I was a ‘Difficult Patient’

Posted by on May 3, 2015 in Writings

I was a ‘Difficult Patient’

The women in labour must have NO STRESS placed upon her. She must be free to move about, walk, rock, go to the bathroom by herself, lie on her side or back, squat or kneel, or anything she finds comfortable, without fear of being scolded or embarrassed. Nor is there any need for her to be either ‘quiet’ or ‘good.’ What is a ‘good’ patient? One who does whatever she is told who masks all the stresses she is feeling? Why can she not cry, or laugh, or complain? – Grantly Dick-Read

My mother, who was my midwife for  my first birth  said that it was a good thing I had not given birth in the hospital. She said that they would have knocked me over the head and ordered me to behave and shut up.

I am not ‘a good patient’ in labour…no…I am what you would call ‘a difficult patient’.

I moan. I complain. I shout. I scream. I sing. I stamp my feet. I demand. I swear. I growl. I froth at the mouth. I even throw things.

Oh, I tried. I really did. I tried to be good. I promise. I tried those breathing techniques that are supposed to keep you calm and focused and good. And they would work for a little while. In early labour. But at some point I would have to admit defeat and throw the breathing techniques out the window. They did not help me. They hindered me and the process. I needed to let go, I needed to allow the waves of pain to drown me, I needed to howl and scream my way through labour, I needed to lose myself completely in the fire of pain.

I whimpered and wailed my way through my first labour, my mother’s patient eyes and gentle touch carrying me. It was hard and the intensity of the pain was unexpected. I paced the room like a caged tiger and felt like I was a roast chicken being ripped apart by some glutton. It felt like the labour, the pains would never end. But I also felt exultant and strong, especially when I became a lion on the tip of a mountain, full of spears, bleeding, dying but still strong and powerful and roaring. I squatted and I shouted and I pushed out a 5kg baby when I knew I couldn’t.

I was not a good labourer, although my midwife at my second birth whispered into my ear that I was as she rubbed soothing oils into my burning lower back.

“Yeah right,” I thought, “I bet you say that to everyone…” but inside I loved those words, I needed them. I spat out the orange she had just offered me and with renewed energy, I roared as I arched my back in agonising pain.

My second labour took me by surprise. They all did. All four of them. Something does make you forget the intensity and when the labour actually begins there is that moment where you go “oh shit!” and then the roller coaster ride begins and you have to hold on for the ride as you buck through the contractions. It was bloody sore but then again, it was also bloody amazing. I had not realised how strong I was and I did push ups and roared to ease the pains and was taken to a place, a white hot place on the other side of pain where pain did not exist. It was incredible. Shamanic almost.

The third time I laboured my baby was ‘late’…he had spent a good amount of time incubating in me before he decided to trigger his own labour. And trigger it he did. His 5,47kg frame slamming against my cervix. I needed to push against anything. I could have pulled down walls, houses, cities. I scrubbed floors and cooked and hung laundry. I threw my mucous plug across the room after it slithered down my leg.  I roared and I complained and I knew I couldn’t do it. But then I did.

With my fourth labour, I entered a strange dream like state as I drifted off somewhere else between the pains. I felt the pain shoot through me, opening me and centring me all at once and I cried a high singing note which felt in tune with the pain that was searing through me. When her head began to crown I decided again that there was no way I could do this. It was impossible. Too scary. It burned and I would tear (I had never torn) and so I ran away. I ran away from my own birth and into the kitchen. I felt like a mad bull, stabbed and chased by the matador and it was only when one of my midwives got me to look her in the eyes and squat down that I could relax and birth my baby. And out she slipped and slithered like a wet fish.

So yeah…I was not a good patient.

I was, what you would consider to be a difficult patient.

But you know what? I am actually quite proud of this.

You know why?

Because I got in touch with a part of myself which had not existed before and which made me feel at one with myself and everything. It helped me get in touch with my rage and hate and anger and fears, as well as all the love and bliss and beauty and joy.


What is it about birth that I find so incredible?

It is that moment when a woman finds herself, finds her rhythm, her strength. And for every woman it is different…there are those who breathe and sigh calmly through labour (how do you do it!?!) and those who stamp and dance and swing their hips. It is that moment when she has to let go and that moment when she realises that she, only she can give birth to this baby.

So I really think that the focus should steer away from it being a gentle birth, or a spiritual birth, or a calm birth, or an orgasmic birth. Your birth and your baby will guide you, you will guide you. Your body knows what to do.

Just hang on tight and enjoy the ride.