The story of your baby’s birth is the one story in your life where you will never forget the details. And you will retell this story over and over again. To friends and family, to other mums and really to any pregnant person you might have a convo with. It might just be me but I feel like whenever there is a conversation about someone’s upcoming birth, all the women gather around and share their labour story.
We wear these stories like badges of honour, and rightly so. Having trudged through the trenches of pregnancy and all the fun of growing legs and brains and spines, the inevitable ejection of our babies from their first free housing is memorable and tinged with trauma of various kinds. I’ve heard so many stories in my time, and obviously the ones that stick out are the ones with a little bit of drama. An emergency c-section, an epidural gone wrong, giving birth in the hospital entrance, husband fainting and knocking himself out… the list goes on.
And thinking about this and thinking about my experience as a first-time mum myself, these stories can be very daunting for anyone pregnant for the first time.
So, I’m hoping the following story about my pregnancy and the birth of my son might help put another pregnant person’s mind at ease because, it’s delightfully boring. Strap yourself in.
During my first pregnancy with my daughter I made a conscious decision to remain wilfully ignorant. I think my brain protected itself from thinking too much about labour and birth by taking any and all information about the birthing process to successfully enter one ear and exit the other. I put all my trust in the medical professionals (rightly so, they were fab) and took all their advice during pregnancy and labour where I said HELL YEAH to the epidural and felt like I kind of winged my way through pushing a human out of my hooha.
But we’re not here to talk about the second degree tears of my first baby’s birth, you’re here for the real tea.
The boring birth.
If I may, I will step back from the birth part for a second and regale you with the story of my boring pregnancy. It’ll only take a paragraph don’t worry.
When my husband and I half-assedly joked about having another baby (my daughter was 4 at the time) I was pregnant within 6 months. I found out at about 5 weeks because water tasted weird and my boobs hurt so I knew something was up, this wasn’t my first rodeo. Lo and behold a positive pregnancy test and a doctors visit later, we were having another baby.
Ok technically this is the second paragraph but I had to break it up, I hate a long paragraph. Aaaanyway as I said, my pregnancy was, boring/average/nothing exciting. By this I mean my baby grew at pace always measuring within the normal range, I didn’t have any gestational diabetes or any other side effects (other than lusciously thick and healthy hair) and thanks to a global pandemic that shall remain nameless, I worked from home for a lot of my pregnancy so I was in A+ comfort and stretchy pants a lot of the time. The only really exciting part was my gender reveal gone wrong (which you can read about here) and a case of the hormone related mopes because I thought I was having a girl when I was in fact growing a little doodle.
Now the one big thing that I did have going for me when preparing for labour and birth this time around was that The Maternity Market had been open for about 9 months. So not only did I have a huge range of amazing products that I could finally test myself (kid in a candy store) I was now a part of a large online community of strong, incredible women who I learned a lot from.
So after my boring pregnancy, I had a plan for a boring birth.
It was a huge fear of mine to go to the hospital too early and be told to go back home so I was going to labour at home and head to the hospital when the time was right.
Contractions started early in the morning of 24 April, and I knew they were different to Braxton Hicks because as I said earlier, this wasn’t my first rodeo and I knew this pain was a little different. For any FTM’s out there the best way I can describe early labour pains is it feels like dull but strong period pains that stretch across your belly and around your back. I don’t know if that sounds right but you get kind of amnesia after a while so I can’t really recall the specific feel.
Anyway although I wasn’t technically "due" for 12 days I knew this feeling was a little different and because it was around the same time I’d gone into labour with my daughter I started timing my contractions. Early contractions were few and far between, roughly 10-20 minutes apart and manageable so I just went about my day really.
Contractions are still manageable at home when you can still take a selfie.
For around 12-16 hours I laboured at home. And mate, I was so chill. My contractions were 6-8 minutes apart and through every contraction I would choose one of my affirmation cards to focus on and breathe through it while slumped on the stairs, or couch, or kitchen counter. I had my essential oils going, my daughter was holding my hand. I didn’t even flinch when we realised the baby car seat strap had been chewed through by our dog and my husband had to make a mad dash to Baby Bunting to get a new one. We called my mother-in-law to tell her to chuck a sicky because we were on but there was no real rush.
