The Duchess is soon to hit the next milestone. She is going to be my one year old. I thought it only appropriate to take a look back at the last year with her and I wanted to start with my birthing story.
Read: Looking Back – Part 2
Read: Looking Back – Part 3
When people hear you are pregnant they immediately start to give you advice:
If you are carrying in the front, it’s a girl.
Easy pregnancy, difficult labour.
Difficult labour, easy baby.
If you eat spicy food, drink peppermint tea, munch on pineapple, take a bumpy car ride, go on a long walk, take a hot bath, do the nasty with your other half and spin around 10 times and touch your toes – you’ll go into labour.
If you are carrying in the front, it’s a boy.
….and the list goes on. In pain management classes, in the office, when talking to friends, and Skyping with family – you hear it all. But the main thing people tell you is that it is a long, gruelling process, that it is not like those scenes in a film where you see a frantic husband speeding through the streets, quickly ushering his panting wife into the hospital. It is not like those movies where you see the woman jump up on the bed, scream a few times to deliver her baby and then seconds later to be lying serenely with her new baby in her arms. Labour is a marathon. And that is what I was preparing for – I had my amended and re-amended hospital bag list. It was meticulously packed with those things which were not daily essentials and I had the list close by as an aide memoire for those things that would still need to be added right before we set out for the hospital.
My plan was to play a mental game with labour. My plan was ever so British: plan to be weeks overdue, plan to be in labour for days. Anything better would be a bonus. But the part that took the most mental preparation was how I would prepare for those ever intensifying contractions. The pain. I never would have considered myself as someone who had a high threshold for pain. My experience with a number of kidney stones would provide anyone with the evidence they needed that when it really comes down to it, I am not above crying, writhing, snapping, and begging in my most excruciating moments. I once pleaded with a doctor to give me more morphine, to which he replied, “I can if you want, but it would kill you.” I considered it.
Those experiences of renal colic would form the foundation for coping with labour. The thing about kidney stones is that the pain is unrelenting. It doesn’t let up until you have been dosed up with some kind of knock-you-on-your-butt pain killer. Contractions typically have a starting and stopping point. And that’s where I rooted my thoughts. If it has started, it will stop. You just need to get to that point. Of course, my written birthing plan was still realistic. I’d start with gas and air and if it was all going terribly wrong, I’d progress to stronger and stronger pain medicine. I am not above an epidural either.
I was overdue. When I was 40+3 I went to see my midwife who assured me that I didn’t have long. Having displayed none of the signs that the ante-natal classes had said would occur and with the baby’s head not fully engaged, I didn’t believe a word she said. She booked me in for a sweep the following Friday.
That night we set out for a long walk with The Big Brown One and met a neighbour on the way. He asked me the question that I had been fielding for weeks. “How long now?” – like I knew! – but I smiled sweetly and assured him that I did, in fact, know about all of the things that people say induce labour. He worried that we shouldn’t be walking in the fields in case my waters broke and I promised him that there were no real signs yet and that I’d be fine. He hesitated, and once reassured that we had our mobiles with us in case of a real emergency, he left us to carry on with our walk – our very last walk as a family of two.
We got home and had our dinner and around 7pm I started to feel an occasional and recurring sharp pain in my back. I hesitated to believe it was the real thing. Sometimes the pain would last 10 seconds, sometimes it would last over a minute. Sometimes it would be 20 minutes apart, other times it would be 5 minutes apart. There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to what was occurring. The Native began to look a bit unsettled and asked whether we should call the ward. Whatever it was, I was coping. I insisted that we wait to see what happens. With his phone next to him to time these ‘pains’ and with a notepad next to me to jot down their frequency, we popped on Season 2 of the West Wing, joked that we would name the baby Jed or CJ if born tonight, and waited.