Becoming a mother was something I had always dreamed of. However, becoming pregnant was something I felt quite fearful over. Labour and the experience of giving birth is often discussed in hushed tones, a mum’s ‘survivors club’ if you will. Yet not all birth experiences are like a Hollywood movie, with a huge gush of water breaking and a woman screaming in pain. During my pregnancy I felt encouraged by the positive stories of birth I had heard and I clung onto them.
Each pregnancy and labour is different and everyone’s journey is different, I hope that sharing my positive story may offer encouragement.
If you asked my fiancé to sum up my labour experience in one word, I can imagine he would say ‘chaos’. If I had to choose one word to sum it up, it would be ‘empowering’.
Late one afternoon, at around 38 weeks pregnant, I started to become concerned that I could no longer feel the baby moving. After a lot of worrying and indecision, we decided to go to the hospital to check everything was OK. The baby didn’t seem to be distressed, but I certainly was.
At this point the doctor advised the best thing to do was ‘work on our exit strategy’, so I was induced late that evening. I said goodbye to my fiancé Jim (who was unable to stay overnight with me) and I settled in for the night filled with nervous excitement, wondering if tomorrow was the day I would meet my daughter.
Jim returned and we spent the day together on the ward watching TV, doing laps of the hospital stairwells and trying to stay calm whenever I felt any kind of movement! I was induced by a pessary in the hopes my body would kickstart labour naturally. However, the evening rolled around with no sign of baby and again, Jim had to leave me for the night.
They then inserted a gel to be left overnight and once more I tried to get some sleep whilst distracted thinking about who I was going to meet (and also what I was about to go through to meet her!). By the time Jim arrived that morning, something had shifted in my body and my behaviour and from this point on is where I rely more on his recollection than my own. When I find myself in stressful situations, I’m anxious, feel unwell or feel pain – my body’s natural reaction is to block it out and just vomit.
Jim returned to the hospital as I was finishing up my breakfast and within an hour or so I was sick. When we alerted the midwife she realised I was vomiting in time with contractions. It was time to move to the delivery suite.
In the delivery suite we were introduced to the midwife who would take care of us and (depending on how long it took) deliver our baby. The midwife broke my waters and apparently this part really was what it looks like in films – a huge gush of liquid!
From here I had about an hour where I contracted whilst on a birthing ball. I used my breathing to control the contractions whilst distracting myself watching a film Jim set up for me on his iPad. In that hour, I remember thinking to myself ‘we’ve got this baby, we are rocking this labour, I’ll be seeing you soon’.
Unfortunately, we weren’t quite rocking it… My body’s vomiting reflex kicked in and I lost control of my breathing as I couldn’t stop the sickness. I was given multiple forms of anti-sickness drugs but it couldn’t calm it down, so we decided on an epidural. Once the epidural went in, the sickness went away and I was unaware I was even contracting… that part was a dream!
The final stage was the hardest and perhaps most chaotic as the baby’s head was turned the wrong way, so after an hour of pushing it was decided I needed the doctor’s help.
My beautiful daughter was born at 2:55am via an assisted delivery with forceps and an episiotomy.
Unfortunately, I lost a lot of blood and needed a blood transfusion and to stay in the hospital for a further two nights. After five long days in the hospital, we finally brought our daughter, Margot, home.
When written down, step by step what happened, it’s easy to see why perhaps my partner felt those moments were chaotic. But I don’t recall feeling pain or fear. When I look back, here’s what I remember:
I remember the pure excitement trying to sleep, picturing the little face I was about to meet.
I remember the words of encouragement from family members and all their words of support.
I remember feeling so connected to Jim, thinking of our family and how much love we have for each other.
I remember feeling like my body was so powerful and those moments on the birthing ball thinking ‘I’m rocking this’.
I remember the big slab of chocolate cake I ate about 10 minutes after I gave birth (I can still taste it now!)
Ultimately, I also remembered the kindnesses of the midwives. I wish I had better words to express how much gratitude I have for the midwifery team who looked after me, but I am in awe. I never felt afraid because they made me feel safe. My birth was empowering because those wonderful women allowed me to feel empowered and for that, I will look back on my birth story as positive.
Margot Grace Alba Chapman was born at 2:55am on Sunday 5th September and it was chaotic but absolutely the way that she was meant to enter the world. It was beautiful.