Truth be told, this page isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, and without wanting to be all-caring sharing earth mothers we thought it might be useful to share our experiences of childbirth because we wish someone had told us more about what to really expect. Bear in mind that every experience is going to be different, as any good midwife or doctor will tell you.
VICKY AND HANNAH
Hannah was very much planned – in fact we had started to prepare for life without children when we were told we qualified for ICSI – and while that didn’t impact at all on the way she came into the world (how could it) it did give me a lot of time to think about how I wanted to give birth, where etc. I wanted to go to a birth centre, avoid epidurals, and expected to be home within 24 hours. I read the books and they all told me not to go to hospital until my contractions were a certain distance apart and of a certain duration. I packed a hospital bag at about 7 months pregnant, with all the stuff the baby and I would need for a 2 day stay.
My labour pains began at around 5pm on Thursday 5th December. I can be that precise because it was the day Nelson Mandela died, and while I was very sad that he was dead, I was very cross that they had cancelled Question Time (sadly this is my favourite programme) as a result. The pains were on and off through the evening, sometimes lasting seconds, sometimes minutes, sometimes 20 minutes apart, sometimes 2 minutes apart. My husband was advised to go and put his day clothes back on (he was in his PJs) only for the midwives to tell me to just go back to bed. I did so. I didn’t sleep, but when I woke up the pains were still there, fairly irregular. To be honest I was extremely hacked off – I was at that stage, 8 days overdue and I just wanted her out. So the day went on. And on. We ordered a curry. Curry came. I ate a lamb chop at 8pm and the taxi which took us to hospital arrived at 8.20pm. The pain was excruciating, and I couldn’t believe it was going to get worse. I couldn’t walk and it took ages for me to walk to the birth centre where I was casually told that I was only 1cm dilated. For those who don’t know (like I didn’t) the baby has to come through the cervix and that’s the bit that dilates (I know, dur). You have to be at 10cm for the baby to come out. They took my blood pressure and because it was a little high they decided to monitor the baby’s as well. This meant that they had to break my waters by attaching some kind of wire thing to my baby’s head. Because they had broken my waters, they had to admit me.
I honestly can’t remember a great deal of the next 24 hours, or the sequence of events. It wasn’t helped by not having a sense of the time of day or night, and by the increasing pain. I simply couldn’t believe that the pain was getting worse and would continue to get worse. I didn’t think it was possible. I know it was around 2 in the morning when I relented and said to my husband “I can’t do this”. This panicked him because that’s just not something I say – I am extremely stubborn and pride myself on having a high pain threashold. I can remember thinking that hypnobirthing was a load of b******s, that gas and air merely gave me a tube to bite on when I got a contraction, and asking for an epidural (which I hadn’t really planned on doing) at about 2am. The epidural finally came to me at about 8am and was quite simply the best thing EVER. Getting into a sitting position was frankly more difficult that squeezing the baby out but once that needle went in I was a different person, and while I was still in la la land because of tiredness and lack of food I could hold a lucid conversation and even crack a joke. It was at this point that I realised that my husband had been offered loads of food and tea by the nurses – no food allowed for me, not that I wanted to return to my curry at that point anyway. B******d (not really). I even got to be quite friendly with the midwife – a lovely woman called Dorothey who wanted to talk about God. A lot (she had spotted the crucifix I wear). She also kept telling me off for being dehydrated and showing me the contents of the catheter bag I had attached to me (no recollection of them attaching that AT ALL). Lovely. But she did offer me a new gown to put on because I was virtually naked by then – not that I gave a stuff at that point, but bless her.
