It is the middle of the night, I open my eyes with a start. That sinking feeling washes over me like a tidal wave. I failed. At the one thing my body is supposed to be good at. The one thing it was designed to do well. The one thing I am on this planet to do. Give birth. I am a failure. To myself. To womanhood. To my baby. And I have this scar that happily reminds me of this fact every bloody day.
18 months earlier, when I was pushing for 3 hours, pushing a baby that was 4 weeks premature and back to back, I knew this baby wasn’t coming out the front door. I could see it on my husband’s face, my mother’s face, the midwife’s face. The trainee midwife however, still looked hopeful, egging me on to push into my bottom. I fucking am. I have been. For 3 fucking hours you twat.
This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen.
I had been visiting family 50 miles away from home. I had just turned 36 weeks and so I had a month left. No need for a maternity bag yet. I was staying at my dad’s house and all was well that morning, until I sat on the toilet and felt a trickle. That wasn’t wee, was it? Hmmmm. I will ignore it.
I trot over happily to my mum’s house. ‘Lindsey. Look at your feet’. Balloons. Fucking massive red balloons. ‘Let’s call your sister’. Now my sister is a midwife. A midwife who was on her day off shopping 60 miles away in York. Clearly the most useless sister and midwife* there was. WHY AREN’T YOU HERE. Your baby sister has balloons for feet and a leaking fanny and you’re buying shoes?! (*FYI, she did come later and she turned out to be THE most awesome sister and midwife.)
Anyway, I am sure nothing is wrong. But I go to hospital anyway to have a check up. I wander around for a while in the room; ’I’m fine I am sure’, as I feel something else leaking into my pants. ‘I am just wetting myself. Your waters breaking is meant to be a big gush? Right? Right?’.
Legs akimbo, glamorously the doctor inserts the coldest speculum ever. There is a dramatic gasp from the staff and a gush from my faff. Oh dear.
I call the hubs. He is playing golf. He aint happy.
Cue 24 hours and a guilt ridden epidural later and this baby aint getting out. I can’t give one more push. I don’t care if they just leave me to die I am so exhausted. I agree to a caesarean. At this point I am so full of drugs I just don’t care what happens. Just make it stop.
Now. Hospital drugs are amazing. Here I was being sliced open on a table and I am loving it. ‘What a lovely interesting way to spend this morning’ I thought to myself. This is quite fun. ‘Hey, Simon, how much fun is this? Are they cutting me open? Go and have a look please, tell me what you see?’. I don’t see the fear on Simon’s face. His wife is being sliced open in front of his face, his wife and child may be in danger. And here I am having the time of my life. ‘Where’s the placenta?’ (As opposed to ‘where is my my baby’) ‘What does it look like? Can I see?’. I’m drugged up idiot.
The baby is out. (I didn’t realise until I heard the cry). Ah there’s a baby crying. Thats good. Simon brings this baby round, but I have no idea who this baby is. Did he come out of me? I don’t recognise him. I feel like I should recognise him. But I don’t. They could’ve brought me any fucker’s baby.
They take my baby away and me to recovery, and I just want water, I am sooooooo thirsty. And a rest. Leave me here for a while where it’s quiet and nice. I’ve had a baby but I don’t know who is is so I don’t miss him. Someone else can look after him for a bit.
Wheeled into another white room, that looks like every other room I have been in so far (I left my glasses at home) I am passed my baby and I hold him in my arms. Around me my mum is glowing with happiness. Simon is thrilled he got to hold the baby first. My sister is giving everyone a scientific analysis of my labour (or ‘not’ labour). Do I feel the rush of love everyone talks about? I do not. He is already dressed. He has had his first poo. He has already been fed. I put him to my breast but of course he does not want it, I am being rejected. First by my body, and now by my baby.
This is not how it was supposed to happen.
This is not how it was supposed to feel.
Simon’s mum has had to travel 50 miles to see her grandson. Her husband, Simon’s dad, died a few years earlier and this was supposed to be a happy time for her. A fresh start. A new life. I ruined this moment for her. I feel so guilty.
The husband is not allowed to sleep at the hospital. He has to sleep at my dad’s house for a week (the child got jaundice. My fault for not keeping him near the window). He has no clothes or anything packed really. I ruined this moment for him. I feel so guilty.
I was supposed to give my child the birth he deserved. We were supposed to have a calm, drug free water birth. I was to be the first to cuddle him to make him feel safe. We were supposed to have amazing skin to skin. He was supposed to natural latch onto my breast. Just like nature intended. I let him down. I ruined this moment for him. I feel so guilty.
Of course, this guilt is utter crap.
And I know this. Deep down I know no one really cared that they had to travel 50 miles to visit my baby or be there for the birth. They are just happy to have a brand spanking new baby in the family. My baby Theo does not remember his birth. He is now 19 months old and couldn’t give a shit what happened. He is a happy and healthy, bouncing off the walls with energy. (Literally. I think he is powered by rocket fuel. And a little bit mental).
After all the guilt that I felt and still feel about my birth, I have to realise that I have been given an amazing gift. A baby. A baby that many couples long for. They would quite happily have 10,000 caesareans if it meant they got a baby at the end of it. As I write this my friend is having embryos implanted into her through IVF. It has been emotional for me to watch her go through this, never mind her. As a family photographer I am shocked at the number of IVF babies I take pictures of. 2, 3, 4 failed IVF attempts. Lost babies. Vanishing twin syndrome. Heart complications. This is a stark reality check for me. I should be fucking grateful.
So as I start to think about baby number 2, I say to myself that my next birth will hopefully be different. That amazing drug free water birth I always dreamed of. And even if it isn’t, who gives a shit. There will be a brand new sparkling life. A life that me and the hubster created from nothing. And that is fucking amazing.