New Year’s Eve 2013 and I’m standing in the street, engulfed by the cold and dark, clutching a hysterical one-year-old; as drunken merry makers stumble past, laughing with the promise of a good night ahead. Our baby boy is due tomorrow, I’m the size of a house and I’ve been battling irregular contractions since a sweep that morning. In our infinite wisdom, the Spouse and I had decided that a long walk would be a great way to get things moving properly. We just hadn’t anticipated the utter shitstorm that would come raining down on us when the Toddler decided that the plummeting temperatures and hours in a carrier had, frankly, pissed her off. And thus I find myself, creating quite the scene, trying to console an irate tiny human, whilst another one pushes his head firmly into my cervix. The Spouse has set off at a run, back to our house a mile away, so he can return for us with the car. My contractions stop abruptly as my stressed out body floods with adrenaline and I rapidly lose hope of getting this baby out this year. Whose ridiculous idea was this?! Must’ve been the Spouse’s. Ugh. I’d really hoped today would be the day. I’d met with a consultant that morning and he’d assured me that his stretch & sweep technique had a guaranteed chance of success because, and I quote, he was “far more aggressive” than the midwives. Holy hell he was not kidding.
Seventeen months after my first birthing endeavour and I was gearing up to do it again. Only this time, I was determined to do it vaginally.
A week later and still no sign. 2014 is rolling on by and still, I’m pregnant. The community midwife has booked my induction for tomorrow. The Mother-in-Law has arrived from Hertfordshire to take on Daisy duties. My bag is packed and I’ve been instructed to call the hospital at 8am.
The following morning, we’re all psyched up and ready to go. Everybody has their list of instructions. The MiL just needs to keep Daisy alive. The Spouse needs to try very hard not to irritate me too much. And I need to eject our child from within my lady cave. I call the hospital and instantly deflate. They’re too busy and I need to call back at lunchtime. I do. But lunchtime has now become dinnertime. When I call back again at 6pm, they finally tell me to come in. Right! Let’s do this! I kissed my baby girl goodnight, knowing that the next time I saw her, she’d be a big sister. Or so I thought. We were back home by midnight. Still pregnant. Apparently everyone in Leeds was going into spontaneous labour. Except for me, of course. It was Tuesday and they said we’d try again on Thursday. They said that like it was no big deal. Like two days wasn’t going to feel like a lifetime. Like I wasn’t feeling sorely disappointed. Like having the MiL to stay for even longer is the sort of thing every heavily pregnant woman dreams of (I jest, she’s lovely! And also, she may read this.).
Thursday went much the same and, once again, I found myself returning home in the late evening, still pregnant and increasingly pissed off. Two more days ticked slowly and painfully by. When I called the hospital, as instructed, at 8am on Saturday, it was all I could do not to weep down the phone when I was told once more that they were “too busy”. By the evening, we found ourselves back in the waiting room, mostly just waiting to be sent home again.
11pm came around, there was nothing on TV, the waiting room had emptied and baby had finally gotten as fed up as I was. The contractions began, mild, but regular. By midnight, they were really beginning to hurt. We kept asking if there was a room available because I had a feeling we were actually going to need one. Imminently. But they were busy and they needed to keep the empty rooms free for women in labour. Apparently, they didn’t believe I was one of them. It didn’t exactly instil me with confidence in their medical expertise. After a little gentle persuasion from the Spouse, they led me into a side room and agreed to examine me. In a glorious stroke of karmic retribution, the midwife’s internal probing seemed to be all the encouragement my waters needed to burst, with quite some aplomb, all over her. Ha. The, somewhat damp, midwife reluctantly conceded that perhaps I was in labour after all. She told me to go for a walk whilst they prepared a room, but with the breaking of my waters came a very sudden intensifying of my contractions. I refused to leave the room. I couldn’t have done, even if I wanted to. And besides, I was not going though another labour without even getting to sample this gas & air I’d heard so much about. They rolled a birth ball in for me and on it I sat, puffing on the good stuff, internally kicking myself for choosing to do this again. I swore to myself there and then that I would never forget how much this hurts. The pain that is incomparable to anything I’ve ever felt before. Don’t forget that pain. Don’t ever do this to yourself, ever again. Time slipped by quickly and at 3.30am, I told the midwife I needed to push. But she assured me it wasn’t time. So my body just started doing it anyway and I fought against it. The pain and confusion of trying to stop my body doing what it wanted to, had me politely asking (yep, still excessively polite, even in the throes of labour) for something stronger than the entonox. Another midwife swooped in and briskly injected pethidine into my thigh as the other one helped me onto the bed. I guess that’s when she noticed his head was half out. Apparently it was time to push after all. On all fours, I leant against the headboard and after a couple more contractions, his head had slowly emerged. One more was all it took for the rest of him to appear. I lifted him straight to my chest and 4.06am, Sunday 12th January 2014 was probably the most euphoric moment of my life. Of course, that could have been the pethidine that was just beginning to take effect.
The pain was instantly forgotten. I was holding my son. Ralph Jasper was in my arms and I felt like I’d just conquered the world. It was all worth it. Every moment.
Well, most of it. The third degree tear was an unwelcome side effect of another 9lb 6oz baby and a quick delivery. More surgery. Another spinal block. F**k’s sake. After going through all that, I was still going to end up numb from the boobs down and back in theatre. My time on the operating table was quite the trip. I had enough drugs in me to down a donkey and I was quite explicit in my requests for the surgeon to “fix my vagina”. At least I didn’t vomit on the anaesthetist again.
When I eventually got back to my boy, an apologetic nurse handed him to me, explaining that she’d shampooed the blood from his hair, but it turns out he was actually just a bit ginger. My poor little strawberry was not the most beautiful of babies. The swollen and bruised face that accompanies having your head squeezed through a vagina, doesn’t exactly make for flattering first impressions. C-Section babes definitely get the better end of the deal in that respect.
In all seriousness though, I was so so glad I’d done it. So thrilled to be able to finish what I’d started with D. Sure, I couldn’t sit down for weeks; there was effectively a bunch of grapes hanging from my rear; I was drinking laxatives like water; I cursed my baby boy every single time I needed to use the toilet; and I had to attend an appointment specifically so that someone could stick a finger up my bum. But despite all of that, I chuffing did it and that’s something I will always feel grateful to have experienced.
See what I mean about the swollen face?
Sorry, he’s ginger.