Breastfeeding – The First 10 Days

Darcy was tongue-tied. We asked them to check when she was born as its often hereditary. Myself, my brother and my own Mum are tongue-tied so we knew they’d be a strong chance. Cutting the tie is a very simple procedure with minimal pain and usually no bleeding. For some reason, they don’t do the 2 minute procedure when you’re already there, but you have to ring a certain number, a certain person in the hospital to book it to be done ASAP. The midwife who discharged us called the number and left a message for, lets call her Beatrice. (I would name and shame, but I’m feeling nice tonight.)

At home, I was exclusively breastfeeding my daughter and after 3 days my milk came in. For those that don’t know, this is when your body stops producing colostrum – yellow rich concentrated milk – and real breastmilk appears. I was thrilled. Up until it changes you can never really tell if your baby is getting anything at all, because you never feel your breast emptying or refilling. We’d called the day after we arrived home and left two messages for Beatrice to call us regarding booking the procedure. No answer.

A few days on and with her tongue-tie, breastfeeding was really starting to hurt. We called again, we kept trying with no answer, we left messages. Our community midwife rang and nothing. The next day my nipples were so cracked and sore and were starting to bleed. That night around 1 o’clock in the morning Darcy was sleeping and vomited up bright red blood. A teaspoon amount, even a drop was enough to scare me to death. Shouting and shaking Joe to wake up, I rang the emergency 24hr number to the Maternity ward. The midwife calmed me down and told me lightly ‘its just from my boobs’, as if its a perfectly normal situation.

Around day 6 I was losing the plot. It hurt so much and she was constantly hungry. I sat from 7pm until 1am with her attached to me, too scared to remove her incase she cried and  it hurt so much to latch her back on. Joe sat me shakily on the toilet with Darcy feeding on me, so that I could go for a wee. He had to pull up my knickers and support me as I was crying so much.

In the morning we tried Beatrice again, several times Joe rang. He rang through the switchboard to different departments desperately trying to find anyone that could help us. He was shouting down the phone, so upset seeing the state I was in over something that took only minutes to fix. No one could physically locate Beatrice and in some stupid bureaucratic move, she was the only one capable of booking the appointment. We weren’t even allowed to go through the man who was actually doing it!

I begged the midwife on the phone to let me express and bottle feed Darcy at 9 days old, I was in so much pain and began to dread when she was hungry.  She was physically hurting me and I started to resent her. The midwife on the phone told me I shouldn’t bottle feed her. I should ‘cup feed’ instead. But at 2 o’clock in the morning we’d have to drive to Worcester to be taught how to do it. Like lambs to the slaughter we went. I breastfed before we left, praying she wouldn’t cry in the car. We arrived and were taken to the postnatal ward where I produced the 1oz of frozen breastmilk I’d collected that day out of the changing bag. She defrosted and warmed it and began showing us what to do. She held Darcy swaddled in a blanket and tipped a drop at a time into her mouth. It was excruciating to watch. If you tipped too much at once she could choke and it felt so dangerous and unnecessary. Why couldn’t I just give her a bottle?! She was fed the ounce and then passed to me to put her on the breast. Half an hour of that and we left, changing her nappy before we went out to the car park. Before we made it out the main doors she cried to be fed and we sat for another 30 minutes in the deserted dark Costa of the hospital before returning home. Upon arriving home she cried again and back on my boob she went.

I was emotionally and physically exhausted. Joe cup fed her again that night as I watched and jumped every time he did it, crying and begging him to “be careful!”. It was so traumatic. We saw a different midwife at the doctors the next day as my community midwife was booked up and she weighed and checked her over. We’d been told at the previous appointment that she’d lost 8.1% of her weight in the first few days so they’d booked us the appointment to have her weighed again. They are only supposed to lose up to 8% so she’d have to be monitored.

I told her the situation and she couldn’t believe how pushed into feeding her myself I’d been. I felt the need to ask her permission if I could bottle feed my own child. One bottle a day, expressed breast milk, to try to let my boobs heal. Expressing didn’t hurt as much, because Darcy had latching problems, the breast pump didn’t! She told me do two or three or however many  because she was my baby and as long as she was healthy I could do what I wanted. She may not go back on the breast, I was told, as they are easily confused but at that time I wasn’t sure I was fussed if she didn’t. So that was Day 9. I gave her my milk, the recommended amount for a baby her age, in a bottle and she slept for 2 hours straight. We went to Tesco and it was like having a new baby and with it a new lease of life. I could put her down, she was happy, I was happy, Joe was happy! Why had I waited all this time?!

Day 10 and bitch Beatrice finally called us. No apology. Nothing. Only one day after struggling with the decision to bottle feed and she called to arrange Darcy’s tongue-tie appointment. We decided not to book it in the end as she would be mostly bottle fed from then on and it was nice to have something in common with her, so silly but for some reason it meant a lot to me. To this day I hold this woman responsible for ruining my experience of something I was really looking forward to and for a time, enjoyed.

