Before I gave birth, I was one of those people who were super shy about their bodies. I would literally break out in a rash at the thought of being seen in the nip. I would point blank refuse to go into a changing room if the curtain didn’t pull over all the way, for fear that someone might catch a glimpse of my wobbly bits in the mirror and don’t even get me started on having to have a breast check, a routine smear test or even a tetanus shot in the arse (which I had to have in a French hospital after I was attacked by a cockerel, no joke!)
So when I found out I was pregnant this time last year, one of my big worries was having to actually get the baby out of my body with strangers in the room. I’m keeping my legs crossed when I get in there, I don’t care! I thought to myself. I imagined some horrendous Hollywood movie scenario where I had my legs up in the stirrups as a consultant with a huge light on his head and monstrous forceps chatted about what to do next with several midwives as I gushed lots of blood and gore, completely exposed. But as the months wore on and my due date loomed, I began to worry less about the birth part because lots of female friends, who’d already given birth, kept reassuring me it was just them and a midwife in the room; no army of strangers and no huge drama. I soon put those silly, over-the-top thoughts out of my head, I mean it was unlikely that my nightmare scenario would actually happen right?
In fact, it pretty much ended up being just that, complete with male consultant (who was a total gem by the way, a paediatrician and 3 midwives!) My waters broke on Saturday 3rd December and unfortunately the baby had passed meconium which wasn’t a great sign and it meant that once he popped out a paediatrician would need to check him over just in case. Not the news you want to hear, but I tried to put it out of my mind. Anyway, the labour progressed very quickly and I managed to get to 10 cm on just gas and air (and a hell of a lot of screaming.) Then, all of a sudden things got hectic. My legs where hastily put up into those dreaded stirrups and my cool-as-a-cucumber consultant came in right on cue. My wonderful midwife Tara who’d been with me since I arrived then looked down at me with such sorry eyes, I started to panic.
Don’t say I have to have an episiotomy, don’t say I have to have an episiotomy, don’t say I have to have an episiotomy, I kept thinking.
‘The baby’s not tolerating these contractions so well anymore Niamh, so the consultant may have to give you an episiotomy to help get him out.’ F*ck it! The one thing I did not want to hear and that was what I was facing. The bottom line (pardon the pun) was that the consultant was going to try and use ventouse, if that didn’t work it was the aforementioned episiotomy and forceps and failing that it was to be an emergency C-section which was even further down my list of ‘oh no’s’ then the episiotomy.
So in the space of about 5 minutes the room went from just the 3 of us to 7. My husband had one of my legs in his arms and one of the midwives had the other in hers, as the consultant went in with the ventouse and the chief midwife told me to push. I couldn’t have been more exposed, but you know what? I couldn’t have cared less! I was only focussed on getting the baby out and fast. It was completely unlike me. There I was in all my glory with a bunch of strangers in the room and I wasn’t freaking out. Granted, my mind was on other things, but it really didn’t bother me. Pretty soon the baby was out and he was fine. I lay there in a bubble of emotions, full of blood and goo as my consultant stitched me up (I didn’t have to get the episiotomy in the end, just 2nd degree tearing which is as fun as it sounds) as myself and my husband stared in wonder at our new arrival.
Fast forward to today and I now couldn’t give two hoots about who sees my body. I’m not saying I’m about to moonlight as a streaker or go skinny dipping off the 40 foot anytime soon, but I have completely lost that crippling fear of having to show my body. So now things like medical appointments don’t leave me in a cold sweat and if say that curtain in the dressing room suddenly falls down and I’m left standing there in my stomach-holding-in-pants for the whole of H&M to see, I’ll probably just take a bow and say, hey I’ve been through worse!