This is my pregnancy and labour experience in detail - a real, raw and honest account of the emotional horrors I endured over 4 days delivering my son. It took me some time to decide whether to write this or not but it has been incredibly therapeutic to get this all out of my head and into words. Writing has always been my coping mechanism; my means of understanding myself and the world around me. My son is now 4, happy, healthy and bright. I feel nothing but gratitude looking back but it took me some time to process what I went through.I believe we need to be more honest about childbirth, about the fragility and fear so many of us experience in the face of the enormous task of delivering a baby. We often hear the truly awful, graphic tales or at the other end of the spectrum, the easy, breezy 'popped it out in 3 hours' type of stories. I think most women's birthing experiences are somewhere in the middle. Mine wasn't either, it was something else entirely, I still can't categorize what I went through. It still makes me anxious, it still feels like a bad dream.
No one told me what to expect from this whole experience and in fairness, I understand why. Nothing can prepare you for labour and no forewarning will change the fact it hurts like hell and it is a confronting, scary experience. What I do realise, though, in hindsight, is that I was over confident (no shocker for me right?!) which meant I was not emotionally ready to handle it all. While I somehow managed, given no other choice, I still feel heart broken when I remember those 4 days. I wish it was more gentle, more loving, more controlled. I wonder, had I known what was coming, could I have found myself in a better place emotionally and physically to somehow make it all easier? Who knows...but I suspect it could have been a calmer process than the hell I endured. I hope no one has to deliver their child the way I did. I also know it could have been much worse. I practice gratitude and I am so grateful for my son and the fact we made it.
Excuse the image quality - these pictures are some of the only ones I managed to salvage from my pregnancy which is explained below.
This story isn't a horror story, at least the beginning isn't. My pregnancy was a dream. I didn't experience the things so many others seem to - the aches and pains, the weight gain, the moods, they came and went of course but they were not my overall and lasting experience. I was active. I was at the gym the week before I went into labour. I felt amazing. I absolutely loved being pregnant, it was the most special time in my life. It chilled me out rather than amplifying my stress levels. I wasn't swollen. My skin was fine. I felt abundantly healthy. It was magic. Everyone told me I was happier, calmer, more relaxed. The only tough part for me physically was the morning completely debilitating morning sickness at the beginning, I would be up all night, rushing to the toilet to throw up, too sick to leave the house or be part of life at all. The only thing I could stomach was fruit salad. I lost 5 kilos in my first trimester rather than gaining any weight. The sickness felt like hell on earth, like the worst hang over I have ever had but with no relief, days upon days of nausea. But as soon as this passed around 14 weeks, I felt amazing, I was elated and despite the mess I was in with my domestic situation I was on top of the world. Pregnancy agreed with me, it softened me, allowed me the chance to relax which felt like absolute relief because I have been an anxious person my entire life; living on fast forward, never settled, always moving. Pregnancy was the antidote to everything about me that didn't quite make sense, a magical elixir that gave me a sense of calm I had never before been able to hold onto.
As things around me started to unravel, I continued forward, soaking up the inner peace I felt inside of me, determined to bring my son into this world with strength and love. As it turned out, I did, but it wasn't light or beautiful, it was dark and scary. The day before I went into labour I had my handbag stolen from me at the shopping centre. I felt sick. I was in no place to deal with this. I was left stranded in the shopping centre on a 36 degree day in a tiny dress, a massive belly, braxton hicks contractions coming and going, a face smeared with tears, sick with violation. I had no phone, no money, no bank cards and the unease that my keys and address were in the hands of a thief. My sons dad was miles away on a jetski. I needed help. When I got hold of him he yelled at me. I was crying, embarrassed, terrified. He abused me for being robbed, I received no sympathy, called "stupid" and completely torn apart. I didn't sleep all night, I was filled with panic and had a vivid nightmare of someone entering my house and watching over me and my unborn baby. I was terrified. I had lost all the photos on my phone, the belly pics and the memories of my growing little baby in my tummy. I kept it to myself, in fear of being yelled at again, blamed for my stupidity. I was afraid. I was also exhausted, running on no sleep and past my due date.
The next night, completely exhausted, I had a fight with my sons dad. He had let me down yet again right when I needed him most. It was just after dinner and I felt some pains begin, a hardening in my lower stomach through to my lower back. It took an hour of pleading and convincing to go to the hospital. I shouldn't have had to fight to get myself to the for this but I did. On the way the pain increased and on top of the building contractions, I was frightened. There was a police car following behind us and I knew full well my son’s dad should not have been behind the wheel. He should not have been near a pregnant person. He should not have been relied upon to be the adult. He was not sober, he was not well, he was not in his right mind. He had been spending thousands of dollars a day gambling, he was high, he was out of control. I was angry but I knew better than to say anything, the manipulation I endured for months on end had sunk in so deep it had become second nature to me to keep my mouth shut. Don't make him angry. Would he be arrested on the way to the hospital? This cannot be my life, I kept thinking. It felt like a bad movie, so ridiculously disastrous it could not be real. I was too old for this. I was too smart for this.
