I don’t really know where to start with my birth story. It wasn’t a particularly terrible birth. I didn’t almost die and wasn’t at immediate risk of losing Beans. However, it was a bit shit and I am not sure I like thinking about it too much.
Pregnancy was tough. Purely emotionally, as physically I had never been healthier. I didn’t have gestational diabetes, symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), or high blood pressure. There was a touch of carpal tunnel that meant I couldn’t knit for a couple of months, but other than that, not a single issue. I had been spotted as a risk for emotional issues due to past problems involving eating and anxiety disorders. Luckily, due to a fabulous local mental health team, I was given a mental health midwife who was 1:1 with me, a psychotherapist, and the offer of medication should I want it. Of course, the very thought of putting chemicals in my body after years of miscarriages was an utter anathema, so the drugs were a no-go, but I saw the therapist a few times and really liked the no-nonsense attitude of my midwife after I found the normal ones somewhat lacking in compassion.
Towards the end of the pregnancy, I was a wreck. I struggled with several panic attacks each day, compounded by well-meaning people asking if the baby was here yet. To me, there wasn’t going to be a baby. In utero, and for over 24 hours after Beans’ birth, she was known as ‘Blob.’ You can’t really become too attached to a blob, can you? So many people ask me whether her nickname of Beans came from seeing her on the scan for the first time (Beans is just a rhyme on her middle name). Sorry, there’s no heartwarming story of instant attachment and a sweet nickname that forever stuck! I called her Blob as a way of protecting myself from the loss that would surely come. We all know what became of my five previous pregnancies. There were no babies to cuddle at the end of those pregnancies, so why would there be a baby at the end of this one?
Yes. There was a heartbeat at that first scan. It was still there at the second, after the bleed. It was still there with the bastard vicious needle they dug into the placenta, through my tummy, to check the chromosomes. At 14 weeks, when they struggled to find a heartbeat with the Doppler and I rang my headteacher sobbing, they not only saw it on the scan but P saw her flinging herself around, actually kicking herself off the walls. At 19 weeks, when they did the anatomy scan, everything was present and correct and in the right places. Even at the private scans, she was grumpy at being woken up (as she still is, although she doesn’t seem to be so worried about waking mama up!) and that heart was still pounding away, sounding like a dubstep rave inside of me. Everybody around me became more and more excited about the baby who was about to join our family, but I couldn’t. I didn’t dare.
Beans threatened to come a little sooner than she should, but only by a month, so nothing hideously scary. She was head down and engaged from seven months and I would get regular bouts of contractions that would come, build, and then dissipate into nothing as soon as I started timing them! Sod’s law, eh? Whilst I’m so glad that Beans waited a while longer to be born, that in itself was quite tough. I was a wreck in the last few weeks, awaiting that moment to grab the bags and run up the road to the hospital. All around me, the girls who were due ahead of me started to have their babies. I cannot express the sheer anger I felt towards those poor women and their babies as I wished them congratulations through gritted teeth.
My due date came and for the first time in a while, I felt a little more at peace. A tiny bit of zen in all the crazy. It only lasted a day before I was thrown back into hormonal rage at the cowbags who dared to have their babies before me. (I’m sure you know who you are, and I love you dearly, but at the time I wanted to punch you all in the face!) I had always been pretty convinced I was going to have a stillbirth but, now that I was overdue, it was definitely going to happen. After all of the months of contractions, I suddenly had nothing. It was almost like she’d buried down, saying, “Nope. Not coming out.” Three more babies were born. Fuckers!
I had a sweep on the Thursday which made me lose my plug. Despite knowing that there would be blood, I didn’t cope terribly well with seeing it as we all know that blood means no baby. After the sweep, I had a few tightenings straight after but nothing else. I also had a total breakdown at my midwife who very firmly told me that, unless it was an emergency situation, I would not be having a caesarian section. In front of P and the midwife, I told them there would be no baby unless they cut it out of me. Dramatic, maybe, but I could not imagine a live baby at all and c-section was, in my head, the only way my baby would be born alive.
Whilst I have never been a great sleeper (understatement: read as insomniac), I did not sleep more that an hour that night and got up to pace around early in the morning. The following night, I didn’t sleep at all and got out of bed at half-three to clean the house and make a carrot cake. I had George Ezra’s album on repeat, particularly the song Budapest. My mum rang me later that morning to see how I was doing and, to take my mind off everything, she drove me over to John Lewis (British department store) at Bluewater (shopping mall). John Lewis had been the site of so much distress in the past as I had started to miscarry #3 there whilst picking up some of our wedding presents. We sat in the cafeteria and my mum said that the next time we came, I’d have my baby with me. I looked at all the yummy mummies in there and could not connect the kicking baby in my tummy with a real baby whom I would feed and cuddle.
We walked around Bluewater for about four or five hours (including lots of loo breaks, because when you are 40+6, there is no room for any sized bladder), picked out a few baby bits in the remnants of the sale and, of course, spent lots of time in the wool section! We then headed home and I grumpily bounced on the exercise ball for several hours afterwards. P then popped on Young at Heart, the Frank Sinatra and Doris Day film, and I continued to bounce on the ball, tweeting all the time.