Anyway time kept ticking on and on and on. At two stages the baby’s heart rate slowed dramatically and crash teams were brought it. I was terrified, and they started to prep me for a C-Section. But her little heart rate picked up, and both times the registrar was content to walk away. I didn’t realise – or at least fully understand – that my contractions were still extremely irregular, and in the end they gave me some kind of drip to bring my contractions on. By this stage a scarily efficient (but lovely) midwife called Elisabeth had replaced Dorothey and was telling me frantically to get on to my side. The thought of it was awful and I let out this sort of cow noise as I did so. Anyway the baby still wasn’t coming out and I could tell that they were all starting to get really worried. It was at that point that they broke the news to me that my baby was back to back and that this hadn’t previously been spotted. Finally, I got back on to my back and as I pushed, an enormous poo came out. I really couldn’t have given less of a rat’s arse, especially as Elisabeth kept telling me that I wasn’t pushing properly (I mean how am I supposed to know how to push? Never done it before love!) and that I should imagine doing a really big poo. After a lot more effort, they decided that they were going to have to use a ventouse to get her out, because in addition to being back to back her head was also wedged backwards. She clearly had no intention of being born…. Eventually though, she did come out and I swear I didn’t really feel it (probably because of the epidural) though bizarrely I could feel the contractions again. The placenta followed immediately (which apparently isn’t good) and there was no time to cut the cord because my baby wasn’t breathing. She was put immediately on to the resus table and the previously reassuring registrar didn’t answer me when I asked him whether my baby was dying. It felt like AGES before I finally heard a little whimper (believe me she has more than made for it now – when she cries she shrieks). It was 11.07pm when I was handed a freshly washed, crinkly, puffy, beautiful little baby girl. I was in complete shock and so didn’t feel that rush of love until the shock had passed. I honestly couldn’t believe what had just happened, and I think it was a good 20 minutes or so before I realised that I had an actual baby in my arms. It was the best moment of my life. I was so happy that I didn’t even realise that she had to be taken away to have a canula put into her tiny hand (because it had been more than a day since my waters were broken) or that a complete stranger was merrily chatting away to me while she (I think it was a woman anyway) started sewing the bits of me up that had torn, or the bizarreness of trying to convince the midwife to wind my husband up by telling him I wanted to freeze the placenta so we could eat it on Christmas Day.
When she came back to me, me and my gorgeous girl were transferred to the ward. This was horrific. To cut a long story short the staff were, by and large, excellent but the ward was boiling hot and bright so it was impossible for either of us to rest (I had been awake for 48 hours with no food at this point). It was also very noisy and I couldn’t poo (tmi perhaps but I wish someone had told me to expect to be constipated for the next month). Then I was told that I would be in for a minimum of 2 days so that my baby could be given antibiotics, which turned into 4 days because I had high blood pressure (they didn’t seem to be taking on board that this was, in my view, because I couldn’t sleep or relax with my baby). In the end I refused to eat and screamed rudely at a nurse to give me a side room. I’m not proud of this but it did work and we were sent home the next day. And that’s where the fun really began!
Don’t be put off by this. At the end of the day giving birth is not fun and the pain is, quite simply, awful. But it is also the best, most surreal, magical thing I have ever done. I’m so proud of my body for getting through it, but I’m even more proud of my beautiful, precious little miracle baby and I would do it again in a heartbeat for her.
CAT AND SERENA
In my past life as a work hard, play hard, alpha female, I never dreamed that I’d be jumping my husband less than 6 months after we got married and, to all intents and purposes, demanding a baby, but I did. Hormones had taken over, and they continued to be fully in charge for the next 9 months. I hated my pregnancy from start to finish but I wanted this baby more than anything so I pretended everything was fine, until my due date, 10th January, when I was so sure the baby would come, that I went insane. I lost all patience and wanted the baby out. Luckily I went into labour that evening at 5pm.
I was very clear and set on my birth plan; I would be in the birth centre and have a water birth, fully natural with no drugs. Under no circumstances would I have an epidural, gas and air wouldn’t do anything anyway (I’d tried it once at Glastonbury and it did nothing) and I would rather give birth in a ditch than poison my baby with pethidine. I went for my birth centre tour, I packed my overnight bag with just a few bits including a couple of nappies, 2 baby grows and plenty of magazines, crosswords and my iPod for music to listen to while we waited for the baby to come out. I even bought a sieve (I’ll let you guess what that was for!).
All I can say now is “thank you”, to all my friends and family with babies who had to listen to all the utter b******s I was spouting. Water birth?! I tell you what, I walked past the entrance to that bloody Birth Centre on my way out of that damn hospital and nearly threw up on the door at the thought of it. Water birth my ar*e.
