A Natural Birth.

Good evening and welcome to day 7 of Tracey's maternity leave. So far the weather has been spiffing, the house has been gleaming, and I have consumed probably far too many cups of tea. It's been lovely. 

I've said it before but I really am no good at this 'relaxing' stuff. I truly believe that people relax in different ways and for me it has been so mentally relaxing to just be able to stay in bed late if I want (even if I haven't, I can), meeting friends and family, watching a tv show during the day that normally you would ask yourself who actually watches this stuff? I've been able to do a lot with my days and it just so happens that putting the feet up all day long hasn't been top of my list of things to do. I've been seeing more of my mam and having days out with her and my nanny, I've been seeing more of my cousins and aunts, my brother who is just home from living in Germany called over for dinner one evening, I've done a bit of shopping, spent time with my sister, cooked nice meals and done bits around the house that normally I have zero energy to even think about doing following a long day at the office. It's been great, but now I'm getting a bit restless. 

I know that most people go over by a week or two on their first baby but I really hope I am not one of them. Of course baby will come when he or she is ready but at this moment in time I feel just about as ready as I ever will, so it would be lovely to finally start this next chapter and meet my little baby.My due date is exactly a week away. Friday 30th May and the midwife in The Coombe told me that they will usually let you go over by about 9/10 days before they induce you. Best case scenario I have a baby over the next couple of days, and worst case scenario I have an induction date before the 11th or 12th June. I'm spending good chunks of my day doing things around the house and it's preoccupying my mind but deep down I am always thinking about the baby. I look around me and see all the baby things and I know that the cherry on top is just missing, the main event, the baby. I am so ready to hold you in my arms Baby Byrne. I know you will arrive when you are ready though.

For a few days there I began to feel really petrified about childbirth and labour. It's pretty much all I was able to think about and it was totally consuming me. The fear was overshadowing the joy and the excitement and I decided to take matters in to my own hand and direct my focus on to something a little more gentle. I have been looking in to all different types of birthing, and I have become really fascinated by the whole area of gentle birthing and natural birth. Now before I go any further I am not a know-it-all and yes I am 100% aware of the fact that labour, contractions, pushing and everything else will feel horrifically painful beyond words. I know it will be "awful" and I am not being naive, but I would love to have as natural of a birth as possible. People do it every day. I know that every birth is different and there is a very strong possibility that mine could involve me being the person screaming for an epidural after the more gentle contractions, but for me this is important. I want to at least try and have a natural birth. I am not interested in being a martyr, it's not to get a gold medal at the end, and I know there is a HUGE chance that this will not happen at all, but I want to say that I tried

For some people this isn't important but for the cave woman in me it really is important. We are all different and this is something I have really been connecting with lately. There is nothing wrong with having an epidural, having an assisted delivery, having a C-Section, and I may need every single one of these, but the point is that I, for me, wish to try and have a natural birth and see how that goes. Kapeesh? It is so easy to misjudge this desire as some sort of naivety or know-it-all-ness when it couldn't be further from that and I am all too aware that it could end up being the most medically-intervened birth on the planet, but my goal is for it not to be. At the end of the day what is important is that the baby arrives here safely and that myself and the baby are healthy and in no harm. This is just a personal moment for me, something I want to try. I didn't plan on writing about this in my blog because it is so hard to not come across as someone who doesn't know what they're in for. People love to remind you that you haven't a clue how awful it is going to be. I've never had a baby but I do have a clue, my mother had 5 children and I talk about it a lot, I've been to antenatal classes and I've watched One Born Every Minute (LOL) and while I have never had a baby or experienced that type of pain I don't think that instilling extreme fear and anxiety in people like me is the right way to go. It's debilitating, not empowering. Yes it's important for people to know and be prepared for how painful it will be, but the knowing doesn't make it any easier. The emphasising over and over again how unimaginable it is and how awful it is does not take the pain away or help a woman to have a positive experience. How can a woman not be absolutely petrified when people tell her over and over and over again that she will DEFINITELY need the epidural because the pain is a million times worse than they are imagining. It's bloody terrifying.

So why do I want to have a natural birth? It's probably the hippy in me but a huge part of me really connects with the fact that as women, our bodies were made to do this. For years there was no such thing as an epidural, a woman could go in to a cave and birth for hours and hours and eventually the baby would be born perfectly healthy. I think it is wonderful that we live in such a medically enhanced era and such great pain-relief and support is available to us, but I also find it equally amazing that so many to this day still have a natural birth. In my hospital it is almost assumed that you will have a pethidine injection and will then go on to have an epidural. I am delighted those options are there for me, and I will gladly take them when I make an informed decision about them (ie I'll know when I'm in labour) but I would love to do it without. None of my reasoning is to do with being a hero (because, come on, it's not exactly heroic) but I want to see what my body and mind are capable of. I am reading a fantastic book by Ina May Gaskin called 'Guide To Childbirth' and it is about a birthing centre in Tennessee called 'The Farm' where basically all women have natural births away from hospitals and medical intervention. Their percentages and ratios of positive natural births without the need for drugs, assisted delivery or C-Section are incredible. They are lead by experienced midwives and medical help is at hand should anything go wrong, but the focus is on the experience of childbirth, accepting the pain (or surges as they chose to call them) and working with your body and your baby to help each other throughout the process to help your baby enter the world safely and without drugs. It is such a massively empowering book. It has tonnes of birth stories, each different from the last, which really show how strong us women are and how truly difficult and traumatic labour can be. These stories do not describe birth as an easy happy experience. Quite the opposite actually. Some of the stories are extremely graphic and talk about the sheer unimaginable pain and the feeling of not being able to go on, but they get through it... I've also been reading the birth stories on the wonderful Irish website 42weeks and I can't recommend this enough. It highlights how different each birth and experience can be and it is very specific and informative, a really helpful website in so many ways. More of a movement actually. Birth stories include everything from natural, home births, water-births, assisted births, C-Sections and births which relied on heavy pain-relief and epidurals etc. It is brilliant.

