I mean really this could all be summed up by the headline sentence. Labour. Giving birth. Pushing one out. I did know it was going to be hard. I knew it wasn’t going to be a little niggle. I just didn’t know how fucking hard it would be. And surely no one does, or you would never sign up for it? I mean sure, the present you get at the end of it is incredible (The child I mean. Though apparently men are meant to give women a ‘pushing present’. One friend of mine got a Tiffany ring. Another got an expensive leather jacket. I got jack shit. Actually I got told that the baby was my present, “but he was a present for both of us” I whined. Also I got a ‘tank driving experience’ as a Christmas present a week after giving birth. Apparently I had made a random comment while watching a TV programme with tanks on it – no I don’t remember which show – that it looked like fun. Cue boyfriend googling ‘tank driving uk’ et voila. While I sat on the sofa with the worst ring sting you can imagine I was presented with the gift of tank driving. He is a funny one. I bloody loved it though).
Again I digress. What was I on about? (Question I ask myself at least ten times a day). Oh yes, giving birth. Two weeks after having my son I sat at a clinic waiting to have him weighed. A young mum-to-be sat opposite me, with who I’m assuming was her own mother. She was ready to pop and in for a sweep (so glad mine arrived a week early and I didn’t need to endure this grimness – a cervical sweep, if you don’t already know, is some midwife shoving a finger up your fanny and trying to dislodge the amniotic sac from the lining of the womb, to try and gee baby up into arriving. Grotty). After generally cooing over my teeny tiny newborn she asked “So, did it hurt then?” My face must have said it all, as I just stared cold hard daggers into her eyes. “Yep” I replied. “But did it hurt as much as they say it would?” She probed. Seriously. Without missing a beat I said “It was worse. Much worse.” No smile, no “you’ll be fine”. Nothing. I could tell that her mum was sitting there inwardly pleading with me not to scare the poor girl, but I just could not bring myself to lie. Bollocks to it. The world needs to know just how fucking painful childbirth is. Everyone should know what I HAVE ENDURED, I thought. And everyone did. Anyone that cared to listen got the full, tell-all, gory details of my birth story.
I wasn’t trying to scare anyone and I wasn’t trying to one-up anyone else’s birth story. I just needed to share. Because what I hadn’t prepared for was reliving the most traumatic and yet amazing thing I had ever experienced night after night when I closed my eyes for the first three months of my son’s life. I didn’t realise that for the first few weeks I would be able to think of nothing but that 66 hour (I know) labour every time I had a moment to myself. These moments were few and far between you understand. The constant breastfeeding, nappy changing and generally worrying that the baby was going to break took up 95% of the day. The other 5% I spent reliving the birth. And I wasn’t alone in this. Speaking to friends who had similarly traumatic births I found out that they had done the same thing by and large. Even those who had medically straightforward births were still somewhat traumatised by the whole debacle. Some spoke to midwives about it. I chose not to at the time, though I think it probably would have been valuable to talk it through with a trained professional. Still hoping the trauma won’t come back to bite me on the arse second time around if I’m lucky enough to conceive again in the future!
Anyway point being the story got told. A lot. In detail. Again and again. As did the fact that I didn’t heal properly afterwards and required surgery (probably another post on this at some point). Again grim. But I don’t care. I like to share. And I like hearing other women’s birth stories. Some think it’s a bit competitive, well my birth was x hours long, well I had forceps/emergency C/ventuose/the full cast of Holly City/inspector fucking gadget to deliver my baby. Not me. I don’t think women are competing; they are simply sharing an experience that only a mother can understand. And I say this with the greatest respect to pregnant women and women hoping to have children in the future. You think you know. You’re prepared. You’ve done NCT/hypnobirthing/watched one born every minute/written a birth plan/got every fecking homeopathic pain relief going. You’re not an idiot. People do this every day. They wouldn’t have another one if it was that bad. You know what you’ve let yourself in for. Except you don’t mate. You haven’t got a fucking clue. Sorry. And good luck.
In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have been that harsh to the young girl at the clinic. I should have smiled and said you’ll be fine. Because she was. I saw her in town a few weeks later with her baby and she smiled and said hello. And just gave me a look that said “I get it now. I know exactly what you fucking mean”. And that’s how it is really. Once you know, you know and you’re in the club. You feel super human. You think “shittinghell I can’t believe I just did that”. And then six months later you see someone else’s teeny tiny and think “Awww I can’t even remember when mine was that small!” And you want to do it all over again. Women are fucking nuts.
P.S. If you haven’t had a baby yet, take the fucking drugs. Spoiler alert: Noone gives you a medal for not taking them. Next time I will be having everything going. I spanked the gas and air so hard when I was getting stitched up that I started wittering on about Saturday Kitchen and ‘umph umph umphing’ along like a fucking teenager at a drum and bass rave. The baby was out by then though, so I was just enjoying myself. Next time I want something stronger… so maybe it is true what they say about drugs after all.