Birth? Is It Really That Bad?

Birth? Is It Really That Bad?

I spent so much of my time wanting to be pregnant that I didn’t give much thought to the experience of giving birth to my child. It was something I had heard lots of women talk about but not something I had really considered. 

The one thing I did know was that child birth was terrifying and it hurt. Actually it didn’t hurt it was like someone ripping your insides out while you were still alive (a description kindly given to me by my sister). So when I fell pregnant last year it was pretty much one of the first things I thought about once I got past the initial shock.

The first thing I did was totally suppress any thoughts of birth. I spent the first 22 weeks blissfully ignoring the fact I would potentially push something the size of a melon out of my vagina, but as time went on I decided it was probably best to face the music and arm myself with knowledge and information on how this incredibly huge life changing experience could pan out. 

I was really open to all eventualities of how this could go. Whether that be vaginal or cesarean. I didn’t have an ideal situation in my head. I didn’t know a lot but one thing I was aware of was that no birth was the same and if I focused on having one type of birth I’d probably end up having the opposite. 

Let’s be honest it couldn’t be that bad, I mean women have been giving birth for years. Some women even do it over and over again and back in the stone ages they didn’t even have drugs and hospitals! Surely I’d be OK? 

I read a lot! I read book after book after book which didn’t really make anything clearer as I still didn’t know the type of birth I would have. It did give me a better understanding of the eventualities of labour and what my body would be going through, however didn’t resolve my main question; “What does it feel like to give birth?” 

I think by week 32 anxiety set in and I started to really think about the pain factor and how I would cope, bearing in mind I was someone that would cry at the mere thought of a paper cut. 

As my due date drew closer and closer I began to dream of all the things that could go wrong.

I tried to imagine the feeling and the emotions I would feel on the day. Would I love my baby? Would I recognise him? Would he be big or small or have a funny shaped head? I watched reruns of one born every minute like they were going out of fashion. A few times Matt arrived home to me sobbing, eating ice cream on the floor, having watched a sad episode. I’m sure he thought I was a mad woman. 

About 5 days before my due date I started to get frustrated. I was adamant I would be early. I never really understood it when women said they were getting frustrated when they were overdue, but once I was in the situation I totally understood. I was ready for my little tenant to vacate the building (or my tummy) that had been his home for 9 months. I think it was probably the anticipation of being so close to your due date that makes you go crazy. You wait 9 months to get to this point (9 long months) and suddenly it becomes a reality that any day they could be with you. 

I had my first sweep around my due date and it was pretty painless and uneventful. I was told my cervix was still far back and no where near ready to go, which was soul destroying. I was furious. Did they not know it was my due date in 24hours, surely something would be happening. It started to feel like I might be pregnant forever. I imagined meeting people at 58 months pregnant, explaining that my baby just never arrived. Rolling myself around the house as I could no longer walk! 

Everyone was scared of me and disrupting the ticking time bomb I’d become. A family member made a fly away joke about him not having arrived and how funny it was and I went in to melt down mode. I was furious that anyone would find it funny. Furious, extremely hormonal and hugely overreacting, something no one would have dared say to my face at that point. 

You’ll be pleased to know that I did go in to labour, thankfully for my husband and close friends and family who had probably had enough of my constant moaning. 

I went in to labour on the 21st November at 11.30pm. My waters broke just before midnight, I paced up and down for 20 mins before calling the hospital and they told us to pop down for a quick check up. Everything moved extremely fast from that point. We were told that he had pooed inside me and by no uncertain terms was I going home but being induced immediately. I was given an epidural and then induced but within about 4 hours his heart rate dropped so much and it was plain to see he wasn’t going to be coming any time soon so a cesarean was the safest birthing option.

So there you have it, I spent most of my adult life talking about birth, listening to other people’s birthing stories and imagining the pain I would go through, to not having a single bit of pain. 

Do you know the crazy thing I didn’t even feel one contraction. Not one. 

I have to say I’ve heard other women say they felt cheated, I don’t, in fact I feel pretty happy that I didn’t have to go through a single contraction in pain. The one thing I did learn was that when you’re in the midst of labour, your whole focus just goes on getting that little person here safely. I’ve never considered myself a selfless person, but everything went out the window in those final hours before he arrived. If they had to chop off my leg to get him here I’d have done it in a heartbeat.

