I can’t believe how lucky I am. Two days ago, I was facing induction, and two hours ago, contemplating an epidural. Now I’m floating around in a warm, deep birthing pool, listening to Palestrina and chatting and laughing with OH. When the midwife asked what I wanted for analgesia, I was surprised to find myself reverting to my original birth plan, but the gas and air is marvellous. It takes the edge off my contractions and makes me not care about the pain.
I was admitted to the birthing centre at 6 pm, and got in the pool at seven (it would have been sooner, but apparently the midwife forgot to put the plug in). Now it’s 8 pm and shift change time. The new midwife asks whether I’d like to give birth in the pool. I hedge my bets, because I assume I’m nowhere near fully dilated yet. At the water birth class, we were advised against using the pool too early. Seven hours (one hour per cm, plus an hour pushing) is a long time to spend in the water, and apparently most women want to get out at some point. Then they find the pain harder to manage and end up on drugs that mean they can’t go back in again. I’m OK with the idea of switching from water to diamorphine, though. After all, this is my one legal and safe opportunity to try heroin. 😉
I think about this a little later, when the contractions become more painful, but I don’t relish the thought of having to leave the pool and wait 20 minutes for an injection to kick in. I count through each contraction in time with the music, knowing that by the time I reach 12, on Entonox, the pain will have started to subside. Soon it isn’t 12, it’s 20. But after just a few hours on the unit, I’m surprised by what happens next. “I want to push!” I shout, coming off the gas and air abruptly. “Call the midwife!”
Somewhere along the line, probably from watching One Born Every Minute, I’d got the idea I needed permission to push. I thought the midwife would examine me, then give directions. But she tells me just to go with my body, which is terrifying. I don’t know if I can trust myself to get this right. For a couple of contractions, I’m too scared to push at all (the midwife offers some reassurance by sticking a mirror in the water and saying she can’t see any cervix). Then there’s the one where it doesn’t quite work because I’ve forgotten that I need to be breathing out, and that it’s not possible to breathe out while sucking on Entonox. But finally, it happens. It doesn’t feel as though pushing as hard as I can will do anything, but after a few seconds, something deep inside me takes over. I am astounded by the unearthly noise that fills the room – it starts off as a moan of pain, goes through a severely constipated grunt and ends up as a piercing scream. I’m half expecting to be told off (this is also something I’ve seen on One Born – you’re supposed to use all your energy on pushing, not screaming) but the midwife says I’m doing marvellously.
It feels as though it only takes a few contractions. First the midwife says our baby has a good head of hair. Then the head is out, and OH and the student are scrambling to switch places so OH can catch her. Then (I’m not conscious of any stinging, but I really don’t like the way this stage feels) I push the body out quickly, and an actual baby is floating across the pool. Our daughter is born at 10.25 pm, 4.5 hours after I was admitted, to Lauridsen’s O magnum mysterium.