So… We have a new Tiny!
A gorgeously pink, living, breathing baby girl… Now safely at home with two very excited siblings.
Tinker. Toddler. Tiny.
Our new familiar bliss!
My little family boxset: complete.
No need to say more than this!
Well, except I have this blog…
And night feeds in full swing;
So I suggest that perhaps you stop reading now,
If you don’t want to hear about “The Thing”.
The Thing, of course, being:
For those hoping to do it one day, I’m offering the chance to resist. Because I genuinely can’t decide if it’s best to know first, or if ignorance really is bliss!
See, with my first, I remained blissfully ignorant throughout. I avoided One Born like the plague, and purposely didn’t ask questions of those who had, reportedly, been through the mill. So, going into it, I held a few- limited- expectations…
1. Childbirth was the most painful thing anyone could ever do ever. This was going to hurt.
2. However… this was a uniquely forgettable pain that would mean I’d inevitably want to do it again. (I mean, most childbearing women do it more than once so it can’t be that bad, right?!)
3. As a Christian, childbirth was going to be a deeply spiritual experience. I needed to prepare a worship music playlist and ensure that my wishes for peaceful prayer and meditation were detailed in my birth plan. (No, seriously, stop laughing!)
4. The onset of labour would most likely be subtle, but, somehow, I’d just know.
5. If the birthing pool was free I’d hit the jackpot. Only if it was unavailable would I consider drugs. Anything else beyond this would obviously require a surgical section, (which my mother actively wished upon me because, compared to her medieval forceps delivery, it was ‘the best thing ever‘).
This, I believed, was a sufficiently open-minded approach.
Ha. Ha. Haaaaaa…
Here’s just a few things that bust open that little mind of mine the first time around:
1. Sometimes, the onset of labour is anything but subtle. In fact, if your waters break first, it’s worth bearing in mind that it isn’t always “either a constant trickle or one big gush,” as the leaflet suggests. Actually, it can be one constant tidal wave of gush; drenching your clothes and your car seat and making you walk through the hospital like John Wayne, (if only because of the chaffage!); stopping to divulge another bucket of fluid with each oncoming contraction, whilst your new, amniotically charged boots squeak like mice on helium against the polished, clinical floors. (This was a particularly enlightening moment for me, as I had genuinely wondered why I needed a change of clothes to travel home in?!)
2. If the baby is particularly distressed, and your own heart rate is cause for concern, that sacred, au natural birth plan can be thrown out within minutes.
3. However… it turns out there are a number of rather enjoyable hallucinogenic stop offs in between nothing and numb! They may make you throw up all over the new midwife immediately after change-over, but they do and half give your birth partner a laugh! Besides which, if you’re going to be confined to a bed and held in position during labour, it’s much more bareable if you can do so whilst negotiating your role in a new Star Wars movie with Orlando Bloom at the same time!
4. Epidurals aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Particularly if you realise that your sticky, soaking wet pillow isn’t actually sweat… it’s your precious pain relief disconnecting itself and escaping all over the bed.
5. Pushing isn’t always the end. In fact, you can be pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing, with a great crowd of cheerleaders egging you on, and still… nothing can happen.
6. If this occurs, at this stage, they’d rather cut you down there and use a giant pair of tweezers to manoeuvre the baby out, than cut you across the middle… Even if your mother told you not to let them!
7. This kind of mother-budging stand-off requires some heavy negotiating from aforementioned birth partner. Which, in our case, was Husband. Which, in his case, involved alot of McFlurries.
8. It is really, really, really hard to push a baby out after a spinal block. Especially with the added pressure of the crowd around the table, campaigning to the combined backing track of two angry heart monitors…
“How?! I can’t feel a thing!”
“We need this baby out now- you have to push!”
“You’re doing it!”
(The only sacred prayer time I can remember, as it goes..)
9. Worse than any expected pain in this kind of childbirth, is the unexpected pain after childbirth; when the drugs wear off around midnight and you have two tears, an episiotomy, over a litre of blood loss, three days without sleep, a crying, breastfed baby… and no Husband until visiting time at 10am! Follow that with two weeks of sitting on a severely bruised and swollen perinium, unable to walk further than the bottom of the street, and… well… no one ever really prepares you for that!
Ahhhh, Tinker! She’s so funny and cute and adorable… she fills our world with so much joy and meaning and life and… somehow… well, somehow... I just can’t wait to do it again!
(So those rumours, at least, are true!)
Second time around… the expectations are slightly less ignorant … but equally optimistic:
1. I shouldn’t need any interventions this time because, obviously, the first baby well and truly cleared the way for the second!
