Labour pains. We’ve all heard about it. It’s probably the most talked-about pain in the world and many believe there’s no other pain that can be compared to it. Two babies later, what is my judgement? Well, let’s talk about my experience first.
I had almost the same experience with both babies… let’s say they were 70% identical so I wouldn’t need to tell both stories. I will the story of the more recent one.
Hubby says my babies like to be threatened with inducing before they decide to pop out. I really don’t know what they find so exciting about my womb. Ha!
To explain this better, pregnancy is actually 40 weeks. On average, babies are ready to be born from 38 weeks onward. Some are even born at 36 or 37 weeks and do just fine. After 40 weeks though, most doctors will like to induce labour because the placenta may be getting weak. With my first, I was told 2 days to the 40-week mark that I would be induced at the 41-week mark if he’s not in by then. He arrived early in the morning the day after the 40-week mark.
My second took his sweet time! On the Monday he turned 40 weeks, I was told I would be induced the following week if he hadn’t arrived yet. I prayed, walked around, tried to do what I could to bring on labour but this young man said naaa. I was tired physically and more especially, emotionally. I spent as much time indoors as possible and limited my interaction with people because I was tired of people asking when I will give birth. Hello? I am more eager than you are! By Saturday though, I was tired of being indoors and all the thinking that came with that. I followed hubby and our toddler to a meeting at church where I unexpectedly met a priest friend I had been thinking of calling. He prayed with and encouraged us.
On Sunday, we went to church as usual. Before we left home though, I had some loose stools but I didn’t pay too much attention to it. The whole week, I had felt every “unusual” occurrence was labour about to start so I was tired of feeling that way by then. After church, I had loose stools again, but once again, I ignored it. We decided to go to Shoprite to get some dates because dates are known to help bring on labour. We’d tried everything so I doubt I really trusted it. In my mind, I was taking it so that when I get induced the following day, it will happen smoothly because I had read that inducing did not always work as quickly as desired in some women. I took the dates somewhere around 11am and the rest of the day progressed as usual.
Around 4pm, hubby and our toddler were off to a meeting at church again and yes, I tagged along. Everything was fine at the meeting. I just sat at a distance while I watched the kids prepare for their Christmas concert. The meeting ended around 6pm. Hubby had a chat with some executives after which we dropped some members at home before finally heading home. It was during this drive that I felt the first pain. I dismissed it. Remember I said I was tired of feeling everything was labour? When it happened about two more times, I looked at the clock. It was about 7pm. Hubby was on night duty which starts at 10pm. I decided not to tell him anything until I felt really sure. A few minutes later, I asked him what he will do if labour started then. He said he will simply call his colleague to fill in for him. Then I told him casually that I was feeling some pains but I wasn’t certain it was labour. He said he’ll call his colleague immediately. I told him not to do so just yet. By 8pm, I was still in denial. Hubby looked at me and said with a straightforward tone, “You look the same way you looked the last time you were in labour. I’m calling him” PS. When hubby uses that tone, there is no argument. Hehe.
At this point, we decided to start timing. The pains were already 5 minutes apart and were lasting an average of 40 seconds each. Most materials you read about labour say this is the sign that you should head towards the hospital. But I had just started feeling the pains, right? We sat to take supper. I could barely eat (obviously!!!). At this point, the pains were now about 3 minutes apart. I think I finally realised it was time to get serious. Did I mention that I stay in Tema and my hospital is in East Legon? Hehe. Okay, so action now. Our toddler? He’ll go to my sister’s. Guess what? We had barely decided this when my sister walked in with her husband. She mentioned that they were in the area and her hubby suggested they pass by. Miracle or not? 🙂
I went to the room, picked my hospital bag and the few things I needed which were not in the bag yet. Hubby stayed in the hall to let them know everything our toddler needed. A little after 9pm, I was in too much pain to keep timing the pains. Goodness! Some of the pains were almost 2 minutes apart and I felt like I wanted to poop. Once again, materials you read about labour will tell you this is when you are to start pushing in the hospital. Hello? I’m still in my house with my hospital about 30km away. I found hubby and told him we had to leave immediately. We finally left home about 9:45 pm.
