When I was pregnant with my nearly-four year old, I spent a lot of time avoiding thinking about the impending labour. I watched the odd One Born Every Minute and tootled along to a couple of hospital antenatal classes, but my main plan was to just “go with it”. I resisted listening to horror stories about other peoples’ labours and continued to live merrily naive and convinced that it would all be OK.
And it was all OK. I had a fairly quick labour and didn’t need any intervention. But it hurt. Lots. I don’t think I was prepared for quite how much it would hurt.
This time around I’m going into it with my eyes open. It might sound silly, as I’m not even 20 weeks yet, but I’ve already started to think about the birth and make some decisions. People tell me all labours are different and my experience last time won’t necessarily be the same again, but my midwife also tells me to be prepared for a “speedy delivery”, just in case.
“Speedy delivery” in midwife terms seems to mean anything less than the five hours I was in active labour with Frog. Five hours might not seem like much, but it’s a bloody long time when it hurts like hell and you just want it all to be over and done with in a few minutes.
The thing I’m most aware of this time is that I don’t want to lose my nerve. Again, it might sound silly, but the absolute worst bit of my labour with Frog was at the very, very beginning. Before I’d even gone into hospital. I can so clearly remember standing in the bath sobbing, thinking, “I can’t do this! If it hurts this much now what will I do?”
She was back-to-back, so I was getting really strong contractions, one on top of the other, while she turned. I had no experience or expert with me to tell me it wouldn’t be like that for 48 hours solid. I just had blind panic that I’d have to cope with wave after never-ending wave of unendurable pain for days and days. Drama queen, me?
So the thing I really want to focus on this time around is learning ways to cope in those early stages, before I even need to think about leaving the house and making that half hour journey to the hospital. As much as I love him, coping in a crisis and remaining calm is not my husband’s strong point, so I know it’s all going to be down to me at the start.
To start with I’ve been going to an aquanatal class, which is both fun, a good way to meet other pregnant women, but also a great way to keep fit. My favourite bit is at the end when we just get to float around with some relaxing music (I’m nothing if not lazy – and honest).
This evening I’m going to my first pregnancy yoga class. I have no idea what to expect, but signed up to it because I love yoga (again – little effort involved = win) and hope it might teach me some handy breathing and relaxation techniques.
The other thing which is mightily different this time compared to last time is that we have a Netflix account, and an iPad, so I can watch what I want from the comfort of a warm bubble bath if I choose. I’m hoping this will prove a good distraction in those “wait for things to get going properly” stages.
Again, One Born Every Minute has made a regular appearance on my watching schedule, along with Call The Midwife (seasons 1 and 2 are available on Netflix) and clips of experts talking about Hypnobirthing on YouTube.
This time, hearing other peoples’ experiences of birth isn’t something I’m shying away from. Instead, I’m genuinely interested and inspired to hear and see (even if it’s an acted scene in the likes of Call The Midwife) other mums going through it. It reminds me that I can do it too – have done it too.
I know it’s still early days and, to be honest, my main preoccupation at the moment is the 20 week scan coming up. I’m nervous and have everything crossed that it will show our baby is developing healthily and that all is as it should be.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about the fact that, pretty soon, I’m likely to be giving birth again. And, this time, I want to feel in control ALL the way through, not just when things “get going”.
How did you prepare for birth? Do you have any great tips for coping with those early stages at home? Did you find a particular point in labour hardest to deal with?