I can see the fear in my eyes. The uneasy, wide eyed look you get when something is coming towards you but it hasn’t hit you yet. That feeling you get when you anticipate something challenging is just around the corner. You are bracing yourself, but the hard part is, you don’t know when it will happen. You don’t know how you will cope. You don’t even really know how it will feel. Because you have never done it before. It’s the unknown. It’s intense. It’s child birth.
I remember my Mum telling me that it took her 4 years after she was married to face her fear of child birth. She wanted to have a child, but the thought of intense pain, blood and all the fun stuff involved with labour stopped her from starting her motherhood journey. But, in the end, her experience was so positive she exclaimed “I want another one!” the moment she gave birth to me.
“Just breathe” she told me. “Focus and breathe through the contractions when you are in labour.” I had inherited my mother’s fear of childbirth. I was so anxious at the thought of labour. I wasn’t a sporty kind of girl, I didn’t like the feeling of my heart pounding after a run. I didn’t like to push myself to the physical limits that I knew so many of my friends enjoyed at the gym. The moment I felt any indication of stress or exertion on my body, I wanted to stop! I told myself I wasn’t built for labour! I just wasn’t fit enough for that kind of marathon! What if I don’t know what to do? I have never even changed a nappy before. What if I fail as a Mother? I could just imagine my child raising their eyebrows at me with a look saying, “do you even know what you are doing!?” These were a few of my thoughts prior to falling pregnant with Olive.
We had walked through hard journeys with some of our close friends. Their hearts desiring a child, but their hopes not fulfilled. It was heartbreaking and we grieved with them and for their losses. Steve and I had been married for over 3 years and just returned from our first ever trip to Europe. We hoped to have a baby and start a new season together. And thank God, I soon fell pregnant. We were so nervous. Praying that this glimmer of life on the ultrasound screen would thrive. I remember feeling scared to accept the miracle as I didn’t want to have to say goodbye. I would carefully protect my belly, only eat a pregnancy appropriate diet, I even felt like I walked a different way! But thankfully, the little bean grew, changing into the size of an apple, orange and finally a watermelon! My pregnancy was smooth and I felt overjoyed, more stable in my mood than ever before.
Not only was a new life growing within me, but I also grew a stronger backbone. My confidence and assertiveness increased at work as I felt the urge to protect my health, energy and outlook for the sake of my baby. I started to feel more sure of my boundaries, saying more “no’s” and putting the wellbeing of my unborn child first. I had always looked out for our friend’s children, my nieces and nephews. I had loved working with kids in our kid’s program at church, babysitting, creche, playgroups… So what happened next really hit me and made me question what sort of woman I was.
My baby was overdue. Multiple stretch and sweeps (if you don’t know what that is, I don’t know whether you should look it up…! But do if you dare!) but this little bub was not budging. I had twinges and false labour for about 3 weeks in the lead up. Waking in the night, pacing next to my side of the bed. Not waking Steve as it was “early labour”, only to be disappointed by morning because nothing had happened. I felt on edge. I was worried my waters would break, so I sat on a towel on my long commute to work. I overanalysed every niggle, every rolling movement, every kick down in the pelvis. I anxiously wondered if this was it, was it time to face my fear of having a baby? I was scared.
I look back on photos from that time in my life, I see the fear in my eyes. Tired lines circle them and highlight the anxiety I felt. But I didn’t say anything. I kept it to myself because surely that’s what all pregnant women feel. Now I know it’s not uncommon to feel this way. It’s normal to be anxious about uncertainties and there are so many support systems available. I didn’t have to go it alone. I was extremely scared and kept telling myself “Suck it up! You are on this train, and you can’t get off. So just get on with it.” My self talk was so encouraging!
On the 26th March, Steve and I woke up early. The sun hadn’t risen yet. We took a photo in our baby’s nursery before we left. I was going in for an induction. The air was crisp, sky was clear, the sun was just coming up as we slid into the car. This was so weird! Today was the day we would meet our baby. We didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl. We had names for both. As we drove to the hospital, I thought of all the times I had imagined the car ride. Of course I imagined a high speed, pedal to the floor kinda ride, me screaming in agony and Steve driving on the tram tracks to bypass traffic! It would be peak hour and I would almost give birth in the car. Given Steve comes from a farming background, (tells me all the time he knows how to deliver calves!), he would be catching the baby as we rolled into the hospital carpark. But my imagination was a bit more dramatic than real life! We parked at the hospital, wandered in and announced at the desk “Um, we are here to have a…. baby?”
We went to our birth suite. It was surreal going in there now, heavily pregnant. The last time we had been in the room was with a group of couples on a tour of the hospital. Giggling and making sarcastic remarks about whether our husbands can use the “happy gas” on D-day. I changed into a hospital gown and a monitor was wrapped around my belly. As we waited for my water’s to be artificially broken, a food service staff member came in and asked me to fill out a menu for breakfast and dinner… It threw me. I couldn’t think about food! It seemed so casual and insensitive at the time. I think I’ll order a Valium thanks! I sarcastically thought to myself. I hastily ticked a couple of boxes and then tried to get back into the zone. This little one was coming out today and my heart was pounding with fear and excitement!
Part 2 will be up next week. Thank you for reading. Feel free to subscribe to read the 2nd part of Olive’s journey earthside!