When my husband Martin and I first started dating, I told him in no uncertain terms that I didn’t want children. I was so afraid of the pain of childbirth.
Fast-forward three years into our marriage, I was 39 weeks pregnant and still absolutely petrified of labour. We’d attended antenatal classes where I asked the instructor, “If the pain is so bad, why don’t woman faint during labour?” She didn’t really give me a satisfactory answer! I was also the only one who didn’t stay to watch the labour videos. I didn’t want to see or know. Ignorance was bliss.
It came as quite a surprise therefore, when I went into labour at 39 weeks, how calm I was about the whole thing. I had attended a function the night before but felt really “off” and left soon after it started, arriving home around 8pm. I went to the toilet and was a bit horrified to find a mess in my undies. I told Martin and he excitedly said that was my “show”. Just as well someone was listening in antenatal classes, I think my brain tuned out anything gross. We decided to get an early night which was just as well as the contractions started about 10.30pm.
It felt like period pain, and I was no stranger to that. The adrenaline started pumping as I realised this could be IT! I got up and popped a couple of panadol and filled a hot water bottle. I went back to bed and tried to sleep between contractions, knowing I would need the energy and strength. When the contractions got closer together and more painful, I ran myself a bath. The moment I got in, I felt a sharp prick and heard a funny noise. I jumped back out of the bath with a start, thinking maybe I’d made the bath too hot. I soon realised that it was the sensation of my waters breaking and things were in full swing. I paced the lounge, practised my breathing and tried to let Martin sleep as long as possible.
Eventually the pain got so bad that I was on my hands and knees on the floor, rocking and groaning and trying not to think about how much longer this might go on for. I finally woke Martin up around 6am. I’ll never forget the way he sat bolt upright when I touched him and shouted, “What is it? What’s wrong?”. His subconscious had obviously processed that something was going on.
My amazing midwife Irene came over soon after 7am to check me out. She said I was already 3cm dilated (ONLY 3cm I thought, discouraged!) and that I’d done so well staying home and staying calm throughout the night.
She told us we could make our way to the birthing unit, about 15 minutes’ drive away. I hated that drive. The contractions were quite bad and I was starting to wonder if I would survive this ordeal. I half kneeled, half sat on the backseat while loudly encouraging Martin to drive faster. I also attempted to text my mum and sisters that I was in labour: “Please pray for me!”
When we arrived at the birthing unit around 8am, Irene had filled the birthing pool with water and encouraged me to get in. She’d turned lovely calming music on and warmed towels on the heater to put over my shoulders.
After about an hour I asked to get out, I felt a little like a hippo at the zoo. I got on the bed and asked for some pain relief. I said I didn’t think I could do this any longer. Only in hindsight did I realise that that meant I had reached transition stage and the baby was close to being born.
Irene set me up with the gas. It gave me a detached feeling – like pain was happening to my body but it didn’t matter because I wasn’t part of my body just now. The contractions were hitting me in an almost continuous wave now.
Finally it was time to push. I gave the gas back because I wanted to be completely present for this part. The contractions and pain felt different now. I screamed with each contraction to help push the baby out. The burning sensation (“ring of fire”) came as a bit of a shock but I tried to just ride the wave. Irene called Martin over and said she could see the head. I gave one more enormous push and the baby’s head was out. It felt incredibly strange to have a head hanging out of there. Again, I hadn’t realised that I would need to wait for another contraction to push the body out! That final contraction felt like it took an eternity to come!
Martin cut the cord and Irene placed Giselle in my arms, after telling me it was a girl (it was 11am). I was exhilarated and exhausted, thrilled, delighted, scared and overwhelmed, but the pain was already forgotten. She was in my arms.
CORINA ELDERSHAW IS A MUM TO FOUR CHILDREN (GISELLE, 9, LUCAS, 8, JONAH, 5 & EZRA, 2) WHO LIVES IN MANUREWA, AUCKLAND. CORINA WORKS PART-TIME FOR A LOCAL COMPANY MAKING BLISS BALLS. SHE LOVES TO BAKE, EAT SAID BAKING AND THEN GO TO BOOT CAMP. CORRECTING TERRIBLE GRAMMAR IS ONE OF HER FAVOURITE PASTIMES, FOLLOWED CLOSELY BY WATCHING HER CHILDREN SLEEP.
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Here I was, strangely serene, lying in bed on this beautiful Monday morning having had intermittent contractions for the past few hours. I’d sworn off having babies after number three was born at a whopping 10’4” and I nearly bled out. Never again, I said