So, it’s due day, friday night, 5pm, I’ve started contractions and am getting all excited, bouncing on my birthing ball (thanks Vicky!) with a glass of wine, watching my Modern Family box set, eating my Christmas chocolates and feeling grand. The pain was just as I imagined, nothing at all, the contractions were every 20 minutes and I expected that by morning I’d be holding my fluffy little pink bundle. We went to bed, I didn’t sleep because of the contractions, which felt like period pains, so I played Candy Crush and read a bit of Buzzfeed. By 6am they’d got a bit stronger, I was having 2 in every 10 minutes, but, by 10am they had spaced out again. We went to the cinema, we had lunch out, the contractions slowed to 1 every 20 minutes. We walked round and round Westfield, up and down escalators, ate Nandos extra spicy chicken, loitered in John Lewis hoping my waters would break so we could get at £2000 voucher. no dice. We went home, I cried with frustration, then just as we were going to bed the contractions picked up again. Then they picked up a lot. I got no sleep at all and 6am they were 3 every 10 minutes. I got in the bath and we timed them for 1 hour. They stayed regular so we called our parents and went to the hospital. The nurse at the birth centre examined me and to my utter bewilderment, told me I wasn’t even 1cm dilated yet (I needed to be 4 before they would let me in). As I put my hands on my knees and breathed inaudibly through the next contraction, she said “I’ll know when you’re ready to come in, I’ll be able to hear you having a contraction through the wall. Go out, have a nice day, go to the cinema – you won’t be doing that for a while! har har har”. Pffff. I thought, she has no idea how strong these are. I’ve been in labour for over 36 hours, this baby is coming out!
We went home, my parents arrived, we watched movies and chatted, I bounced on the birthing ball all day, I lay over the ball, I rocked on the ball, I jogged round the kitchen, I jumped on the spot. I was so tired, I hadn’t eaten all day. My parents had to leave, we said goodbye, at 10pm I was just about to go to bed, exhausted, to try and get some sleep, when I had such a strong contraction that I leapt up and screamed, from then the contractions got worse, a lot worse. I ran on the spot, I whimpered, I couldn’t stand still, eventually, in a frenzy, I got in the bath, I made my husband turn off all the lights, light candles and put on chillout music, he lay on the floor and, desperately tried to fight sleep, I lay there trying to “let the pain absorb me and not fight it” like I’d read. I drifted into a mini trance for like 20 minutes but then I couldn’t take it anymore, I was so tired I thought I’d drown so I made him knot a dressing gown tie round the leg of the bath so I could bite it and keep my head out of the water. It didn’t work, I was in too much pain, I jumped up, in the dark, like Ursula the sea-witch emerging from the deep, and yelled “we need to go the the hospital! I NEED DRUGS! NOW!”
It was 12:30 Monday morning, I don’t remember the drive to the hospital, I don’t remember the walk to the admissions ward all I remember is my husband asking if we should call the birth centre and me yelling “F*CK the Birth Centre! I NEED DRUGS!”. We got to the admissions ward and I was like a wild animal. I can’t remember the sequence of events, I just remember snippets, me shouting for my husband to “get the turtle! where is the turtle?!” He’d left the blue plastic massaging turtle he’d been grinding into my spine all night in the car! He said he’d go and get it and I cried “don’t leeeeaaaaave me!”. I remember the admission nurse offering me paracetamol and codeine and me grabbing her arms and literally begging her to “give me Pethidine, I need Pethidine! Please don’t send me ho-o-oooome” she said she’d have to examine me. She did, I was 2-3cm. I cried and begged for drugs. I told my husband not to let them send me home, I said I’d hold onto the bed and they’d have to drag me out by the feet, that I was never having another baby, to open the window so I could jump out, I ran round the room a bit more, I threw up, the nurse came back and I was on her like a junkie “pethidine” I cried, pleee-he-he-heeee-ase!”. Then that blessed woman said the words I’ll never forget “OK, I’m sure you’re at 3cm by now, I’ll admit you and get you some Pethidine” I cried and threw up again. I vowed to name my child after her. Another angel from heaven came in, she had a needle, I dropped my pants and got that frigging good stuff right in the butt cheek. At that point, it was the best moment of my life. I sat on the birthing ball, collapsed forwards onto the bed and slept for an hour. But the contractions slowly came back. They put us into a room, I was off my face on Pethidine, freaking out that it was wearing off and had started begging for an epidural. The nurse gave me the gas and air dispenser thing and I literally didn’t let it leave my mouth for the next 5 hours (my husband told me later it was 5 hours, I was so off my face, I thought it was about 30 minutes). The nurse told me I was doing well and that I could do it on just gas and air with a bit more pethidine and I just remember shaking my head like a wide-eyed frightened child “you’re sure you want the epidural?” frenzied nodding from me.
