Recently I saw a friend of mine who is about to become a first-time mother. At 36 weeks gestation, and just commencing maternity leave, she radiated the pre-baby anticipation that I also felt with my first baby. We chatted about the usual topics you cover at this time: had she packed her hospital bag, decided on names yet; was the nursery ready to go; and how was she feeling about the impending birth. When I said goodbye and wished her luck for the labour I couldn’t help but feel a touch of envy for what she is about to experience.
I loved being pregnant. From the moment I saw those two blue lines I was completely and utterly hooked. During my first pregnancy I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I wanted to know everything that was happening inside my body and I relished the growth of my belly. In fact, I recall brooding about the fact that I wasn’t “big enough” at 20 weeks and feeling quite upset about it. At that stage it was barely obvious to the outside world that I had a baby growing inside me, possibly due to my genetic disposition and first pregnancy. My second baby pronounced herself a lot earlier and there was no mistaking my pregnancy from 10 weeks.
Over the 120 weeks that I’ve been pregnant, I’ve suffered crippling headaches, acute insomnia, heartburn and varicose veins. But despite all the aches and pains, I simply loved it. And I would love to be pregnant again.
I have experienced the pain and joy of childbirth three times in three years, and as any midwife will tell you, every labour is different.
My first labour was induced a week after my due date. It lasted over 30 exhausting hours and resulted in an epidural, ventouse delivery and a third degree tear. Whilst I had hoped for a spontaneous and calm birth, it was irrelevant when I held my daughter in my arms as my husband and I shed tears of unparalleled joy. In the days, weeks and months that followed I was happier than I have ever been. Life was simple. Life was pure. I loved the slower pace of my new life and I was post-natally euphoric.
Such was my happiness, we decided to have another one quickly and 17 months later my second daughter was born. This time the labour was spontaneous and shorter but the pain was excruciating and I panicked and pleaded for an anesthetist. I had a bad response to the epidural and my blood pressure plummeted. I felt so sick and nauseated and when it came time to push I fainted and the rest 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, but the miracle of new life was irresistible.
Fast-forward another 17 months and my third delivery was different again. I went into spontaneous labour a week after my due date and I was able to labour calmly for a few hours at home. After arriving at the hospital I declined pain relief, as I wanted to be lucid for the experience. I enjoyed the contractions. My third daughter came out 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. I was too happy to cry.
I know that every time I see a pregnant woman touching her belly in that beautiful protective maternal way, I will long to be in her shoes. And despite the intense pain of labour, I will also yearn for that too. Because childbirth is the most exhilarating experience imaginable. The pain of contractions is incomparable to the joy the holding a newborn baby in your arms and looking at the most important human being you will ever meet.
I would do it again and again if my husband would let me.
* First published on copingwithjane.
* Postscript: When I asked my husband recently if there was a glimmer of hope that he may want another child he was crystal clear. It appears not even my persuasive powers will convince him otherwise. He knows i’ll continue to ask the question, and I know he’ll continue to say no…