I have only felt like superwoman twice in my life. On each occasion I had lost all dignity, but I truly felt like I could do anything. The first was when I became a Mummy, to my little Ev.
On the morning of 3 February I began experiencing the odd twinge. The kind of uncomfortable is-it-or-isn’t-it twinge that’s actually a bit tricky to decipher as a first time mum. However, my due date of 1st February had already passed so I began to expect that This Was It. Westy offered to have the day off work, but I shipped him off in favour of a day with my Mum. We spent the day doing laps of our local Asda and B&Q in an attempt to get things moving.
That evening, I had established that these twinges were in fact contractions. I spent the night nervously timing each one, finding the advice to sleep through them pretty much impossible. My inability to sleep was compounded by an irrational fear that if I did so, a baby might accidentally pop out. If only it were that easy!
The next morning I got up early and waddled to the shower, deciding that I wanted to be fresh as a daisy should the main event occur that day. Stepping out onto the bath mat my waters broke. Now, in films, this usually happens as one messy incident that is then over and done with. Not so for me! Ev’s head spent the day acting as a plug, being released and pulled out at random, resulting in a constant joyous leak.
We traipsed to the hospital, where I was examined, scanned (as they thought Ev might have become breech – false alarm) and sent home with advice not to come back until I was in extreme pain and experiencing contractions every five minutes. The midwife, I expect knowing that I was a first time Mum, tried to explain that I really should be screaming in pain before we returned. So I was packed off with some paracetamol and aromatherapy massage oil to get on with labour at home.
I spent the afternoon at home, attempting in vain to watch Prison Break. But it soon became apparent that I just don’t deal with pain by screaming and shouting about it. I internalise it completely, to the point that I find it difficult to speak at all. Even to my desperately-trying-to-be-helpful Westy who was adamant I should eat a Spag Bol to keep my energy up in the midst of my labour.
My silence lulled Westy into a false sense of security, as he attempted to sneak off to bed (no love, i’m afraid I think I’ll be giving birth soon so it would be best if you stayed awake). He then decided that he MUST have a shower at midnight since he’d had a busy day what with being so supportive don’t you know.
Whilst he toddled off to preen himself, my contractions, whilst sporadic, were getting very painful indeed. I also realised that every time I went to the toilet (which was often; the small downstairs loo felt like a strange safe haven for me) it felt like my body was trying to push. Finally the penny dropped that maybe the baby was about to, well, drop. I rang the hospital and they advised me to go straight in. Cue much panic from my now freshly showered husband.
We arrived at the hospital just after 1 am. I tentatively made my way to the birth centre, feeling utter relief at finally being in the best possible place, and agreed to be examined. The midwife fished around, looked a little confused, had another look and then exclaimed that I was in fact fully dilated. Oh, right then!
Westy was promptly shipped off to move the car from the unloading zone to the car park and return with the entire contents of our house together with two bags of snacks. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him move so quickly. In the meantime, I was told that if I wanted to push that was fine. I was offered pain relief but declined, to this day i’m not really sure why.
I began pushing stood up, since I figured gravity may as well help proceedings along. As that became more uncomfortable, I realised that, actually, it felt easiest on all fours. And this is where my dignity flew out of the window. There’s really no way of feeling dignified with your bum in the air, but in all honesty I didn’t care.
Antenatal classes had mentioned the famed “ring of fire” and that’s really the part of pushing that I remember the most. As the point that Ev’s head was making its exit, I genuinely thought that the midwife had failed to tell me that she’d performed an episotomy (she hadn’t). As if to mock me, my labour playlist selected Alicia Keys “this girl is on fire”.
Shortly after, at 3.22am, our wonderful boy arrived. Pink and screaming and perfect. I leant back to stare down at this beautiful little creature, wanting desperately to comfort him, but having no idea how to even pick him up. He looked so delicate that all I could do was stroke his tightly clenched fist and whisper “you’re OK darling, I’m your Mummy”. As I finally picked him up, and held his little body close to mine, my playlist selected “it’s a wonderful world”, and I knew then that sometimes it really is.