Nothing is ever black and white though. My life was not all bad, I lived in a beautiful home, had a gorgeous dog, was running a successful business and having a baby with a man I planned to marry - on the outside it looked picture perfect. But behind it all, the cracks had been showing for months. I hid it as much as I could, from the people around me and from myself too but I knew I couldn't hide it anymore. I'd been robbed, not just of my phone, bag, keys and money but robbed of my labor experience, the excitement, the impending moment every mother waits for. I was ashamed. Wasn't this meant to be the most magical moment of my life?
The pain was worsening. Somewhere along the way the police car which had been following us turned off. I thanked the universe for saving me from that moment, explaining to the police officer that I didn't belong with this man, that I was just a normal girl with the wrong person, stuck, afraid, about to deliver a baby and wake up from this bad dream. I was relieved but so sickened this situation had stolen my excitement and replaced it with a deep sense of concern for the life this baby was about to come into.
I was taken straight up to the birth ward in a wheel chair, scared, confused and sure I was close to giving birth. The nurses told me I was not even close to being close, I was only 1cm dilated but already in absolute agony. I had Pethadine and felt dopey but the pain was still excruciating. I got in the bath. My sons dad left me there alone. I still don't remember where he went or what happened. He walked out quietly, swiftly, as though it were the most natural thing in the world. I knew he was in no state to be there but I also knew I needed him not to leave. All I can recall is being left all alone. I could not function, the only relief from the agony was being in the bath so I stayed there and spent hours upon hours in the dark, adding more hot water to stay warm and nodding off from the Pethadine. It was dark, messy, terrifying; a blur. I will never forget those hours of utter blackness around me, navigating reality while drowning in a nightmare. The pain was so intense I wondered if I was alive, who I was, what each minute meant. I was completely terrified but too out of it to understand what was happening. I was desperate, heartbroken, alone.
The next thing I remember, sometime the next day, my mum was there. I don't remember calling her but she was ready and packed to make the drive from Canberra up to Sydney and I must have notified her at some point. She got there as soon as she could. She was the only light around me, she was counting my contractions, holding my hand. I don't know what I would have done without her. It had been two days and I was still only 3cm, nowhere near ready to push. My sister soon arrived too. I remember my son’s dad being there again and then being gone, he came and went. He had been up for days beforehand, completely unprepared for the birth of our child despite me insisting every day for weeks he needed to be ready, he needed to change, he needed to show up. He promised everything and delivered nothing. During this nightmare I was in, he took a nap on the floor utilizing the hospital furniture and a mattress he found in the room, the nurses were shocked. I could see the sadness they felt for me. I was in absolute agony and beyond exhausted but there he was, asleep, while I battled on. It was back to front. I remember being concerned for him, rather than it being all about me - this was the nature of our relationship. I had hoped it would switch in this moment where I was so desperately in need but it didn't shift at all. I was invisible.
Nothing was working. The nurses decided to induce me in a hope I would dilate and to encourage my body to start doing what it was suppose to do. The pain intensified quickly. The ordeal had gone on far too long and my baby went into distress - I watched his heart rate flip out on the monitor and continue to destabilize. Every second it was worsening. My contractions were becoming so long and intense my body went into shock, I was shaking on the bed begging to god to get me through this and suddenly a doctor a bunch of nurses rushed in. What was happening? I still wasn't dilating. My body was shutting down. My baby was in distress. They placed a monitor on my babies head and there was a quick discussion about the possibly of an emergency C-Section. I don't remember what happened next. I was out of my depth. I wasn't there, it was happening to me, but I was not part of it. All I knew was my baby wasn't ok, I wasn't ok.
The next thing I remember, things were slowly beginning to work. I got to 4 or 5 cm and was finally allowed to opt for an epidural. After this I was on a high, chatting, laughing, and smiling, praising the nurses, telling jokes. I was myself again. It suddenly didn't seem to matter that my labour was a mess; that I had not "smashed it out" as I told myself it would. All I could think was "relief". After some time passed the epidural became too strong and I began to get short of breath and the numb feeling was creeping up my body. I was terrified. It was quickly turned down which brought on the panic again, I lay waiting for the pain to return. It did. I was back at square one. Finally, after 3 long days, 4 nights without sleep and some miracle, it was time to push. As the nurses announced "this is it, it's time to push" my son’s dad got up and left the room, he was "going out for a smoke". How can he miss it, the magic moment, the moment we had talked about and dreamed about, the moment he promised me he would cry over? Was he lying? Was he so emotionally damaged he couldn't handle it? This baby was HIS dream, now he was walking away. I was deeply embarrassed, hurt, shocked. I pretended not to notice. I was so focused on me and my baby, I was in the moment and while he ruined his own moment to see his son come out, I refused to let him ruin my moment. I got on with it, my focus was entirely on my baby.
