Turns out labour and birth can be fine

Baby born this morning at 12.15am. I’m still at the hospital with him. He’s asleep in his little hospital perspex box next to me. I’d forgotten how noisy newborns are. He’s sleep mewling. Wonder what is happening in his baby dreams.

The birth was amazing, couldn’t have been more different to last time. I’d had periodic clusters of strong braxton hicks all day but had tried to rest lots in between. In the afternoon they picked up enough that I thought they might be seguing into labour and arranged for the little dude to go to my parents’ for the night and for my husband to leave work early. At around 6, my husband and I went for a walk round the block and the contractions continued. I called the midwife when we got home. Then unlike last time, the contractions did what they’re supposed to and got stronger and longer and closer together while I laboured at home. I went into the hospital at 9pm and the obstetrician examined me and I was 4cm dilated. I hadn’t reached that stage with the little dude until about 28 hours of contractions so this was amazing news! The obstetrician broke my waters and I laboured in the pool for a while, then the shower, and the midwife and my husband rubbed my back, then I felt I needed to rest more between contractions and got on the bed. Obstetrician examined me again and I’d gone 2cm further. In the examination she deliberately stretched the cervix slightly and the contractions immediately picked up. I got off the bed at the next contraction, feeling like I couldn’t lie down through it, and laboured some more in the shower. Before long I felt like I needed to push. Obstetrician was concerned that I might not be dilated enough so I had to get back on the bed for another check, but I was dilated enough and the baby was born on the bed after a 25 minute second stage.

With the little dude, I was pushing while still on the epidural and I couldn’t feel anything. It was so much easier pushing without having had pain relief, following the cues of the contraction. His head came out and then on the next push he came all the way on out. Only a slight tear for me, no need for an episiotomy this time. When the little dude came out, I was dazed and he was rushed away but this time I had the picture perfect thing of the baby being passed straight up to hold and feed.

He looks exactly like his big brother did as a newborn.

I’d had pethidine and then an epidural with the little dude and I wasn’t sure how I’d manage strong contractions. Turns out my contractions last time had been strong, they just hadn’t done anything. I kept saying to the midwife last time that it wasn’t the pain, I could handle the pain, I was just exhausted. This time, the whole way through I felt that the pain was within manageable bounds. I tried to think of it as an intense sensation like cold water or vertigo rather than pain as such. My yoga teacher had recommended visualising the contraction as a wave of feeling and yourself as a surfer riding the crest of the wave down your body. This was a really helpful image for me.

So my husband is pleased that a good birth makes me more amenable to a third baby…

Meanwhile I’m not sure how the starkness of the contrast between this time and last time makes me feel. In some way, redeemed and vindicated in my sense of myself as person whose body can do stuff? In some way even more disappointed in the outcome last time?

People brag about their drug free childbirth experiences, like it’s a badge of honour that not everyone can manage (kinda like the smugness that can accompany exclusive breastfeeding). I feel sort of proud of how it went, like you might feel after climbing a tall mountain and coming down again feeling fresh and full of vigour. Last time I climbed the same mountain and came down limping and wounded. But I suppose comparing the two, I reckon that to come off the mountain limping and wounded demonstrates extra strength, extra determination, not less.