I started this post a while ago for very different reasons to why I'm finally putting it out there now. I have been known to get on the natural birth bandwagon from time to time, and I get quite distressed when I encounter women who are absolutely terrified of giving birth naturally, to the point of choosing to have an elective caesarean instead. I was pretty terrified at one point (and I'm sure I will be again second time round), but if you go in with the right mindset and know everything you can know, it's really not that scary. Trust me, I had such a good experience I'm going to do it again! Before I go off on a tangent, let me explain that I'm telling you my story today because my amazing little man just turned 2. He went from being a helpless, floppy, completely dependent (but adorable) newborn, to a very independent, confident and talkative little boy in such a short time that I cannot believe two years have passed since the night we drove to the hospital in the pouring rain and came home with a baby. It was the most incredible night of my life, and I really feel blessed to have brought such a special little person into the world. I cannot wait to do it again (and maybe again after that :-) Here's how it all went down...
Three weeks before my son was born I got a fright in the middle of the night. Something shifted and I went into what they call "pre-labour." I was quietly dilating and contracting while going about my business, and was totally oblivious to the fact until my next doctor's appointment. I saw my obstetrician three times in those three weeks, and the first two times she examined me and swore that we would have a baby within the next 48 hours. My husband extended his leave to ensure he was by my side, ready to leap into action any time I so much as whimpered (crying out in pain one night from a leg cramp had him halfway to the car before I calmly informed him it was not "go time."), I packed my bag and together we anxiously awaited our fate. In the meantime we did everything the books tell you to do if you're trying to bring on labour, although not always at the same time; for the record, vindaloo is not conducive to romance. On the third and final visit Dr G threw her hands in the air and refused to make any promises, "he'll come when he's ready," she said. Now that I know my son better, I've accepted that as part of who he is, and I love him for it, but at the time I was so desperate to meet him that I grew increasingly frustrated. It wasn't until I gave up and realised he had to come out eventually, that he finally made an appearance.
While we waited that week, we watched a documentary on zoo animals (during a break from eating curry, doing yoga and drinking raspberry leaf tea and pineapple juice), where we learned the interesting little fact that wild animals often go into labour at night, in bad weather, when there are fewer predators around, and we joked that maybe that was what the little guy was waiting for. And so it was, on a wet, windy and cold December night, just after getting into bed, my waters broke. Since the hospital was an hour away we had been advised to leave home when my contractions were 10 minutes apart - they started at 5 minutes apart. By the time we got to the hospital at midnight I could barely walk. I was also one of those annoying women who wanted to give birth without pain relief. Trust me when I tell you that it had nothing to do with being a martyr, I just hated the idea of someone sticking a needle in my spine. So I endured three solid hours of almost back-to-back contractions, all the while dealing with a really unhelpful midwife who kept coming in and telling me that yet another "hypnobirther" in the ward had caved in and asked for an epidural. She'd follow this with "so you want drugs yet?" I had my brilliant husband and my amazing sister-in-law in the room with me and they kept me going.
I had done a lot of research before I went into labour because I wanted to be prepared for what I could expect to happen. I also had an awful lot of time on my hands while I waited. By far the most helpful thing I read was from a book called "Birth Skills" by Juju Sundin (find more info here). She talked about fear leading to tension, and tension leading to pain, or at least increasing it. She also reminds pregnant mums that the pain of childbirth is very different to the pain caused by disease or injury: it's a positive pain caused by your muscles working to help you deliver your baby. It's also a temporary pain. It all made perfect sense to me, and armed with the faith that my body knew what it was doing, I was able to relax and just go with it. You'll be pleased to know that throughout it all I stayed very calm, and only yelled at my husband once. I wasn't a complete hero I have to admit. At around 2.30am I had had just about as much as I could take. My labour had been mercifully short (if you don't count the first three weeks!) but really intense. I was ready to take whatever they could give me to make the pain go away but when the midwife had a little look-see downstairs she was surprised to find that I was ready to push. It was too late for the drugs. I made do with gas and air (a godsend, that made me feel a million bucks) and got ready to meet my son. The doctor arrived, wearing scrubs and gumboots, which I found a little alarming. She told me I'd have a baby by 5am, which seemed like an awfully long time away to me, but I didn't have to wait that long. JWC was born at 3.14 am weighing a very robust 4kgs. The relief was instant, and apart from the overwhelming love and adoration, I also felt kind of proud. I had done it, I had survived childbirth. The pain didn't kill me, I didn't give up, and my trust in my own ability proved worthwhile. Anytime after that when I was sleep deprived and miserable, days when I felt completely helpless because I had no idea what I was doing, I thought back on that night and it gave me the motivation I needed to keep going. It was such a boost - "I gave birth to an enormous (but adorable) baby without drugs, I can do anything."
Giving birth to a baby of that size, in that space of time, isn't without its drawbacks, and I have the scars to prove what I went through. But, without sounding blase or trite, I'd do it all again now that I know what I got in the end.
Those first 24 hours, in fact the first weeks and months have all been blurred in my mind, but the memory of holding my little guy for the first time will stay vividly in my memory forever. I felt like I already knew him, we'd waited so long to meet him, and he'd been with me all that time, but I knew there was still so much we had to learn about each other. We spent the first 12 months of his life focused on the basics that would keep him (and us) alive - food and sleep. Then we relaxed a little and got to know him for the person that he is, and it's been a blast. He's so much like me at times, then so much like his dad at others. Then there are the times when he's a completely unique individual and we look at each other and wonder where he came from. He loves cars, trucks, buses, planes and Thomas the Tank Engine. He adores his daddy, but only mummy's company will do last thing at night and first thing in the morning. He dances around the living room and sings us songs in Mandarin. He loves being outdoors and has been known to wear our shoes, and often looks like a very short version of my father. He eats like a sparrow, has the energy of 10 men, and likes to pretend he is a cat. And we think he is simply awesome. It's been fascinating and fantastic and very, very funny at times, and we can't wait to see what the next 12 months have in store. Happy Birthday my little J bird x