Trigger warning: birth story, stop-start labour
From the minute a baby is conceived there is something that develops that can ruin absolutely everything… expectation.
Expectations can be tough. At times they have taken me from a blissful state dreaming of what my life is going to be like to sitting on the bathroom floor crying my eyes out in milliseconds! I am not sure where these expectations come from - social media, books, stories you hear - but they can be dangerous for us expectant parents. In fact it doesn’t even end once the child is actually here. I had daydreams of being this super fun mum, turns out I have very little patience and hate participating in role play games! I can admit that now.
I had such an easy time with the first child. Great pregnancy, dream home birth, easy peasy breastfeeding journey - you name it I had it made (well pretty much). I used to feel bad about piping up in conversations about how I had such a great time during labour! I was cocky, I was feeling confident about birthing baby number 2. Ah those good ole expectations.
Here I was planning a super easy, chilled home birth (my husband not feeling so chilled, he was panicked that bub was going to be born in 20 minutes - I don’t think he still understands how labour works!). I thought I was going to have an easy ride, COVID was settling down in that partners could be at everything, home births were back on the table, all was looking peachy.
Then it wasn’t.
On 22nd July they suspended home births due to lack of available staff. I cried a lot. It’s silly, but the thought of having to travel 30 minutes to Maidstone Birth Centre was just too much. Throw in having a toddler to consider and the logistics of potential mid-night grandparent pickups and a ridiculous number of roadworks around Sevenoaks - I was getting quite stressed about it and all my expectations and dreams of a wonderful second home birth were gone.
You hear the stories don’t you about how second babies are an easier birth, they come quicker and earlier etc etc. Well I started having labour like twinges on Thursday 5th August (I was due on 19th) and thought “THIS IS IT!”. I dropped the toddler off at nursery, came home and prepared like mad. I hoovered, I washed up, I packed and repacked the hospital bag and yet by Friday. Nothing. Not even a hint of labour. This went on for daaaays to the point that in the middle of the night on Sunday we hiked to maidstone and packed toddler off to the grandparents. I was definitely having strong contractions before we left but by the time we got there they had all but disappeared. Cue more crying. We were sent home with the expectation we would likely be back soon.
After an exhausting 2 weeks of maybes and almosts and expectations of having this baby early, it finally kicked in and we were in business. During the labour with my first son my water broke super late (21 minutes before he was born) and I remember the pressure there was and how unpleasant it felt but I thought “well that won’t happen again”. Yep, you guessed it, it happened again. In fact this time they didn’t break AT ALL and Oran (that’s son number 2) was born in his membranes.
Many people who know me would tell you that I am over organised and probably a bit of a control freak, in that I like to plan and for those plans to be stuck to. Even during labour in my head I was giving myself times by which I thought he was going to be there… At one point I said to my husband “baby will be born by 7pm, we will be out by 9pm and home in time to order dominos”. I don’t know why I do it to myself. We ended up getting dominos delivered to the birthing room - turns out unborn babies don’t take into account their mums’ plans. Who knew?!
Oran was finally born on 22nd August at 11pm all of a sudden in the end. Before we got to the birth centre I definitely had anxieties about the journey and of not getting the kind of birth I wanted once we were there, but this was one time my expectations were happily completely wrong. The midwife team we had was a dream - they left us alone and completely took direction from me so we got the “home from home” birth experience that I so desperately wanted and it could not have been better. I had an uncomplicated labour and a very happy baby at the end of it.
Once we were home it turns out I had forgotten everything when it comes to having a newborn… I forgot the sleeplessness, the fact that they don’t always just want to sleep happily in a cot, they don’t always want to sleep when you want them to sleep and they are hungry little creatures.
I was extremely lucky again and have had a wonderful breastfeeding experience in that Oran latches well, my supply is plenty and we seem to vibe well when it comes to knowing what and when he wants it, but it is hard work! It is a wonderful thing I get to do for my baby but man alive I would love to go nap, alone and for more than 20 mins before my husband sheepishly comes in with a baby sucking on his ear!
I suppose what I want to say is that expectations around becoming a parent are
hard. They can be ones you put on yourself or ones that come from friends and family or even strangers online - but no matter where they come from they can be detrimental and cause all sorts of pain. I honestly don’t think it gets better either. After almost 3 years of parenting I still have expectations of what being a mum is going to be like and so many times it is NOTHING like what I expect.
It is so important as parents to be kind to ourselves and to not be afraid to be honest about what you are dealing with whether it’s a sleepless toddler or a newborn that struggles to feed. There is help out there and so much of it free, such as Baby Umbrella, so if you can find support with whatever you are dealing with, you don’t have to do it alone.