As they wheeled me down to theatre I remember the feeling of fear set in. I’m still not sure to this day if it was fear of what was going to happen or fear that my life was about to change forever as I entered the room. I remember looking around for Matt. I’m a fairly independent person but I needed him next to me to be able to get through this. I’ve heard women say that they wouldn’t have been able to get through birth without their partner. Not just their partner being present but the mere smell or touch of their partner giving them the strength for those final pushes and I can honestly say without sounding too soppy I’ve never needed him so much in my life. 

As they topped up my epidural I started to panic that I would feel them cutting in to me. I was petrified that the anaesthetic wouldn’t work. I asked the nurse but apparently they had already started so I didn’t need to worry. 

 The fifteen minutes I was on that table while I waited for them to pull him out felt like a life time. I could feel nothing apart from tugs and pulls as if someone was building a Lego toy inside my stomach. I distinctly remember just holding my breath and waiting to hear him cry like I’d seen on all those programmes and as soon as I heard his little cry I let go and burst in to tears. It was the most wonderful, emotional and scary thing I’d ever been through. 

So there you have it my birth story. Totally different but equally as special to all the million, billion others out there. 

I have to say on reflection, one bit of advice I would give to any pregnant women is to try and not plan your birth too much. There is no wrong or right way to give birth. You don’t know what is going to happen when you’re in the situation. Just plan to look after yourself and get your child here safely. 

Women are amazing. To think we grow and give birth to a little human is mind blowing. Every time I look at his face I can’t believe it was him in my tummy for 9 months. Although, the last few weeks of pregnancy were long sometimes, I wish I could put him back in just to have him all to myself again for a day and feel those little kicks once more. 

To The Girl I Used To Be

To The Girl I Used To Be

Sometimes I feel completely overwhelmed with balancing life, relationships, work and being a good Mother to my two children. Imagine trying to carry six bags full of Tesco shopping, whilst walking a tightrope and reciting the 8 times tables backwards; that’s how I feel most days.  I often think back to my younger self and compare her to who I am now. I view myself then and myself now as two entirely different people, sometimes wishing I could be more like her again even though when I was, I wasn’t too fond of her.

I remember my Mum saying to me when I was a teenager that she had a dream that she was free.  She had no ties or responsibility and the feeling was amazing and one that she had forgotten.  It stuck with me because I had no idea what she meant at the time. Now, I understand just how possible it can sometimes be to miss that freedom from responsibility.

People used to say (before children) that I was selfish…and I was, because I could be.  Don’t get me wrong, if a friend or family member needed me, I would of course be there for them, but if I wanted to do something then I did it; regardless of consequences. If my parents asked me to babysit my younger brother on the same night of a huge party, then I would be politely declining. I used to put my own needs first, sometimes to a fault. I’m not bitter about the fact I can no longer do that anymore (I couldn’t think of anything worse than gracing a nightclub until the early hours) and being a mother is my biggest achievement to date, but how do I be a good mum and partner AND look after myself at the same time? That is the bit I find difficult. And where along the way did I lose my ability to be even remotely selfish? 

The love I have for my little family is too strong to not prioritise them, I want them all to be happy first and foremost. Consequently, self-care falls by the wayside. I truly find it to be one of the most challenging parts of parenting. When is it ok to put yourself first? Are you even supposed to ever again?

I used to tell myself that I needed to be less selfish, but I always ended up making the decision that suited me best. People would pull me up on it; ‘You must think about others Hayley’, ‘It isn’t all about you,’ ‘Here she goes, talking about herself again’, were things I heard often. At the time, I was always really miffed when someone mentioned just how self-absorbed I could be.  I would instantly jump to my own defence and justify myself into continuing to put myself first. In hindsight, I’m glad I did. And if I could go back, I would tell myself that from the age of 30 I won’t be able to be selfish, so it’s worth enjoying it. A quality I used to think was my weakness I now miss and wish I still had to a degree as it is now engrained in my mind that I MUST do it all, so my selfish side, or the ability to prioritise my wellbeing, always takes a back seat.

