All three of my girls were born naturally without any pain relief. They were all born in public hospitals with whichever doctor/midwife was on call. They were all born on a Saturday and each one of them was 10 days late. But every birth is different. I believe it’s important to share your birth story (not necessarily online – that’s just me!) In fact, there is even a group for it here in Athens called BirthVoice, set up by an American expat and mum of four. At first I thought it was an odd idea, but I went to one meeting and it was great! It felt good to share my story, and it was fascinating to hear the other womens’. If you’ve given birth, I encourage you to share your own story. If you’re feeling brave, you can even do it here in the comments below!
Here is my first one: Lily.
I walked to the NHS hospital in Reading, with my little suitcase on wheels, to be induced. They gave me the stuff to induce contractions, and then I spent the next 30 hours waiting for it to work. I was on a ward with a lot of women with complications; many were obviously in pain and some were crying. I felt like a bit of a fraud because I felt fine. I sat there reading my way through the small stack of books I’d brought and eating the sandwiches and snacks my husband had given me (knowing that I couldn’t subsist on just three meals a day of hospital food!)
When my contractions started, I wandered down to the nurses’ station to let them know, and they gave me a paracetamol. (So when I said ‘without any pain relief’ earlier, that wasn’t strictly true – I did have a paracetamol the day before my first daughter was born. But then again, giving a paracetamol to a woman in labour is pretty much as pointless as emptying a watering can on a forest fire).
I was in labour for 30 hours, and my husband was with me pretty much the whole time. I spent over seven hours trying to push the baby out, which makes me feel faint now I think about it, but at the time I just got on with it. I had a very matter-of-fact midwife called Lorraine who told me (although I’m still not sure I believe her!) that she had given birth to ten children naturally. When my daughter finally made an appearance, I asked if it was a boy or a girl. (I had wanted to find out, but the cheeky monkey had her legs crossed – although I was positive all through my pregnancy that it was a girl). Lorraine turned her round so that my husband could see and tell me, but it was all a bit much for him by then. “It’s … it’s … a baby!” he very helpfully said. I took a look for myself.
The midwife put her straight in my arms, blood and yuck and all, and it was amazing. She was all there – a real little human – our little human. She snuffled around and had a bit of milk, then I just sat there staring at her, awestruck, until Lorraine said, “Err … do you know she’s done a poo on your arm?” Babies are so delightful. So they cleaned her up, and I had a shower in the en suite bathroom. Then we were back together again and she never left my side for the rest of my stay in hospital.
I was starving by this time. (30 hours of labour is hard work, and they wouldn’t let me eat anything in case I needed an emergency Caesarian section). They bought in toast and jam and nothing has ever smelled so good. I was just reaching for it, literally with my hand in the air, when I was told, “Don’t eat that – you’ve lost a lot of blood.” Noooo! But after a few hours, during which I learnt to pick up and put down my baby safely (never held a baby before!) I was allowed to eat and go up to the ward with my little one.
It was around 6 am when we went up. There were eight beds on the ward, but throughout the day the other mums and babies went home, and by evening I had the place to myself. My husband came back, my parents and brother came to visit. My baby never made a sound – just a tiny, quiet cry when she was born, and another when someone accidentally kicked her cot and startled her.
We stayed over that night – because of the bleeding thing – but we were allowed home the next day. My dad picked us up in his car, and the rest is history.