Right, where was I?
At about 12.00pm I asked to get back into the bath. (Midwife: "That's a good idea, it can really help to speed things along". So why aren't there rows of baths instead of beds on maternity wards then?) I had actually wanted a water birth but, as I say, I don't think anyone bothered to look at my birth plan, and I was too frightened to speak up. Anyway, I got into the bath, dragging my Entonox cylinder with me, and promptly relaxed and calmed down. I continued to doze off between contractions, with the Entonox mouthpiece falling out of my mouth! Before long, though, I thought, "this baby's coming." I gesiculated wildly at the midwife's pull-cord to get my husband to summon her, but he didn't know what I was pointing at and thought I wanted something from my pile of clothes on the windowsill! I finally gasped "midwife!" and he got her.
I was taken back to my bed to be examined, whereupon my waters broke. I was 7cm dilated and preparations were made to take me down to the labour ward. At this point the 'show' appeared (the mucus plug in the cervix which keeps everything sealed up for 9 months). I spotted it on the bed and asked what it was (I wanted to be sure). "Oh, that's the show," said the midwife, and threw a sheet over it. "You weren't supposed to see that." Why the hell not? "It's ok, I made it," I managed to say. The staff commented that I still had a sense of humour - which was true but that wasn't the point. It had been inside me for all that time and I wanted to see it, to be aware of everything that had and was still happening to me. Why did they feel the need to keep it hidden? Is there honestly still a belief that these natural female bodily functions and secretions are shameful and dirty? I was put in a wheelchair and taken to the labour ward - but not before a little wait because there was a hospital tour for expectant mothers taking place and, the state I was in, I don't think they wanted me to frighten them! I'm not sure what I think about this. I mean, I was about to give birth, surely my needs should have been top of the list, but it is good that they wanted to give the expectant mothers a positive impression of what they're about to endure (however misleading that may be).
So then. Onto the second stage, or 'active labour'. I had originally decided not to have an epidural as I didn't fancy the side-effects (loss of bladder control, lasting numbness that would have to wear off, etc) but at this stage I changed my mind and decided I wanted one. However, the staff said that I was doing so well and things were moving on at such a pace that I would probably get on without one. I began pushing with the contractions, and stopped taking the Entonox (no pain relief at all! I am a hardass.). This carried on for nearly two hours, during which time I repeatedly requested an epidural and was repeatedly told (very nicely, though) that it would probably not be worth it. However, before long I was shouting "I don't care if you have to keep your quotas down or whatever, I wanted an epidural and YOU wouldn't give me one!" In retrospect, I'm pleased that I made it through without one, but it's myself I'm pleased with, not the staff. They should have given me what I wanted. I was given fluids in an IV in my left hand, and I remember informng them that I give blood from my right, and that they might have more luck finding a vein there!
What nobody knew at this stage was that the baby's cord was wrapped three times around the neck, which was why the baby wasn't making progress down the birth canal. A (male) obsetrician appeared at this point (to be honest, plenty of people were in and out of that room over those few hours, and I could not tell you how many or who the majority of them were. My mind was elsewhere) and he said that they were going to 'give the baby a hand' getting out, since progress had stalled and the baby's heartbeat had slowed. Whatever my feelings on interventions during birth were prior to this, this was brilliant news. As I was moaning and complaining about the pain, a midwife said, "it's 3.00pm. Your baby will be born by 10 past". The best thing I had heard all day.
The end of the bed came away, my head went back, the stirrups appeared and up went my legs. I was given four injections of local anaesthetic and an episiotomy (cut thorught the perenium) was perfomed. Yes, it's an absolute cariacature of childbirth, and it was quite a bloodbath (and have I mentioned the shit yet? Yes, I shat myself while I was pushing. And couldn't care less). A suction cup (ventouse) was attached to the baby's head, and with a few more pushes and contractions, the head was out. I asked why I couldn't hear the baby. I still don't understand why babies don't cry as soon as their head's born! A couple more contractions and pushes and my husband cried "It's a boy! Oh, it's S------!" and my brand new son was born.
He was a huge baby - 9lb 4oz, I shortly learned - and he had shat himself too, and was grey from the birth goo and the effect of the birth on his circulation. They plonked him on my tummy and the first thing I saw was this enormous, round, grey baby bum with a brown anus! Nice! I didn't even see his face until minutes later, when the cord had been cut and he'd been wrapped in a blanket. Next time, I'm going to insist that all that can wait until I've seen my baby's face and kissed it. Nor did I see the placenta, which I really wanted a look at (see 'the show', above). In all honesty, my prevailing feeling at that point was relief and gladness at the pregnancy, labour and birth being over, rather than joy or excitement at meeting S. That sounds awful, but in my defence, I had had virtually no sleep, there was no food in my system, I had never experienced pain like it, and I was rather out of it from the Entonox. And I doubt I'm the first new mother to have felt like that! giving birth was simultaneously the best and worst experience of my life, although I would not come to see it as the best for little while. Predictably, the first thing I said was, "I'm never doing that again!" The midwives all laughed and said, "they all say that," so I pointed to my husband and said, "well, you're having the next one then!" And I meant it.
Apparently I only swore once and only told my husband to shut up once - less than on a normal day!
I've been writing this as much for me as for anyone else to read it. While women the world over give birth every minute, I have done it but once, and it was the experience of my life. Nothing else comes close. Every woman's birth story is unique and I'm glad I've now got mine on record. Having said that, it's true that nature causes you to forget the pain, so despite this being a pretty accurate account, I know something is missing. We all know that if any mother had an accurate memory of giving birth, she would never put herself through it again! I've got a lot more to tell about the first days and months of S's life, and hope I can continue to write on here a little more often. But now it's teatime.