Even though my story highlights a lot of bad things about breastfeeding, the bond I felt with my daughter is something I will always cherish. In the early days I felt so empowered, so proud that I was a BF Mummy! I’d take selfies and I look back and smile at what might have been if only things had been different. But what they don’t tell you is that breastfeeding is really hard. Not everyone is capable. There are hundreds of different factors that affect your ability to. But with me I felt myself slipping into Postnatal Depression. I felt useless and hateful towards my child who never stopped crying or feeding off me. I felt the life being sucked out of me, like a ghost I just existed. I spent my days unmoving in the same chair, with tears streaming down my face and forgot to eat or look after myself. I forgot that I was a person. I forgot that there was another option. I forgot to be brave and to forgive myself. I wish I’d have known sooner and been strong enough to be decisive, to release some of the pressure I’d put on myself and enjoy those days.

I’m jealous of the women who had no troubles. Whose babies thrived and they did with them. I’m proud of the time I did it and pleased that I tried.

But life changed for the better, when I found formula…

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Bringing Baby Home

Joe and I would be the first to admit that the first night home with our new baby was the most terrifying night of our lives. A few hours after giving birth all the checks were done and we were both deemed well and healthy. I got dressed straight away while Joe held Darcy and put some make-up on to try and feel normal again. Giving birth had made me feel so high and I was still getting over the shock as well as having my hormones bounce all over the place.

Joe had texted our parents about an hour before Darcy was born. We didn’t want to tell them in the night because we knew they wouldn’t be able to sleep and they would just worry. By telling them right at the end, they didn’t have too long to wait! We were allowed to stay in the birthing room to greet our visitors. Luckily it was my parent’s day off so they came straight away and both cried in quick succession upon entering the room. They greeted us with hugs, kisses and congratulations and sat to hold Darcy, cooing and fussing. Joe’s parents soon followed and did the same. So much love and emotion flowed around the room, it was beautiful.

But something about seeing my own mum with my new baby upset me. She was just so natural, holding her perfectly and confidently. The realisation dawned on me in that moment that I actually had no idea what I was doing. All the information from the classes and books and TV programmes had disappeared out of my head and this poor tiny thing depended on me to know how to keep her alive. How on earth was I going to be enough for her? I sobbed onto Joe’s shoulder in front of my parents and in-laws and tried to take in their comforting words. A heavy weight fell upon my shoulders almost instantly and seemed to be impossible to lift.

After a few hours of chatting and telling them all the story of how she was born, my parents offered to stay with Darcy so that Joe and I could go to Costa in the hospital to get a coffee. We declined. There was no way we could tear ourselves away from her when she was only hours old. I was getting agitated after my meltdown and embarrassed that they might think I was useless so they said their goodbyes and left. Both mums understanding that we needed the space and we were grateful for that. We asked the midwives if we could go home and after being discharged we left the hospital at 6:30pm. It amazed me that only hours before I desperately wanted to be in the hospital and now I couldn’t bare to stay.

Joe put Darcy in the car seat and we checked several times to make sure it was secure without being too tight. She had scratchmits and blankets and a tiny knitted hat we bought from the hospital as her newborn ones were huge! I sat in the back of the car and watched her all the way home, unable to take my eyes off her, even if I wanted to. Joe drove normally without being overly cautious and we joked and laughed for the entire journey. We were both so elated. The fear had subsided for the time being and it started to dawn on me that she was in fact, our baby. I wouldn’t have to give her back or wait any longer, the time had come and we were finally the family I’d always wanted.

Back at the house I put the car seat down and sat back. Both cats came, sniffed her and wandered off, obviously not bothered by our new addition. I sat and breastfed Darcy and we put the TV on, then watched her sleep, both of us just sort of drifting through the evening not taking a lot in. The sleep didn’t last long. Darcy woke and we changed her nappy together. She screamed at the top of her lungs whenever she had her nappy changed, clothes taken off, clothes put on, or screamed to be fed. She slept only lightly and cried all night. We were both absolutely bloody terrified of her. We both double-teamed everything, desperate to do it all as quickly as possible so as not to upset her. Changing her nappy was like a military operation. We found that I was the best at putting her nappy on, and Joe was the fastest at dressing. He’d do one side of her body, one arm and leg and I’d do the other. I cried a few times. It was all too overwhelming. Joe cried a bit too.

