It's only 9 months... but it feels like Maternity...

Now Known As Postnatal Oppression

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


I’m going to write this while I can still remember it all, as everyone tells me that I will soon forget. Although to be frank, how anyone could ever forget it is incredible.

The paracetamol helped a bit, but then I realised I’d only got enough left for 2 doses. I sent the Husband a text asking if we had a stopwatch and got a phonecall back immediately. “Are you alright? Shall I come home?” I reassured him again, but asked that he bring paracetamol with him when he finished his shift. It dawned on me that I might be going to hospital tonight, so I spent the next couple of hours solemnly putting a couple of bags of stuff together, feeling rather small and scared.

At about 10.30 the Mother in Law Cavalry arrived, bringing paracetamol with her. She stayed with me through what quite clearly were now contractions, coming every 7-ish minutes and lasting about 30-odd seconds. We watched Al Murray’s Happy Hour and Memoirs of a Geisha, trying to take my mind off things. And I got what must have been this here Show business (like no Business I know… Now gents, it’s going to get yucky) which looked at first like the end of a period (brown) and then like a big glob of catarrh with brown wiggles through it.

I rang the Labour Ward at around 11am, describing things to them and asking a bit of advice, and was told that paracetamol was fine, and a warm bath might help. The husband rang at the end of his shift to ask if I needed anything else, so I asked for chocolate and plaintively whined “You are coming home aren’t you? You’re not going to be late?”

At the change of the keeping-me-company guard, I was so relieved to have the Husband home. The show kept coming (blob… blob…) but as far as I could tell, my waters hadn’t broken. We had dinner and a bath, and I suddenly found that the contractions had slowed right down, to about 12 - 15 minutes apart, and lasting less than 30 seconds. While it was a welcome relief, it was also annoying as it meant that things weren’t going to happen that night. I accepted it all and off we went to bed again. The Husband was a star, rubbing my back and stroking my hand each time it got uncomfortable.

4am again, Monday morning – BANG – a big one. I hobbled quickly to the loo, expecting to see lots of dampness, but still no waters. They started coming quicker – 10 minutes, for 40 seconds. 8 minutes, for a minute. 4 and a half minutes, for 45 seconds. Then messed around again – nothing for 10 minutes, with a little piddly 25 second one. However, by 6am they were consistently 4 minutes, and about 45 seconds. I rang the Delivery Hotline and told them that I was feeling quite shaky now and could I Please come in? I was also worrying that if we left it any later, we’d get stuck in Monday morning traffic going through town, and this was getting to be no laughing matter. What worried me was, if this was how it felt and I had only just started, what lay ahead? Could I cope with it? The Husband reminded me that they have drugs at the hospital to help you with this, and I felt a tiny bit happier.

We got there at about 7am – the Husband was definitely not Observing the Speed Limits, but it was quiet and no-one seemed to mind. We’ve got a spongey Citroen which normally soaks up bumps in the road like a dream, but that was one hugely uncomfortable journey. And just to rub salt in, there’s an enormous speed bump right outside the maternity unit.

We were shown straight into a delivery room, which I was thankful for – I was worried that they would tell me I was making a fuss about nothing and make me wait somewhere with a load of other women going through the same thing. My first midwife Jillian checked me over, and most importantly did an internal exam and told me I was 4cm dilated. Thank F***, was all I could think. I had been dreading them telling me I was only 1cm or something, after all I’d gone through on Sunday.

She also told me that baby had recently pooed in me – and showed me the now green catarrhy stff, urgh – and that she couldn’t feel any membranes. This meant, one, that my waters had gone, but no-one knew when. Because his head was so low, it had either been trickling out gently unnoticed over the past who knew how long, or it had gone when I’d gone to the loo first thing this morning and I just hadn’t noticed – there wouldn’t have been a big rush, as his head was corking it all in. Two, that at one point he’d decided he wasn’t happy, hence the poo. Three, I thus had to be monitored the whole way through, which also meant, Four, I couldn’t use a bath or a birthing pool. Oh, and Five, I had to have some antibiotics on a drip in case his poo poisoned me. The dirty little monkey.

So that was half of the birth plan out the window then. Good-o.

She got me started on the Entonox (Gas and Air), which was quite good fun, although I only seemed to feel the benefits of it once the contraction had passed. I told her this on one of her passes in and out of the room, and she demonstrated the sort of breathing I needed to get it into my system at the right time. The Husband reminded me that it was like a scuba diving regulator and that switched my brain on, because I had been trying to breathe in and out of my mouth instead of in with my mouth and out with my nose, and then we were flying. Being monitored was a bit of a pain as it meant I couldn’t move around, but I quickly found that moving around was the last thing I wanted to do – sitting very still, very upright was more my thang. The monitor also really helped the Husband as he could clearly see when another contraction was building up and kept telling me when to have a puff, even though I couldn’t feel them coming yet he was always spot on, so I was experiencing the very strange sensation of being deliciously high and in pain at the same time.