At 9:30am Monday morning I got the epidural. I barely remember it. After that I was back to normal and we had a lovely day. We said goodbye to the adorable midwives who had looked after us all night and in walked the Pethidine-giving angel, Leanne, from the night before. By midday I was 4cm. By 4pm I was 4cm. by 6pm I was only 6cm. They gave me Syntocinon to ramp up the contractions, at 8pm I was 8cm. A lot of doctors and nurses came in and had a serious sounding discussion then ramped up the Syntocinon again and told me that if I wasn’t at 10cm by 10pm I’d have to have a c-section as the baby’s heartbeat was slowing with every contraction. I desperately didn’t want a c-section and used all my mental powers to will that stupid bloody cervix of mine to dilate. The moment of truth arrived, it was 9:50, Leanne said she’d take a look and if I was 10cm I could have a head start on pushing and we might be able to surprise the scary serious c-section pushing doctors with a baby before they came back. I was 10cm! I never thought I’d be so happy to have a woman looking up my vagina! She took the end of the bed off and put my feet in stirrups and I pushed with the next contraction (I could only identify them as my stomach getting hard, no pain at all). I pushed and I pushed. I pushed so hard I thought my eyeballs were going to pop out, many doctors came in, I pushed some more, lots of people were looking up my vagina now, cheerleading saying “Puuusssshhhh: keepitcoming, keepitcoming, keepitcoming keepitcoming keepitcoming. WELL DONE!” I’m like “well? is it coming out? What’s happening?”. After an hour of pushing (felt like 5 minutes) they attached a ventouse to the baby’s head to “guide it out”. On the next push I felt the head come out (it felt like doing a massive pooh through your vagina). The doctor said “the head is out! do you want to feel it?” I said the only thing to be said in that situation: Eeew!! No way!
With the next massive push a long, thin, white, earthworm-looking thing with streaks of blood all over it slithered into vision from between my legs and was slapped down onto my chest like a warm wet fish. I looked at it… and suddenly, it looked at me! My daughter, my black eyed, white faced, freaky, lord-voldemort-looking daughter looked right at me and it was amazing. We stared at each other for what felt like hours, she was making gurgly death-rattle noises so they took her away and did things to her whilst a lot of hot blood and guts poured out of me onto the floor. My placenta was dragged out and held up like a disgusting purple jelly. I was sewed up and finally everyone left and it was just us and our baby. She was tiny, wide awake, alert and the most perfect, perfect little thing I had ever seen. I feel veeerrrry corny writing this, but the only way I can describe the feeling is that I finally felt like I knew what I was here for. I now existed to protect this person. I would spend the rest of my life trying to make this little being happy. Me and my girl, against the world.