We daren’t sleep. We’d been awake since 7am Sunday morning, we were exhausted but sleep seemed impossible. What if we didn’t hear her cry? What if she stopped breathing? What if she spontaneously combusted? My eyes were locked on her for 24 hours after she was born. Every time she was in her moses basket I would have to put my hand near her nose or on her chest to make sure she was still alive. (3 months later and I still do this!) We had to keep her hat on all night. All the books said never to have a hat on indoors, we knew she shouldn’t have it on so we took it off. She cried. We put it back on and she calmed down. She’d fall asleep so I’d take it off. She cried. For some reason amongst all the worry and stress, I was so aware of what the neighbours would think. We only have one older lady living next to us who is so lovely and practically deaf but every time she cried I panicked that she would think we were neglecting our baby. I expected social services to be there in the morning to hit us both on the head with a truncheon, take Darcy and run.

By the end of the night we took it in turns to nap while one of us tried to stay awake. I woke after an hour or so, Joe had fallen asleep and tiny noises were coming from the moses basket. My boobs tingled and instinctively I knew she was hungry. It seems so simple looking back but I was amazed at myself for knowing what to do.

By the morning were felt a surge of confidence. We openly discussed our worries, fears as well as advice and criticisms and I was pleased that Joe felt the same. 24 hours after she was born we felt confident that we could and would be the best parents she’d ever need.

The first few days are the hardest. But they are the ones you’ll remember forever. With each day we knew her better, we grew stronger, we loved more and enjoyed every minute.

The Bad Days

Today I had a bad day. Most people are familiar with Postnatal Depression. Less are familiar with the ‘baby blues’. The NHS defines this as the week after you give birth, feeling down or depressed about having a baby when you expect to be happy. It is brought on by chemical and hormonal changes in your body, a bit like PMS.

I disagree with this definition.

11 weeks on and I still get the ‘baby blues’. Of course hormones are to blame for most things during pregnancy and after and really anytime that a woman is moody it must be her hormones.

I don’t know a single mother that hasn’t had a bad day since having a baby. They’re brought on by so many factors. Sleep deprivation is a biggie. Thats why its so difficult in the early days. For those ladies that do not have children, let me tell you something that can not be overstated… Being a mother is so hard. All you child-free buggers take this for granted. But don’t feel bad, I did too. Yes, I know its no picnic, I’d say. But nothing can ever quite prepare you for the onslaught of emotions that come with raising a child. Forget the money, time and lack of free time, its the raw emotion I mean.

Like a 14 year old with her changing body, anything can set me off. Joe likes to tell everyone about the egg story. Simply put, he made me boiled eggs and soldiers and I cried for several minutes because I was so happy. On the other end of the scale, I once dropped a teaspoon and burst into tears.

On bad days everything just piles up. The housework gets on top of me, but that isn’t difficult. By looking at my folded laundry you’d think 16 dirty rugby players live in our house. For some reason, Joe has developed a love for putting washing on, but a phobia of putting it away resulting in several ikea bags repurposed for holding all our garments. Apparently I have a ‘specific way’ of folding them, that after 3 years he still hasn’t bothered to learn. I try to dedicate days to doing my housewifely duties but usually our child decides to throw some sort of newborn tantrum about something which distracts for hours of the day. By the time I’ve calmed her down for a nap I go with good intentions to do my bit and end up falling asleep. Luckily I have a very supportive husband-to-be!

On bad days your baby is sick through 3 outfits and all over you, still screams to be fed and ends up drinking 17oz of milk. Sometimes they don’t want their milk, but are still hungry. Sometimes they are just ‘colicky’. Colic is every parents’ nightmare. Uncontrollable crying for apparently no reason, but is basically just terrible wind – in my experience anyway. During colic episodes I’ve spent hours bouncing around the house with my daughter on my shoulder, giving infacol, rubbing and patting her back. The problem is when none of this works. When you’re desperately trying to calm them because you can’t hear yourself think. Sometimes you might be lucky enough to hand them to your partner or mother or friend for them to ‘have a little try’. Sometimes you get so frustrated you have to pass them to someone, anyone else, for fear of throwing them across the room. Obviously you would never do this, but tell the truth, you’re thinking about it.

On bad days you feel lonely. Mothers on maternity leave or stay-at-home mums are the most obvious victims of this, but you even get lonely when surrounded by others. The most wonderful thing is being able to spend all your time with your baby but its also the worst. Sometimes you feel empty. You need more. You wish you could be elsewhere doing other things. Forget the washing, don’t bother dusting, sleep while they sleep. It can wait, the Queen isn’t coming anytime soon and anyone that does visit can offer to help or enjoy the squalor!

These are bad days. Not weeks. Not months. These feelings pass and the other 95% of the time we feel so grateful that we have this time with our children. The unconditional love we feel will never fade and each day we become stronger. Rely on friends, rely on family. Smile through all the hard times and even take time to cry.

Motherhood is hard. But its the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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Labour & Birth

Braxton Hicks. For those of you that don’t know, that is the name given to false contractions. And thats what I was having. For almost two weeks before my daughter came in to this world she was playing tricks on me. The problem with taking maternity leave so early is that every tiny niggle is thought to be ‘The Real Thing’. So I’m sat at home watching Jeremy Kyle panicking that I’m going to have to ring Joe at work and call him home. Baring in mind he works the other side of Oxford which would take him an hour and a half to get back, and then another 30 minutes for us to get to Worcester Hospital – all this dependant on traffic.

