I’m not sure if there’s a proper name for this, but if there is then it’s definitely something I’m suffering from. Earlier in the week, I went for a scan to check the baby’s weight and growth. Before we went in, my boyfriend stopped to get us some lunch, leaving me alone in the car with my eldest son Samuel, who was happily playing with his plastic lorry in the backseat. My phone was dead, so to entertain myself I started rifling through the plastic folder I got at my first midwife appointment and found a pregnancy magazine to flick through while I waited. I happened upon a feature about the size of the baby at each gestational stage, which reminded me that by the time labour rolls around, the fetus is the size of a watermelon (As if I could have forgotten) The section on birthing brought me no more joy, with phrases such as “perineal tears” and “episiotomy” bringing actual tears to my eyes ( if you know, you know). My first labour wasn’t the greatest experience, and almost since the first moment I knew I was pregnant, I have been trying to come to terms with the fact that I’m going to have to do it all over again after swearing blindly ( as all women do) that Samuel was going to be an only child.
I ended up sitting in the car actually crying for a few minutes. The thought of going through labour again at times genuinely terrifies me. I know all women are nervous to give birth and it’s a perfectly natural feeling, but sometimes I feel my fear is excessive to what it should be. Some days I feel confident. I tell myself that it won’t be the same as last time and that all births are different. I feel ready to embrace being scared and come out the other side of labour. Other days my legs go numb at the thought and I feel as though I can’t breathe as the sickening reality that there’s no way to get out of this hits me hard.
To make matters worse, at our scan we were informed that although our baby is of a healthy weight and has grown and developed normally, his head circumference is above average, measuring the same as a baby at 38 weeks when I, myself am only at 34! As if I needed any more reason to stress, I’ve now been presented with the prospect of delivering a freakishly giant baby head on top of everything else.
The trouble with second time labour is, no one can re-assure you that it “isn’t that bad” or that “pain is in the mind” or that”everyone’s different”. There’s always someone who knew someone who had a painless, wonderful labour or whose baby shot out unaided and when you’re a first-time mum you can manage to convince yourself that you’ll be one of those unicorn women with the amazing experience.
Unfortunately, I can remember the pain all too graphically. I can remember my entire body shaking with exhaustion as I tried for four hours to push my son out, who had moved his head and got stuck in the birthing canal. I can remember begging the midwives for help and asking them to take me to the doctor, assuring them that I’m going to collapse if someone doesn’t do something soon. I remember being sent home without pain relief -after being told that I wasn’t in “proper labour” because I wasn’t screaming -and biting down on the wood of the cot in absolute agony as I suffered the most painful part of the whole ordeal in my bedroom. Back in hospital, I remember being taken down to the doctor, fighting the urge to push because the pain was so unbearable. I can remember her anger that I hadn’t been brought to her sooner, which sent me into a panic. After my son was born, I can remember having to have part of his sac removed by hand because it had broken off and got stuck inside me. I can also remember being put on a drip after bleeding, the wonderful moment my son came into the world totally eclipsed by terror as nobody would tell me whether I was okay or what was happening.
Now, of course, once I was cleaned up and had been checked over, the baby euphoria hit me and I catapulted to cloud nine. True, I felt like I’d been hit by a bus and I couldn’t breathe when I tried to walk to the toilet. I was absolutely knackered and still hadn’t been given any pain relief, but I still stayed up most of the night in the ward staring at my beautiful baby, so in love and so unbelievably happy despite the trauma I had just faced.
Despite, being over the moon at becoming a mother, I can also distinctly remember talking to Samuel on the first night of his life and telling him that he was going to be my only child and so he better be really extra amazing and do me proud. I was obviously joking about the amazing part but I was completely, deadly serious about not ever being able to go through child birth again.
Flash forward two years and mother nature did her bit in successfully persuading me that babies are cuter than labour is painful and that “its all worth it”. That instinctual drive to produce more offspring got the better of me and now here I am again, waiting with terror for the inevitable. I can’t wait to hold my new baby in my arms and feel that special feeling that only children can bring, but the process of getting to that moment is the focus of my thoughts for now. I know when it’s actually happening I’ll deal with it but in the mean time I can’t help but worry. I don’t know how normal this is. Other women seem more confident about their second birth having done it before but I’m sure I’m not alone at falling on the opposite end of the spectrum. I hope sharing my anxieties might help anyone who feels the same and of course any helpful words of advice or comfort from mummies of two or more would be most welcome!!