A few weeks before Baby L came into the world, Hay and I did a joint post on our experiences of pregnancy with a Q&A. This went down pretty well with those that read it, with many commenting that it was cool to see both the male and female perspective on the same question. With this in mind, I managed to rope the missus in again for another Q&A, only this time focussed on our experiences of labour and birth.
We started writing this not long after the birth, but it’s been sat in my drafts for nearly eight weeks now. It’s crazy how quickly time goes by with a little one and how many things take a back seat. Still, I hope that this post is of interest and shows the different perspectives that come with labour and birth, even if it isn’t as timely as I’d initially hoped!
- What were your expectations for labour and the birth?
Hayley: I was convinced that Baby L would be born after my due date. I’m not sure why, but I just had it in my head that it would be the case, particularly as people say the first born often comes late. I also thought it would be a really long, drawn out process, potentially lasting a couple of days. Everything I’d read and all the info at the NCT classes pointed to a slow, gradual build up rather than a quick birth. I was also convinced that labour and birth was going to be a quite horrendous experience from a pain perspective, but I was confident that I’d cope with this. I also had visions of everything being rushed despite it being a long process, like bags would be forgotten when we were setting off to hospital.
Dave: I was pretty chilled out thinking about the birth. There was still uncertainty, like when it would happen and how things would play out when in the hospital, but I felt pretty prepared for what was coming. As the missus said above, I also expected a long labour process based on everything that people had told us and I half expected that I’d have to leave Hay at some point due to hospital visiting hours etc. I also expected that Hay would be in a lot of pain, but I was sure she’d manage the whole thing perfectly and get into the zone and do what needed to be done. I was also expecting to shed a few tears during the evening, particularly as I seem to be getting more emotional the older I get (I constantly have tears running down my face when watching Long Lost Family for instance!)
- How did you feel when you / the missus went into labour?
Hayley: Very surprised as there hadn’t been any build up to the first contraction and because it was 2.5 weeks early. We’d had friends over that day and it was very chilled out, so there were no signs that I was due to go into labour. I was a little bit anxious because the contractions were very painful and only a few minutes apart, which went against everything we’d been told. There was also a degree of disbelief as I was convinced that I wasn’t in labour and that this was Braxton Hicks. I don’t think I really thought I was going to give birth until the midwife told me to listen to my body and push if I felt the urge to.
Dave: It came as a bit of a shock, but I soon jumped into action. We were watching a film and Hay was sat on the birthing ball when she was hit with a pain. It instantly came into my head that this could be happening, but the missus wasn’t convinced. I became more alert as soon as the second contraction hit within five minutes of the first. There was a moment of thinking that this can’t be happening yet, but once the third, fourth and fifth contraction came, it was pretty obvious to me what was happening, even if the missus didn’t. I was focussed on ringing the hospital to let them know what was happening and to get advice, as well as trying to get in touch with our friends who were due to look after the dog – obviously all in between comforting the missus who was pretty scared. I’ll also admit that I was a bit dismissive of the wife’s pain – with this being her first few contractions and having been told that it would be a slow, gradual build-up, I remember thinking “oh, come on” when the missus said it was really bad. I now realise she was very near to fully dilated at this point!
- How did labour and birth differ to what you expected?
Hayley: There was quite a gap between my expectations and reality. The overall process was very quick with the time between the first contraction and having a real life baby in my arms being just 3.5 hours! This speed was the last thing I expected! In terms of the pain, it wasn’t pleasant and I wouldn’t do it for kicks, but it was tolerable. The main thing I realised was that your body is designed to give birth, so just let everything happen as and when it wants to happen. It also felt like a fairly chilled out experience considering what was happening to my body, particularly post birth when we were left to our own devices once Baby L had been given the OK. I hadn’t massively thought about it before, but I actually found that the placenta hurt more than I expected it to – although that is probably something to do with it coming out the same sore exit as the baby!
Dave: I think the hands off approach came as quite a surprise. We arrived at 12am but didn’t see a midwife until 50 minutes later – this was blamed on the Super Moon sending more woman into labour than normal, but still it was a bit annoying when I knew the missus was in pain and we’d not seen anyone. Similarly, after the birth, the midwife cleaned things up, weighed Baby L, did the vitamin K injection and ensured both mum and baby were fine, but then she left and we never saw her again. It was not until 9am the next morning when we next saw someone in a uniform, which was probably 6 hours since the midwife had left us. This was a bit weird considering we’d never had a baby before and didn’t know what to do! As expected, I did shed a tear, but it wasn’t when Baby L was arrived. It was instead when the missus was in pain. There’s something pretty awful about hearing a scream of agony coming from the wife but knowing you can’t do anything about it.
- Did you learn anything during labour / birth that surprised you?
Hayley: I didn’t think it would be achievable to give birth without the help of pain relief. I’d been along to a pregnancy yoga class and everyone had talked about going through birth without drugs and thought they were all a bit crazy! But in reality, I managed with only gas and air at the very end of birth, which I think was more to distract me than to relieve any pain. So I was pleasantly surprised with how the body and mind can cope with pain and I’d definitely take ideas such as hypnotherapy into any future births. I also learnt that it hurts to sit down when you’re in labour, so I found the best position was on all fours! Something I wasn’t aware of was that you need to have three wees after the birth before the midwives will let you go home, so that was a surprise. I also learnt that it is surprising how quickly you get used to being naked in hospital around total strangers.
