Labour: it’s not always as bad as you think

One of the scariest things about having a baby is … well … having a baby. You hear horror stories about labour that make you want to cringe. By the time you’re eight months pregnant, one part of you is itching to get the baby out, but the other part has constant nightmares about the process. There’s always the option of epidural, but people will give you some legends there too. Some say it doesn’t always work, or that it dims the pain slightly, or even that it lessens your bond with your baby. C-sections are another idea, as long as you’re not scared of scarring … and scalpels.

I’m not going to tell you it’s easy. It wouldn’t be called labour if it was. But it’s not always as bad as all that. Some women get lucky. My labour only lasted four hours, and was so [relatively] easy that even the nurses ignored me until the head came out. Here’s how it happened.

The day before I gave birth, I was moving house, and I had this urgent need to get all my furniture in place. I spent the day moving heavy shelves, with the people around me staring like I’d gone mad. I didn’t give it much thought. I just felt like I had to have the stuff moved. By 11.00 p.m., I still wasn’t sleepy, so I watched some old Western on TCM. I didn’t go to bed until about 1.00, and I remember at some point feeling a wiggling in my tummy. It wasn’t the usual baby kicks and stretches, it was just a sort of weird vibration, like someone was playing with a giant rubber band, and it only lasted a few seconds.

After I’d been asleep a few hours, I had a really strange dream. I felt like I’d wet myself, so I got up to check, but everything was dry. I went to the toilet just to be sure, and found nothing unusual. It was about two weeks before my due-date, so I wasn’t expecting anything, but when I had my first contraction, I was pretty sure what it was. It’s funny how you can tell exactly what it is, even with no prior experience. It feels like cramps ampliflied to the power of infinity.

I was too shocked to yell, so I just gritted my teeth, breathed like they do in the movies, and took out my watch to time the next contraction. It came after 15 minutes. I needed to get to a hospital, stat.

I had watched a lot of movies and done a lot of research online, so I knew all about packing a baby bag with swaddling clothes, a razor, and a clean piece of string. I did all that as I waited for the next contraction. After the third session, I called for a ride to hospital.

When my ride arrived, he was terribly amused because I didn’t look like a woman in labour. He actually laughed when I started my Lamaze breathing. He said I was too calm to be having a baby, and that it must be a false alarm. I got a close friend out of bed for moral support, and she yelled at me the whole way to the hospital. She thought it was all a joke too.

When we arrived at the hospital, it was about 5.00 a.m., and when I told the nurse I was in labour, she smiled at me pityingly, then ignored me for ten minutes. My tummy was a bit on the smaller side. After ten or so minutes, she got me a wheelchair – standard procedure – and they all laughed when I stopped by the stairs to have a contraction. I guess I wasn’t very convincing.

Upstairs, I was given a big cup to pee in while the nurses laughed at my baby bag and asked my friend to take all the stuff home, including my cell phone. My friend yelled a bit more, then left with my ride. She said she’d be back in the morning.

The contractions were closer now, but a lady came in half an hour after me, and was placed in the bed next to me. Her labour was more stereotypical, with the yelling and the screaming and the cursing of all men present, so the nurses focussed more on her. I was in intense pain, but since I wasn’t wailing, it wasn’t being noted. I whimpered a little and asked for painkillers, and I’m fairly sure I got a shot of Buscopan.

When the nurses finally checked on me, they raised my legs, took one peek, then gawked at each other and started to panic. My water was intact, but they could see my baby’s head, and the doctor was going to kill them.

I was rushed into the labour ward. They manually broke the water, which felt a bit like swimming. They told me when to push and when to relax, and I kept shivering. They said my body interpreted the pain as cold. I heard a distinct tear when my baby came out at 6.48 a.m. She wasn’t crying though.

They stitched me up and took my baby away, and they laughed because I’d just been through labour yet I was wincing at a few stitches. I couldn’t help it – it was a really big needle! And it’s true, you forget the pain the second you see your baby, so the needles were unwelcome.

My baby was okay. But she swallowed amniotic fluid and stayed in the nursery for 3 days before we went home. My friend called at 7.00 a.m. to yell some more, and was told I’d just had a baby. She was shocked into silence, and I kid her about it to date.

My labour was easy because I was lucky and had lots of exercise. So walk a few kilometres every day and who knows, you might have an easy labour. Whichever way the baby comes, C-Section or natural, they are a real joy and blessing.

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