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An open letter to my best friend about labour and birth

Tissues at the ready

Dear Joanne

When you told me you were expecting your first baby, I was thrilled.


In fact, you may remember – if your baby brain hasn’t kicked in yet – that my tears of happiness started you off – although you had the excuse of pregnancy hormones.

You’re going to make an amazing mummy and I can’t wait to meet the ‘little tinker’.

You’ve been asking me for a while now what labour feels like. And, like any best friend would, I’ve told you it hurts, but it’s fine.

And to some extent it’s true. Of course it is, or no-one would ever have more than one!

But there are a few things that I’ve kept back. Things that only the midwife, the doctors and my birthing partner know. Things I haven’t talked about with anyone else for the risk of scaring them and making them panic.

Because that’s not what best friends do. But then, they don’t lie either.

So, here’s my birth story – because sometimes it’s not as perfect as those films and celebs (I’m talking to you Jaqueline Jossa) make it out to be.

You know the basics. You’ll remember how we laughed at me when I told you how my contractions started in Sainsbury’s and how I’d had to open a pack of Paracetamol without paying for it just so the cramps would subside. And you also know about me getting to 7cm dilated at home before hitting the gas and air in hospital which made me go a little bit hyper.

You also know how they let me have my water birth and how I nearly pulled the taps off because I was pushing so much. But that’s all I told you.

You’ll probably remember the first time you came round when I couldn’t sit down and disappeared for long periods of time. It wasn’t because I was having a nap or feeding little legs. It was because I was in so much pain from the emergency third degree tear I had.

You didn’t know about the eight hours of pushing, the alarms going off because little legs was distressed and stuck, or the fact he came out white.

Not because I didn’t want to tell you.

I just wanted to protect you. I knew how much you wanted a baby, but I also knew how scared you were.

So why am I telling you this now?

Because I want you to be prepared.

I want you to see the signs before you have to go through what I went through. To know that if the pain is predominantly in your back it may be that your baby is back to back. To know that if it is, and your midwife hasn’t diagnosed it, your baby may end up hitting your pelvic bones as you keep pushing with no sign of coming out.

And I also don’t want you to panic if those alarms go off to signal that your baby is distressed. In fact, you and your baby will be in the best hands with all those doctors and midwives around. And you will hear that little cry.

I promise.

But there’s also some other things I want you to remember, because I know how organised you are. I know you have that birth plan ready with your rules about no pain relief. However, when you’re having that ‘little tinker’ and in desperate need of something to take that pain away, don’t worry that it’s not on your plan. Take what you need.

Because when you get home and have those first few days with your baby you won’t remember how they got here and whether you didn’t follow your birth plan, or that had a little accident when you were pushing.

All you’ll be thinking about is how special that teeny tiny little bundle in your arms is. 

An open letter to my best friend about labour and birth