On pain and labour

I've thought about pregnancy several times today.

In the morning I read an e-mail from a college-mate in Australia who is pregnant with her first. She's in a similar situation to me: two people that have started / are starting a family in a foreign country, going through stages that I remember going through two and a half years ago. She blogs, and when I read what she writes I think, yeah, I remember that.

Then a day spent with a friend who's got three children. I thought it was going to be crazy, but it wasn't! At some point I even thought, I could do that. (And that's a very new, very crazy thought to me, given that I regularly have meltdowns with my one here.)

Now I read Talia Christine's birth story and as much I thought, wow, I'm really glad for her, I also thought, mine was so different...

I remember the first stages of labour, or at least what I call labour - because by hospital standards I never went into labour, not even when they wheeled me up to the operating theatre the next day.

I was quietly grumbling through contractions in a dark room whilst The Man was trying to get the last few, precious hours of sleep. I knew it was early stages still and I didn't want to set the TENS machine high: I was trying to save the "high voltage" currents for the later stages when I'd really, really need them.

But the thing is: it hurt.

I'm not a wuss when it comes to pain. I can handle a decent pounding, say, in the form of muscle pain or an injured back or a headache. Tooth ache - hmm, maybe not, better not - but the rest I can deal with.

But those contractions... It was a sharp, whining sort of a pain that felt more like nerve damage, if anything, and I couldn't keep from starting to whine and, then, shriek. The Man woke up in what looked like terror almost, starting to muster together nurses and midwives and all they really did was to confirm to him that this is early still and they can bring paracetamol whilst every time the contraction came on I cried and yelped and shrieked.

They suggested we get into a bath and so we did. The whole night we spent in a bath.

At first I was quietly humming through contractions, slowly and steadily, in what I really thought labour would be like. On it comes, hum, breathe, breathe again, breathe again, it peaks and then it dies off. Over and over again.

But after a while the familiar, high-pitch pain returned again. It would start and I would try to be patient with it, and breathe, and breathe, but the thing is: it hurt, and not it a way any other pain I've ever felt hurts. It was that screech-a-needle-up-a-spine sort of a pain and jesus did it hurt.

Sometime during the night, I don't know what time it was, I started screaming again. Every time it came on I screamed because I would dig my fingertips into the side of that bath and wish for it to let me go already. Please stop, oh please, please stop I kept thinking to myself. And as the hours passed, I was so tired, so goddamn tired...

Almost every time a contraction passed I leaned back and slept, minutes at a time until next contraction came on and I thought, oh, god, here it comes again, please be gentle, oh please be gentle this time...

But it wasn't. Every now and again I'd get a weaker one, but overall they were still cry-and-wimper sort of painful, again and again.

At some contraction that medicine they'd pushed up my whoo-hoo shot out and from then on labour eased again and I could breathe, but they got me to get out of that bath again because along with pain I also started to lose contractions.

Once on the dry table, and it was something like 7 in the morning then, it started to build again. On and on it went. Breathe, breathe, breathe I kept saying to myself whilst time passed.

An obstetrician came in, said she wanted to check me out. She did what they call "a stretch" - and I really don't want to go into too much detail here, but in the essence it means that someone inserts their fingers into your cervix and then pushes them apart as hard as they can, to see how wide your cervix "stretches" - and it is by far the most pain I've ever been in my whole life. I screamed - full-on, lungs out screamed all whilst she was doing it, which did not seem short, and just caught a glimpse of my husband who stood with his back against the wall, covering his mouth with his hand, eyes watering in horror.

That - that's the sort of stuff I remember from my birth. That feeling of being patient with it and repeating to myself, just work with it, work with it, breathe and work with it, but it just kept getting worse, so that when people started scrunching their eyebrows whenever they looked at the printout of my baby's heartbeat and suggested we get me into a C-section as this really wasn't getting anywhere, I was just plain relieved for it to be over soon.

And so as much I can imagine what it's like to hum and breathe and work with it, what I remember is screaming out in pain, over and over again, for hours.

Hmm, what a lovely thought to end the day with, isn't it.


  1. These are not really nice thoughts :(. And I can't imagine the pain, because I haven't given birth yet, but still... when I read about "the stretch" - it sounds like a rape to me :(.

  2. Been there with my first birth experience, it also ended up in a C-section after 4 hours stuck at 9cm with baby posterior (they didn't tell me that was why it hurt so much till after). The pain continued despite an epidural, that only took on one side and I was, like you screaming. When they did the "this isn't going anywhere" speach, my reaction was along the lines of "about bloody time". My second experience with birth, while still not ideal was a great deal better, so there is hope that if you do go down that road again that it may not be anywhere near as bad.

    1. What, do you think, made a difference?