In honour of Prince George – here’s the story of Elvie’s birth. As promised yesterday. It’s a good one.
Elvie is my eldest. My very first baby. So, as you would imagine, I had spent most of my pregnancy researching birth and labour. Alternating between terror and a naive confidence in the power of aromatherapy. I had my birth plan written and was going to stick to it. My baby would be born at home, using only a TENS machine. I had planned a water birth, until we put up the pool and realised that there was no space left in the lounge. At all.
I was certain that she would arrive on time. Maybe even early. The due date came and went. So did a few more days. And a few more. I was heavy and frustrated and bored.
I tried long walks in the forest, a stretch-and-sweep, clary sage oil, curry and raspberry leaf tea. She did not want to shift. In the end I was given a date for induction. That did it.
I woke up at 4am, with strange waves of cramps. Coming at regular intervals. Not too close together, but regular, nonetheless. It’s a source of some amusement in our house that I spent the next four hours monitoring my contractions by myself, despite the fact that Wes was sleeping next to me. When he woke up at 8, I informed him that we were going to have a baby that day. I was almost right.
We were pretty calm. All things considered. We told the midwives. They told us to call them back later. We got up, got dressed, ate a little bit of something and sat down to watch the West Wing. As you do. A few hours later, when Mum pointed out that my contractions were stopping me mid-sentence, we called the hospital again. I had the TENS machine on – using as low a setting as possible. Pacing myself. Sensible.
When the midwives arrived, they did one of their lovely examinations. They said I was doing well. And had some coffee. They left me to it, just as I had asked them. Eventually I was beside myself with pain and completely exhausted from rocking on my hands and knees. Obviously I didn’t want the gas and air though. That stuff is for wimps. Ha.
Hours later, I had learnt the following: Having a baby is really hard work. Aromatherapy is more likely to make you swear than ease your pain. ‘Transition’ is hell.
I was still progressing nicely. All the examinations were telling them that. Until my waters broke. Or rather, exploded. Even in the middle of my zoned-out labouring, I jumped out of my skin when they went. Never knowingly underdramatic. It was about that time that the midwives jumped to attention.
They had, for some time, been making noises about taking me in to hospital. Apparently. I couldn’t hear a thing. Then there was meconium in my waters. Elvie had already done a poo. Which could mean that she was struggling. Being at home was no longer an option. Time does funny things when you’re in labour, and I swear that the second the midwife told me I needed to go to hospital, the ambulance was at the door. No wait at all.
Wes grabbed the hospital bag. I threw on a dressing gown. I hobbled my way to the ambulance and climbed in. Being forced to lie on a bed when you’re in full-blown labour is not fun. Especially not when the bed is moving. Or when the equipment falls off the walls when you turn a corner. Or when the paramedic insists on calling you Sebastian. Or when the French ambulance driver pulls out of your road and asks “so, wheres’s the hospital?” He wasn’t joking. You can’t make this stuff up.
They took me through the wrong doors and onto the wrong floor of the hospital. It didn’t come as any surprise to discover that all the stress, and all the shock of my sudden change of plan, all added to my slight phobia of hospitals in general, had slowed my labour right down. They put me on a drip to speed things up.
By this point, I was shattered. It was 7pm. I’d been in labour for 15 hours. And I knew from my research that the contractions the drip brought on would be worse than the regular ones. I had run out of energy, and motivation. I wasn’t sure that this baby would ever arrive. At this point I threw away my birth plan and begged them for an epidural. They said yes.
Getting the epidural is tricky. I had to perch on the edge of the bed, in the full throes of labour, and stay absolutely still while an enormous needle went into my back. I saw one recently on ‘One Born Every Minute’ and nearly passed out. Thank goodness I had no idea at the time. That said, I was fully prepared to marry the anaesthetist. The relief was incredible. I had a couple of hours of absolute peace while the contractions did their work without me. I could see my stomach tightening but I couldn’t feel a thing.
Then they let it wear off so that I could push. That was kind. Problem was, I couldn’t move from the waist down. I ended up with my feet in stirrups, pushing against gravity and doing all the things they tell you not to do at antenatal class. I vividly remember the brilliant military-sergeant style midwife standing at the foot of my bed, telling me “there’s a reason they call it labour my pet.” She wasn’t wrong!
Pushing is hard work. Especially when you can’t really feel what you’re doing. A fire alarm is not what you want. They decided we needed to move rooms, for safety. And wheeled me down the corridor in full view of everyone, drip and all, pushing away on the bed. Dignified it was not. I spent another hour pushing as hard as I could and, fire alarm over, they decided we should move back to the original room. Back down the corridor. Apparently the second room didn’t have the right equipment. Friends of ours lovingly refer to it as “that time they tried to make you give birth in a cupboard.” One of the midwives told us afterwards that it was a good job the fire hadn’t been serious – they’d taken us to the wrong end of the corridor and we would have been completely stuck. Thank goodness they had a trial run with us.
It was at this point that the midwife asked Mum to join us. Wes was fuming over all the changes and moving about. I think they presumed he wouldn’t hurt anyone if his mother-in-law was watching. Either way, it was good to have her there.
This fire alarm had slowed things down again. There were midwives coming in and out. A lot. Including one amazing, no-nonsense midwife with an eyepatch. Even in my state, I could see the funny side of a pirate midwife. Drugs are kind like that.
People started talking about doctors and cutting and all sorts. That was it. The stubborn in me won out. A few minutes later she arrived. There was a tear, and a lot of stitches, and so much gas and air that I couldn’t hold my head up. But she was here.
It was 1.04am – the following day. But she was here. All 9lbs 2oz of her. And she was beautiful. Perfect. And beautiful. There are no words for those moments.
I was a Mummy. I had my baby girl.
Nothing else mattered. Not the pirates or the drugs or the ambulance drivers or the shot-to-pieces birth plan. She was enough. More than enough. She was everything. Some things never change.