Childbirth is not a beautiful experience. Having a facial and a manicure at the same time, wrapped a fluffy white robe with cucumber slices on your eyes is a beautiful experience. Walking barefoot through a field of daisies on a summer’s day with fluffy white clouds dotted across the clear blue sky is a beautiful experience. Whatever hessian-smock-wearing, soy-latte-drinking new age hippy told you it was beautiful was either lying, or overwhelmed by incense fumes. To illustrate my point, here’s a short version of my experience of childbirth. And don’t worry, I’ve left out the gross bits.
From the early stages of pregnancy, the healthcare professionals banged on and on about drawing up a birthing plan. My birthing partner has been my best friend since we were three, and having had four kids of her own she was pretty experienced in the field, so I had complete confidence in her ability to support and guide me through the experience of pregnancy and childbirth. Here’s the birthing plan that we put together in her kitchen about a month before I was due:
I went into labour two weeks early (brought on, I might add, by a day out in her husband’s 1984 VW golf – I think it was going over the cattle grids that finally did it). I got into bed that night, and just as I relaxed I felt the first contraction. I waited until I’d had three, just to make sure I wasn’t imagining it. Then, very calmly perched on the edge of my bed, I rang the birthing centre. Should I come now? In an hour? Two hours?
Me: I’m having contractions, about one every ten minutes. Should I come over? (taking deep breaths as I had another one)
Midwife: Was that one?
Me: (exhaling) Yes.
Midwife: No it wasn’t.
Me: What do you mean no it wasn’t?
Midwife: You wouldn’t be able to talk if you were having contractions. Go and have a nice bath and go back to bed.
Pah! Clearly this woman had underestimated me. Did she not know I was capable of superhuman feats of endurance?! Half an hour and a few more make believe contractions later, my waters broke. My friend arrived, took one look at me and bundled me into the car. I spent the journey clinging on to the washing up bowl as if my life depended on it.
The birthing centre at Lichfield was my first choice, well known in the area as the place to go if you were looking for a birthing experience that involved lavender scented candles, new age whale music, and a water birth. Such was the hype that I’d half expected to be met by a fair maiden throwing rose petals at my feet as I floated in. But alas that was not to be. By the time I staggered in through the front door my contractions were that close together I had to throw up in the reception toilet on my way to the delivery room. Then they announced that the boiler was broke, so unless I fancied an Icelandic style ice bath, I’d best hang on for the plumber.
By the time they got it sorted, mini-me had changed her mind and decided to stay well and truly put. Cue the gas and air. Brilliant stuff. Absolutely useless for relieving the mind-blowingly excruciating pain you’re in, but funny nonetheless. At one point I announced it was like having a whitey, completely oblivious to the fact that the midwife was sitting behind me.
Next stop Burton hospital. Fil couldn’t come in the ambulance, so she had to follow by car. She told me later that she’d a) got lost, and b) cried the whole way there. Meanwhile I was in the ambulance, lying on a trolley sobbing through my contractions, and trying not to worry about the driver announcing ‘hey up, with those noises I’d better put me foot down!’.
By the time we got to the hospital, baby H had changed her mind yet again. I think I must have got a bit pathetic at that point, because a scary looking doctor lady came in, looked at me, and said “enough” in a terribly commanding tone. Quick pep talk from the midwife, some superhuman pushing, and out she popped. And here is where I have to admit that there’s a grain of truth in this myth, because the bit at the end is incredible. That little bundle of joy is finally in your arms, and you’re so happy you don’t mind at all that it’s covered in goo and wailing. I still can’t think about that part without happy crying. But five minutes later and you’re legs akimbo again, having your lady bits stitched up by a complete stranger.
So if you happen to be pregnant, or thinking about it, and someone tells you that childbirth is a beautiful experience, calmly tell them to put down their soy latte and back away from the incense fumes, because now you know the truth.