BREE AND IZZIE
From about 15 weeks pregnant I began suffering with Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD). It wasn’t bad at first, but as the end of my pregnancy neared I really began to struggle. Even getting out of bed was excruciatingly painful and there were days when I actually couldn’t. My hubby had to help me do everything and I was in agony. At 39 weeks my doctor suggested we try induction. I was just happy to hear that I may avoid another 3-4 weeks of pain. I was admitted to hospital and at about 11pm they started me on pessaries to try and dilate my cervix so they could eventually break my waters. The first contraction came on all of a sudden and shocked me to the point that I dropped and shattered my iPhone. After 6 years of having an iPhone and never breaking the screen it shattered (of all times to shatter your phone?!?! I mean, seriously?!?!) But I digress…
My time in hospital was eventful to say the least; a woman came into triage while I awaited a bed and gave birth so fast behind the curtain across from me, that I thought I might actually have to catch her baby as it came shooting out. For four days my contractions got stronger and stronger, I was terrified of the unknown and the screaming woman lining the maternity ward did not help! On the fourth day the contractions got to a point that the doctors were sure they would be able to break my waters, but then all of a sudden they just stopped. Our baby was not ready to make her debut (one thing I now know about our daughter is that she will only do something when she is good and ready! DIVA!). So, the hospital sent me home and I was devastated. I was in such pain and had geared myself up to finally meet our gorgeous baby but it wasn’t going to happen. For another 2 weeks I suffered unable to walk or even get out of bed.
At 41 weeks the doctors decided they would try again. It was an arduous 4 days of pessaries and gels. My cervix would not dilate and I just had to wait. This time I stayed in hospital and then finally, after weeks of no sleep and chronic pain, the consultant decided they would try to break my waters by force. That afternoon they successfully broke my waters. I was adamant I wanted a water birth with no pain medication. I had a birth plan and although it wasn’t quite panning out the way I wanted it to, I was determined to get back on track. I convinced the doctors and midwives to let me labour naturally as my contractions had started and they were getting stronger and more consistent. They reluctantly agreed and moved me to the water birthing room and we got ready to welcome our little girl into the world. For 6 hours my waters continued to gush (I mean actually GUSH!) and the contractions got consistently worse. The pain was manageable though and I was on track. Then they checked me again. Only 2cm dilated. WHAT?!?! How could I only be 2cm, I mean really?!?! Could it really get worse than this?!?! At this point the consultants decided I had to be put on the drip as I was not dilating fast enough and my waters had been broken for too long. The baby and I were now becoming at risk of infection and other complications. I had to concede and we moved out of the water birthing room.
Once I was on the drip, the doctors informed me that it was strongly recommended I accept the epidural as the pain of induced labour was 10x worse than natural labour. WHAT?!?! 10x worse than this?!?! I almost passed out at the thought of it. This labour was not going to plan and I was getting more and more anxious by the minute. So much for the months of hypnobirthing and relaxation exercises! It was all out the window and I was a woman without a plan entering the depths of the unknown. I finally accepted the epidural as the drip was being turned up every 45 minutes to increase the strength of my contractions. I am not going to lie to you and say that this was not painful, because it was BLOODY painful. After about 45 minutes the first anaesthetist arrived and proceeded to place my epidural. For anyone afraid of having an epidural, should you choose to have one, this is by far the easiest part. Don’t let it frighten you. The anaesthetist informed me that the epidural should take affect within about 15 minutes. Ok, no problem, I’ve gone this long, another 15 minutes is not going to finish me off…..WRONG!!! 15 minutes passed and the pain was getting worse. By this point the midwife thinks all my tales of having a high pain tolerance are a load of rubbish and I could see she was getting concerned about my ability to cope. Why isn’t the epidural working?!?! It must have been inserted wrong (I can see the midwife thinking… “Or maybe you have a low pain tolerance?!” NO, I definitely do not!). So back comes the anaesthetist. This time a more senior consultant who herself is 7 months pregnant with her first baby and looks terrified for her life after seeing my face. Out comes the first epidural and in goes the new one. This one is definitely in there and I should feel nothing but pressure after about 15 minutes. 15 minutes passes and the pain is so bad I can barely stand to live another minute. By this point my contractions have been turned up nearly to the full dosage in anticipation of the epidural kicking in. Nothing is happening… WHERE THE %^$& is my pain relief?!?!. I have been in active labour for 20 hours at this point, no sleep, no food, I can’t keep anything down and I am pretty sure I am dying. The doctors decide to check the progress of my dilation – 4cm. ONLY 4 CM!!! OMG I am going to die! No seriously, I think I might die. Why would anyone do this more than once?!? Please God make it stop!!!