One thing I learnt whilst pregnant is that your water doesn’t necessarily break first. Its not like in the movies when you hear a gush, look down see a puddle and you’ve got 20 minutes to get to the hospital before the head pops out.

So people kept asking me, how do you know if its real labour? Well, shit, how would I know?! I’ve never had a baby before, apart from Braxton Hicks, I’m pretty clueless to how it actually feels. My plan, each time I had fake contractions, was to go to sleep – I was knackered anyway, so why not? – and they got stronger I’d wake up and know its real.

Sunday 20th March, 6 days before my due date, my Mother-in-Law (to-be!) rang. She asked Joe if we wanted to go round for our customary Sunday Night Roast. “We might not make it Linda, because I’m planning on having a baby today!” I laughed down the phone. I’d been feeling shitty all day. Constantly trying to sleep because I was just so tired, then not being able to. I felt sick, achey, generally pissed off and uncomfortable. But I tried to perk myself up and we went over for dinner. Now by this point I was eating about the same amount as a fussy 3 year old. My stomach organ was so squished I was full after 3 mouthfuls. All through dinner my Braxton Hicks were putting me through my paces. By 9 o’clock I was standing with my hands on my lower back and swaying. Everyone kept checking if I was okay, but at 39 weeks pregnant I had a strong grievance for anyone being ‘overly nice’. Agitated, at 9:30pm I told Joe we had to go home. I just wanted to go to bed.

So we got home and tried to wind down with a bit of Game of Thrones for an hour and then off to bed we went. Joe works funny shifts and had to be up at 3:30am so it was getting late. I led down and did my usual routine of checking the Babycentre forum and researching labour symptoms. Standing, I started pacing around our bedroom and timing my contractions on one of my much loved Pregnancy apps. Hmm. One or two every ten minutes. I’m sure the baby books said there was be an obvious rigid pattern? I checked the hospital website. Call at every 10 minutes. Shit. These are coming every 7.

“Joe, wake up! I need to call the hospital!” We got everything ready in the lounge by the front door, just in case they called us in. They told me on the phone that I was welcome to come in or stay at home if I felt more comfortable. God, no. I was definitely going in. If it wasn’t real they could always send me home again, but I was definitely not leaving anything until the last minute. We put the bags in the car, along with our brand new, pristine Maxi Cosi. Looking back now, that simple moment of putting it in the car will stay in my mind forever. We might be bringing our baby home in that car seat tomorrow, I thought.

We arrived at the birth centre at Worcester Hospital by 12:30am. We were shown into a room and the midwife looked over my notes before coming back to examine me. Now its funny to think but all the way through pregnancy this was the first time I had ever gotten my vagina out. 2cm dilated. Hooray! Its real! This is it! No fake contractions anymore, its happening. The midwife, Beth, told me that the head was right there and my waters were so thin, it wouldn’t be hard to break them. But they don’t, unless theres an issue or you’re overdue, you have to be patient, it will all come naturally. She did a sweep – Stretch and Sweep, where they circle the baby’s head to do something. Basically help it somehow. I was never particularly clear on that one.

Again, I was offered the chance to go home, relax and come back when things started progressing more. Well, I was much happier in the hospital, and no way was I getting back in a car when I felt much better standing. So Joe got the bags out the car and we moved to a smaller sort of labour without birth room, incase someone came in ready to have theirs. We began the famous ‘walk around the hospital’ doing laps of the same area, going up and down stairs and passing about 4 other pregnant women with the same idea. An hours walk, then back to the room to bounce on the ball. Half an hour of that, then back round the hospital, and so it continued. Joe was falling asleep and I was so tired, I did try to lie down, as if sleep was even possible at that point! Midwives generally leave 4 hours before examining you, to reduce the risk of infection. So at 5am, I led down, put the soles of my feet together and let my knees drop. 4cm. YES! It progressing well. I’m in established labour. Well not quite. They like you to be 5cm before you’re allowed in the pool.

I was so against a water birth until about 4 or 5 weeks before when I was in the bath twice a day and found the water so helpful, something just clicked. So they offered me some pain relief. Gas and Air or pethidine were the two options on the menu. I opted for the gas as I remembered that pethidine can make you and the baby sleepy and I thought that so far I was coping with the pain. The first several puffs on the gas are fantastic. You’re supposed to take big deeps breaths and it goes straight to your head! The best way I can describe it is when you’re really drunk that you’re on your way to falling over, your teeth feel numb and everything’s hilarious – just before the point of being ‘too drunk’. Every time I went to the bathroom (every two minutes by this point), Joe would take a puff, so he was definitely enjoying himself.

