What I wish I knew before giving birth (Part 1/2)

Hello darlings, this post is a bit different, still health related, but not so much down the usual nutrition and lifestyle road…

Last weekend was the first birthday of my loved baby daughter 🙂 and here I wanted to talk about my birth story or, to make it less about me, about the things I learnt after giving birth to my daughter that I wish I knew beforehand, so I could have prepared better.

Out of the motherhood journey so far – making the baby, cooking it, breastfeeding, it, taking care of it… I’ve been very lucky to have had no issues with any of the steps, except for the delivery part hehe! Which was not what I hoped for. But like they say, children teach you that there are things out of your control, right? …so here you go, Eva, lesson #1!

Anyhow, let’s start!

As with everything health related, I loved learning about labour while I was pregnant. Even more so because it was related to me and my baby (how much more personal can it get?), so I read numerous books, watched videos and attended not one, but two, antenatal courses, such a geek 🤓

The point is that no matter how much I prepared, at the time of being in labour I was hit with lots of unknowns. And for a number of reasons, my ideal water birth ended up in a C-section due to stalling at 8 centimetres with a posterior baby, after more than 24 hours of long and painful contractions.

Before we start! This post was becoming a bit too long, so I divided it in two parts, here a summary so you know what to expect:

Part I

1 – Labour was longer and more painful than I ever expected

2 – Forget about Mama Earth, this requires a marathon-type of mentality

3 – Pain can make you forget all your learning and priorities

  • Stay at home as long as possible
  • Have a bath to ease contractions
  • Keep moving and changing positions, even if having an epidural

Part II

4 – Having a coaching team is KEY

  • Birth plans matter
  • The role of the partner
  • The hospital team

5 – What did help me and what I would like to do next time

Also, a little disclaimer, what you will read below are my personal experiences and thoughts, the following “advice” is simply based in how labour and birth went for me and my baby. Labour and pain management is very subjective, and of course varies greatly for each women: while some women go through pretty straight forward and quick labours, or even describe it as “enjoyable”, others endure it like some sort of ultramarathon (my case I think!)

So.. here we go!

1 – Labour was longer and more painful than I ever expected

This was number one lesson. Labour started nice and slow for me at 4am on March the 5th, and I had about 12hours of regular but totally manageable contractions. I went grocery shopping, video called a good friend, plucked my eyebrows, cleaned the house a bit, and even had a little walk with another preggy friend. Basically, I got excited and got into “ready mood”, thinking I was doing great. Little did I know what was to come…

At 3pm of the same Friday, 11 hours in, contractions became more intense to the point of stopping what I was doing (having lunch with my Netflix-watch at the time), and thinking that I better head to the bath (in retrospective I realised that was waaaay too early!).

Contractions continued to be intense and coming every 5 minutes, so I thought, well this is progressing quickly. Haha… Quickly… When I was checked in the hospital that Friday at 9pm, I was only 1cm dilated.

What followed was a night of even more intense, 1-minute long contractions, coming every 5 minutes and combined with with vomiting too. “Yaaay”!

No need to go into more detail and bore you with the rest of the night, the point here is that the issue with labour is not only that contractions are painful (as if someone is squeezing your insides like a piece of paper), but also, they last for one minute each and, what was worst for me, it is non stop: this little 1 minute torment goes on for hours on end.

Basically, it is like enduring torture. Which leads me to my next point.

2 – Forget about being Mama Earth, this requires a marathon-type of mentality

While I was pregnant, I did lots of learning about Hypnobirthing. “Learn to breath, go to your imaginary happy place, relax, positive affirmations…” None of this helped me anymore when I was hours into the torture of labour. It was very painful and, to me personally, the best way of approaching it next time is seeing it as an endurance race.

I’m sure Hypnobirthing works, it is just that the pain level was so high and unexpected for me, and worst, so continuous, that breathing-through contractions just sounded like a joke at the time and something that was not helpful enough. Or just not helpful any more when I was +10hours in!

I have run two half-marathons, and I can say I enjoyed both experiences despite not considering myself a “runner”. The reason being that I was mentally prepared for its length and its “pain”. I trained and ran enough miles to know that, after 1hour of running, my body simply hurts. And that taught me to “take it easy”, keep my running pace slow and steady to ensure I still have physical and mental energy when I am half way in.

With labour, it might be a bit similar. It is going to be long, and it is going to hurt, so when it starts, don’t rush… Take it easy, use your “labouring resources” wisely and not too early on, like I did with the bath and tense machine.

close up of hands holding baby feet
Photo by Rene Asmussen on Pexels.com

3 – Pain can make you forget all your learning and priorities

Yep, this was one of the worst lessons. All my labour knowledge and preferences went out the window when the pain level was too high. I had enough work just by dealing with the pain and concentrating to pass each contraction and I could not think of anything else other than that (I as said, it feels non-stop).

I had a few preferences that I unfortunately was not able to follow, because neither me, my partner nor the midwives put them first at the time of labour. The points below are the ones I regret the most, and I believe they could have had something to do with me ending up having a C-section… although you never know, of course! but at least I would not have the thought of “what if” we did this or that:

  • Stay at home as long as possible – Despite staying at home for the first 20 hours of labour (with the first 11h being “easy”, I ended up going to hospital at 1am. The thought of spending all the night at home with that level of pain seemed unbearable at the time (and in theory that would only get worse!), so I ended up begging my partner to go to hospital seeking any form of pain-relief they could provide me with (even if it was a placebo!), to then go back home to continue labouring there. However, once I was in hospital , they had to monitor the baby for ages before giving me any meds, so that meant I spent most of the night there – and worse, alone (thank you Covid rules!); as my partner could not stay with me until I was in “active labour”, so at 4 cms.
  • Have a bath to ease contractions – I did have a bath, but it was way to early in the process. Water really helped me to manage the pain, but I should have kept that pain-relief weapon for when contractions really felt horrible (but of course, at the time I didn’t know how bad it could get, so much to learn…
  • Keep moving and changing positions, even if having an epidural – Despite my original preference was having an unmedicated birth, I quickly changed my mind once the hard contractions kicked in (so much for Mama Earth here LOL). The truth is that, after more than 24 hours contracting and not sleeping, the epidural was a godsend. I stopped feeling pain, just pressure, and I was finally able to rest and sleep a little, which I really needed. The only regret was that I stopped moving, I just remained sat on the hospital bed in the so-called Throne position, and did not change postures again. This is probably one of the aspects I regret the most, as I read extensively about how epidural can sometimes slow down labour and dilation, and I worry that this was a big aspect influencing on me stalling and ending up with a C-section.

Despite having an epidural and losing leg mobility, there are still postures that can help move things along, and I really wish I was prompted to do them. In fact, reading on this website, it states:

Since it is known that babies in an Occiput Posterior (OP) position can increase the length of second stage and the rate of operative delivery (Lieberman, 2013; Caseldine, 2013) the reports of posterior babies turning when the peanut ball is used may be a big reason for its effectiveness“. OMG, this was my case, I wanna cry! Such a shame I didn’t try this and ended up having major abdominal surgery instead.

This all leads to the next point: Having a coaching team is KEY. But since that is a long enough subject on its own, I will leave it here for now and continue in the next post. Until then, have a lovely rest of the week! 🙂

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