My birth story with Jet
Why do so many people feel the need to put such fear into expectant mums? Ladies, I just want to clear one thing up: birth is not the terrifying, horror scene some people make it out to be. In my (and so many others) experience, birth can be incredible. Totally intense and totally hard work. But fully blow-your-mind incredible.
I didn't really have a clue about anything birth-y when I was pregnant. I just figured everyone else had done it and there wasn't really any other way of getting my baby to appear world-side. But as the weeks went on the novelty of my bump started to fade and the fear of an impending birth started to kick in.
I'd heard the term 'hypnobirthing' but had always rolled my eyes, I mean I'm no hippie. I like to wear a bra and I'm not a big fan of herbal tea so I figured it wasn't for me.
But as my due date grew closer I figured I had nothing to lose in at least reading more about it, so when I was 30 weeks pregnant I got The Hypnobirthing Book by Katherine Graves to read on holiday, and oh my goodness did I love that book.
I read it front to back twice on holiday and relayed the entire thing to my poor friends who were unfortunate enough to be on holiday with me. (Sorry Susi!)
Hypnobirthing wasn't the meditative, hippie mentality that I thought it was going to be. It is just simply an idea that we can use our minds in a positive way to see us through a physical challenge.
Anyway I'm not going to pretend to be a hypnobirthing expert, if you want to know more read the book.
So from 32 weeks onwards I put the book into action: practicing my breathing exercises and getting to grips with some positive visualisations.
By the time week 40 hit I felt SO ready to take on the challenge. I was so keen to meet my sweet baby but also pretty excited to prove to the doubters (and secretly myself) that birth didn't need to be the horror story that some people make it out to be.
One of my best friends was getting married on my due date so I'd made a deal with the baby weeks before that he/she was going to hang tight to allow me the chance to witness the blind date that I orchestrated turn into a Mr and Mrs happy ending.
And my already very obedient child complied! Due date came and we drove three hours to the wedding. During the ceremony I gave the congregation a slight fright when I waddled up the aisle and up some crumbling, ancient-looking stairs to the pulpit to give my reading. I heard a few gasps and a few “she looks ready to pop!”. Yep love, today actually, today I'm ready to pop.
The wedding was stunning and I enjoyed my fair share of champagne and made my best attempts to dance in the least beached whale way I could.
The next morning we drove home. Sitting in the car I quietly told the baby that I was ready now, I'd had my wish, I'd witnessed my friend as the most beautiful bride and now I was ready to meet my little chunk of joy. And I think he heard me. We got home and that Sunday evening it started.
Forget what you see in the movies. It's not all waters-breaking-hospital dash-panic-sweaty-screaming-baby being born. It was more of an ‘Ooo that was a strange twinge in my stomach’…20 minutes later ‘Ooo there it is again’.
I'd spoken to my sister (and mum of three) earlier in the week and she'd prepared me for the fact that first time mums can have very long labours. So I tried to pace myself and not get too excited; I knew I wasn't going to be meeting my bubba that night. Monday came and went in a slightly strange blur. I decided to carry on as normal: I went and got my hair cut (got to look good for the hospital ;) ) and then me and my husband watched back to back episodes of Friends and ordered Wagamamas.
Tuesday is when I would say my body really kicked into action. From Tuesday morning onwards the contractions were progressing rather than the ebb and flow of Monday. I spent the day at home watching movies, feeling totally calm and safe in my little cocoon. It felt so strange to think everyone outside was carrying on with their normal Tuesday routines and I was preparing to bring a human in to the world!
At this point I need to give my husband a little (massive) shout out. He read the hypnobirthing book too and totally embraced it with me. Hypnobirthing gives a really important role to your birthing partner: he knew how to calm me if he saw me tensing during a contraction and he provided the right balance of comic and silent relief when needed.
So Tuesday disappeared in a surprisingly blissful blur of Friends, naps, Lego (yep Lego. No we don't have any other children, it's my husband’s Star Wars Millenium Falcon Lego) and a lot of slow breathing.
We phoned the hospital a few times throughout the day to keep them in the loop and they were incredibly patient and kind with us, listening to any questions and reassuring us that we were doing well.
As 10pm came, I knew I wasn't going to be able to sleep - the contractions were coming every few minutes and lasting around a minute so we decided to go to hospital and see what they suggested. It was all very calm, we collected our hospital bag that we had packed for the wedding (just in case) and drove to hospital.
I was disappointed at hospital to find out I wasn't very far along. Secretly I'd hoped they'd tell me I was 10 centimetres dilated and that I'd totally nailed the first stage! It was a busy ward so they suggested we do the 10 min drive back home. “I'm sure we'll be seeing you later tonight though”, they said as we left.