I was handed a mirror and I watched the whole thing. It was incredible. All I saw was my baby, his head, his face, the magic of bringing life into the world. It wasn't confronting or scary, or gross, I didn't see anything else in that moment except my baby. After just 20 minutes it was all over. The minute I saw my sons little face I fell in love. I remember putting my hand over my heart and repeating "oh my god, oh my god, he is perfect, oh my god" I was absolutely in awe, I was overcome with emotion, I was crying. This moment was so perfect, I knew right then I would never know this kind of perfect again, nothing would ever top this. The love was a rope between us, impossible to break, it was stronger than any force in the universe. It was mother and child, the strongest connection there is, I felt it in every piece of me, I felt as though after 27 years I had just woken up.
The moment shattered like sharp, cold glass. My mum and my sister looked worried. The silence was deafening. My beautiful, tiny little baby wasn't breathing. He was blue. The nurses were panicking. My heart sank. My perfect, sweet little angel was lifeless. Horror rushed through me. I couldn't comprehend anything except that my baby was gone, my baby wasn't doing what babies do, my baby was quiet, too quiet for too long. The nurses grabbed him, they were shaking him, tapping him, slapping him saying "baby wake up" as though he were a rag doll. They were suctioning his mouth with growing urgency. They repeated again and again "wake up baby, wake up baby" trying to spring him into life. This doesn't happen. This isn't real. I felt sick, anxious, everything flashed through me, the horror and the loss. Nothing felt real. My baby was gone, my dreams, my future, my world, gone. I saw everything in that moment, the end, the sadness, the grief, the loss, I felt a lifetime of sadness in one single minute.
After what felt like a life time he took a breath. Sweet relief, utter confusion. I have never experienced such pain followed by such gratitude in my life, thank god, thank god, thank god. He was quickly taken to the ICU and I passed out from exhaustion. I had nothing left. After a 3 day labor, 4 nights with no sleep, an emotional roller coaster, an absent partner who went off to work five minutes after the birth and more physical pain than I could handle, I was depleted. When I woke up I felt like a little girl, I felt lost, like I had entered some foreign land. I was utterly overwhelmed. I hobbled over to the bathroom, took a shower and as blood ran down my legs I remember suddenly realising I had absolutely no idea what was meant to happen next. I felt like I was not in my body, everything felt alien. I felt alone. What world was I suddenly living in?
I was eventually allowed to go visit my little boy, Bailey. He was hooked up on machines and had a funny little hairy line on his back. I remember it so vividly. He looked so tiny. He looked like he could not possibly belong to me, not because we didn't resemble one another but because how could the universe give me this perfect little thing, what right did I have to be a mother? I had every right of course, yet I felt like a fraud. I didn't know what in the world I was doing. I had no idea at the time that every new mum feels like this. It is like being given a job for which you have no training, no experience and no understanding of but the entire world depends on you getting right. Daunting does not even come close to the weight of this responsibility.
You can't win them all. I believe everything balances out. My pregnancy was bliss but my labor was a nightmare. I loved carrying my baby and aside from issues with my sons father which were growing by the day during this time and turning from concerning into dangerous, I was deeply in love with my growing tummy, the little being inside of me. It was our journey, our story. After he was born, that story could no longer be contained, protected, it could no longer be sacred. Very soon that story would not be about me and my darling boy, it would be about someone I loved, trusted and relied upon failing me and failing my son. That story is one of despair, danger and abuse which I will tell another day. This story, my pregnancy story, my labour story, is about me, my love for my son, our connection and our journey. Pregnancy was our 9 months of freedom from the environment around us, we were one - safe, protected, together. We got through 4 days of physical and emotional hell to meet one another and those 4 days resembled the fight we would continue to battle together. It made us tough. We get through but we also share a light hardheartedness, a sense of fun, a sensitive heart combined with a learned, or maybe an inner, strength. We share our experiences, our challenges and our love. We will always have each other and that will always be worth every piece of pain, every shattered expectation and every struggle. It will always be worth everything.
Some mothers are more alone than I was. Some mothers endure far greater adversity. Some mothers do suffer the unimaginable devastation of giving birth to a stillborn. Some mothers battle 100 times what I did. My story is probably more common than I realise but it is not often discussed. You hear the horror stories and the beautiful ones, the mum who delivered in a few hours versus the mum who was there for days. Childbirth is something I could not have prepared for but I like to think next time, if there is a next time, I will ensure I am less vulnerable. I will go into it more calmly, I will be more open with those around me and ask for more support. I have always lived my life with some sort of false bravado, the harder the path, the more I am drawn to it. I've been this way my whole life. I am sometimes shocked to realise, hey maybe I can't do everything or if I can maybe I shouldn't. Next time I won't act so tough. I will ensure I have what I need around me and remove anything else which will get in the way of the magic, the wonder and the joy of delivering a little baby into this crazy, beautiful world.