Suddenly things kicked into gear. Something shifts inside a woman in labour and the noise begins. Every time I watched One Born when I was pregnant I found myself shouting at the women that screamed, shouted or made any noise in labour. “Put your head on your chest, your hands behind your knees and shut up you silly cow!” I’d shout. But by a few hours in, I knew there was no way I could be silent. So as I was saying, this gear change happens and bam! You’re a farm animal. A long pained ‘moo’ escapes on every exhale and all you want to do is be on all fours. The midwives sat in an office just outside in the corridor are trained to listen to this and Beth returns to tell me that the water’s on, I’m getting in the pool!

Round I go to the next room and prepare to get in. Joe gets my bikini top out of the bag so I can preserve some modesty. So trivial really, when only hours later its all tits, vag and arse on full display! I’d been told earlier when I was checked at 4cm that Baby had turned and was back-to-back. Babies are generally born with their back in a curved shape against Mummy’s tummy, so that the softest part of their head is at the softest part of your vagina. Back-to-Back babies are more likely to tear poor Mummy and can take longer coming out. So I had a little cry at that news. The midwives had a handover about 15 minutes after, so goodbye Beth and hello Hayley and student midwife Megan. Megan, only two years younger than me, had been in training for 6 months and my birth was the first water birth she would ever see.

So there I was, bobbing about trying to get comfortable without drowning in this giant jacuzzi without the jets. For some reason it helped when I was on my knees and grabbed my left ankle during a contraction, pulling it out the water and almost to my head. Like some sort of crazed ballet enthusiast. Possibly one of the weirdest things about contractions is in early labour and before the actual ‘Big Push’. You feel the peak of a contraction, it can last a couple of minutes, you’re in such pain and then it switches off, you’re back in the room and having a normal conversation. I expected constant pain.

Some toast came in for Joe and I had a bite but I definitely couldn’t eat anything. I felt a new sensation of pushing in my arse. Yes, sorry Ladies and Gents, it gets way more graphic from here. I remembered from my months of research that when the head is coming down the pelvis its pushing on your anus making you feel like you need to shit. So, there’s no point beating around the bush, I’d better tell them. “I feel like I need to poo” I said. And this bits the kicker.

“Why don’t you try and have a poo between contractions and see if that makes it go away? Sometimes it helps.” Hayley asked me. Right. Okay. So I had to try and shit in this glorified bath, in water while 3 people watched me squat and strain, with one random person who kept popping in for god know’s why and then if I managed to squeeze one out it might end up hitting me as it floats around. Well let’s face it, who could go under that kind of scrutiny? I tried my best but my bowels were having none of it. I failed to mention that during our several walks around the hospital I’d done the biggest poo of my life, calling Joe into the toilet and almost taking prideful pictures to send to my family.

But ‘Poo-gate’ didn’t end there. They were so desperate for this bowel movement that I was thrust out of the pool, waddled naked from the waist down to the bathroom and forced to sit on the loo with what looks like a tiny washing up bowl in it. This is literally to catch the baby if you give birth on the lav. Sat on the toilet, with my new best friends Hayley and Megan at either knee looking up at my arsehole to see what treasures they might find. Gas and Air in my mouth the contractions were coming thick and fast. A few minutes later, they’d given up on their futile quest and I was waddled back into the pool.

I’m not sure at what point it was, but sometime between getting in and having my baby I looked around the room and burst into tears. This is normal. Its called the Transition period where you usually here the classic “This is all your fault, don’t ever touch me again” or “I can’t do this” or in my case just crying. The realisation dawns on you in this moment that there is literally no going back. One way or another, this baby is coming today.

One of the midwives asks if its okay if a female doctor comes in. She’d never seen a natural birth before and only ever performed c-sections, so I obliged and she joined the audience.

Fuck. Here comes the head. Oh god, it stings like hell. I remember my mum called it ‘The Ring of Fire’. Well, keep breathing on that gas. They’re telling me I’m doing so well. I think they’re paid to say that. The head is the worst part, just get that out and a few more pushes and I’ll get to meet her. That’s what they always say on One Born Every Minute. For anyone that hasn’t had a baby it is as everyone says, the worst pain you’ll ever experience. For however long you are pushing, it feels like you’re dying. The head is coming out and my natural instinct is to try and close my legs and stand up. A different midwife behind me keeps pushing my bum back into the water and I’m holding Joe’s jacket instead of his hand for fear of breaking it. Occasionally I open my eyes to see him in front of me and I’ll never forget the look of pure helpless fear on his face. His presence and soft words are such a comfort to me and I wouldn’t be able to do it without him. I’m vaguely aware of my own voice in my head but everything else is just white noise. Someone’s saying my name. I need to listen now. They’re telling me the head is being born, they can see it in their weird spatula mirror they keep putting between my legs. I have to let the head be born slowly so only pant when they say and stop pushing. My body’s taken over and my uterus contracts without warning, 3 uncontrollable pushes and relief. The water turns bloody and I see a shadow underneath me.

