My first experience of going through labour was probably what you’d imagine if you ever watched “One Born Every Minute” – I went into hospital after about nine of hours of (what seemed like) close contractions. And they didn’t send me away which seemed to confirm that I was in established labour. However it then took another 19 hours of pacing up and down in this little, clinical, 8 foot space, trying to get comfortable between contractions and becoming more and more exhausted. I think I actually wrote a birth plan the first time around and it said something along the lines of “no drugs if possible”. Well that all went straight out of the window – I was given pethadine first, in an attempt to stall things for long enough for me to get some sleep. That made me puke within about two seconds of the injection! Then I got stuck at 4cm dilated for hours on end so I was told my best option was the syntocin drip and along with that I was offered an epidural for the massive speeding up of painful contractions and I took it. (All this was after about 17 hours of non-stop TENS mild electric shocking).
The end of all this drugging resulted in a labour flat on my back on a hospital bed being told when to push based on flickering digital images of contractions on a screen rather than feeling anything in particular bodily. Despite that it only took 30 minutes of pushing with a bit of help from my gorgeous Spanish midwife Marina, to get JJ out. I then had the injection to speed up the placenta delivery (which, by the way, was MASSIVE! – like a huge liver or something!).
I certainly don’t look back on that experience with any kind of fondness despite the lovely outcome. I also had a horrible time in the post-natal ward afterwards feeling completely out of my depth and not feeling like there was any real support other than the almost militant push to “successfully establish breastfeeding” before being allowed to go home (which involved having my nipples squeezed between fingernails amongst other things).
When I found out I was pregnant with EJ I began to have vague ideas about how I wanted to improve on my labour experience. I knew I didn’t want to have a home birth – despite this being a popular option with many second-timers, it wasn’t for me. However a water birth sounded quite appealing and booked myself in for an NCT waterbirth session, took a tour of the labour suites at hospital (something I didn’t do first time round) and discovered that the room with the birth pool at Royal Surrey in Guildford is by far the biggest, nicest room available.
Unfortunately I then found out that, as I qualified as a geriatric expectant mother, the hospital would be very keen to induce me if I was to slip over my due date. The implication was that, once on a drip, I would be unable to enter the birth pool.
On the due date, about 7 in the evening, my contractions began and I thought that was it. They were a long way apart though, unlike the beginning of labour with JJ and they rolled into day two, ramping up to the point where I went into hospital to be monitored and felt like begging to be induced at that point (although all that actually happened was I was forced to lie on my back in agony for five hours until they could confirm that EJ’s heartbeat was considered ‘normal’ and then sent home). The following 24 hours were hell – I couldn’t even lie down without having to run to the bathroom to vomit and I was absolutely exhausted and trying to sleep sitting up with my chin resting on a pile of about 7 cushions & pillows.
By about 6pm my Mum pointed out that this was insane and I phoned the hospital to say that, despite what seemed to be completely irregular contractions, I was in constant agony and they confirmed that that was not normal and told me to come in to the ante-natal suite to be assessed. By the time we reached the hospital my contractions seemed to be five minutes apart and I couldn’t really walk so my mum pushed me up to the maternity department in a wheelchair. I was seen quite quickly fortunately and then the real fun began as, much to me huge relief, I was informed that I was nine cm dilated and promptly given the royal treatment (it was about 7pm on a Tuesday evening in July and the ward was relatively quiet). The birth pool was free! I grabbed my tankini and dived in! The room was amazing – the pool was like a big, warm hot tub with underwater lighting. My Seal Soul CD was playing in the background adding a delicious, relaxing, calming atmosphere. I was feeling every contraction – no drugs this time round.
After only about two hours I felt the urge to push and, despite having been told that I was very stoical the first time round, and not being the kind of person to make a fuss, I was almost shocked to hear myself screaming like a banshee as EJ’s head crowned. Almost an out of body experience! The next thing that happened was that the midwives called my mum and the hubster over to look down at the baby’s face and pointed out that he was still asleep – babies who are born in water don’t know they are being born! This was the icing on the cake – to realise that this way of giving birth is so beautifully absent of trauma for the baby.
In the months after giving birth the hubster and I became convinced that the waterbirth accounted, at least in part, for EJ being such a chilled out baby. Unlike JJ he didn’t suffer from colic and was just a dream in comparison.
(I also had a natural third stage of labour and let the placenta come in its own time which allowed the baby to carry on receiving nutrition and iron right up to the last minute and that’s another thing I feel really positive about).
I would definitely recommend a water birth to anyone. Even though labour and childbirth are not exactly anyone’s idea of fun, I can only look back on the experience with EJ with lovely happy tears in my eyes – such a good memory that I never want to forget.