2. In fact, if I eat 6 dates a day and do forward-leaning inversions from 37 weeks (thanks Pinterest!), labour will be less complicated and also alot shorter. Which is obviously better… right?!
3. If I can’t have my water birth, if the baby needs monitoring and I need to be held in any kind of position again, then I will immediately cut to the chase. I’ll have an epidural, maybe even a cheeky nap, and wake up once it’s time to push. (Seriously, once again… stop laughing!)
Ha. Ha. (Stop it!)
Here’s what I learned that time:
1. In absolutely no way does the first baby clear the way for the second! Not least when you have a BMI of 22 and have somehow managed to grow a 9 and a half pounder…
2. That said, it can indeed be an awful lot quicker. (Though in hindsight, I’d take a longer, slower labour over a short, intense one any day!)
3. If the baby is especially distressed and there’s a chance they may prep you for surgery, they won’t give you that epidural… you know, “just in case.”
4. They will, however, tell you that you can have it, and that the onslaught of excruciating pain you are currently experiencing is going to stop soon. This will ensure that you are completely mentally unprepared for when it actually doesn’t!
5. Despite the many lovely ones, midwives can also be brutal. Like the one who frantically stabbed at my arm to get a canular in, and then pumped it so full of fluid in such a short space of time that the thing swelled up like a giant sausage, before ripping it out and shoving it in my hand when I alerted her to to the problem.
6. Brutal… Though apparently not brutal enough to pin a labouring woman down onto her side, face into the bed, arms in, “KEEP STILL!”, at 8cm dilated. Apparently she needed back-up for that!
7. Once again…. pushing isn’t always the end. Nor, in fact, is the inevitable episiotomy and extraction tool of choice. What’s more, as it goes, hearing that “the head is out!” still isn’t always the end. At this point, the room can fill with people, the atmosphere with tension, the mother’s exit with arms and hands and the father’s eyes with carefully concealed dread. At this point, every inch of you that just wanted the pain to stop and the kid out of the bag, can spiral into a different kind of trauma. Why isn’t my baby out yet? Why isn’t he crying? What are they doing to him?! What have I done wrong?!!
8. In this situation, a recorded 4 minutes can feel like an actual eternity.
Once the baby is resuscitated and breathing and in your arms… you know that the trauma isn’t worth holding onto.
You gave birth to a healthy baby and lived to tell the tale.
You are one of the lucky ones!
Count your blessings; forget about it!
Just, you know… maybe don’t do it again?!
Ahhhhhh, Toddler. He’s so loving and affectionate; cheeky and full of joy! And he and Tinker, they play so well together! The house is a busy, beautiful place and, despite myself, I just can’t help imagining a little one more…
So, despite the buried trauma, and the fact the consultant said it would likely happen again if we have more… I still just can’t allow Husband to permanently close that door.
Maybe… probably… but just not yet.
And so life carries on, and it’s so loveably good that momentarily, at least on the surface… I do, again, start to forget.
I mean it’s there, it’s underlying, it bubbles up at certain triggers… New parents-to-be divulging their idealistic birth plans; baby announcements that praise silently-suffering mothers; or those who loudly and proudly shunned pain relief … all drag up a nagging sense that I failed at childbirth, or that somehow, it failed me.
But, these are moments to ignore. To bury further down and to remind yourself just how lucky you are. Because, as before, it really doesn’t matter any more.
It really, really doesn’t matter…
Until, of course, you see those two blue lines again, that is!
Then… well then it flipping well matters!
It matters at three o’clock in the morning, two days later, when you finally slap down off the ceiling, (because, planned or not, if you’ve ever had to try really hard to ‘get pregnant’ before, a positive test is always going to feel like a goal scored!) It matters then, when you bolt upright in bed; suddenly, distinctly remembering the blue baby and the beeping… and the altogether unglamarous, unnatural, not-even-remotely-spiritual act of squeezing another life into the world, and you think…
“Oh. Sh********t. I can’t do that again!!!”
And so, third time around, I had a few- very different- expectations:
1. I am absolutely, definitely not doing that again and will arrange a planned c-section at the earliest opportunity. God help anyone who tries to stop me.
2. This will be an altogether calm, clinical, straightforward and safe experience. There will be no drama whatsoever.
3. Recovery will be horrific, but…
4. This is the easy way out.
Nothing to see here, no need to laugh! My pre-op appointment the week before the event calmed my anxiety and confirmed these expectations. “You’ll be surprised at how nice and calm the whole experience is!”
