On the launch day of Save the Children’s virtual clinic (Build it for Babies ), I thought it appropriate to share with you my birthing story in support of raising £1m to build essential clinics in rural Bangladesh. Was my birthing experience really so bad? In comparison the answer can only be no.
In 2009, I was told that I probably wouldn’t have children. Not the best news to hear when in you are in your early 30’s and assuming that the next chapter in your life consists of wedding bells and nappies. This happens to other women, right? Not so.
My husband said we could get a dog. He meant well. Today, we don’t have a dog but we do have a baby!! Mother nature decided that she would go against the grain and give us a helping hand.
After a fantastic Italian wedding just outside of Venice and a romantic honeymoon at Lake Garda and Verona, we headed home to London with me feeling a bit, well, ropey. After telling my husband that my boobs felt like a butcher had hacked them off with a blunt knife he whispered to me from the across the room..”are you pregnant?”. We both just sat and stared at each other. It was the best wedding present we could ever have wished for in all the world!
Bambina was due on 22nd May 2011. The mediterranean in her had other plans. The midwife told me that “it” (we didn’t find out what we were expecting) was going to be on the large side so I should probably leave the place that pays my bills a week earlier than planned. I did.
With three weeks to go, I walked up to stairs, I ate curry, I had sex (if you could call it that!), I ate pineapple and I drank raspberry leaf tea until it was coming out of my ears! Bambina stayed where she was. The due date came and went and I walked more, up and down stairs, up and down hills. I watched TV bent over on all fours and bounced on that flipping gym ball so much that I’m surprised I didn’t give myself concussion!
Two days late, five days late, eight days late. Still no sign. I remember going to the hairdresser and I was HUGE. The girl asked me when I was due and went pale when I told her “over a week ago”.
If I lived in Bangladesh I would have been working in rice fields until my waters broke, fourteen hours a day. But what if my waters wouldn’t break? What would I do? There is no induction, no help nearby, no support or advice. I would probably go so late that the child would die and be born still birth by the body expelling it. Or, I may die too.
I went to hospital to be induced when I was ten days late. The first time I was induced it didn’t work. I had some pain but nothing worse than a period pain. I was induced again six hours later. That kind of worked, enough that I had to put on the tens machine. Which, my husband decided to play with whilst it was still attached to me, cue electrocution by birthing tool! Six hours later I was induced for the third and last time. Other women had been and gone and I was still there, being electrocuted, as you do.
I remember the sweltering heat as I walked around the hospital car park in my pyjamas. Could I have done that if it was forty plus degrees? If I was in Bangladesh I would have to. I would have to cope, to work, to continue to raise my other children, mourne the ones I had already lost, take care of my husband, look after my house, well, hut. And we think that we multi-task! All of this whilst trying to fight the fear that the child you’re about to deliver may not live in this world for more than an hour.
At 10pm on 3rd June 2012, I was taken to the labour ward to have my waters broke. The pain started immediately but surprisingly it was fine. Doable. Bearable. After a few hours I was really feeling it. After having to forego the luxury of a birthing centre because I was so overdue, I was determined not to have drugs. However, once six hours had passed I still hadn’t dilated so the registrar suggested that I consider and epidural and santonin drip to bring the labour on faster.
I agreed and as soon as the epidural went in it was like angels came and tickled their tiny gold dust fingers all over my body and with one gracious little poof, the pain was gone. I slept until 6am when the registrar came back for a check up. Great! I had detracted one centimeter. I was going backwards!!
My husband let out a shriek and the registrar lifted my gown. I had swelled. EVERYWHERE. I could barely move my hands or feet. My joints were triple the size. They almost cut off my wedding ring but I was damned if I was going to give birth without it on!!
I had a choice to make; wait a few more hours or go to surgery. It was a no-brainer. My husband looked great in the blue overalls, all dark and mysterious under his little blue hat. It has been a long long long night, or two nights, and I was having severe convulsions and body shakes from the epidural wearing off. My legs had to be strapped to the surgery table.
The screens went up. The tools came out and the nurse told me that I would feel some pulling. it was totally harmless. I couldn’t believe we had reached this stage. Within seconds we would have the baby that mother nature gifted to us and we held on tight for the next few minutes. Then, with one last pull, the doctor announced that the baby was out and all looked fine. I remember wondering why I didn’t cry straight away. They held the baby up over the screen but I couldn’t see.
“It looks like me!!” the Italian shouted, excited. “But what it is it?” I slurred. “It’s a …It’s a giirrlll….” and with that the tears welled and be both cried. I was exhausted, drugged, emotional but what I remember the most of those few minutes was how happy my husband was. I don’t think I will ever forgot the expression on his face. Its like I’ve bottled that expression and stored it away somewhere very safe.
The doctor wished us congratulations and leaned toward me and said “just so you know, there is no way you would have been able deliver this baby on your own. She’s not small”.
In the recovery room, she weighed in at 10lb4oz. At 7.55am on Saturday 4th June 2011. Healthy, happy and here. Wanted and needed more than the air that I breathe every day. Loved with every ounce of our souls. She was ALIVE. If she was born in Bangladesh, she might not be.
The women in Bangladesh don’t have the luxury of being induced or of having check ups at a local hospital or clinic. They don’t have the luxury of birthing tools, pools or centres. Worst, they don’t have the luxury of holding their baby in their arms and knowing, just knowing, that they are all well and safe. That from that day forward, everything will be ok. They don’t have that luxury.
So, you’ve spent the last, what, ten minutes reading this post. Extend that by a further five minutes to check out the Save the Children website to find out how you can get involved. Then, get involved… do something to change this situation. NO CHILD WAS BORN TO DIE.