Things were going nicely until the pains changed – they got lower, and more all round rather than just in my back. At just after 11am Jillian came in to check me and was greeted by an almighty roar, which I was half-surprised to realise came from me. She had a look and told me I was 8 cm dilated, asked me if I wanted any Pethidine, and that it would take about 20 minutes to kick in. I told her I wasn’t sure – depending on when they thought I’d be done by, maybe. She estimated around 1.30pm, and suggested a half dose of it, which I gratefully accepted at about 11.20am. I hadn’t known it was an injection that they stuck in your leg.. must have zoned out during that part of antenatal classes. I heard myself mumbling “Just a little something.. to take the edge off,” as it kicked in.

Time whizzed by… I could feel that the pethidine was making me feel warm and sleepy in between the contractions, but it was a small island of calm that I was very grateful for each time. The midwives changed shift, and Linda introduced herself. Her surname was spelt the same way as ours, she used to live in the same road as us and her son’s a police officer, so we were pretty much family from the word go. Thank god for that, because she got to see me as no-one else has ever done. I warn you now, if you don’t want to read the full-on gory details, stop here, and start again after the asterisks.


It was getting unreal now. I kept wanting to poo but I was afraid to – I’m sorry to say, nothing was going to stop that happening, and every now and then I felt gentle hands wiping away little bits, for which I apologised profusely and got told off for apologising. Linda made me get up and go to the loo, telling me that if I needed to wee, my bladder would block the baby’s head from moving past. I sat on the loo with her in the bathroom with me during a contraction but just nothing was coming out, so we gave up on that idea and I somehow made it back to the bed. I couldn’t get on in time for the next contraction though, so with the poor Husband bracing my arms from that side, and the midwife trying to support my legs, I heaved. My legs buckled under me at the end each time, and poor Linda kept having to get lower and lower to see what was happening, actually ending up on the floor on her back like she was inspecting the exhaust of a Ford Mondeo.

I think that did it for her because somehow she and the Husband got me back on the bed. I had a quick gasped conversation with her between contractions. “I’m really scared to push,” I said.
“You have to. You’re doing so well, you’ve just got to move him down” she replied
“I don’t think I’m doing it right… I don’t know that I can do it.”
“You can! You need to get angry though – don’t shout it all away.”
I remember wondering why my legs were being forced into this frog position, one each by her and the Husband. “This wasn’t how I’d planned it” drifted through my mind.
The next few contractions felt like I was crapping for England – it honestly felt like nothing to do with my women’s bits at all, just like I was really really going to have to poo him out. I kept being told not to shout, and to just use the breath to push. When I finally started listening, and realised about the sensation being a pooing one, Linda said “He’s got loads of hair! It’s really dark!” But how long was it going to take, I thought? Hair or not, he could be still miles away.
“I can’t do it!” I nearly sobbed.
“You are doing it! Get mad!”
“Remember when I missed the Christmas dinner!” the Husband’s voice floated over.
Oh yes I did - that helped a lot, actually, because Linda suddenly said “Give me your hand,” and I looked up at her in a mist. She grabbed my right hand from the Husband and shoved it under my bum. “That’s your son’s head.”
That did it. Now I knew where he was, he was bloody well coming out. I could see there was another midwife from out of nowhere and heard snatches (no pun intended) of conversation. “She’s got incredibly strong stomach muscles,” “Is this her first one?” “Yep – we’re gonna have to catch him when she shoots him out.”
“OK – I’m going to try on the next one,” I muttered.
Linda armlocked me. Here we go… She stared into my eyes “I need you to stop pushing now and pant, just like me.” I did as I was told.
“Andrew do you want to have a look?!” she said.
“No!” I panicked – a tiny bit of me remembering that I didn’t want him to see, but mostly I couldn’t bear to let him go, not right now.
After what seemed like an hour and what felt like a white-hot burning, everyone shouted “That’s the head!” I looked down and could see a tiny face. “It’s really small,” I gasped. I thought, “Where’s the rest then? I thought it was all supposed to flob out in one go?” (Later the Husband told me that his head was literally only just out, he hadn’t turned at that point which is why he must have looked small from where I was) No, that came with the next push. Still very hard, but now I had a purpose it was better. There was a sudden rush of warmth and he was out! They lifted him up and there was an actual baby, who started yelling the place down. “Do you want him?”
“Oh – yes!” I gasped. He was plonked onto me, hot and a bit wet but not slimy, and with none of that greasy stuff on him.
“I can’t believe it,” I said. I looked at the Husband. “I can’t believe I did it,” I laughed.
The baby kept yelling his thoughts on the whole subject. I looked into his face and after a minute he calmed down and looked back at me with an intense scowl.