“Pick your baby up!” They tell me. I thrust her out of the water and she cries. Why am I not crying? I’m in shock. I’ve done it. All my life this is the moment I’ve been waiting for. I look at Joe for reassurance and he’s sobbing. I joked before that if he didn’t cry he’d be in trouble! She looks so much like me. This little swollen-faced blue/grey creature covered in goo and she looks like me. They take her off me to dry her off and wrap her in a towel and give her to Joe. I notice a sense of urgency in the room that I wasn’t aware of before. Hayley throws herself up to her chin into the water, both arms reaching for something. The cord had snapped, which I’d never heard of before. It was so short that the tension had caused it to snap so my blood was being pumped into the water, the placenta still attached to me. Joe later told me it was like slicing my arm open and just letting it bleed. I didn’t quite realise the severity at the time.

Looking over at Joe holding our newborn baby I felt such love. But there was no magic moment when she was born, no Hallelujah chorus or bright light shining down. Just raw emotion, shock and reality that I’d just had a baby. Five or so minutes after giving birth I was still in the pool. The midwife I didn’t know that kept popping in and out came and stabbed me in the arm with a needle, before she told me that it was to speed up the placenta delivery. I felt something metal on the floor and picked it up to ask the midwives what it was. It was the clamp that was supposed to be attached to my part of the umbilical cord, it had fallen off! Whoops, they popped it back on and helped me out. Each step felt like climbing a mountain and I was told to put my feet flat on the floor so I didn’t trip over. I was wrapped up and laid down on a bed type thing to deliver the placenta. I was shaking, pure adrenaline was pumping through my veins and I was still having mild contractions.

Knees up, feet flat together, let your legs drop. Hayley was getting a good view up my lady bits. She touched me and tugged gently on the cord to help the afterbirth come out. I jumped out of my skin each time she put even a finger on me. “You’re so sensitive” she said. No shit, a tiny human just forced its way out my vagina only minutes before. I had to push a couple of times because the injection hadn’t quite taken and I’ll be honest I didn’t even feel the thing come out. It was huge, I asked to see it because I was curious, it was in a big silver tray thing they use during operations and looked like liver. Apparently, usually the bigger the baby, the bigger the placenta they live off.

Now to assess the damage as Hayley kindly put it! I’d had a second degree tear which was worse than a 1st but not as bad as a 3rd or 4th, so I considered that a win. A 2nd degree is where you tear through skin and muscle. The perineum (between the vagina and anus) is the bit that takes the pressure and I’d heard it described as ‘pulling apart wet tissue paper’. I’d have to wait 45 minutes for a bed from the delivery suite to be made available to come down to the birth centre and because it wasn’t too severe Hayley could stitch me up herself.

While we waited, Baby Girl was given to me for her first feed. I’d opted to breastfeed so my bikini top was removed and I was officially starkers now. They helped me latch her on for the first ever time and she fed straight away. It was beautiful, such a fantastic bonding moment that I’d recommend any new mother to experience even if you decide to only breastfeed once. The female doctor that had been watching my birth came over at this point. She was crying and thanked me for letting her share in my experience. I felt so proud that mine was the first natural birth she’d seen and grateful for the emotion she felt.

I had a real good look at my baby while she fed for about half an hour. I took in all her features, noticed her swollen eyes, tiny lips and masses of hair! Babies are also born with no eyelashes but long finger nails and delight in scratching their own bloody face so they look like they’ve been near Edward Scissorhands in their first ever photos.

She was given back to Joe while I was put on a different bed. It had all sorts of pull out foam parts, so that my arse was suspended in the air, feet in stirrups and back supported on the bed. To add insult to injury, a huge spotlight was shined on my ruined unkempt bush while Hayley and Megan stare deep into the abyss. Joe stays firmly on the other side of the room, god forbid he accidentally sees and collapses into a pile on the floor.

By this point the high of actually giving birth had started to wear off. And by that I mean, that when you have a baby you experience such adrenaline that someone could come along, chop your arm off with a machete and the pain wouldn’t bother you. I was no hyperaware that not only was I getting stitched in my most intimate area but I’d have to be injected several times to numb it. My favourite toy, the gas and air, was handed back to me and I was told to ‘enjoy’ it. Taking several deep breaths to calm me down so that I could actually be injected before they started the procedure. I was as high as a kite. They injected me and I was laughing my head off. The room was a blur, I kept passing out and dreamt that a male doctor came in and was poking me about instead. I woke up and had that familiar drunk feeling. Apparently I was saying things like “We’ve just had a baby, can you believe it?!” etc.

