Birth stories: my first baby
Everyone who knows me knows that I really like to plan. By the time I was almost eight months into my first pregnancy, I’d read at least ten books on childbirth, bought baby clothes in the smallest sizes, and spent a small fortune on baby oil, barrier creams and tiny nail scissors at my local pharmacy. Want tips on what to pack in your hospital bag?
I pictured myself eating buns and watching trashy TV in the final weeks before giving birth.
The baby was expected on the 25th of October but, as this was my first baby, everyone kept telling me that I should expect to go over my due date. I pictured myself eating buns, watching trashy TV and basically just lazing around the flat in the final weeks before giving birth.
One Friday at the end of September, I was sitting alone in my office in Stockholm, gazing out over Söder Mälarstrand. All my colleagues had gone to the Gothenburg Book Fair, but I’d decided to stay in the city. Something told me there was a good chance this baby might arrive early and I’d decided to stop working the following week, three weeks before I was due to give birth.
We’d decided to spend one final cosy weekend before the baby arrived.
After losing a bidding war on a house the day before, my fiancé and I had decided to drive to my parents’ cottage on the island of Öland and cheer ourselves up with a spot of new house-hunting, as a final cosy weekend before the baby arrived. We’d then have an entire month back home in Stockholm to assemble the baby’s cot, clean the flat and fill the freezer with hearty stews.
We’d taken the antenatal course, agreed on both a girl’s and a boy’s name, and felt fully prepared for childbirth when it eventually happened. Maybe our unborn child sensed this: in the car on the way to Öland, I couldn’t get comfortable and we joked that perhaps the baby was coming.
The famous mucus plug had appeared in my knickers.
But neither of us seriously believed it was happening. Actually, I was beginning to wonder. On a visit to the toilet, I’d spotted something: the famous mucus plug had appeared in my knickers. But when I phoned my midwife, she assured me I could still go away for the weekend and that the baby was unlikely to arrive for several weeks.
By evening time, my tummy had calmed down and we had an early night. I remember getting up to pee at three o’clock in the morning (standard procedure for any heavily pregnant woman) and seeing the night sky full of stars. But the next time I woke up, it wasn’t pee running down my legs. My waters had broken! Suddenly, the expectant father and I found ourselves in panic mode. What if the baby wasn’t feeling well? I made an incoherent call to the maternity unit in Kalmar, the closest city, babbling about living in Stockholm but my waters breaking unexpectedly 250 miles from home.
For some reason, my only option was crawling under a table to simultaneously throw up and wet myself.
At the maternity unit, they reassured us that all was well. Our next stop was McDonalds, where my guy ran in and bought everything on the menu for me, while I downloaded a contractions app on my smartphone. It felt as though the sudden shock had sealed us in a bubble and there was no time to be worried, just totally focused. As the contractions were still weak, we were able to spend the entire afternoon back at our cottage, where I alternated between lying on the floor panting, and filling up on as much coffee and as many cakes as I could manage.
Around six o’clock, the baby and I felt it was time to head back to the hospital and as soon as we got to the room, I had such a powerful contraction that, for some reason, my only option was crawling under a table to simultaneously throw up and wet myself. It was time to give birth.
I raved about needing salt, screamed a little, got an epidural, wept a little…
The next few hours contained a lot of experiences shared by pregnant women giving birth for the first time. I took a bath, sat on a pilates ball, drank a lot of rosehip soup, though I really only wanted broth and raved about needing salt, screamed a little, got an epidural, wept a little, texted a few friends when the epidural kicked in, tried to work out how to use laughing gas (I couldn’t) and waddled around with a walking frame in an empty corridor.
And at eleven o’clock the next morning, I pushed out our son Isidor who, although he arrived ahead of schedule, was perfect –crying, healthy and ravenously hungry. I was in a state of euphoria and wasn’t the least bit bothered that I was in the wrong city, with an unassembled cot and an empty freezer back home in Stockholm. And while we focused on getting to know each other, learning to breastfeed, texting all our astonished friends and colleagues, who were puzzled to be getting texts with pictures of a newborn baby out of the blue, all the practical details worked out just fine.
Both sets of grandparents sprang into action with admirable efficiency, considering they too had been caught napping and this was the first grandchild on both sides. My dad returned our rental car, my mother-in-law cleaned our flat, and my mum went and bought clothes for me and the baby (because our carefully packed hospital bag was languishing in a wardrobe in Vasastan).
Here are my words of wisdom to those of you reading this birth story:
- Pay no attention to what anyone tells you. Your waters can break dramatically, just like in the movies, and you might not go over your due date just because you’re having your first baby.
- Even if you don’t give birth on the “right” day in the “right” city, things usually turn out better than you could possibly imagine.
- Learning breathing techniques is time well spent! Breathing techniques helped me from the moment my waters broke to the moment the baby was born. They are a good thing to rely on when everything else is turned upside down.
- If you’re usually a control freak (like me), let go of all your expectations and try to go with the flow; at the very least, you’ll have your own funny tale to add to the collection of birth stories…
Text: Anna Winberg
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Anna Winberg, author of “mum-lit” book Vaknätter och verklighetskaos i Vasastan [Sleepless Nights and Reality Chaos in Vasastan] lived in Stockholm, Sweden, for ten years before moving to the village of Lerkaka on the island of Öland. She lives on a farm with her fiancé Julius, and their sons Isidor and Hektor. Besides writing books and drinking far too much coffee, Anna works as a consultant, public speaker and designer in the publishing industry. A sequel to her book will be published in the autumn of 2017.