Dave: I learnt that the placenta is massive! I wasn’t expecting it to be nearly the same size as Baby L, plus it looked nothing like the fake placenta we’d seen at the NCT classes! I also learnt that it is difficult to take pictures of the new arrival without getting stuff in the background that you don’t want. When Hayley was in the shower and I was holding the little one, I was taking loads of photos of her and selfies of us both. It wasn’t until later when I was reviewing the photos that I noticed that there was a blood-soaked bed or after-birth drenched towels in the background of the photos. I also learnt that as a bloke, you are pretty much there as a spectator. I ensured that I gave the missus comfort, massages, support and a drink as much as I could, but other than that, it is her that does the hard work. There’s not a lot to do in there, and without phone signal, there isn’t much to entertain yourself. I even took to rearranging the different bags we’d brought, just to keep myself occupied.
- What were your emotions when the baby was born?
Hayley: I was in disbelief that I had done it and a baby was here. The thing that hit me first was the instant relief I had as all of the discomfort had disappeared straight away with the birth of Baby L. Yes I was a bit uncomfortable down there, but I felt totally relaxed as I no longer had a little head pushing on all of my bits! I was also very relieved that everything was fine with the baby and myself, and that she took to feeding straight away with no hassle. It was strange to look down and see a baby attached to my boob and several times during the rest of the night I pulled back the covers to check that I hadn’t dreamed it all!
Dave: It was a strange sensation. Something which felt like no emotions and every emotions at the same type. I was very proud of Hay for what she’d just been through, but a little bit apprehensive until everything was checked and signed off. It was great that mum and baby looked to be fine, but very weird that there was no longer a bump, but now an actual baby. It sounds strange, but it took a little while to link the two things together. I’ll admit that I wasn’t hit with this overriding sense of love and infatuation that we are told that we feel. In fact, the more people I speak to and hear from, the more I realise that there are so many myths with pregnancy, birth and parenthood that aren’t the reality. The idea of instant love is one of them and it took both of us a while for this love to grow.
- How did your other half deal with the labour / birth?
Hayley: Dave was very organised and in control throughout which massively helped me during the birth. Knowing that he had everything in hand meant that I could just get on with what I needed to without worrying about the little things. I was obviously pretty nervous during it all, so knowing that Dave spotted straight away that I was in labour and knew what to do was very remeasuring, e.g. ringing the Labour Ward and getting us to the hospital. He was also a huge support during the birth. Not only being there to hold my hand and pass me things out of the bag, but also things like speaking to the midwife for me as I was pretty preoccupied! Dave definitely made a huge difference during labour and birth and was a major contributor to ensuring that it was a positive experience for me.
Dave: Hay was awesome during the entire thing. Yes, she didn’t talk much and for some reason wasn’t laughing at any of the jokes I was cracking to try and lighten the mood, but I guess I can sort of understand that. She was so focussed and the best way I can describe it is that she went into the zone. She concentrated on what she needed to do and just got on with it. I was really proud of her, particularly as the labour came out of nowhere and it wasn’t something she was expecting, therefore it would have been understandable if she’d had reacted differently. The thing that made me laugh was that as soon as she gave birth, she turned back into her normal self and even apologised for the midwife for not talking during the labour!
- What tips would you give to others about to give birth?
Hayley: Try not to have any fixed views on what things will, or won’t, be like as it could set you up for disappointment. You can have preferences when it comes to things like the birth plan, but try to be flexible and go with whatever happens. The baby has a mind of its own and will do what it wants when it wants. You need to try to give up a bit of the control that you want over the situation and just go with the flow. It is great to get advice and info from the NCT classes and friends/ family, but take this with a pinch of salt. Everyone has different experiences and not every birth will be the same. I gave birth 2.5 weeks early and within 3.5 hours which was not something anyone had mentioned or what I considered would happen. Not to be gruesome, but it is like having a really, really big poo, only the baby is (usually) prettier 🙂
Dave: Make sure you have everything packed and ready to go should labour start unexpectedly. Be there to support the wife throughout and put on your best “I’m in control” face, even if you’ve already shat your pants. She’s going through something she’s never done before and the only thing that is safe and secure is your ugly mug. Put your faith and trust in the midwife who is with you at the hospital – she’s done this (hopefully) hundreds of times before and knows what is best for your partner and the little one. Also, maybe don’t watch any film with Leonardo Di Caprio or eat Oreo ice-cream sandwiches because I think one of those is guilty of starting labour early!
So there we go. That is mine and the missus’ views on our labour and birth journey. I’d love to say that it is a wondrous and magical thing, but chances are you’ll feel pretty dazed, confused and scared. Still, you come out of the experience with a wrinkly little human who will always be part of your life.
How was your labour and birth experience? Does anything we’ve said above resonate with you? Do you have any tips on how you got through the process?