Whoever said what you don’t know can’t hurt you was talking utter rubbish. I didn’t know what labour would be like and it hurt. A lot.
As my second son Joseph made it into the world at 3am on December 31, 2009, after 23 hours (oh yes, 23 hours) of pretty intense labour, I laid back holding him in my arms, tired, content and happy, and wondering when exactly the bit when it stopped hurting would happen. You know, the stage afterwards when you are so in love with your new baby that you are pain free again. Joe was here at last. He was healthy, feeding well and just lovely. And, importatly, I was no longer pregnant.
At last I would be able to stop wearing sweat pants. One thing is for sure. If (and that is a massive if) we decide to have another baby, I will not be going for the ‘I don’t need pain control’ approach. Just knock me out and wake me up when it is over. A natural delivery was really important to me with this birth. I wanted to know what it would be like. Sam was born by Cesarean-section and, like many mothers, I felt a bit short-changed. He was breach, the doctor told me I would have a C-section and that was the end of it. He was healthy and that was all that mattered. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was the best thing all around. But I always wondered. I was curious about what I missed out on. Could I have handled the contractions? I did, but I don’t know how. Would I make lots of funny and embarrassing noises? I made noises I didn’t know a human being could make. In fact I made so much noise that one of the doctors came in and asked me to stop screaming. Would it be the most physically and emotionally rewarding experience of my life? Without doubt, yes.
So, with the determination to do it my way, despite spending the weeks running up to the birth being told it would be a trial-by-scar and I should be ready for another C-section, I got myself prepared. I hired a doula, read everything and watched everything I could to do with natural delivery, and wrote myself a birth plan. What a wonderful document the birth plan is! Like the safety advice sheet on a jumbo jet, it’s absolutely essential, full of useful information, but with the added bonus that if the ride gets too bumpy, it’s flexible enough to shout out a magic word and everything can change, just like that.
The contents of my birth plan became my mantra, chanted almost religiously throughout the duration of my labour. ‘No epidural, no pethadine, no epidural, no pethadine, no epidural, no pethadine.’ That was until I had been in labour for 18 hours and thought I might go mad if the pain didn’t stop. Then it changed to ‘GET IT OUT NOWWW!’ If it hadn’t have been for the support of my husband and my doula, I think I would have just crumpled the thing up, chucked it at the midwife and yelled ‘BRING ME MY PAIN CONTROL!’
The birth plan is there to remind you of the experience you want. It is an honest account of what you would like to do. It is, importantly, a document prepared when not high on drugs or bent over with excruciating pain. And it worked. Despite the pain and the strain I had the labour I wanted. I controlled my pain with just gas and air, my husband didn’t faint and we have a second wonderful son. I would like to say I instantly forgot the pain, when really it was replaced at first by aches. Then the aches became niggles. And the niggles became, well, nothing really. Two weeks on and I’m looking forward to a year without a bump. Only sleepless nights, breastfeeding and the return of midnight nappies to worry about.
The funny thing is, as soon as I held my son in my arms every moment of the last nine months was forgotten. All the sleepless nights, all of the aches and all of the pains became a distant memory. Because he is gorgeous. Because he is adorable. Because he is mine. It might be the gas and air talking, but I think everything is going to be alright.