The doctors are now in panic mode, I am given a spinal tap, Pethidine and a special cocktail (Bree’s special cocktail) of pain medicine to kill the pain… STILL NOTHING! My legs are now dead from mid thigh down but everywhere I should be numb is completely alive and I can feel everything (BUT THANKS! MY LEGS AND FEET ARE NOW DEAD WEIGHT). I am now grabbing at my mother’s neck begging her to make it stop and shaking to the point of feeling I might die. Literally die! My husband is so scared he has gone white in the face and has to leave the room. My mother soon follows. By this time all the doctors I have seen over the past weeks have come to say hello and wish me well. I built many lovely relationships during my time in hospital and I am touched that on a Friday night they are all staying late to witness the birth of our beautiful baby. SURELY, with all these doctors and midwives and nurses and the anaesthetist around me someone must be able to do something, right?!?! WRONG! I am now losing it completely, they have to continue turning up the drip to force me to dilate, and my waters have been broken for so long that I am now being put on antibiotics. I still can’t move my lower half and everything above my mid thigh is as feeling as ever. Why is this happening to me?!?! It all becomes clear… the anaesthetist comes back and declares she believes I have a band. A BAND?!?! What the $%^& is a BAND?!?! Apparently it is rare, but it is a fibrous band which encircles my pelvic region and stops any sort of pain medication from working. GREAT! So, I am experiencing induced labour without any pain relief and my legs are dead so I can’t move to even try and relieve some of the pain. Nothing is going to work, so I’m on my own. Apparently there is no way to detect this in advance of child birth (might I remind you that this is extremely rare – so of course it happens to me). OMG!!!! I’m only 4 CM dilated and I am actually going to die from pain. It is going to get worse!!!
Now I am panicking, I can’t be consoled, I want this baby out, but I have continuously refused an emergency c-section and I am still determined to push this baby out on my own. I can do this, I WILL do this. I have no choice. At about 24 hours the pain has really taken its toll, I can barely speak and I am still adamant I will not have a c-section. The baby is happy and healthy with no signs of distress. The doctors reluctantly let me continue. They will check my progress again in 2 hours and anticipate I will only be about 6cm. No one is betting on me being able to withstand much more. Then I begin to feel an odd sensation. The baby is moving down, I can feel her and she is about to fall out. I call the midwife and beg her to call the doctors. This baby is coming NOW. “No No” she says, “it’s impossible, you were only 4cm at last check and there is no way you will be fully dilated. It is just the head crowning that you are feeling…” REALLY?!?!? REALLY?!?!? Can you feel what I am feeling?!? Have you ever had a baby?!?! (I neglected to mention that my (very sweet) midwife was only newly qualified and I was only her third delivery ever!). Finally I convinced her to call the doctors back, they are busy. She checks me herself. At this point I could care less who checks me, let’s just do it before this baby flies out on its own. She checks me and says “I just want to ask for some clarification before I say anything” ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!! Five minutes pass and low and behold the midwife comes back and reports that I am in fact fully dilated and I am to start pushing. Oh shit! Oh shit! I am about to have a baby.
The adrenaline kicks in. I start to push. With every contraction I bare down with everything I can muster, the pain has become so bad that my body has gone numb. Then things start to go wrong. Because I was being induced, the baby and I were being constantly monitored, but my body is becoming distressed and the baby is too. The monitors are all beeping and I am again surrounded by all the medical professionals I have had the pleasure of knowing during my stay. They have all come to ensure I get through this and to share in our joy. The monitors continue beeping and they determine that if I cannot push the baby out within 10 minutes they will have to intervene. She is already in the birth canal though so it is safer for both of us if I can continue with a natural birth but I have to do it quickly. So I do! With every contraction I push to the point that I think my body is going to explode. The doctors decide that they need to give me an episiotomy to help her out faster and I continue to push. Within 10 minutes I feel her head come out and the joyous (and very loud) excitement of my family and one truly fine team of medical professionals. They are cheering me on and I am nearly there. With one further push her shoulders and her body leave mine. She is here! Our beautiful baby is here! I can’t believe it… I whisper her name over and over, the name she shares with my beloved late grandmother and my very much loved grandmother-in-law. Our baby is here and I did it all on my own. We did it! We are a team.
