A year ago, at exactly this time, I first laid eyes on my beautiful third baby. She was placed immediately on my chest and I was the one to announce to my husband that we had another girl. During the ensuing minutes I was filled with an indescribable happiness for what our family had become.
Today we celebrated Miss H’s first birthday. It’s a cliche I know, but the year has gone far too fast. As I reflect on the first year of her life, I wanted to share with you my birth story. This story has just been published in the March edition of Practical Parenting magazine.
I have experienced the pain and joy of childbirth three times. As any midwife will tell you, every labour is different and this was certainly true for me.
I didn’t have a birth plan for my first labour and I didn’t attend antenatal classes. Looking back, perhaps I didn’t want to know just how bad it could be! I enjoyed my pregnancy but started to feel a little anxious after I went over my due date, and was then induced a week later. The pain was immediate and intense but progress was slow. My labour lasted over 30 exhausting hours and resulted in an epidural, ventouse and stirrups delivery and a third degree tear. I took over six months to heal and also had to undergo post-natal surgery to repair tissue damage.
They say the pain of labour fades quickly. I guess this is true as just 17 months later I was back in the labour ward. This time, my labour was spontaneous and my baby was just one day overdue. I was 7cm dilated when I arrived at the hospital and in excruciating pain. I pleaded for an anesthetist but I had a bad response to the epidural and my blood pressure plummeted. I felt so sick and nauseated that when it was time to push I fainted and the arrival of my second daughter passed by in a haze. My obstetrician used the ventouse to deliver my baby and when she was born I had never felt sicker in my life. My husband said I was as white as the hospital sheets. Afterwards, I felt sad that I had not been able to enjoy the first moments and hours of my daughter’s life. I decided there and then that if I were to have another baby, there would be no epidural.
Fast-forward another 17 months and I was back in the same labour ward! I knew I wanted a natural labour this time, free of intervention and examination. I wanted to be lucid for the delivery and I longed for immediate skin contact. I knew what to expect; I had been through the pain before and I knew how bad it could get. But this time would be different, I told myself. Throughout my pregnancy I primed myself for labour with a simple but firm affirmation. I knew I could labour naturally if I truly believed it. When the pain gets intense, self-doubt escalates and I knew the longer I could stay calm, the better my chances were to experience a natural childbirth. My preparation for labour was simple. I repeated a mantra every single day: “I will have a calm and natural birth. It will be a positive and peaceful experience.”
I went into spontaneous labour a week after my due date and I was able to labour calmly for a few hours at home. I moved around on my fit ball, listening to calm music and accepting the increasing pain. I kept repeating my mantra inwardly. I have never been so determined in my life. I wanted a natural birthing experience and I knew I could achieve it.
Upon arrival at the hospital I expressed my wishes to my delivery team that no pain relief be offered. I focused; I went with my body’s natural rhythm. I enjoyed the contractions and aside from a few primal noises at the very end, the birth was quiet and calm, exactly as I had hoped. My third daughter, Holly, was born without extraction and I was deeply present for her delivery. I smelt her. I felt her warm body on my chest. The skin-to-skin contact was magic. The power of self-belief enabled me to overcome the physical pain, and enjoy the most perfect, peaceful and exhilarating birth.
Happy Birthday Miss H!