Megan, being a student midwife was absolutely entranced by my vagina and was listening intently to Hayley narrating exactly what she was doing. She poked me and said “That bit is supposed to be over there”. That was it, I was gone. I absolutely fell about the place and decided that that was the funniest thing I’d ever heard. Half way through I noticed that I could see myself in the reflection of the shiny wall behind Megan. So I got to watch it being done, lucky me. Megan did offer to stand in front of the wall, but the truth is I was quite interested. I even got a good look in the spatula mirror when Hayley was done. She showed me different angles which made me feel like I was at the hairdressers, which must have triggered me into saying “Mmm yes, looks lovely, very neat, thank you!”

While I was led there, legs up, knowing my favourite parts would never be the same again, I looked at my daughter in the arms of my best friend and swore I would do it all again.

 

Darcy Athena, born 21st March 2016, weighing 8lbs 7.5oz at 9:24am. My angel, my perfect girl, worth the wait.

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Third Trimester

So the bliss of the second chapter faded slightly as the nausea and raging hormones of a 13 year old returned. My bump was growing bigger by the day. Several midwife and doctors appointments told me she was going to be a big one! I was excited to be soon meeting my little girl that I’d wished for so long. There was always an underlying feeling of surreality even as we felt and watched our baby kicking, I couldn’t believe that something this perfect was happening to me. Stupid, I know.

Mostly I felt knackered. The fatigue suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks and I couldn’t wait until my maternity leave kicked in so I could finally get off my feet and have a duvet day. I left my job on the 27th, just under a month before Baby Girl was due. I’d read that this was the right time to finish work incase she came earlier and also for any last minute plans to be finished. Although being the ridiculous over-planner that I am, almost everything was bought and sorted by 20 weeks. The wardrobe was stocked, my hospital bag was packed at 33 weeks, the nursery was painted and everything was in place for our precious bundle to arrive.

One thing we’d left off was antenatal classes. I wasn’t particularly bothered in attending any as I’d researched pregnancy, birth and motherhood to the extreme on the internet, baby books and of course, by watching One Born Every Minute 56 times a day.

(For any other One Born fans, here is my favourite episode http://www.channel4.com/programmes/one-born-every-minute/on-demand/50189-002 )

So we found out that our local children’s centre were doing an antenatal course and we booked ourselves on to the 3 classes. I met some lovely mums-to-be and learnt all about possible pain relief as well as a detailed look at breastfeeding. If you have the opportunity to attend one of these courses then do it, my mindset was you could never have too much information.

We found ourselves giggling under our breath during the hideous ‘labour exercises’ where you get down on the floor and try out comfortable positions. Although I took drama at school and my life long dream was to be an actress, the whole role-play situation did not appeal to me. I was forced to sit on a piece of loft insulation on the floor whilst Joe rubbed my back with a wooden ladybird massager hearing echoes of the instructor telling me to “Wave goodbye to that contraction, you’ll never see that one again”. In truth, that actually helped one of the mums I know during her labour, but I was too busy pissing myself with laughter when Joe tried to say it to me during contractions.

Towards the end of the Third Trimester come the “Have you had the baby yet?”s. I haven’t yet met a mum that didn’t feel like absolute shit at the end of her pregnancy. You’re so uncomfortable, pissing every two minutes, can’t sleep and desperate to just have this bloody baby. Your mind is an amazing thing. Giving birth, for someone who has never experienced it, is a terrifying thought. But suddenly your brain says, nope I’m fed up, lets get it out now. And you turn from being scared to just wanting it to happen immediately, the fear gets pushed to the back of your mind. I remember someone saying to me that I actually had to give birth, like the thought hadn’t occurred to me at all and they couldn’t believe I’d chosen to go through such an experience!

So there I am; Maternity leave had started, relaxed and ready. Bag is packed. Towels under the sheets incase my water breaks all over my badly timed brand new mattress. I’ve got two weeks until I’m due and I can’t venture more than 10 miles in any direction, making sure I’m close to the hospital at all times. We’ve done the classes, we’ve read the books. We’ve even chosen our name, though nobody is allowed to know. Everything is sterilised, cleaned, washed and put away. He’s ready. I’m ready.

And then it started. The first contraction.

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Second Trimester

After about 16 weeks, I’d gotten over my morning sickness. The Second Trimester bliss had kicked in. I was going to be a mummy, my little bump was on full display and I’d even started buying things. Work was enjoyable again. The hormones had settled and everything was perfect, I was happily bounding around on busy days and felt so much love for everyone and everything around me.

However, there is a few problems – or should I say annoyances – with being pregnant.

1. Goodbye personal space. 

Yes, really. Working with the public you get to meet different people everyday. Complete strangers would come up and touch my stomach with absolutely no prior warning nor invitation. On my particularly oestrogen filled days I felt like yelling “Back the fuck off!” or punching the intrusive bastards to make sure they never touched me again. Towards the beginning of the third trimester, I discovered a good hard look of miserable stoney faced anger seemed to ward of wandering hands.