About 5 minutes went by, and the paediatrician (who’d just popped in) took the baby over to the grilling table thing they put them on to keep them warm while she checked him over. The two midwives were discussing the placenta. “Is it almost out? It is.” They both turned to me. “It looks like you’re going to deliver the placenta naturally, so we’re going to help you do it.”
The one who’d appeared out of nowhere was called Sue. She started directing things. “I’m going to push down hard on your tummy, and I need you to push when you feel the contractions.” Eh? Why are there more contractions? I’ve had the baby…. Oh right, I see…
Unfortunately her pushing like she was kneeding the world’s biggest loaf made my bladder start working, and there was not one single thing I could do about it. “I’m so sorry,” I gasped, and got told off again for apologizing. “That means it’s working,” Sue said sternly. Another big-poo-sensation again, and this time a feeling like someone had emptied hot jelly under my bum. I wanted to have a look at it, so Linda showed it to me. It was enormous! They really seemed to like it as it was in one gigantic piece, and the wee had washed it all clean for them so they could check it easily. I could see the cord attached to it and everything - a nice Biology lesson there just at the end of everything else. Every day is a school day, let us not forget that.

Sue then checked me and told me that I had got a very small tear, which she would prefer to stitch. “I could leave it to heal naturally,” she was telling Linda, who seemed to be being taught this part (fine with me), “but this way we can make sure it’ll heal in a perfect straight line and we’ll have an intact perineum.” For the next few minutes she did a beautiful bit of embroidery, all the while explaining the technique to Linda. “No stitching your initials in there,” I warned.


And before we knew it, they had handed our baby back to me, and he was going for his life on my boob. Fair enough mate, after what he’d just had to go through it only seemed fair. I was told how much he weighed and I asked what time he’d been born – it had taken me just over an hour to push him out, which I kept being told was amazing for my first one, although it didn’t feel amazing or fast. I was also told that they very rarely get to see a Natural Third Stage, ie someone just delivering the placenta on their own – normally they have to give you an injection to make it come out a bit quicker – so they were thrilled with that. I kept being asked if I did aerobics – something to do with my excellent stomach muscles, they said. I know this all sounds like I’m being a bit ooh-get-me, but I bloody deserve it.

Austin Andrew Humphreys
12th March 2007 14:49 (A Pisces like Einstein, not an Aries like Hitler)
7lbs 3 1/2 oz (3.282 kg)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

THINGS are starting to happen.

I went to see the midwife during the week, who told me that my blood pressure and wee were "lovely". Then she had a feel of my belly and said "Oooh."
"Oooh?" I replied.
"His head's 3/5ths engaged.. I can't get a hand in there." She measured me with the tape measure. "Oooh yes. How far along are you?" she asked suspiciously.
This was a trick question I'm sure. "You just said I was 38 weeks."
She nodded. "You're 37 centimetres now. It definitely won't be long." As she finished up my notes she said briskly "Well, I'm on a study week next week, so I won't see you then. The next time I see you will be with Baby, so good luck, remember to keep as mobile as possible, don't let anyone do anything to you without your permission first." Having realised that was that, I gathered up my coat and bag and wandered out of the room feeling rather bewildered.

What? Eh? 3/5ths? How far in does this head have to be then? Does it need to be 5/5ths, or is 3/5ths enough? Everyone I asked said, "Ah yes - with second babies, the head very often doesn't engage at all." But this is my first. "Erm... not sure" came the standard reply.

What about 37 cms? "Erm... dunno."

Keep as mobile as possible? At first I thought she meant just generally, in life - which was fine - I'm active, I'll normally take the stairs rather than the lift, I like a nice walk, I try and exercise regularly. Then it occurred to me that she was talking about Labour. Hmmm.

I'd asked her about a bad backache that had woken me during the night. When I described it, (lower back, crampy, lasted for about a minute and then faded off, returned about 4 times over an hour and then just went away) she said "It was one of two things. Either it was your body having a practice run at going into labour, or you'd slept funny and woke up in an uncomfortable position. I would say it was the latter, seeing as you didn't actually go into labour." Funny sleeping position? Well all I can say is you weren't there, and it was no funny sleeping position.

This week, I have had odd squeezings and aches going on, none of which have hurt but they have made me pause, or shift about. I am assuming these are the famous Braxton Hicks contractions everyone is so keen to ask about. To be honest though, it could just old fatty Spawn shifting position, now that he's so scrunched up in there I expect it's quite a job to move around. I've also been waking up extremely early (for instance I've been awake since 4am today) and unable to doze back off. And yes, I have done a lot of cleaning and tidying. But not from any insatiable desire, it just needed doing and when else am I going to get the chance? Does that count as nesting? I thought nesting would be some obsessional need to do stuff, not just thinking "This place is a mess, I'd better get the hoover out."

