My mother had her first baby in 1968. I heard only two details concerning the labour.
The first was that my father dropped her to the hospital at the start of the first contraction. He drove off to milk the cows while my mother was left in the mercy of the midwives.
The second was that my father arrived back in the hospital within twenty fours hours to behold his beautiful daughter. And my mother was sitting up in her nightgown, lipsticked and shining to greet him.
It was a healthy daughter. He was delighted. That was all. No one asked or cared about the weight.
In recent times it has become the norm to share the weight of the baby on the text heralding news of the birth, almost before the baby’s gender! People seem to place great importance on the weight – and congratulate and fist pump those women who have had, say a nine or ten pound baby.
My daughter arrived four days after her due date. It was a first labour and as most first labours usually are – pretty tough going. I had the greatest ‘show’ (a moving of mucus as opposed to anything remotely concerning Hugh Jackman) on the Thursday of that week. My bag already packed I as headed into Holles Street. I was examined and told to go home and wait. And suddenly, was faced with the two words that came to sum up my labour – wait and weight.
We waited. We waited some more. Nothing happened, except for a day where I experienced the much talked about state of nesting – it was a state of complete hormonal superhuman strength and liveliness. I washed and ironed every stitch of linen in the house, cleaning out the cupboards, walked two laps of the Botanic Gardens. I swear if someone had asked me to lift a car like The Incredible Hulk I would have done it!!
That evening, all was quiet on the womb front. But not for long. I woke up with the most awful contractions, awful but bearable. Like a very bad period pain. But not constant, it came in waves. It is amazing that between contractions for feel almost nothing. You could make a cup of tea, make a phone call, go to a (albeit) mini opera. It is an amazing respite.
We rang the hospital – midwife manning the phone – who told us to come in as I had contractions for ages and now blood appeared. It was still okay and bearable and I distinctly remember saying to my hubby that ‘this is grand! What is all the fuss about?’
How wrong I was. Pure folly.
They broke my waters. They had to take blood from my daughter’s head because her heart rate dropped – she held on to the umbilical cord and swung off it. (No surprise as she ended up becoming a climbing frame aficionado). I brought my TENS machine – it worked for a while. I had the epidural – this was great!
But the tragedy was that it wore off. I was so long in labour because my daughter was 5lbs 15oz. The midwife explained that a small baby finds it harder to push themselves out. I pushed as best I could but she pushed back up again. It went on and on and on.
Finally, I needed a little help with an episiotomy. I was at once horrified at the idea of it but mainly so grateful that she was born. She was the cutest, most petite little thing. It was really worth it.
But it makes my teeth clench when I hear those people talk about the ten-pound baby labour and how tough it was.
No one has a monopoly on labour. Even the small babies can be a challenge. Yet a challenge that is more than worth it.