I breathed a great sigh of relief on my last working day prior to maternity leave. As I slammed close my locker and under-desk drawers I said goodbye to the 9-5 slog, piles of paper, endless emails and meetings galore. Setting my Out of Office message, I felt like a sly cat that had got the cream! I strolled out of the office, with bundles of lovely gifts from all of my thoughtful colleagues, both elated and relieved. ‘See you all in a year’ I shouted, perhaps a little coy, as I whipped through the exit door!
Yes, mothers count down to their due date, this is the most poignant date in their calendar from the moment that they discover they are pregnant. But second to that, is the day that they start maternity leave. Cue no more work for a year, cue relax time, cue baby shopping, cue it’s really, actually happening!
Week 1 of my maternity leave consisted of early rises to get my daughter ready (much like a workday, without the work that follows)! Following that a bit of cleaning and tidying and general sprucing of the house, with a mid-morning tea break. I came to have a certain fondness for daytime TV and planned a lot of my morning around the 11am showing of CSI Crime Scene Investigation. After this I would usually pop into town; albeit briefly, to get any last minute essentials and daydream about what life with a newborn would be like, whilst strolling around carefree and content. Picking my daughter up from school I enjoyed the novelty of being a ‘schoolyard mum’. Yes, this sounds like some kind of a tribe or movement, which in a way is true, but it was something I had not experienced having been a 9-5’er. I realized quickly that I was out of the loop and made an effort to join in with discussions, where I could. Nights would generally be early and I would get a good amount of rest and relaxation.
Fast forward to Week 3 of my maternity leave. I was extremely bored and impatient. There were lots of things that always need doing, but I really couldn’t be bothered to do them. I felt heavy and tricky and could not get comfortable. After re-arranging the nursery a few hundred times, straightening clothes a dozen times and checking my ‘go’ bag endless times, I closed the nursery door and steered clear. Housework was so tiring but I needed to get the house spotlessly clean in case baby arrives and people came to visit. God forbid someone saw my house looking unkempt! A couple of maternity appointments and lunch dates boosted my otherwise uneventful week of waiting and pondering when baby would arrive.
Fast Forward to Week 4 of my maternity leave. A routine midwife appointment took a strange turn. After being assigned as a low risk patient, the midwife advised that I should have been assigned as a medium risk, as Letoya, my eldest was a low-weight baby. As such I should have been monitored more closely. The midwife made a quick call and we were booked for a 36 week scan at the hospital the following day, to make sure that everything was okay with baby.
We arrived at the hospital that morning, expecting merely a quick glance at our growing little one and ‘the nod’ that all was okay and we could continue to wait out the remainder of the pregnancy as usual. Well, things didn’t quite turn out that way. The nurse began the scan assessing the normal measurements, with all of the critical points being fine. Then she came to measure the fluid levels. Suddenly she said ‘unfortunately your fluid levels are dangerously low at 11% so we may need to induce you.’ This was most unexpected. She paced off to speak with a doctor to confirm the course of action. What seemed like an eternity (which was only ten minutes in reality) passed and she returned and said ‘The doctor has said he would like you to be induced’. I was absolutely shocked. I will never forget Dan’s face, and him replying ‘what, now?’. Fortunately we were told that we could return at 7am in two days time, to be induced.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about being induced. Many things were running through my mind in that moment. Will it hurt more? How do they perform the induction? Why do we have to be here at 7am, surely I need a good sleep if I am going to be birthing a baby? As we arrived home, I flopped on the couch and considered the fact that we would have a new baby, for sure in 2-3 days. After months of worry that I would go into labour alone and have to self- deliver my baby, I had been told that I was scheduled to have my baby at 7am on Friday. It honestly felt bizarre. I felt robbed in a strange way. Like mother nature was being over-ruled. But, on the other hand I had two days to make sure my house was spotless, that my daughter would be taken care of and that I could prepare meals for the next few days in advance.
The following days went by very fast, with much to prepare. As I went to bed on Thursday night I was nervous, anxious and excited. Friday morning came around very quickly and after showering and getting our things together, we proceeded to the hospital. We were sat in the waiting area for around thirty minutes, until we were called to our cubicle, where we were again told to wait. Eventually the midwife came around and explained the process and what to expect after this. The procedure took a few quick moments. I can’t lie, it was not the most comfortable experience, but it was over in a flash. Now, it was just a waiting game!
It was so very strange to me, having had my daughter in just over one hour, start to finish. I didn’t have any waiting. It was go go go! Now, I had to pass time and keep myself occupied. Very little happened for about 3-4 hours. We visited the coffee shop in the hospital, had some lunch and strolled around, hoping that gentle movement would encourage some activity. At 4pm, I started to feel some light contractions, which were a little uncomfortable, but bearable. I listened to some music and read the news from the comfort of the hospital bed, willing the labour to start quickly. At 6pm the contractions got a lot closer together and more uncomfortable. After alerting the midwife, she advised that I was sufficiently dilated to start pushing. We went into the delivery room and the birth really stepped up a notch. After an hour of pushing, the midwife said ‘your bladder is full you need to go to the bathroom or the baby won’t get past’. How on earth you could use the bathroom when you can barely move is completely unknown to me! There was no way I was moving! Having just gas and air I continued on for three more hours until it was time to really start pushing. Dan was absolutely amazing through the whole labour. He stuck beside me, putting up with my endless whinges, fetching me drinks and snacks as needed and supporting me. We were both so delighted when little Ethan arrived at 10:17pm, a healthy and happy little boy.
Many people have asked me, is an induced birth more painful than a natural birth? Well, for me I did find it harder than my first birth, but I was extremely lucky with my first, as it was over in just over an hour. It really is so difficult to say, as there are so many circumstances to consider. What I will say, is that Dan was amazing and having someone to support you through, what can be a lengthy process is crucial. The midwife’s were great and supportive and above all, we left the hospital with a healthy, happy little boy (and a slightly exhausted mum!).