And now today the backache is back. I had it last night when I went to bed, but ignored it and it went away and I went to sleep. Then around 4am - bink - it was back. The poor Husband was getting up to go to work at half four, so I lay there quietly without waking him and let the backache come and go. Which it did regularly, at dead on ten minute intervals.

After an hour of this fun and games (during which the Husband has gone off to work - I did tell him about it but reassured him that I'm fine) I'd had enough lying down waiting, so here I am, up before the birdies, trying to work out how long these backaches are taking, and how far apart they are. The Interweb tells me I have nothing to worry about yet because I haven't had a Show (jelly blob in my pants rather than No-Business-Like-Show-Business kind of show) and my waters haven't broken, and to just ignore it. Right you are.

Now I'm not saying they are, but IF they are the real deal, they don't feel like what I thought they would. I've read that they're like period pains, but this seems to be more round the back than a period pain. It's a very intense squeezing like when you've eaten something very dodgy and it's making its bid for freedom but you're not at the toilet yet, combined a bit with a period pain. I can feel it starting, then it sort of builds up and then subsides, and when it's stopped I'm completely fine again. I keep trying not to look at the clock in case it's just me being silly and thinking they're happening at set intervals, and by clock-watching I'm bringing them on subconciously.

Sod this, I'm going for some breakfast and a paracetamol.

Friday, March 09, 2007

I'm in trouble...

OK what happened was: I was upstairs in the study, sorting stuff out in there today (I was NOT nesting, I completely deny any suggestion to the contrary. Yes, I completely refiled about 5 years worth of bank statements, tax documents, payslips, work correspondence etc, and yes everything is a lot tidier and more accessible, but that's just sensible planning. Not nesting) and while I was doing all that I was lonely and wanted the cats to keep me company. Normally, they are not allowed upstairs, but I thought it would be alright just this once.

Before I knew it, the Husband came home from work and found Carrot (or Mister C as he likes to be known) asleep in the brand new, unwrapped bassinet that the spawn is supposed to sleep in (when he finally deigns to put in an appearance). He was sort of suspended above it as he was asleep on the plastic. I laughed lots until the husband threatened to tell on me to our mums and everyone else who has warned me that cats sleep on babies.

This is why the cats aren't allowed upstairs.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

There are some very strange people in this world.

Now please don't think I'm being pretend-modest here, or fishing for compliments/sympathy, or any crap like that, because I don't do that, and I don't particularly care either way. But objectively, I am not the kind of female who normally generates second looks or comments from the kind of men who think they have to comment on women.

Having said that, I have found that being pregnant I have attracted attention. And not just "oh-look-she's-got-a-fat-belly-oh-she-must-be-pregnant" kind of attention. I mean male looky-up-and-down, leering kind of attention; smiles and winks; whistles and comments. And it doesn't seem to matter whether I'm wearing slinky stretchy clothing or ginormous t-shirts, jeans and trainers. What is going on? Do they all have a Mummy fixation? Is it the large boobs? Or the fact that I've clearly Done Sex at least once? I'm not saying I mind at all, but it is slightly disturbing.

I have been reading a few babycare books that people have given to me. The main things I have learnt are:
  1. The best way to rear your baby is with Nazi-style drills with Reveille first thing in the morning, Von Trapp whistles and marching. When they're older you can give them syrup of figs for the constipation, and the unusual sexual preferences are pretty much the norm now anyway.
  2. The best way to rear your baby is with hippy-style no attempts to rear them at all, let them do whatever they want whenever they want and deal with the consequences in eighteen years when you're outside the town hall shouting up through a megaphone explaining that really they ought to put the rifle down now, but of course it's their choice.

I'm also doing my best to dodge the cults. It's started already - the 'well-meaning' "advice", the Hints and Tips leaflets, the tales of how well it works for them and their families... it's like having Jehovah's Witnesses leaping out on you in the supermarket, Mormons sending links to websites to your personal email, Scientologists sending you stuff in the post, and born-agains on every street, shop counter, car park and relative's house, all rolled into one.

Listen people, if I want advice, I'll ask for it. And, I know how to read! (Even if I say so myself, I'm really quite good at reading). So if I want to read something, I'll fetch it myself. And if I want to know how YOU did something with YOUR kid, I'll ask that as well. Otherwise, can we start with the assumption that I don't give a crap about your methods, and that you're going to sod off and leave me alone? Wonderful, thank you so much.