I was twenty years of age when I became a mother. I was studying at university so all my friends were my age; I didn’t know anyone with babies and couldn’t speak to anyone about real life experiences of giving birth. I had the odd Braxton Hicks in the week before the birth and continued to attend my lectures, even on my due date. Three days later, the pains intensified in the night and we took the decision to make our way to the hospital.
When we arrived at the hospital, they did their checks and I was only 3cm dilated. They gave me Codeine to ease the pain, and then sent me off. We went to my in-laws house, where I attempted to eat some toast and then fell asleep. I woke up at around 6am in excruciating pain and thought the baby would be here any minute now, so we called an ambulance.
At the hospital, they told me I was 8cm dilated and nearly ready to push. I didn’t take to gas and air as it just made me feel nauseous. I asked for pethidine, which was injected into my thigh. The pethidine made me extremely sleepy and time went by like a blur. I was insistent that the room was silent, getting irritable when I heard mild chatter from my husband and the midwife. I didn’t want to be touched and certainly didn’t want the music I had packed in my hospital bag. My husband ended up sitting silently in a corner reading Marx’s The Communist Manifesto for an upcoming essay.
When it was time to push, I was lying on my back and they had to wake me between contractions. I was in the zone and too drowsy from the Pethidine. After what felt like five minutes (although my husband tells me it was a lot longer), the midwife said if they baby didn’t come out in the next push, she would need to cut me. That was enough for me to give one last big push for my baby come into the world!
My second birth was the most enjoyable (if you can enjoy a birth!) out of the three. I realised my insistence for silence and getting ‘in the zone’ drew similarities to hypnobirthing, so I started to attend classes with my husband. I also took up prenatal yoga and bought a yoga ball for home, spending my evenings working bouncing in front of the computer.
On the day he was born, my contractions periodically woke me up in the night. I kicked my husband awake and he dismissed them as Braxton Hicks, so we fell back asleep. I realised it was the real thing at around 5am and began to get the bags packed. We waited until our 4-year-old naturally woke at 6am before chucking him in the car and whizzing him to my mum’s house, en-route to the hospital.
I think our son knew something was up because he didn’t question it when I asked for complete silence in the car. I had to focus as I was in so much pain. When we arrived at the hospital, my husband pushed me in a wheelchair up to the ward and luckily, they had a birthing pool available for me to use.
It took around 40 minutes to fill the pool. In that time, they checked me over and I was 8cm dilated. I was able to sustain a conversation between contractions this time round, unlike the last birth when I was so drowsy on pethidine. When I got into the pool the weight of the bump lightened and water eased the pain of the contractions. I was able to get in the zone and focus on the pain, without the need for complete silence in the room, this time round. I tried gas and air again but after two breaths, I threw up a little and gave up on that.
Within about 10 minutes of entering the pool, I felt like I was ready to push. Guided by the midwife, the baby came out after three/four pushes. He was so relaxed, he didn’t cry straight away. I held him close and was elated. I felt relief that not only he was here, I was also fully present mentally.
We spent the afternoon enjoying our new baby, waiting for the checks before we were discharged at around 4pm. All in a day’s work!
My third birth was the quickest out of all my babies. I had the experience from the other two births and knew all the signs. Mild contractions started on the school run; I felt uncomfortable and had to walk at a slower pace while pushing my 2-year-old in a stroller and making sure my 6-year-old didn’t run too far ahead.
When I returned home, the contractions were stronger and I texted my husband to give him a head’s up. I called my mum repeatedly, but she didn’t pick up. Contractions were around 20 minutes apart at this point, so I decided to get the bags and my 2-year-old ready, wait for the contraction to be over, then leave the house to drive 5 minutes to my grandma’s house before the next contraction started. My grandma was able to keep my 2-year-old preoccupied while juggled contractions with calling my mum on repeat until she answered. She eventually came to pick us up and then dropped me off at the hospital to meet my husband.
Pregnant women were queuing in the corridors of the maternity ward. They told us to wait – and I did for 10 minutes – but I knew it was time. I sent my husband to the reception to explain this was my third child and that I really needed to be seen RIGHT NOW.
It turns out I was fully dilated. They had a pool available but they said I might not make the 40-minute wait to fill it. Nevertheless, they ran the water and brought me over a chair to hunch over. I desperately wanted my water birth, but the midwife told me not to try and hold on; if the baby wants to come, I need to let her. Hunched over a chair definitely meant gravity was on my side. I didn’t attempt gas and air, considering how nauseous it made me previously. After a few agonising pushes, my baby arrived. The relief when the baby pops out is indescribable. From the first proper contraction to birth, it was around 4.5 hours.
With this birth, I didn’t bounce back as quickly as my second. The after pains meant I was taking Codeine and Ibuprofen back to back for a few days. I feel very fortunate to have three relatively straightforward births. There were low points for each, but I didn’t have any complications, I didn’t need any interventions or stitches and at the end, I was fine and all of my babies were healthy.
I feel sometimes it’s a taboo to share a positive birth story, because people think you’re bragging. I think it’s important to share the good stories, as well as the bad. Too often pregnant women only hear the horror stories, the worst-case scenarios, and while it’s important they are heard, it’s not a real representation of childbirth.