I lay in the backseat with two pillows, groaning at every pain and holding my butt, hopefully, to prevent the baby from dropping. Several police barriers later, we got to the hospital at 10:30pm. I didn’t greet, I didn’t look at anyone. I just walked straight to the delivery room. I lay on the bed as the midwife did the routine checks and then finally attempted a vaginal examination. She put on gloves and slowly inserted her fingers down there (Yes! 🤦🏾♀️) She reported that my membranes were bulging so it was difficult to assess. She needed to put me on a drip and then artificially break my waters. Yes, you read that right. I had come this far but my waters hadn’t broken yet. Thank you, Hollywood. 🙄
When she’d done as she said, she put on her gloves and was about to break my waters when poof! A whole lot of water came out on its own. Even the midwife was surprised. She went on to examine me and reported to the nurse, “She’s fully dilated”. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Like it was time to push already? Yes, yes, I was feeling the urge, but but….less than 5 hours ago I wasn’t even in labour! Sigh.
Pushing! Hmph! I gave the first push. The midwife was upset. A second-time mum pushing like this she asked? I tried again. Same results. I was tired, clueless. It had happened so fast that I was so not prepared for this. The nurse came closer to me. Thank God for her! She spoke to me gently to calm me down and then showed me a better posture to be in to push more effectively. I pushed with the next pain. She praised me and encouraged me but the midwife was still not pleased. Ha! I was told they could already see the baby’s head so I just needed to give it a bit more power. I felt so helpless. I asked hubby to get me some water. I pushed two more times. Then the midwife said I was not pushing well because hubby was there so she was going to send hubby out. I screamed no then she cautioned me to push harder otherwise out he goes. That did the trick. Hehe. Not all threats are bad after all. Two more pushes later, at 11:15pm, my second born had arrived.
He was put on my chest for the first skin-to-skin bond with mum after which the nurse began to suction the water he had taken in out of him. It took a tad too long as compared to our first and hubby and I watched quietly obviously praying in our head. Finally, he gave the first feint cry and we sighed.
He was weighed. 4kg! My first was 3.1kg at birth. I couldn’t believe I had just pushed out a 4kg baby (The average is around 3.5kg). I was so grateful to God that I didn’t know this beforehand otherwise, it would have affected my confidence greatly. I had had a little tear so I was stitched up and got set to begin my 6-week “menstrual flow”. Yes, after birth, you bleed for about 6 weeks; very heavy for the first few hours and then it gets lighter and lighter. If you are lucky, it may last for about 4 weeks. I’ll talk more about this flow in my post about the postpartum period.
So is labour as painful as we’ve heard it is from Hollywood to books to even idioms?
- Yes, labour is painful. It feels like very very severe menstrual cramps. It is almost as if your body is saying, “No menstrual pain for 9 months? Well, get ready now 😈. However, it is not a continuous pain. The pain happens for a few seconds, stops and then starts again some minutes or hours later (depending on the stage of labour you are in)
- Did I write stage of labour there? Well, two babies later, I don’t know what that means. With my first, labour started about 1:30 am and he was here by 7:45 am. That’s a little over 6 hours in all. Labour for the second like I have narrated lasted from 7pm till he arrived at 11:15 pm. That’s a little over 4 hours. It feels like my body either skips the first phase of labour, (which doesn’t seem very possible) or everything happens in a very short time or something. Anyway, enough about me. Hopefully, your body will be willing to go through all the stages. Expect pains that progress in intensity, duration and become more closely spaced.
- No, your bag of waters does not always break “whoosh!”, followed by a sharp pain. Don’t mind Hollywood. There are other signs like blood-stained mucus (which happened with my first) and of course the pain. There are also other subtle signs like the running tummy, feverishness (I experienced this also with my first), a heavy feeling “down there”, a lack of appetite among others. For someone who was eagerly waiting for labour on both occasions, there is no way I would have taken any subtle signs seriously.
- Pushing is serious work. It is not a joke. You are supposed to push hard like you have gotten the worst constipation ever. If you an expectant mum, do take time to get some resources online to guide you in this bit. Luckily, you do not push continuously, you only push each time you feel a contraction (pain) so you can rest a bit…or maybe not. Ha!
- Does labour end the show? No, no and no! Like this is my most important point. Labour does end and the baby arrives and you will be happy to see your baby. But that is just the beginning of the postpartum period which I will say at the top of my voice that it is not given enough attention. I will describe labour as a painful experience which eventually ends. The postpartum period is painful, tiring, draining, and does it really end? Hehehe. I guess it gets better. The thing is even with the mother who has the best postpartum experience, it can be very overwhelming. It’s no wonder those who have the worst can end up in a full-blown postpartum depression. But knowledge is power so knowing what to expect after your baby is finally here will help you prepare your mind better for it. I will share that in my next post.
Questions? Comments? Got a labour story to share? Do leave them in the comments below.