2. Hello personal questions.

Along the same subject really, usually strangers would ask things that would never be normal in a conversation with a non-preggo. But for some reason because I was now harbouring a foetus in my stomach it seemed okay. Mostly I got the hilarious “My God, you’re huge! Is it twins?” and “You’ve still got how many weeks?! You look like you could drop any second!” followed by a gritted-teeth smile and sometimes if I was feeling particularly kind I might squeeze out a slight laugh.

3. The Horror Stories

Okay so this one’s a classic. Any parent who has had or is having a baby has heard their fair share of horror stories. Possibly the worst thing you can tell a first-time mum is how terrible it can go. So your niece Teresa had a 46 hour labour and the epidural didn’t take and it ended in forceps. Poor Teresa also had a fourth degree tear giving her faecal incontinence and couldn’t sit down for 6 weeks and not just for fear of staining the new sofa. Well thanks for letting me know. You know I was worried before but hearing all about Teresa has really made me feel at ease.

Enjoy it now they say. All those bloody smug mums. Because soon the Third Trimester hits and its all down hill from there.

One huge peak of the Second Trimester is the 20 weeks scan. We were just desperate to find out what little Baby was. All along we thought it was a boy. I’d been out and bought some unisex babygros. But also some blues ones… But while I was shopping I might see a pretty frilly dress and feel a sharp tug on my heart while my mind always said I don’t care what the sex is.

A feeling of deja vu as you lie on the bed, staring at the slightly larger now blobs on the screen waiting to see your child appear. Baby pops onto the screen in a perfect position to be measured, so the gender reveal would have to wait. 10 or 15 minutes that felt like forever went by as she measured Baby’s arms and length. Then showed us the spine, kidneys and even the chambers of the heart. What a magical time we live in when you can physically see your own child’s heart beating in real time. Although weird, I’ll never forget that moment. Baby is in a weird position for their head to be measured so I was sent off to have a wee to try and bring him/her into a better place. I rushed back to the bed, now desperate to find out what we’re having and once all the checks were done the sonographer turned to us and asked us if we wanted to know. I almost shouted yes, the suspense was killing me. Down the body the picture went, apparently between the legs, I couldn’t make it out… She checked the picture on the screen twice.

Three white lines. We were having a girl. I was so happy, I sobbed.

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First Trimester

My final pregnancy test showed I was 5 weeks pregnant. We were ecstatic! I was on cloud nine for a good few weeks knowing that it had finally happened. It felt so surreal, like I’d wake up at any moment.

I told my mum the day after I found out but swore her to secrecy until the statutory 12 weeks when we could announce it to everyone. We’d recently been granted a mortgage to buy our house and my dad, being the World’s Most Emotional Man, got teary over that. So four days after telling my mum, I announced “I’ll give you something to cry about Dad, I’m pregnant!”

Shortly after a few more family members were told but I tried to keep it under my hat because it all felt too good to be true. I needed that miscarriage rate to drop below 5% at the magical 12 weeks before I could stop holding my breath.

“I’ve had so many symptoms already, but I’m really bummed I haven’t had any morning sickness yet. I’m worried something might be wrong” I told my sister-in-law (to-be!). I’m a born worrier, taking after my mother, Born Worrier the 1st. Sod’s law the next day it hit me. Nausea, vomiting and generally feeling like I had the worst ever hangover lasted for nearly 3 months. I was never a breakfast person until I got pregnant! But if I didn’t consume something within 5-10 minutes of being awake my stomach just erupted. Amazing what a tiny thing the size of a poppy seed can do to you.

You see it in films. Women taking a pregnancy test, jumping for joy and seeing the doctor the same day to be told, yes you are in fact pregnant. I didn’t realise that you don’t actually see anyone until 8 weeks. So those first few weeks I felt really uncertain.

At 8 weeks you get your first taste of pregnancy appointments, woohoo! Almost a year of prodding, poking, pissing and personal information. Get used to it! Did you know there are apps nowadays, recommended by the NHS, that show you how big your baby is each week and how its developing? I had 5 of these bloody things. For some reason I was so obsessed I checked it at least 3 times a day, telling anyone that would listen that Baby is the size of a blueberry this week and has webbed feet!

The day we were waiting for had arrived. The Scan. Down to our local hospital we went, sat outside the ultrasound room I was shaking, close to tears and had a feeling of dread and excitement. Called in to the room, led on the bed, I was covered liberally in whatever freezing goo they put on your barely there bump. A few blobs appear on the screen, squinting we tried to focus and then boom! A baby is there. So obvious is this tiny thing on a black and white screen, wriggling and moving like a real human.

We turned to each other, tears in our eyes.

Thats it, its real. We’re going to be parents.

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