By BERN MORLEY
It’s fair to say I knew pretty much nothing when I had my first baby. I knew exactly nought about what to expect as a pregnant person, what it would be like to go through childbirth and at the time, I couldn’t even fathom what it would be like to hold a baby in my arms. I certainly had no concept of the responsibility that was about to become mine.
I was 24.
It wasn’t like I was walking around oblivious or trying NOT to understand what was about to happen. I had a supportive family, a loving husband. I’d read the books. I’d watched THOSE videos (yes ACTUAL videos - DVDs were still a thing of the future).
I even remember giggling along with my Lamaze classmates when the lady screamed and swore in German at her partner whilst giving birth in an old school spa bath. The 38 year old me, now wants to go back in time and whack the 24 year old me, on the back of the head.
Not once did I associate myself with that lady on the television. And maybe that was for the best. Because maybe if I’d accepted my soon to be reality, I wouldn’t have been as calm as I was going into battle.
We’ve all got one. A birth story I mean. Whether people had their babies vaginally or via a C-Section, there was a story leading up to that very point. And after I had given birth, I found I became obsessed with other people’s stories. I wanted all of the gory details. It was inexplicable.
When I first had Maddie, now nearly 14 years ago, there wasn’t the kind of online community, help or content that there is today. There were only parenting magazines. And within those overpriced glossy mags, there was ALWAYS a section where women, like you and I, could and would send in and share their birth stories. The good, the bad, the gory, the infinitely sad and the shockingly terrible. I just could…not…get….enough.
So today I’m going to share mine with you. Well one of them. Because I remember how terribly important and cathartic it was to share. To write it down – to say it aloud. Here goes.
It was a Tuesday night, my husband was about to take off to his usual Tuesday night Tennis match but I knew, I just KNEW that this was it. Baby time.
I told him I was in labour. I was a week out from my due date and my bag was packed and ready in the next room.
That’s when he turned to me and said “Have I got enough time to go to Tennis?” He is very lucky he didn’t lose one of his body parts at that stage.
I assured him that the guys and gals at Tennis would be completely fine without his backhand that evening and that yes, I would appreciate if he could you know, stay home with me and experience the wonder of birthing HIS child, alongside of me.
I stayed home for a bit, rang the hospital and they said that you know, maybe I should come on in. I was at this stage, let it be known, in no reasonable pain, had a look of exhilaration on my face and could easily walk down the stairs, jump in the car and probably drive myself. Those of you in the know, know that I wasn’t anywhere NEAR having a baby at that stage.
We arrived, were taken on through to the labour ward and hooked up to the machine. My husband stood beside me and we both smiled and marvelled as the machine busily drew the peak of each contraction onto graph paper. I was 3cms dilated. It was time to go home.
So we went back home and after being urged to do as much of it as we could of the labouring at home, I did so. There came a point when I required some kind of heat on my belly and yet, we didn’t have a hot water bottle. Phil, aka MacGuyver, decided he’d make me one! Old milk bottle, boiling hot water, voila! RIGHT! RIGHT?? No. After burning the SHIT out of my stomach, I declared that enough was enough. 7 hours since the first ‘contraction’, I calmly asked that my husband now take me back to the hospital.
Had you seen me on my second voyage back to the hospital, you would have seen me, writhing around on the back seat, highly unsecured, screaming at the driver (my husband) to hurry…the…FUCK..up.
We made it up back up to the ward and with one look at me, the midwife knew I was through with mucking around, I meant business.
She delightfully told that I should “leave my dignity on that shelf over there and pick it back up when I was finished”. Sage advice.
She handed me a hospital gown and I lay down on the bed. Gone were my visions of rocking on a fitball, listening to Enya and breathing through each contraction. I lay down flat on back and requested drugs. Many, many drugs. Sadly, at 8cms, it was “too late” for the good stuff but I did get to have some Gas to take the edge off.
The first suck inward of this Gas was heavenly. I was suddenly confident that I could DO this. I greedily attacked that mouthpiece like it was my Lord and Saviour. And it was. For about 3 minutes. Then I forgot how to place it on my mouth and was trying to attach it to my forehead and it was confiscated.
Suddenly it was just me. On my own. But I was tired dammit. By this stage it was around 2am. The contractions were coming thick and fast and they were impossible to bear. Phil pretty much, possibly fearing for his life, said not a great deal. He just secured a hot washer to my forehead and motioned for me to keep on keeping on with his dilated pupils.
I distinctly remember the midwife at this stage yelling at me and saying “When you’re ready to push properly and not into your bottom, I’ll come back”. And she walked out of the room. I, of course, reverting back to the total teacher’s pet that I am, wanted to please and finally understood that I just had to get this done already. That was also about the time that I figured I’d be just as happy if this thing stayed inside me and grew into a fully grown adult, so long as I never actually had to give birth to it.
Suddenly the midwife wheeled the baby capsule to the end of the bed and declared that she could see the head and that it was a “blondie”. Really? It’s like pretty much red and greasy down there, how can you tell??
Two more pushes and at exactly 2:36am Wednesday the 13th of October, 1999, Maddison Ellen Morley was born. Crying and scrunched up and exquisite.
I still have a photo somewhere, pretty much naked, holding her onto my chest with a doctor in a bowtie injecting me with a needle. Me with the biggest smile on my face I’ve possibly ever smiled.
This of course is a much condensed version of the event but it stuns me how much I remember and how fondly I look back upon it. I’ve gone through that twice more now and each time has been so completely different.
I’d love to hear your story. It feels good to share it. Not to compare, just to you know – tell YOUR story.