During my first pregnancy with my daughter, I had zero birth plan in place. Honest to God, I didn’t really care HOW she came out, as long as she came out ok. I wasn’t for or against the epidural and my mind was firmly placed in the ‘let’s see how it goes’ camp. The beginning of my labour was pretty textbook; I woke up with slight period pain cramping at about 1am and by 11am they had reached the uncomfortable point that saw us make our way to the hospital. Once there, I donned one of those GORGEOUS gowns the hospital gives you and hung out in the room with my husband and mum and made a few excited phone calls to friends and family that this was it. The baby was on it’s way.
I’m no superwoman by any means, but my pain tolerance is pretty decent. I was definitely uncomfortable during the contractions, but it wasn’t unbearable, so when my obstetrician came in to break my water, he asked if I wanted the epidural. Seeing as this was my first baby and I really had no idea what to expect, I said I thought I was going ok. My mum and husband looked at each other and both said, “Are you SURE you don’t want it? Maybe you should….” But a midwife chirped in right at that point and said, “Look sweetie, if you’ve gone this long without one, you’ll make it to the end no problems.” And that was that.
And then it happened. It felt like all at once, someone pressed the ‘fuck you, smug bitch’ button on my body and I felt – and this is the only way I can describe it – like I was about to shit a bowling ball. Even now, when I close my eyes, I can feel it. I was sucking on the gas like nobody’s business and was so breathless at that point that I started playing the most desperate game of charades you’ve ever seen which involved me poking an imaginary needle into my back, only to hear the words so many labouring women dread, “It’s too late. Time to start pushing.”
If I‘m being completely honest, part of me chose not to have the epidural because I wanted to see if I could actually do it. I think because the contractions didn’t feel as painful as I’d expected, I thought the actual transition and pushing part would be similar.
The thing that I regret about not having the epidural was the loss of control I felt through those last couple of hours and with that, a lot of my memory of that time is gone. I remember pushing and pushing for what felt like hours (in reality it was about two) and my obstetrician telling me to focus my energy into pushing and not screaming. I remember being told my baby’s heart rate was slowing. And I remember having my legs belted into the stirrups while a vacuum was inserted into my vagina to pull her out. I remember the burning of her head coming out and then, probably in an attempt to bring me back from wherever I was, I remember my obstetrician saying, “Melissa! Melissa…. look down and grab your baby.”
And there she was. A squirming, crying, tiny little baby, arms outstretched and still half inside me. I scooped my hands under her armpits and pulled her out onto my chest and for the next half hour, just lay there in total shock over the enormity of what just happened; partly because I had just become a mother and partly because of what my body had just been through. I think I had idealised childbirth in my mind to be this incredible experience that was going to be the most beautiful moment of my life – but it wasn’t. Pulling her onto my chest was the greatest, but the actual birthing bit was so much more distressing than I expected. I felt really guilty about feeling this way for a long time and I still often think that if I had taken the epidural, the whole experience may have been a more calm and joyful one than it was.
Snezana Markoski recently joined Monty On the Couch and spoke about her daughter Willow’s birth, which you can watch below.
You can watch our entire chat with Snez below or if you prefer to watch them in smaller chunks, head here.
Megan Gale spoke to us about how her birth plan with her first son River went straight out the window in the podcast below. Have a listen, then head here to subscribe for more chats with incredible women.