February 5th 2019
Doing It All
What it feels like when you're about to give birth
June 16th 2017 / 0 comment
As rumours fly that Queen Bey may be about to welcome her twins, Emma Bartley looks back to when she was a week off her due date for baby number two...
I think I speak for every mother out there when I say that the rumours Beyonce is in labour made me clench and unclench my pelvic floor muscles a few times. If you've been there yourself, there's really only one reaction to the news that anybody is about to give birth and it's *clench face emoji*
Here's something I wrote last year, around the time when I was sitting where Bey is (on a birthing stool, screaming).
This week I am a preoccupied facing the approach of perhaps the ultimate motherhood challenge, which is giving birth.
At 39 weeks and two days pregnant, I am more like a cruise ship than a woman; I can see fear in the eyes of those who must pass me on the pavement, thinking “Will I fit round that thing? Can I cross the road to avoid it or is that too rude? Will it crush me in its path?”
The baby itself has run out of room and is visibly - and uncomfortably - wriggling around, elbows out, pushing for space. The head is engaged and when I spent a portion of today hooked up to one of those continuous monitoring doodads (an overzealous midwife sent us to the labour ward because she was concerned about the baby’s heart rate) the chart showed certain “tightenings” of my uterus, which is to say contractions.
I know, right? Shiiiiiiiiit. I’m going to have to do it all again, only this time I haven’t spent the entire nine months reading books on birth, going to classes about birth, doing exercises to support the birth, listening to hypnobirthing CDs, and generally becoming an Olympic birth athlete. This time, I’ve spent nine months pretending it wasn’t happening, because I wasn’t sure I was quite ready to have two kids.
My daughter’s birth was relatively straightforward - done in a day, birthing pool, all that. But today on the labour ward I could see my vision of a natural labour slipping away from me. A bit like how old people don’t want to go into hospital for even minor reasons in case they never come out, at nine months pregnant I have a horror of the labour ward, because to me it’s a labyrinth where the only exit doors are labelled with terrifying words like “venteuse” or “episiotomy”.
And really, the birth is only the start of it: a metaphor for how out-of-control you’re going to be, now, forever. This baby is happening and I’m just the facilitator - the onlooker, going, dear God, let this child be OK, let me not screw it up too irrevocably. I’ve become “Mum” to the midwives (and the frightened-eyed people in the street), handing over my work identity to a 29-year-old man who can stay late in the office every day if he likes, and sacrificing my social life to relentless feeds and naps.
For now, I’ve escaped the labour ward. One of those brilliant, Jedi-like midwives who calms you down instantly just by looking at you told me that my baby’s CTG was “beautiful” and I could keep the straps from the monitoring. I won’t be needing those, I said. But I really don’t know at this point if I’m physically or mentally fit enough to birth this baby by myself. It’s a bit like I just woke up and decided to run a marathon, with no training, on the basis that I managed to complete one three years ago. It’ll be… a challenge.
Little update: in the event my second child absolutely popped out. It was under an hour from the midwife dubiously admitting us "because you're 4cm but you seem fine" to me holding my baby, absolutely unable to believe that she was with us. Beyonce's second and third labours might be done already.
But I still had a little clench on her behalf this afternoon, because while it's a thrill when it's all over, I know there will have been a point around now when she turned to Jay Z and went, "Oh no. No no no. Not agaiiiiiiin!"