Hooked

Mum and baby in the hospital

Let me say up front, this is a birth story. You will read the word ‘dilated’ more than once. But I’m hoping if I tell you my story, you might feel like you can tell me yours. Because birth is exhausting and it sucks and it’s incredible. It’s different for all of us and I think we should talk about it more. A year ago, I had a baby. But that doesn’t really cover it, does it?


Have you ever watched Toast of London? There’s this one scene where the main character Toast and his acting troupe are warming up for rehearsals, led by the eccentric director of their play. They’re standing in a circle, gyrating to the intro to Hooked on a Feeling.

oogachaka

Anyway, that’s me a year ago. Standing in my living room in a little wooden house on top of a hill, eyes closed, grimacing and taking the long deep breaths I’ve learnt on the yoga mat. I’m rocking from side to side and whispering the intro to myself, searching for anything that’ll help me through the contractions and settling on this.

…Oogachaka ooga ooga oogachaka…
Breathe in. Breathe out.

And the quiet voice in the back of my mind – the one that’s going to keep me company on this journey, that’s going to tell me calmly again and again, you’ve got this, you’re strong enough, you can do all things through Him who gives you strength – that voice is chuckling. This is how you’re getting through your labour? Good choice.

I’m 39 weeks and desperate for my girl to get here. I cannot get to sleep and early labour drags on for three days. On Friday, I’m calling my parents and baking cookies for my friend’s baby shower, which I haven’t yet realised I’ll be missing. On Saturday, I’m dozing in the sun and worrying about not being able to get to the hospital because Matt’s dropped a rock on his foot and thinks it might be broken and do I have any idea how much this hurts?!

On Sunday, I’m calling our midwife, Sarah, who’s telling me it’s not time yet. That night, I try to sleep upright in a chair because it’s too painful to lie down. I’m exhausted and frightened, waking every few minutes as another contraction surges through me. Matt calls Sarah who tells us to come to the hospital. They know things are getting serious when the partner calls.

We stand close together in our living room in the little wooden house on top of a hill, holding hands, and say a prayer into the quiet. This is happening. We’re going to meet our daughter soon. Then we’re out the door. Seven minutes later, we’re at the hospital.

…Oogachaka oogachaka…
You’ve got this, you’re strong enough.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

It’s three in the morning and I’m three centimetres dilated. ‘You could go home’, Sarah tells me, ‘but I think you’ll punch me if I tell you to do that!’ She gives me morphine instead and I manage to sleep for a few hours, headphones in to block out the sounds of the women ahead of me in other rooms. When I wake up, I hear brand new babies. In my sleepy haze, I’m excited. That’ll be my girl soon.

The morphine wears off around 7am. We spend the next couple of hours walking through hospital corridors, keeping moving, keeping calm. We talk to the midwife – Katie now – about breaking waters and water births and what comes next. Just before 11, Katie recommends we do a little intervention, get things moving. We fill up the pool and put on the playlist that we’ll listen to five times in the next four hours. We talk through what’ll happen next. I know it’s about to get tougher. I tell Matt and Katie that I just need to take a few minutes to have a little panic please. So I sit and cry and they tell me it’s going to be fine and I’m doing so well and my hands shake a little as I wipe away my tears – and then I’m ready.

…Oogachaka oogachaka…
You’ve got this, you’re strong enough.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

Waters broken, I climb into the pool, kneeling in the water, arms leaning on the side. I don’t move for four hours. This next part’s hazy, but I remember Matt sitting opposite me on an exercise ball; squeezing his hand so hard. Katie offering me gas and air; I don’t take it until I need it and then I don’t let go of it until the end. Having crazy strong instincts of what I needed when. Asking Katie her surname because if we were going to share such an intimate situation, I should probably know her last name. And I remember that, even as the pain and the pressure got more and more intense, the calm, quiet, separate voice was whispering to me: you’ve got this, you’re strong enough.

It’s 3pm. Katie tells me we’re nearly there. I put all my energy, all my strength into those last few contractions, giving everything I’ve got to bring my girl into the world. There are voices around me but I can’t make out what they’re saying, and I’m half standing up and squeezing the bars on the edge of the pool so tightly and everything’s blurry and agony and I can’t take any more – and then she’s there, being passed to me, in my arms and I feel like I’m stumbling backwards but someone catches me and somehow I’m sitting and I can’t take my eyes off this quiet, alert little bundle in front of me and I’m whispering I love you and just like that I’m a mum. It’s over. It’s just starting. She’s here. I’m hooked.

I’m helped out of the pool and into the hospital bed, wrapped up with my baby. She’s quietly staring up at me, her tiny hand wrapped around my pinky finger. I’m broken and exhausted and I have no voice and I’m so, so happy.

Rach, what’s her name? Matt asks me.

Alex.

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