From the moment we got home the pace picked up really quickly and within a couple of hours we were ready to head back in.
Now this journey was very different to the one earlier. Earlier, when I had my nice blow dry and neat little outfit, make up still in tact, we had closed the front door saying, “Next time we open this it could be with our baby!”.
This time, just a few hours later post-bath, I had my hair on top of my head, make up running down my face and my old painting joggers on. I heaved and huffed and strained my way to the car.
I'd say this is the point where I felt like I was losing control. The thought of getting to the car and then to the hospital felt like I was embarking on a marathon. With my contractions coming every minute and lasting a minute it took a good while to get myself out of the house, taking breaks to breathe through each contraction. They were really intense at this point and took all my concentration to breathe through each one. An amazing thing I found about contractions though is that they feel really productive and positive: you know with each one you are another step closer to meeting your baby.
Again, here Henry (the Lego-loving husband) was totally amazing - reminding me of the breathing we'd practiced and reassuring me in his calm way that I was in control (he later told me he was totally freaking out too - could've fooled me!). That was all I needed to hear and I was able to slowly reign in my panic and redirect my fear into a calm concentration.
We got to hospital about 3am. Henry decided to skip the car park and pulled up outside the main doors so I wouldn't have to walk as far (that was probably the closest we got to a movie moment: hazard lights on pulled up on the curb). When we got to the labour ward they sent him back down to move the car. As he left he heard me saying I didn't think the baby was far off, he then got locked out of the building and turned up a few minutes later: a panicked, sweaty mess convinced he'd missed the birth of his first born.
We went through to our room, on the 14th floor looking out over Brighton and the sea, totally amazing! I had decided to have a water birth. They'd prepped it all for me whilst Henry was locked out.
The pool was amazing, I'd totally recommend it: the water lifts your weight and the warmth is so comforting.
I was in the pool at about 4am, our midwife came in to introduce herself and to offer Henry a cup of tea, and I said yes please too (to her total surprise, I'm never one to turn down a cuppa). The next two hours are a slight hazy memory. My body totally took over, it's an incredible machine, I knew what to do without knowing what I was doing. It felt really zen, I was completely in the zone, unaware of anyone around me. I just focused on my breathing and keeping a calm, tranquil approach, taking sips of tea and watching the sunrise between contractions. Our midwife was everything I’d hoped she’d be: she kept really quiet and was a positive, calm presence in the room, there for reassurance when I needed her.
And at 6.14am our lives changed forever. Jet Jozsi Francis Marsden was born in the water, I picked him up and held him to my chest never wanting to let go. He didn't cry, he just let me hold him tight.
At this point we didn't know if we had a little boy or girl. We just knew we had the most precious little life, a perfect gift that was ours to look after. I said to Henry “shall we look?” to which he thought I meant shall we look at the water?! Er no. Shall we find out our baby’s gender.
After the birth I was completely full of adrenaline and all those crazy post-birth hormones. I persuaded the nurse to let me go and have a shower, at which point I fainted: I hadn’t eaten or slept all night and had just pushed out a human, so not surprising really! I remember starting to black out and making a very feeble attempt to call Henry’s name. He said he saw me stagger forwards and then slump down on to the floor. He wanted to run and catch me but was holding Jet, his one hour-old son: his very own Sophie’s choice situation.
He pulled the panic cord and within a second five nurses were all around me, at which point I fainted again. I was banned from having a shower and swiftly ushered back into bed. I was brought a mountain of toast and gallons of tea and I was told I wasn’t allowed to move for the rest of the day.
The rest of that day spent in the hospital I will forever cherish in my memory. Our first day as a family. We didn't have a clue what we were doing so we just lay and stared at Jet all day long, convinced that the world outside our room had stopped for now.
That evening we put our teeny little bundle of joy into his car seat and headed home, Henry pulled out of the car park at five miles an hour with “do you think I’m driving too fast?!” and “Is Jet okay?!”. It felt so strange after so many months of midwife appointments and scans and ante natal classes, to be suddenly leaving the hospital and taking our baby home all by ourselves. Please tell me he comes with a manual?! Or can we just take a midwife home with us too?
So there we have it. Birth. Of course it was hard work and of course I felt completely pushed to my every limit, but what great reward doesn't come without a challenge? And boy is my reward worth it.
This is not intended to be a ‘look how well I did’ kind of post. But more of an ‘I promise you it's not the scary story people tell you it is’. Of course every birth story is wildly different and the plans that we can make get thrown out of the window. But I completely believe that with the right mind set, whatever the labour, birth is empowering and profound and totally indescribable. Don't be scared of it, own it, you can do it.