So that is it in a nut-shell really. I just want to try to avoid the epidural and I definitely do not want pethidine as I have done my research and I don't like the way it's supposed to make you feel. Baby can also be born very sleepy and drowsy and this can cause problems with breastfeeding which I intend to do. This was not a case of Google Doctor, but midwives have told me this themselves and have advised strongly that we do our research before we go for something like this. I know a lot of people who found it great though. My reasons for wanting to avoid the epidural are probably laughable to some people, but I might as well be honest. Firstly, I hate the idea of a big needle in to my spine. Yes I am aware that the pain of labour is so horrific that I will not care about needles or anything like it and I will just be so happy to have the option of being numbed, but I don't like the idea of it, that is all. Secondly, I want to be as mobile as I can be during labour and work with my body. Epidurals limit you to certain positions, usually on your back, and this is often seen to be one of the least-effective birthing positions. I want to have the option to birth in different positions and do what feels natural. Next, I want to feel the urge to push. I've heard about that moment, as painful as it is, as horrific as it is, the burning and the stretching, the unimaginable pain and pressure, but I want to experience it. I have also heard that it is euphoric and such a relief after hours and hours of pressure and contractions, finally being able to push and your body telling you this is what you need to do. The alternative is not feeling this sensation at all (or for most anyway) and the midwives looking at a monitor to tell you when you're having a contraction and telling you when to push as you do not feel that urge. This can lead to worse tears as you do not feel when you are pushing too hard as you don't feel pain or those signals from your body as you are numb. The last thing is probably the most important to me, after the birth. Having gone through 40 weeks of being pregnant, God knows how many hours of pain during the actual birth, and the emotional and physical extremities, I want to be able to say it's over when it is over. An epidural limits you to the bed sometimes for hours and hours after the birth. Once the baby and placenta are delivered and all is in order (stitches probably, ouch!) I want to be able to go and have a shower and use the toilet without the use of a catheter. So those are my reasons, just in case anyone was interested. Again, I know that all of this may go out the window when I am in labour but it is what I would love in a perfect world. Every birth is different and I know many people who didn't take an epidural on their first or second children, but did on their third or subsequent children. A lot of it will probably be out of my hands, and I know that. 

I could be writing here in a month's time saying I took every drug and pain relief made available to me, that I would never understand how anyone would have a natural birth and I could have no interest in breast-feeding but this is my body and my experience and for me goals are just as important outcomes. I just want to try. Not for anyone else, but for me and my baby. I am grateful that I have options, and I certainly will not martyr myself and do anything dangerous for me or the baby, but I want to say I tried. For me.

In other news, we assembled the pram this week. I just love it. The colour is gorgeous and perfectly neutral, it has everything we need (including a car seat and it morphs in to a stroller for when baby is older) and the best part is that it is just so light to push which is really important. I am delighted with the choice we made, and at €319 for the entire travel system in Mothercare, we got a serious bargain. It was a gift from my Mam, thank you mammy! 

Just to show you it's various different functions. Great isn't it? It's called the Mothercare Xpedior.

Something practical we have to contend with. Huge steps at our front door. I thought I would have to take baby out of the pram each time and put in to the house before lifting the rest of the frame up the steps, but a few lady friends who have babies have told me that I will be able to find a way to wheel it up the steps with the baby in it. I don't know, I feel like I would be far too nervous! What do you think?

And finally, a little tribute to my beautiful cousin Casey who is 19 months. I have seen a lot of her this week and she has brought me so much joy. She is such a bright light in all of our lives and it is hard to imagine that 19 months ago she did not exist. She is the happiest most energetic gorgeous child in the world and I feel so lucky to know her. She has been such a joy for everyone in our family and it only further emphasises to me all that is truly important in life -joy and family. We can worry about bills, relationships, work, and all the 'what ifs' that we can possibly think of, but ultimately what matters are those around us and learning to sit back and enjoy our lives and all that is important. Casey teaches me to laugh more, plan less, live in the moment, and enjoy the little things. I love this little lady so much and I can't wait for her to meet her baby cousin. I think they will grow up to be great friends.

A carpet picnic which later resulted in her dumping all of the food off her plate and on to the carpet. Even as she was smudging egg mayonnaise in to the carpet we just laughed and laughed because she is just such a hilarious little dote.

A package arrived for me and about 30 seconds later Casey was swimming in a sea of blue foam and breaking her heart laughing. This is her 'what? it wasn't me' face.

A cup of tea after a long hard day of being a beautiful perfect toddler. It's a hard life.

Casey decided to show me how I should be using my exercise ball to help induce labour. How thoughtful of her!

Selfy. Enough said really. What a beauty!

It's a tough life, time for a bit of down-time with a blanky and a bottle.

I would love to hear from anyone who has an opinion about natural birth or whom would like to share their own story? I would also love to hear from those who like me planned and hoped for a natural birth but whom ended up having quite the opposite. Once again, I know that this is very likely to be the case for me, but this is something I want to try to do. That's all. If I do end up taking all the pain relief offered to me I won't be expecting ''I told you so's" because I have tried to emphasise time and time again that I know that I am a novice, have never experienced this before, and might end up being so delighted to avail of all these forms of pain relief.