my pants gone?! Yep. I’d caught sight of my reflection in the theatre lights and I was naked from the waist down. In a room full of people. And the bikini line that I’d tackled that morning? Butchered. Absolutely shocking job. Some fiend had literally depanted my completely numb lower half and not even bothered to tell me. And I was sporting a bush more patchy than Mr Bloom’s “Northern” accent. Consider me mortified.
The Boyfriend arrived, in his scrubs, and briefly distracted me from the fact that a room full of people (including several of my favourites from OBEM) were being treated to a birdseye of my vagina. My surgeon arrived (a lovely woman who had to utilise a step ladder in order to reach the bed) and then she began. Time seemed to stand still in this miraculous moment. The Boyfriend stood up to peer over the screen and announced, “I can see your intestines!” And I vomited on the anesthetist. And it was all a bit surreal. And then she was there. Our daughter. Being held up above the screen. Plump and poo-covered. Bawling in a horrendous high pitched scrawl. And there I was. Covered in neon orange vomit (I’d been drinking Lucozade). A Mum. Wow.
They took our daughter across the room to hose her down and weigh her. “9lb 6!”, someone shouted. Ouch. Lucky she exited through the sunroof! And that was that. On 7th August 2012 at 6.28pm; Nick’s 28th birthday; we became parents. Daisy Evelyn was here, and she was ours.
Potentially a better birthday gift than the salt & pepper grinders…
My first experience of childbirth couldn’t really have been farther from what I’d spent 9 months envisaging. It was agonising and scary and rushed (towards the end) and I spent a long time afterwards, wondering if I’d made the right decision. To go into spontaneous labour, but to end it with a c-section was a huge disappointment for me. (Not least because the flowery tattoo I was sporting in that region has been permanently pruned.) It felt like a cop out. Like I’d run most of the marathon, but dropped out near the end. The Spouse made a lot of jokes about my being “too posh to push”, but he had no idea how much I bitterly resented the fact that I hadn’t even had the chance. There’s a certain stigma attached to c-section Mamas. An assumption that it’s somehow “easier” than a vaginal delivery. That it can somehow affect the bond that forms with your child. Well, I suppose in some ways it is easier, but in others, it’s much harder. The recovery is long and very painful. Emotionally, the unexpected nature of it was difficult to come to terms with. But know this, it absolutely had no impact on the overwhelming, breathtaking, all consuming love & joy that I felt, holding my daughter for the first time. It still felt, to me, like I’d just conquered the world. It took me a while to accept it, but I did give birth to her. I might not have done it in the conventional way, but I created her from nothing; I grew and protected her for 41 weeks inside me; and I brought her into this world when she was ready. It wasn’t the birth that I’d planned, but it was definitely still a birth.