Here are some final things I learned this time around:
1. Approaching childbirth in this manner feels very unnatural, no matter how determined you once were. Every night from 37 weeks was filled with an obsessive desire to nest, (“just in case!”) Whilst every severe episode of Braxton Hicks had me doubting my decision. “You’re supposed to do labour properly… your body knows what it’s doing!” And, despite every logical part of me: “What if this time could be different?!”
(I’m incredibly thankful to a brutally honest, straight-talking friend at this stage who reminded me, in no uncertain terms, that it wasn’t worth the risk.)
2. The lack of labour heightens anxiety, (but also, actually, prayer!) I laughed at the pre-op when the Anethetist warned me that preparing for the operation, “may be a little uncomfortable.”
“Mate!” thought I, “you have NO idea!”
However, I was surprised to find that actually, it really was. I had grossly underestimated the adrenaline and sheer distraction of active labour, and so found that this time, my heightened awareness of everything in and around me brought a whole new level of fear and discomfort. That, and the fact they prepare you to the point of cutting before they even allow your partner into the room, meant that I was, in fact, shaking and unable to stop as they tried to prepare me for the op.
3. Unfortunately, whilst I love the NHS, my entire experience of this pregnancy- and particularly of gestational diabetes– has been one of farcical miscommunication. Sadly, childbirth was no different.
On arrival, I deposited my frozen colostrum at the desk, because I’m diabetic.
On meeting the midwife, I handed over my notes; thick and heavy from 3 months worth of medical appointments, because I’m diabetic.
On meeting the surgeon, I was relieved to find someone I’d actually seen the previous week at the clinic, because I’m diabetic.
And yet… upon arriving in theatre, sitting upon the table, being administered a local anaesthetic and preparing for a spinal… the Anethetist (different to both the one at the pre-op and the one who did the rounds in the morning), raised concerns about my blood pressure and- yet again!– that bloody beeping heart rate.
“That’ll be my blood sugar…” I told him, confessing to my weak and shakey state after what was now 15 hours of fasting.
“What?!” He asks, “are you diabetic?!”
Are you… ? Are you freakin’ kidding me?!
“What’s her blood sugar?” He barks, “Has anyone tested her blood sugar?”
“That’s far too low. This is ridiculous, she’s about to pass out. If I’d known she was diabetic I’d have done it first thing this morning. Well, I’m not doing it now!”
What the… ?
“I’m sorry,” he addresses me, “we need to get some glucose into your system. You’ll go back out, we’ll give you an I.V drip for an hour, then you can come back in and start again. Ridiculous!”
Being British, of course, I apologise at this point… sure that it’s probably my fault and that I should have announced my condition upon arrival.
“I’m sorry,” I say, “I just presumed everyone knew…”
“This is the NHS,” he retorts, “you shouldn’t presume anybody knows anything!”
Right. Well. That’s encouraging…
4. Glucose… good call.
5. When you do- finally– have a c-section, you can actually feel everything. It doesn’t hurt; but it happens and it is weird.
6. Despite what a first-time parent-to-be insisted to me once: you don’t always get to hold your baby immediately after birth. In fact, for the third time running, my first memory of our new daughter was a quick flash of her genitals, (which were so enlarged that I had to ask Husband to clarify what they were anyway!), before she was whisked off, weighed, then enveloped by a beaming Husband, who declared her name before I’d really seen her face. After this, the first hour was very much like the others; drifting in and out of consciousness whilst Husband enjoyed the first cuddles!
7. The combination of this rather overwhelming experience, complete with rapidly dropping blood pressure and the apparent effects of the anaesthetic, can send your body into shock. Upon reaching the recovery room, I felt dizzy, confused and overheated, and complained that I was sweating profusely… only to be covered with an electric blanket and told that I was far too cold. What’s more, my heart was pounding within my chest, as I struggled to shortly and sharply breathe… yet my heart rate was once again too low, prompting a panic attack at the beeps. Why was I feeling the opposite of everything they said?! Honestly, for a moment there, I really thought this was the end.
Having calmed down and held my daughter- (not to mention a sarnie and a bottle of water!)- I gave thanks for what had occurred. Counted my blessings, smelled the roses, and reflected on what I’d just learned.
There is no “easy way” to do childbirth!
Nothing about this is safe!
I have three healthy children-
I’m “lucky”- for sure-
But thrice I’ve stared death in the face!
And so we’ve given to our children,
Names that are “gifts from God”;
In thanks, in praise, in adoration,
So while the first also means “faith”,
And the second, also, “healing”,
The third also means, “last born“-
And this time… we flipping well mean it!