• Sudeshna Sen

The fourth trimester - week 1

Updated: May 8, 2020

“Birth- well, my body is supposed to be able to do it, right? Yeah it will hurt, yes, I might be in pain, but every person in the world has a mum right? Should be that difficult! After all, my middle name is positivity and I have practised how to meditate for 3 years now...”

This is, in short, what I had anticipated my birth story to be like. I had even gotten essential oils, diffusers, planned on a playlist, and checked out the birth-center where I could use the pool. Doctors? Who needs doctors? I was a low risk case and I had my complete faith in the amazing team of midwives I had been seeing. “Most of the chatter about painful birth is in the mind.” I had told myself.

But there’s something amazing about 90% of the birth stories. The more I hear them, the more I realise why most women, especially the high-achieving ones, struggle with birth. Do you know why? Because no amount of planning and scenario analysis will make it go to plan. Because, for the first time ever, you are so completely out of control!

I had started my mat-leave early in anticipation of a pre-term birth, but there I was at week 41+, getting sweep after sweep, trying raspberry leaf teas, or just doing the long rounds of walks at the park. The stubborn baby was way too comfortable inside. My body basically did nothing! I kept on asking, “Oh but are you sure I’ll know that it’s a contraction?”

Fast-forward to day 41+4 and I had become medium risk for the NHS. So my birth-centre plan was thrown out of the window already. But I still could technically debate if I wanted an induction and of what sort. I did. And for the first time I realised that I am debating about my own body without having enough knowledge about it. Flashback to my high-power job, this would be unthinkable!!

So, the doctors and the midwives tried a number of chemical inductions, none of which seemed to work. I was wheeled up to the labour ward to be put on the drip if the water breaking didn’t work. And guess what? Of course it didn’t… I have one stubborn baby! Or a body that reacts to absolutely nothing. Either way, finally when things started moving, I realised that gas and air wouldn’t cut it. Hello Epidural!!

Finally the husband got a bit relaxed and went to grab a bite- it had been two LONGGG days! And as he returned, there came the next surprise - emergency C-section, because the baby didn’t like the pitocin drip!. And then it hit us - we had every detail on our “plan” other than an emergency section. Never did we imagine that could happen in a low-risk case. How naive we were!

Fast forward to the birth, it was really emotional and there was crying, as there are in all births. We had somehow created the perfect overdue, pre-term looking baby who stole our breath and humbled us in an instant. But hang on, isn’t it supposed to be this dreamy affair where you feel an overflow of love and competence? Isn’t it supposed to be empowering? In my culture, we worship the almighty mother goddesses! Why was I not feeling like one?!

I wish someone told me then, “Because you haven’t slept in days. Because hormones. Because all those chemicals that they put in your body. Because all the other drugs that came with it. Because breast-feeding is hard. Because whether it’s a natural or a cesarean birth, your body can’t heal in a day. Because in fact, you will be so indisposed that you’ll hardly be able to get off the bed all by yourself!”

Urrghh! In the hope of making natural births the norm, most birth classes gloss over the C-section births. I felt incompetent and powerless. Where was I, this high-flying consultant advising the UK government and international bodies on Artificial Intelligence standards? I couldn’t even get to the loo!! I couldn’t turn in bed to change the baby’s dirty diaper… oh and also, how many times do these tiny creatures need a change?!

The first two days were brutal - I couldn’t even get off the bed. The doctors had mercy and put me on Oramorph- and I felt like I had conquered the world! So much so that I begged and begged to be discharged.

“Sure! No Oramorph for you for the next 24 hours”, they said. And finally, it became clear to me why Morphine is a restricted drug! It definitely made me feel much more able than I was- completely changed my perception of reality. But the high-achiever in me wanted to power through- “I can do this!” I told myself, “I’ll be home tonight!”

“Nope! Not happening lady, the baby isn’t feeding well and it’s too late in the day to discharge.” they said. WHAT?! Can I get my dose of Oramorph then??? “Not unless you don’t want to get discharged tomorrow either - 24 hours without!” Urrrgh!! Okay, can the husband stay over then?

Thankfully that was met with a yes, and an extra £100 got us a room for the night. At least I wasn’t feeling incompetent AND alone! Finally we got our discharge sheet on day 4 and came back home. Breastfeeding was still a nightmare, and my god - this baby gets up for a feed every 3 hours! Like clockwork! Add to that feeds, and nappy changes and you’re not really sleeping. Where was this mountain of love from which only bliss flows? Lies!! Also, why am I still not up on my feet? My NCT friends seemed to be already going out for walks by day 5. And here I was, invalid, incompetent, inadequate…

But life they say, is in the moments. And this strange creature I had birthed was like no other- as we moved around leaving him on the changing table, he started following us with his eyes! The midwife came to get his blood spot test sample. She messed it up and pricked him twice- and he didn’t cry! Within the first week he checked off all the month 1 milestones. I have to brace myself for the next 18 years! And I was still at just week 1…

This article is a part of a series by Sudeshna Sen. Sudeshna heads up a team in her corporate career and runs The Abundance Psyche to help ambitious professionals navigate their career dilemmas. Take the Quiz to get a step closer to your dream career.

All opinions published on this blog are the author’s own.

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