I remember finding out I was pregnant with my first baby and literally squealing. My husband always says the best moment of his life is “you waving that test you had to pee on and shouting we’re having a baby”
It was amazing and bar the usual bit of ‘baby blues’ or tears from not much sleep my postpartum experience was pretty standard and straight forward. Her birth was not the most straight forward but I was so proud of myself for showing such endurance, for getting through it, having never experienced anything like that before. I had a great network of friends and a lot of us had baby’s around the same time. It was great, and the days that weren’t so great, well we had each other to lean on and that really helped.
Fast forward two years and I had just finished my degree as a mature student, I got offered a job as a support worker; working with some of the most vulnerable mothers and families in the country and I was so happy. Everything in my life was balanced, and on ‘track’ with my 5 year plan, and I was just so content.
We had just been on holiday with friends, it was a celebration of finishing my degree, a break before starting my new job, a chance to have fun and make memories with people super close to us. It was my time of the month before we were going, so I got tablets from the docs to stop that and got on with my holiday, it was a great week.
However, there were times over the week I felt nauseous, weepy, and tired, but I put all this down to just finishing my degree and feeling overwhelmed about it. I did eat a hotdog on holiday and loved it. Now anyone that knows me, knows I would NEVER eat a hotdog like the ones on the holiday buffet, but I did and I savoured EVERY bloody bite I should of known there and then really!!!!
We got home after a lovely week away and After about 5 days, I thought, Hmmm I should of had my period by now! I stopped those tablets on the second to last day, my boobs felt a bit tender, but I just thought, ‘oh well I’ll ask the pharmacist, as i need to go chemist later’, and pushed any further thought away. The pharmacist advised (with a face like this ) you should take a pregnancy test. My face did this “We are careful”, I said in a smug voice; I told her, “theres no way”. I bought a test anyway and took it home. An hour or so later, I did it, AND guess what?? I’d not even pulled my trousers up and there they were… two little pink lines…. oops!!
I swore, I felt faint, I held on to the radiator for a minute or so. It was so obvious I was pregnant, but because I hadn’t planned it to happen that soon, I simply didn’t recognise the signs, or you could say I totally ignored them!! My head was spinning; how/when did this happen? (I didn’t need a lesson in biology), I just could not pin point when it could of happened, we were careful!!
I was happy, of course! We wanted a second baby, it was definitely going happen, but I was so shocked it had happened NOW. My new job, my 5year plan, I was only three years in and now this was totally going to change the route if it. Martin (my husband), what would he say??? (Well it was his fault anyway, obviously!!). I didn’t tell him till he got home that night and we had bathed and put Eva to bed. I then just handed him the test, and well, he was over the moon, beaming from ear to ear . I was over the moon and we both laughed and hugged, but I was worried too and just REALLY surprised.
My colleagues and boss were so supportive, I got on with my new role but I was exhausted; a toddler to look after, a new job and everything that goes with pregnancy. I had a great pregnancy, it was smooth and the baby was healthy and fine, but the tiredness was an absolute killer. I worked until 39 weeks, and also had to have regular consultant appointments because of my previous birth and a cervix issue. I was confident my second birth would be much more straightforward (the consultants were very confident), and when baby finally turned at 39 weeks to head down, well it was just a waiting game.
I was confident I would be early, my body was so heavy, I was starting to swell around my ankles and then the tears started. 40 weeks (due date) came and baby was still comfy. Over the next 10 days I had three sweeps to trigger labour, but I SOMEHOW managed to get to 41 weeks and 5 days when I was booked in for an induction.
I was having mild pains the day before and that morning but nothing to make me think, this is it! I arrived at hospital at 3pm and was introduced to my midwife, after the initial chats and checks, she examined me and I was 3cm , she held off induction and just gave me a really good sweep.
It all sped up from that point. My first daughter was back to back and an extremely long labour that ended in a ventouse and forceps delivery, in theatre. She was stuck on my pubic bone, and She could not come down the birth canal. Her face was black, blue and purple when she was born due to hitting off my me for the hours I was pushing, we were a bit shocked when we saw her. It was so emotional but I was just relieved it was over and we were both ok. I was so confident this was not going to happen again.
This time round the labour felt much easier, the contractions were much more manageable, it was going so smoothly. My sister arrived at the hospital and the contractions were every 2 minutes.
They took me to the birthing pool at 9 pm and I was still chatting and joking in between contractions. Then BAM, all of sudden the pain went from “OWWW”to “what the fuck is happening to me”, having never felt Eva make her way down the birth canal, I just went with; trying to stay calm and focused, but it was like I was being ripped open with every contraction. It was the strangest feeling, it wasn’t even like pain, it was indescribable, it was the worse thing I ever felt and it made me cry out, and make some extremely strange noises. The baby’s head eventually became visible and thats when they noticed she was the ‘wrong way round’. I thought they meant breech, so did my husband and my sister who were my birthing partners. I remember thinking, FUCK I just need to get it out. I even shouted “just get it out”, She wasn’t breech, she was back to back (just like Eva), and face up so, the biggest part of her head was trying to come out first. The midwives were struggling to find the heart beat and thats when they tried to get me out the pool to give me an episiotomy. I just couldn’t get out, I tried, they all tried dragging me out on to a bed, another person brought a defibrillator in for her, but another contraction came and I just said “oh no”, I swatted down and like ‘a missile leaving a plane’ (my husband’s description), out she flew, right under my leg and across the bottom of the pool.
