Twelve years ago, I had just given birth for the last time. I pretty much knew I would never again expel a tiny human from my nether regions which is why, when my Abigail-torn perineum was being sewn back together, I demanded gas and air and sucked on that mouthpiece like I was still in the throes of fierce contractions. I didn’t need pain relief. Alpha, the rather delicious male nurse, had numbed me down below but I wanted to savour the high which this potent substance created for one long, last time.
There are many things you aren’t told about childbirth. Everyone tells you it hurts. What should actually happen is for someone to shove a melon into some small orifice, stab you aggressively at regular intervals, then demand repeatedly that you force that rather large cantaloupe to reappear whilst absolutely knackered and lying on your back, therefore defying the laws of gravity.
So I began my first labour slightly deluded. After experiencing generally uncomfortable back pain for most of the afternoon (nothing though in comparison to the agony chocolate back Ian has to endure), once in hospital, I began to find my discomfort intolerable whilst watching The Graham Norton Show and decided that the time had obviously come to meet the baby.
“1cm??? Excuse me?!!!”
I won’t bore you with details of the next five hours. Except to say that I was adamant my midwife was Don Brennan’s girlfriend from Coronation Street. The poor woman humoured me and, to this day, I still picture the actress, Ellie Haddington, looking down over me as I pondered if she was really happy with a one-legged taxi driver. During Joel’s birth, I asked Ian to turn off the rave music because I couldn’t concentrate. I’m not sure if he humoured me or not. And the final time, on this day in 2008, I grew tired of being humoured. As I lay in agony, the entire ward was silent because every other expectant mother was being awarded a caesarean, some I’m sure because they’d been born in a month ending in ‘r’ and the rest because their mother had grown up on the same street as the midwife’s second cousin once removed. I demanded one over and over again. Basically I couldn’t be bothered with this giving birth craic. I’d suddenly remained how the story went. “We just need to wait for the anaesthetist.” “We just need to wait for an operating theatre.” Well, it turns out that Abigail wouldn’t wait. Unfortunately for the student midwife foraging around my birth canal, my waters hadn’t broken like I had previously thought and I unwittingly pushed a substantial amount of amniotic fluid into her face. Karma – strike one. Abigail quickly arrived and I like to think we immediately bonded and in retaliation for Ian not supporting her mother enough in her demand for a caesarean, she unleashed an arse load of meconium over her unsuspecting father. Karma – strike two.
One of the things which shocked me the most after giving birth was the fact I was then expected to care for the baby. I was not ready for that. After what I’d just gone through, I envisioned a couple of days chilling at a spa, recuperating and regaining my strength for the 18 year battle ahead. As it was, I could barely leave the room, never mind venture to some hotel in the Lakes as I seemed to have developed two large testicles down below in the form of piles, which hurt like hell and hindered any attempts at forward movement. Something else nobody warns you about. Piles were something you got if you sat on a cold wall. This was one piece of folklore from my childhood (alongside the grape seeds implanting themselves in your stomach if you ate them and growing into trees or the wind being able to freeze your miserable face if you didn’t change it quick enough.) After having Sam, a nurse came to inspect my ravaged lady garden and gasped in shock.
“It won’t be this cream you’ll be needing. It’s surgery to bloody amputate them!”
As it was, they weren’t surgically removed. They just retreated and lay in wait until the next time I found myself pregnant, having stupidly forgotten the bloody and painful aftermath of giving birth.
As it is, thanks to the human brain’s sadistic tendency to make women forget the horrors of childbirth, I would have gone through it again if I could have guaranteed another girl so OCD Ian could have had his symmetrical family. Luckily for me, by the time my brain had deleted all traces of piercing pain, a thrice-torn perineum and horrendous haemorrhoids , I was defeated by a baby who wouldn’t sleep, a feral toddler who wouldn’t conform and a demanding child who insisted every five minutes that we recreated yet another of Thomas the Tank Engine’s misadventures.
So I’m off to celebrate Abigail’s birthday, also known as the last time I gave birth, with a Chinese and cake. As far as I’m concerned, each of my children’s birthdays is a special day for me too. Not because I brought new, precious life into the world (because I’ll be apologising for producing Joel until the day I die!). But, just as we commemorate VE Day or Armistice Day, I want to acknowledge the horrific scars which I carry still to this day and to commiserate for the fact that I never did really meet Don Brennan’s girlfriend.
Read what happens after childbirth at The Social Lives of Children