Who were you when you gave birth? I can sum me up in one word: horrified. Give me a few more words and I’d add “distraught”, “hysterical” and “exhausted”.
It’s been more than nine years since I had my first child, and I still shudder when I think about how much it hurt. So I'm feeling sympathy agony for the Rockhampton woman who gave birth to a 6.7kg baby (pictured right). My bub was only a hefty 4.3kg and that felt hellish enough.
Warning – if you haven’t had a baby and wish to remain blissfully ignorant about the horrors of childbirth, stop reading. If, on the other hand, you are feeling deeply suspicious of people who say, “it’s not so bad”, “it’s only one day of pain for a lifetime of pleasure” or “I can’t even remember the pain now”; or you’ve been there, done that and want to compare notes, then read on as I relive my experience of birthing a whopper …
I’m a bit of a wimp, my pain threshold isn’t terribly high, so I was awestruck by the agony of childbirth. I’m not sure what I expected it to be like – in the movies it’s a noisy, painful but mercifully brief experience. Just a few minutes of anxious screen time, then tears of joy as mother and baby are united at last. In the scary videos shown during ante-natal classes, childbirth is sweaty, messy and painful, but still relatively brief. A couple of edited highlights before the blood and mucous-covered baby slips out.
Unfortunately there are no edited highlights in real life, it’s an incredibly long, messy, painful process. There are those outrageous exceptions you hear about – women who deliver their baby after a 45-minute labour and complain that they almost didn’t make it to the hospital on time; or the ones who say they didn’t mind the agony, because it was “pain with a purpose”; or the really annoying ones who say it really didn’t hurt as much as they thought it would. Rubbish. It hurts just as much as you think it will, and then some.
But the funny thing about labour pain is that it starts so innocuously. I was a week overdue and booked in for an induction when I decided to try an old wives’ tale to hurry things along – lots of curry. Minutes after leaving our local Malaysian restaurant, I felt a funny twinge in my lower abdomen. “Ooooh, I think I’ve gone into labour,” I gleefully told Husband, who didn’t believe me. I think his scepticism stemmed from the fact that I was so chirpy about it. But, after nine months and one week of pregnancy it was a relief to think something might finally be happening. Also, those first labour twinges just felt like period pain. In fact, I found the next seven or so hours of labour quite fun in a mild periody sort of way. As I lay in bed that night, trying to nap between contractions, I foolishly decided the whole labour business wasn’t going to be as bad as I’d thought. It hurt, but it wasn’t unbearable. I enthusiastically timed each contraction and the gaps between them, scribbling notes on a piece of paper beside the bed.
Those notes stopped when my waters broke around 2am. After dashing, legs crossed, to the bathroom to clean up the mess, I realised the pain had taken on a whole new cadence. I think it had something to do with the fact that 4.3kg of baby was no longer cushioned by amniotic fluid in the womb. Her whopping big head was bouncing up and down on my sensitive cervix and it hurt like hell.
We jumped in the car and dashed to the hospital, me clutching the dashboard and moaning at regular intervals. In the reception area, we stood filling out forms before I could be admitted, me bent over double and groaning between signatures. No nice orderlies with wheelchairs to dash me off to a delivery suite like they do on those American TV shows. Up in the delivery suite at last, a midwife examined me and said I was 3cm dilated. She suggested I have a hot shower, then try a shot of pethidine. I cautiously agreed.