It felt like time stood still, but it was about 3 seconds, before we all realised and I grabbed her, to my husbands cry…” shit the baby is out”. It was pretty dramatic and and something I will never ever forget, we were all a bit stunned (midwives included), but she ok. I was ok, and, It was a GIRL
I held her in the pool for a few seconds and she poo’d all over me, she was covered in the white stuff and to be frank, it was messy. The midwife took her off me to be checked, but it was minutes before she was back in the room. She was absolutely fine . The pool water was disgusting, blood, poo (mine included ), white bits, it was horrid. Nothing like the serene water births I’d watched Online where women had their husband in the pool and the water was clear, even after birth. It was disgusting I wanted out!!
I delivered the placenta on the bed and that’s when the midwife said that I had torn. She wanted the consultant to see it as she thought it was 3rd degree. The next hour was really not nice, actually it was the next five hours. To get to the point, I had to go to theatre and be stitched up for two And half hours. Panic started to kick in, but the midwife held my hand the whole time and helped me stay calm. I was gutted that I laboured so well and quick to then experience that delivery and be separated from my baby. Martin and baby C-S waited outside.
The next 24hrs were very emotional, and I was in a state of shock. Martin just couldn’t speak, and we were both just like where was my calm hypno birth. Why couldn’t I just give birth normally?? Why was there drama and why again did I have to have a spinal and end up in theatre, I was very very hard on myself. But we also felt very lucky that the both of us were fine. It was such a mixture of emotions.
Straight away I knew Isla (we named her) was going to have struggles, I could tell by how stiff she was and by her cry. The first few months were very difficult. She was in so much pain from the silent reflux and colic, she didn’t sleep at night unless she was upright and on me and I felt like I was failing her massively as a mother.
I took her to see an osteopath, I cut dairy out my diet as I was breast feeding, I massaged her all the time, but every day I knew that come four/five O’clock she would be screaming. I would be trying to give Eva her tea, but this time of day would also be ‘witching hour’ for Eva. She was tired, hungry, grumpy and just wanted my attention, but I couldn’t just ignore the screaming baby. So I ended up letting Eva watch kids YouTube on my phone which in turn created it’s own nightmare in terms of her behaviour. How the hell do you juggle a screaming baby and a over emotional 2.5 year old?? I still have no idea
Physically I was still recovering from birth, it took at good 5 months before I didn’t feel sore anymore. I now fully understand why midwives and doctors perform episiotomies if they think you need it. I had one with Eva and recovery/healing was much easier. I was emotionally and physically exhausted from very little sleep. I was extremely anxious. If Isla slept more than an hour at night I would think she had choked or stopped breathing because she just didn’t do it that often. I was on edge about everything and just blamed myself for not being good enough, thats why it was all happening, it was me!! If Eva was older, Like we planned, if my birth was more straightforward, If I knew how to help Isla more. All of this was out of my control, yet I blamed myself. I carried a lot of guilt about things that I simply could not change!!
The reason I have written this in-depth and very personal post is to highlight the fact that we walk in to birth and parenthood ‘blind’, regardless of how much we read, what classes we attend, pre birth, and how much we practice birthing techniques, we never truly know whats in store un til it happens. First time, second time, third… We set expectations from what we see on the TV, read in books and hear from professionals. I’m not saying we should terrify new mums or mums to be with scary stories and experiences, but there needs to be a greater emphasis on the emotional effects of a situation, especially when it’s the opposite to what we ‘expected’ or ‘planned’ it be. Every focus is on a plan… how do you plan to birth? How do you plan to feed? When do you plan to return to work? Are you planning another baby? nothing ever goes to plan, but we are rarely prepared or supported for this.
From finding out I was pregnant, to experiencing the birth I did and the postnatal and Postpartum experience, I showed great resilience and strength, yet I punished myself so much for it not being how I expected. I blamed myself for the ‘bumpy’ roads my journey took. The severe anxiety and low feelings were almost dismissed because I was (to the naked eye) functioning But inside I was crumbling.
How many more women go through these experiences and emotions (almost alone), afraid, ashamed and keeping it to themselves?
For me, why did I experience all the feelings I did second time round and not the first time? I was so protective over Isla because I felt so guilty about the way I was feeling since having her. But I knew it was NOT her, I loved her so much and I did everything I could for her.
Life takes us on paths that are unexpected and we learn strength we never knew existed but we also have to let go of what we can not change or what is out of our control. It’s not easy, but I hope through my experience I can help others mums too.
Please support coffee, chill and spill and in turn we can be there for each other.
Much love, Vik x