After sixteen hours of being in labour, Nathan Coburn Miller was born.
Naturally, the relief I felt in the instant he was born was mostly due to the pain being over – but it was also because the anxiety that had built up throughout our IVF treatment had finally been released; I no longer had to worry about the baby arriving safely. Though I will undoubtedly continue to worry about him on a daily basis, from that moment onwards I could physically hold him in my arms, and knew I would do my best to look after him forever, just as a lioness will fiercely protect her cubs.
But what a journey it was to get to that point of delivery. Within the vast volume of pregnancy and birthing information available to new-parents-to-be, something they don’t tell you about giving birth is that it’s relentless. (And, even if they do tell you, it’s not explicit enough and so it’s impossible to understand the magnitude of just how incessant labour is until it happens.)
A testing combination of pressure in your lower back (imagine a really heavy, really big poo – I mean really big poo) and cramps in your uterus, there’s no escaping the pain. The contractions, of which you experience three in ten minutes (at one stage, I was having five every ten minutes), come in waves as hard as rocks, smashing into you with no intention of letting up. You’re battered by them, as they roll in smoothly but strongly, building into a dark, menacing riptide, before crashing down upon you and bubbling away. They evaporate, but only for a minute or two; another returns as quickly as its predecessor left, pushing you further beneath the surface. A surface dappled by a sparkling sunlight that feels so far out of reach: just as you think you’ve caught your breath well enough to swim towards the light, it’s being sucked right back out of you. You keep going but only because you know you have no choice: it’s sink or swim. A woman in labour is like a ship in a storm; completely out of her depth, but stronger than she realises. She will do her best not to capsize.
Of course, this is an abridged version of giving birth. I don’t think you need all of the gory details (though I’ll happily discuss them with anyone willing to listen – what’s that about?) and I’m not convinced that The Daydreamer is the right place to publish them, so a brief description it is.
Afterwards, despite being pushed to the brink of exhaustion both physically and mentally, I found myself romanticising the last few hours of the birth. My mind kept reliving the minutes before the baby arrived: I was ready to do it all over again. After giving birth, the hormones take over (just as well, or we probably wouldn’t do it again) and before you can say, “I had a baby”, you’re seeing the experience through rose tinted spectacles.
A friend once said to me that you feel like Superwoman after giving birth, and it’s true. It’s no longer a trauma, it’s an achievement that you feel incredibly proud of. And every day, when I wake up in the morning and look over at my new born son, I’m reminded of that. He’s a constant reminder that I can do so much more with my mind and my body than I give myself credit for, and I only hope that one day I can teach him, encourage him, and help him to believe that, with hard work and determination, he can do anything he wants to.
Image: Kris Miller
I appreciate that not everyone will feel the same way following the birth of their child, and that each woman, baby and delivery are different. In no way am I speaking for everyone – I simply want to share my own experience. I’d be keen to hear from my readers about their experiences too.