Sunday, 27 April 2014

Week 136- primal screams, tea and toast and giving birth to our son...

The best meal in the world, without a doubt, is the tea and toast you're given after birth.

My waters had broken the previous afternoon, I'd come up to the Royal Sussex hospital only to be sent home again. When I started bleeding later in the evening, they admitted me for the night and, once the doctors had satisfied themselves that the baby was fine, I secretly thought things couldn't have worked out better.

I was showing no signs of actually going into labour so I viewed it like staying in a hotel for the night.  

A bit of a cheap hotel, granted, with neon striplights glaring 24/7. 

And a next-door neighbour who was clearly in distress, breathing loudly through her contractions and being sick every two minutes.

But a night on my own, nonetheless. 

And I wasn't going to be disturbed at 4am by a two and a half year old wanting to get into bed with me and touch my face with her sticky hands, so that was a definite bonus.

The doctor had threatened to induce me, so every time I heard official-sounding footsteps on the ward, I shut my eyes tightly and hoped they'd leave me in peace. 

Turns out, I needn't have bothered. 

I'd only just nodded off when I was woken by a familiar tightening in my womb. 

I rang Ben to let him know we were on. 

Our baby was on his way. 

Luckily, he had remembered the breathing techniques from Nancy's birth and talked me through them on my mobile. 

It was a joy for all those trying to sleep in the beds on my ward, I'm sure, as I mimicked in a panicky voice, 'breathe in two, three, four. Hold, two, three, four. Breathe out, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.'

By 3.30am it was all systems go, and I was in the labour ward. 

I could hear terrifying, primal screams coming from all the rooms around me. 

The brain has a phenomenal way of blocking out trauma. 

It's an awful trick to play on women, because if you really remembered what going into labour was like, the world would be full of single-child families. 

It's less than 24 hours since giving birth and already I'm thinking, it wasn't THAT bad. 

COME ON BRAIN - REMEMBER, YOU BLOODY TRAITOR. 

Even during labour, your body releases endorphins between contractions, luring you into a minute-by-minute false sense of security. 

Swinging from, 'Oh my God, my entire innards are crunching and tightening in the world's strongest vice', to 'That was ok, I'll just have a little sit down' in a matter of seconds.

But throughout, I would get an occasional whiff of burnt toast. 

The smell of the future. 

The trophy of a successful delivery. 

By 6am things had stepped up a gear. 

The midwife was wearing a plastic apron and rubber gloves. Most surfaces were covered in protective sheeting. I had Ben in a kind of head lock as he coached me through the breathing, purple-faced and struggling for breath himself as I held on tighter and tighter, panting, 'I CAN'T DO THIS!'

Now, I'm not one of life's natural athletes. 

I had a bash at volleyball when first moving to Brighton but got hit in the face a couple of times, started ugly crying and then no-one was that keen on me joining their team. 

I've given jogging a go, but in reality it's more like walking pace with my legs moving a bit more quickly. 

And I mum-swim from time to time, only doing breast stroke and ensuring my hair is dry at all times. 

But basically, stamina sports have never really factored very heavily in my life.

So pushing out an entire person into the world has to be THE most physically challenging thing I've ever done. 

Twice. 

With no training and only a Tracker bar to keep me going. 

And it was all happening much more quickly than I'd anticipated.

I hadn't even had a chance to change into my minging nightie. It will have to be a secret Santa for some lucky unsuspecting, as I never want to see it again. 

I could hear a low, almost Maori-like wailing, which I'd assumed was coming from one of the other rooms. 

As I drew breath for a final push, I was surprised to find it was me making the noise. I had no idea I could a) sound so scary or b) so deep. 

And moments later, our son arrived into the world. All slippy, with a full head of black hair and long, pianist fingers.

Even though I'd carried him for nine months, it was a shock to meet him.

To have an entirely new human being placed in your arms. To know you created that person. And that they are now going to be in your life for the rest of your life.

It's mind-blowing stuff. 

I wanted to say something profound. To put this life-changing event into some kind of context, that we were now a family of four. 

But instead the midwife asked if I would like some tea and toast. 

So I forgot about marking the occasion with some words of wisdom, gave my brand new baby a big sniff and a kiss on the top of his wrinkly head, and gratefully said yes. 




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