The issue is that my brain thinks I am failing as a mum if everyone else is not happy, fed, clean and clothed; it just seems that I don’t fit into that equation. I am sometimes so focussed on making my children and partner happy; making sure their lunch is made and clothes are washed, only to realise I have no clean clothes and I forgot to make my own lunch.  

My partner works very long hours, so without hesitation I will sit up with the children if they won’t sleep, same story if they get up early, I always insist on giving up my lay in even when he hasn’t had a long shift.  Whether this is habit I do not know, but it is the only way I feel I’m doing my job properly. Just for the record, my partner asks to take over all the time and is more than willing to do his share. This issue lies with me, and the fact that ever since I became a mum, I seem to accumulate an immense amount of guilt if I accept a hand and don’t complete everything myself, even if I don’t want to. My capacity to allow others to take the reins appears to have been left in my hospital room the day I brought my son home.

Maybe the way I feel is a common feeling amongst mothers, or maybe it is a consequence of my own experiences. Either way, I do sometimes wonder if the traditional ‘man/woman’ role is more engrained in us than we are aware.  Maybe, as women, we subconsciously think it is our job alone to satisfy everyone else’s needs. The trouble is, times have changed and commonly, women now contribute financially, me included.  Despite this, there still seems to be an immense societal pressure for women to take on the majority of the household and childcare duties.  I know of at least seven other mothers who feel the same way. I know of a few who also don’t of course, but it appears to be more common than not, when talking with others mums.   I am not saying it is the fault of husbands or partners at all, and this isn’t a feminist debate, I am simply stating that I think women feel as though need to do it all and end up feeling guilty if they don’t, even when help is offered. 

I’ve previously confided to my partner about how I feel which makes him frustrated. He asks why I do not just let him take over sometimes and why I decline his help. And he is right. How can I be so stressed and in need of a helping hand, whilst insisting I’m completely fine and don’t need said helping hand? It isn’t fair on him and it isn’t fair on me. I want to say ‘yes please do it this time’, but I just can’t seem to allow myself.

A natural progression in life is to mature, and with that comes responsibility. I don’t miss living recklessly and partying in Ibiza; in fact I don’t miss that at all. What I do miss is how much I cared for me.

There are plenty of qualities I have accumulated over the years as I have grown up which I am truly thankful for. For one, I am far wiser and a lot calmer in a crisis, but the thing I miss most is the raw ability to not care what anyone thinks. I used to speak my mind, shout my opinions and not let anyone walk over me. I rejected a lot of people’s opinions and justified that I was who I was and if someone thought I was odd or had said something unkind about me then that was their issue. I laughed at myself and I laughed at the negative opinions’ others may have had of me. Now, one negative opinion can ruin my week, and I don’t know why. I am so conscious of other people since becoming a parent, and I don’t like it. 

I feel remorseful for sometimes wanting to sit in a room on my own and read a book when my little boy wants me to watch him play a game or my daughter wants to show me a new dance, and I assume this is quite a natural feeling, but it is also one I should be listening  to. You only have to look at the conflicting messages society gives to mums to understand why it can be so confusing.  

Have a break/Don’t miss the special moments. Look after and have time for yourself/ You will have plenty of time to yourself later 

I just need a little moment to myself. It’s the little moments with your children that you will remember.

 It becomes exhausting.

If I sit down and start to relax I can guarantee I will suddenly remember an article I read which told me the years ‘fly by’ and how before I know it I will be a lonely old woman sat at home crying because my children won’t come around for tea. I am then unable and completely unwilling to have a bit of time to myself. 

Usually, I’d conclude my writing with some advice. But this time I have none. Prioritising myself is a work in progress. I need to retrain my mind so that I can reach a happy medium; a bit of my younger selves’ attitude would not be a bad thing and I hope to meet that girl again soon and come to a nice compromise.

I can only speak for myself and my situation and I am utterly blessed to have my two children; I wouldn’t change it for the world. But sometimes I do miss the old me. I sometimes grieve the girl I used to be.

This article is why I named this blog ‘Who’s Looking After Mum’.  Because sometimes I wonder, who is?