When I first found out I was pregnant, I was overjoyed. I was about to embark on an exciting rollercoaster of emotions, hormones, spiritual and physical changes as I journeyed into motherhood. This joy and rush of excitement however soon turned to anxiety as I realised that before I can hold my beautiful baby in my arms, I would have to go through labour first! As someone who has always been a little bit... "delicate" I was, in short, terrified and the countless horror stories from friends and family (one friend said dying would be easier!) didn't help.
I had a brilliant pregnancy. No cravings, no morning, noon or night sickness, no backache. In fact the only give way sign that I was pregnant was my expanding tummy, and even this was a cute neat little bump. I decided that the best way to overcome my fear was by the power of positive thinking. Even though the baby will learn more in the primal period than in any other time of their life, they also teach their parents a lot and give back to them from the very start. My baby was looking after me so far, and I persuaded myself that somehow she (I found out the sex so I could shop, shop, shop) knew I was afraid and would do all she could to look after me. That feeling stayed with me throughout my entire pregnancy. I no longer felt scared and really believed that my little girl would make it as easy for me as she could.
Due date arrived, she arrived. Only 5% of babies are born on their due date and as I went into hospital (St John and St Elizabeth; a marvelous private hospital that I would thoroughly recommend to anyone in London) I knew that this would be the day she would be born. I am an impatient person you see, so her being late would have caused anxiety and she wouldn't do that to me! My husband, sister and I went to the hospital at 4pm and as I complained of sporadic twinges they said I was already 3cm dilated but certainly wouldn't be giving birth before midnight. I got ready and went to the birthing room where the pool was set up, scented candles were glowing and the room was peaceful. I had a membrane sweep and at that point my waters broke. The pain was immense with no let up. The gas and air did nothing for me, but my husband and sister certainly made the most of it! It was 6pm and I thought there is no way I can go another 6 hours with this kind of pain. All thoughts of a natural birth went out the window as I demanded (in my weak voice) for an epidural. By the time the epidural was set up I was 9cm gone and the midwife said the baby would be born in half an hour. Okay scrap the epidural, I will just go for it. I climbed into the birthing pool while my husband massaged my back and my sister got her hands squeezed so hard they nearly fell off. I withdrew into myself and focused on pushing. By 7.59, one minute before my midwife was due to sign off duty (which I was not looking forward too. Continuity of care at that point is so important), my gorgeous little girl weighing 6lb 6oz was born. She was placed in my arms looking all shiny and new and looked up at me with her beautiful big eyes and gorgeous long eyelashes. She came through for me (and also through me!); no pain relief, no stitches, nothing.
After my daughter was checked, we were taken to our large private room which resembled a hotel more than a hospital; large flat screen television, en-suite bathroom, lounge area. Best of all there was a double bed so my husband could stay (I would have hated it if he had to leave) and a beautiful wooden crib for my little angel. She slept through the night which I was overjoyed with. Until that is the midwife said they all do for the first 24 hours because they too are so tired after monumental journey into the world. Take lots of rest while you can they said, it won't last long. It didn't.
I stayed for 3 days and was taught how to do all the basics by the midwives. After all being a parent doesn't come with a manual and no matter how many books there are out there on parenting, it doesn't compare to having someone experienced there to show you just what to do and to re-assure you. In fact I enjoyed staying there so much that I actually did not want to leave the hospital and go home (and be left to my own devises)
The midwives were very supportive and with a 24hour number you can call on if need be, no matter how silly the question (she has had hiccups for the last 10 mins, is she okay, is she going to get frustrated, what do I do) they were always on hand. In fact they could not believe my first birth experience was so quick and so straight forward that they that they invited me to talk about my positive birth experience and the parents' weekend.
Okay I went to a private hospital and paid the earth for it, but I saved and saved for it to get the best and most out of what was sure to be the most momentous and special day of my life (people spend more than what I did on their wedding and that is just one day too) It is such a shame that the cost is so high however, and more of a shame that NHS hospitals just do not have the budget for this level of care, no matter how nice and experienced the midwives are. Yes the midwives that work in private hospitals have come from NHS, but where the average NHS hospital takes about 400 expectant mothers per month; St John and St Elizabeth only take 40.
But this isn't a plug for the hospital. What I really wanted to say is that pregnancy is a time of new experiences and opportunities that need to be savoured. Labour can be easy(ish) and if I had a choice, I would rather focus on how smooth it can be as opposed to focusing on the rocky road that may lay ahead and the potential horridness of it all.
I am expecting my second child now (three years after my daughter was born) and am going back to St John and St Elizabeth. This time they are really worried that I may not make it to the hospital at all and my baby will arrive en-route, so fingers crossed for me please!