I had never expected to give birth naturally. Throughout my pregnancy I was advised that a c-section looked likely due to some complications, so, when I had the all-clear to have a normal birth, I was relieved. As it happened, I was still pregnant at 42 weeks, and it was time to be admitted to hospital for induction!

I really hadn’t quite prepared myself for all that was about to happen to me during labour. I think I had gone into denial and vowed not to think about it at all. I was happy to just go with the flow, because frankly there was nothing I could do to plan or control what would be, for once.

While the memory of it all begins to fade, there are parts of the experience that have stayed with me; feelings I had and perhaps didn’t expect to, and elements that no one really talks about, amongst all the joy and smooshy newborn cuddles.

Labour is a marathon {and the rest}

Annoyingly I barely slept the night before induction, I was so ridiculously nervous/excited. Then I stayed awake for a further 48 hours to endure the joys of childbirth.

During the pushing stage, a sweaty shell of a woman by this point, I kept drifting off between contractions. Adam had to spray my face with water to keep my eyes open. There is something so utterly unpleasant about having to exert your non-existent energy down into your bottom {yes, that’s exactly where you have to push} when all you want to do is tell everyone to get out so you can snuggle up for a few zzz’s.


I’m not brilliant when I’m hungry – just ask my poor husband.  I didn’t realise until the 11th hour that if I had an epidural I wouldn’t be allowed to eat anything. The needle went in on Wednesday morning at 5am and I didn’t eat properly for another 30 hours, which obviously isn’t that awful, but after all the pushing and sweating I was the very worst version of myself. The last thing I ate was a biscuit crammed hurriedly into my chops whilst being wheeled from the induction ward to a side room, as some pathetic last ditch attempt to fuel myself for labour. I wasn’t even hungry – your body does not want to eat when you are having sharp, mind-boggling painful contractions, strangely enough.

It really, really hurts {so say yes to all the drugs}

I remember asking my mummy friends how much it would hurt. They kind of fibbed! At least, they didn’t tell me it would hurt like hell. I felt a lot of gnawing, crampy pain in the earlier stages, having had a pessary placed up around about where my tonsils are {at least, that’s what it felt like as the midwive’s arm disappeared between my legs}. Once my waters had broken and the pains were coming thick and fast, I requested an epidural and therefore {quite happily} don’t know what pain I missed for the next 18 hours. It wasn’t again until the end of the ordeal that the pain abruptly came back – the epidural was dialled down so I could feel the contractions and push properly. As it happens, Amelia was stuck, so eventually she had to be pulled out forcibly whilst I pushed – I was screaming and yelling and crying, and yes, it was one hundred percent like she was being ripped out of me – just in case you did want that slight bit of graphic detail after all.

Big picture however – millions of women go through child birth all the time, and then go back for more, so although it is bloody awful, it is a fleeting trauma that you do forget...eventually.

Epidurals are good and bad.

I don’t regret having my epidural at all. I had one several years ago for some hip surgery, so I was aware of the sensation and side-effects. It helped get me through a good 15 hours of so of labour, pain-free, to the point where I was actually having a really lovely time just sat in bed chatting to my husband and our super nice midwife. It was a bit uncomfortable having it put in at first – at one point it felt like the anaesthetist was electrocuting me – and the drugs give you the most distracting itchy skin. The midwife gave me some other drugs for that too, but they didn’t completely eradicate the maddening urge to scratch my whole body at once.

Also, being stuck in bed was tough after such a long time. I couldn’t move, obviously, so there was the catheter and the canula and the constant monitoring and general medicalised vibes throughout. I’d have like to have walked around towards the end and felt my own body a bit more, but duh, you can’t have that and be pain free!

I felt scared and lonely.

Due to the frankly shit way hospital visiting hours operate, Adam was sent home each night I was in hospital – despite him being my birthing partner, husband and father of our baby. I realise that the NHS is stretched as it is, and not everyone wants Dads snoring in hospital wards overnight, but from an emotional wellbeing perspective, denying a labouring woman the company and support of someone they trust and need in their vulnerable state is ridiculous, and quite mean.

The first night he was sent away at 10pm and by midnight the pain had really started to ramp up. There was one midwife on our ward that night, and she didn’t seem to think I had anything to worry about yet, so she ran me a bath and gave me some more paracetamol. I remember crawling back into bed after the bath and trying to tell myself to get a grip, literally sobbing into my pillow because it hurt so much – but not wanting to cause a scene or be too pathetic about it all.

Two nights later and our newborn baby and I had to stay in for observation until the next morning. I had no idea whether I could even stay awake to feed her, let alone do the whole night on my own. There were midwives on the ward who popped in from time to time, but again, I felt desperately alone and upset without Adam by my side to comfort me.

So, for all the women that go through these crucial moments feeling alone and vulnerable in hospital – because of visiting hours – you have my every sympathy.

Post-birth silence.

When you are pregnant and giving birth you are so closely monitored and cared for, you sometimes feel as special and blessed as the Virgin Mary. You see an army of midwives and sometimes doctors, and everyone is obsessed with your health and that of your baby. It’s amazing.

However once Amelia was born and the doctor had finished my stitches {10lb babies don’t just pop across the room, so I found} we didn’t see another person for about 3 or 4 hours. I was worn and weary, antsy from being stuck in bed – but too weak to get out of bed – starving, desperate for a shower and craving clean clothes, sheets and fresh air. My husband sat beside me wasn’t much better; a knackered, panicky new dad and nervous wreck, clutching the baby I couldn’t hold or cuddle because I was too nauseous and exhausted to cope. We were a right pair!

Neither of us knew what to do with our baby. We were bereft of common sense by that point. Does she need to get dressed? Can we wash that little bit of blood off her head? When does she need feeding again? I could have fully done with my mum swooping in at this point, I felt like I’d had a lobotomy and couldn’t make any rational decisions.

Also, and this is a really minor detail, but it’s important in terms of your post-labour memories: people talk of the ‘golden hours’ post-birth; those first few hours with your newborn baby; the midwife bringing you the best-tasting tea and toast after all those hours of pushing and pain. We didn’t get any! I was so desperately hungry I bit into a day-old hospital ham sandwich {it was as soggy, warm and awful as you might imagine}.

I’m really sad those immediate hours after the birth were so underwhelming and confusing for us, sometimes I do wish I’d said something – but things did eventually get better once a new shift of midwives arrived in the morning and we got cleaned up, I took a lovely hot shower, we gulped back a few cups of tea and then, the world was all ok again.

In the grand scheme of things too, this was a small inconvenience – our girl arrived safely with no complications and we will always be most grateful for that, above all else.

The NHS is awesome.

Wow and wow. We really do have an amazing healthcare system here in the UK. I realise there is a degree of criticism of our experience in this post, based on my specific hospital stay, but that cannot take away from the fact that so much of what I received as a woman in labour / new mother was incredible {free!!!} healthcare – from the super calm and efficient doctor who brought Amelia safely into the world when she couldn’t quite get out, to the incredible maternity facilities at the birthing centre in my recovery days.

OMG I am a superwoman!

Despite all the lows, the pain and the despair I felt at times, there is nothing more life-affirming than getting your head around the fact that you have grown, nurtured and birthed another human being and that little person is a piece of you – and you are a piece of them.

It is earth-shatteringly emotional, exciting, wondrous and empowering to be a woman in that moment you realise what you have achieved.

I am eternally grateful for being able to have my baby girl, and for everyone who helped assist in her safe arrival at Leicester General Hospital.

Thank you so much!

Ceels x