When my contractions were 3-5 minutes apart and my heavy breathing/ I’ll get through it mentality progressed to F*CK ME bent over in pain, I thought ok we are definitely getting there. I dragged myself to have a shower so I could feel the water on me and also go to the hospital as fresh as I could. And then I started manically shaving my fanny in the shower. Hey I wasn’t due for over a week, I had NOT prepared the runway.
In that 10 minute shower my contractions went from go to woah. I had hit 1-2 minutes and I was BUCKLED. I threw some stuff together in my hospital bag (that still wasn’t fully packed) and as soon as that new car seat was secured we hightailed it to the hospital, waving goodbye to our daughter who would most likely be a big sister when we saw her next.
Were we gonna make it?
Yes of course we were because this is a boring birth story.
But a moment of silence please for the intensity of the car ride to the hospital and the agony of any bumps or turns when you’re having a contraction. I will say the struggle was real to walk through to the birthing suite as I stopped every 30 seconds to curse my husband and the world during every contraction.
We cleared all the pandemic temp checks and got to the birthing suite, passing through the waiting room where the women who had rocked up too early caught sight of what they should look like when hitting the birthing suite (their looks of horror will stay with me forever). The midwives at the nursing station were like, "yep we remember you from the your call earlier darl we’ve got a suite for you head on through".
Made it in time! Right before things moved very quickly and I panicked when told there wasn't enough time for an epidural.
As this was our second pregnancy the midwife left us alone quite a bit and I was managing the contractions ok (my husband might say different). I thought I’d be settling in for a bit of a long haul but the contractions were INTENSE. The midwife asked if I wanted an epidural and I think they heard me yell “BOOK IT IN!” all the way down the hall. Suddenly I had the urge to go to go to the toilet, which was a slow and definitely not a steady experience but I managed to wee and wash my hands (hygiene first!) and then all of a sudden I feel this need to push. It was intense pressure on my general vaj area combined with the same feeling you get when you think you're going to shit yourself.
I scream to the midwife “I THINK I NEED TO PUSH!” and she says “oh no love your contractions aren’t close enough, I don’t think you’re there yet let’s just get you on the bed” – so I’m on the bed right and I’m like “YEAH I NEED TO PUSH!”. She takes one look between my legs and was like “oh, yes, yes you do” – to which I responded, “WHERE ARE THE DRUGS?”. She looked at me and said “I’m sorry, I don’t think you’re going to have time”.
So for me, this the only exciting part of the story. Because I wasn’t prepared to do this without drugs. The pain, I just didn’t think I could handle it and I didn’t know what to do because here I was all of a sudden the one in control, not waiting for the midwife to tell me when to push because I hadn’t had the epidural.
But the intensity of the instinct to push when I felt the surges was so strong I had no choice. I pushed when I felt I needed to. My husband stood there like a stunned mullet and the midwife told him to talk to me or do something helpful so he played my happy song (Call me Al by Phil Simon… it’s a banger) on repeat and counted me through the contractions (highly recommend telling your birthing partner to do this).
So I’m on my back and I push when I need to and I swear I can feel my sons head hitting the bed as I push, I can’t budge him. I ask (probably yelled) at my midwife if I could change positions and she said “of course, you’re the boss here, do what you need to do!”. Instinctively I got on all fours and hugged the head of the bed that had been tilted up for me. And it immediately felt more comfortable, and I honestly had this moment where I was like BITCH YOU CAN DO THIS. It really felt like I harnessed a power and energy I did not know I had in me. And I screamed and pushed my baby into this world, my little Rocco. And it took all of 1-1.5 hours from arriving at the hospital to pushing him out.
And boy did those happy hormones have me on a high for a while. When they say the oxytocin release after a vaginal birth without drugs is intense they aren't messing around, I was on one helluva high. Cloud-bloody-9.
High as a kite on those happy hormones. In control and totally present.
SO was it boring, was it not?
Maybe the title is misleading, I don’t really think mine, or anyone else’s stories are “boring,” maybe the better term to use is typical, average? Pretty much what many of us would expect or plan for labour and birth (if you're choosing a vaginal birth). No emergencies or drawn out hours waiting for something to happen. And ultimately I got to meet my little buddy and realise I could do it, without the drugs. That I was a mutherf*cking bad-ass.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, every birth story is extremely meaningful and life changing to the mother. And in sharing our stories we not only find commonality, we find solidarity. Yours might not be what you imagine or expect, but I’m hoping by reading mine you feel more reassured about your own. Because no matter how it plays out you are incredible for going through it and the reward is so worth it. It's your story.
The greatest reward.