Labour: Expect the unexpected

Last updated 05:00 02/11/2012
AND BABY MAKES THREE: Jessica Ranger and her husband with baby Lachlan.

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Like all first time mums, I made sure I knew a little about what to expect when Lachlan made his arrival.

I went to antenatal classes, watched One Born Every Minute with a slight grimace, and read the pregnancy book.

Once I finished work and headed off on my parental leave at 37 weeks, I felt I knew roughly what to expect. Oh, how wrong I was.

Expectation 1: First babies often arrive a few days after your due date. Not my wee man. I had only lasted a week and a half of parental leave when I posted a Facebook status update about how patience is not my greatest virtue. Apparently, it isn't Lachlan's either. About 12 hours later, on Thursday 20 September 2012, I went into labour. This was just under a week before my due date. So much for the nursery, which my husband planned to finish painting that weekend.

Expectation 2: With first babies, you can have hours or even days of contractions before things really start to get going. At 5:40am, I started having contractions about 10 minutes apart. Everything I'd been told suggested that I had plenty of time to relax at home or even get some more sleep before I needed to go to the hospital. However, after four of these, my waters broke and my contractions were instantly about three minutes apart. After a quick shower and even quicker breakfast, me and my support crew headed to hospital. Of course, we got stuck behind the slowest driver in Wellington who did less than 40km/h all the way from Karori to Newtown. In the back of my pregnancy-addled mind, I was hoping we hadn't gone in too early. But I was already 7cm dilated when my midwife did her first check.

Expectation 3: First labours often take hours and hours. We would have been done by lunchtime if Lachlan hadn't got his stuck head on a funny angle. I should have known - he was always hard for midwives and radiographers to locate in the womb thanks to his propensity to get into weird positions. I also came to curse my incredibly strong pelvic floor muscles, because every time he made a little progress, they pushed him back in a little. Despite this, we were still done by early afternoon.

Expectation 4: Epidurals are for labour. Although I requested an epidural after a lot of pushing, Lachlan made enough progress that there wasn't time for it. However, a few minor complications following Lachlan's arrival meant surgery was required. So I got my epidural then, several hours after he was born. The upside was that my lower half felt really good for the first night in hospital, all because I couldn't feel anything at all.

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Expectation 5: We'd get to bond straight after birth. I was left shattered, sore and uncomfortable from surgery. I was on an IV drip, and couldn't easily get out of bed. I couldn't lift Lachlan out of his bassinet, change him, or wind him. All I could do was breastfeed him when someone gave him to me. I was terrified of being alone, just in case he started crying and I couldn't do anything to comfort him. I'll be honest, I didn't feel particularly maternal and it knocked my confidence.

Six weeks on, Lachlan and I are as thick as thieves. We cuddle. We play. We go for walks. My labour was painful. It was exhausting.

But none of that seems to matter when he flashes his big gummy smile at me as we warble along to Kermit's dulcet tones in yet another round of Rainbow Connection - his favourite song. It all seems worth it.

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