In an instant I relax and think “ok now things are going to start to go to plan”, but they don’t. To me I have been staring at my beautiful daughter forever, but it has actually only been mere seconds and there is no time. She has emptied her bowels in the birth canal and they whisk her away to the table almost as quickly as she came out. Then I see the blood and hear the midwife call the doctor… “She’s bleeding, she’s losing a lot of blood”. I thought I was a goner. Luckily I had many doctors in the room and they all took action. In the end I didn’t need to receive blood and they were able to get my placenta out and close my wounds very quickly. I was going to be ok. While my husband and Mum watched over our daughter, I started to shake and went into shock. The trauma of the last 27 hours was taking its toll and I couldn’t function. It took me some time before I was even able to hold my gorgeous baby girl, but when I did the love and bond was instant.
It was all worth it, I finally had my miracle baby and I was complete. The love I felt at the moment she looked up at me was indescribable. I had a baby of my very own, with a man I could never have dreamt I would be so lucky to call mine. How could life get any better than this moment?!? The thing is… it has. With every day that passes we watch her grow and our love and pride for her grows even greater. Every minute of my labour and delivery was worth it and I would do it again in a heartbeat for my gorgeous baby girl. Every smile, every laugh, every look is worth it. I am so grateful, so blessed, so fulfilled.
RUTH AND SAMUEL
After these epic, brave and slightly terrifying stories I feel a bit embarrassed to say that I had it relatively pretty easy but maybe this will act as reassurrance that sometimes things run fairly smoothly (and fast). I didn’t really get morning sickness and when I turned up for my 20 week scan I honestly thought they might tell me that I wasn’t pregnant and should stop wasting their time. Seeing the tiny little person inside me was bizarre and the most surreal thing I think I’ve ever experienced. The rest of the pregnancy was pretty straightforward, I got big but not giant and apart from one scare resulting from a lazy baby deciding not to move for a couple of days all went well. Convinced that he wouldn’t arrive until at least 10 days after his due date I worked until the week before, breathed a sigh of relief when he didn’t gate crash my birthday and then settled down to think about what he might need when he arrived.
The evening before my due date the list of things to get was done and then at 11pm suddenly my waters broke and the period pains started. Just uncomfortable enough to stop me sleeping I spent the whole night reading and walking round and round the kitchen. As it got to about 2am the contractions were still about 10 minutes apart but getting painful enough to make me need to hang onto the worksurface and I rang the hospital – no chance, they told me to stay at home. I continued to pace, using a contraction timing app to distract me, highly reccommended, it did wonders until about 6am. By now I was pretty pissed off with the pacing but sitting was more uncomfortable. I rang the hospital and they suggested I come in to the birth centre clinic when it opened at 8am. One 40minute rush hour drive later, still walking (just) we got to the clinic. To my massive relief we weren’t sent away, I was already 4cm dilated somehow, but when they took the baby’s heartbeat it was slow and dropping. For the first time in the whole pregnancy the baby became real in my mind, it sounds ridiculous I know but I honestly hadn’t let the concept of producing another human enter my mind for long before that. I also knew that I really really didn’t want to lose this baby now. The midwife made me down 3 bottles of lucozade and the sugar kick started his tiny heart.
They moved me through to a room with an absolutely incredible view of the Thames but by now I really didn’t give a damn and to be honest I remember very little of the next few hours. I bounced on a ball wearing one of those hospital gowns that leave your bottom hanging out but I could quite happily have been starkers. At some point a lovely person came in with gas and air which I found amazing – probably mostly because it gave me something to concentrate on. I wanted all the drugs possible but there was never really an opportunity to ask for an epidural, by 1.30pm just 5 1/2hrs after being admitted I was pushing. At some point I reached what they describe as the panic moment when the baby is on the last stretch, literally, and you feel like you can’t do anymore. I remember vaguely feeling pissed off with the midwife for shouting at me to push and telling me I wasn’t pushing properly. Then there were suddenly many more people in the room and the tone became more urgent, I guess this is the moment the midwife saw that the baby had the cord round his neck. At 2.44pm (yes, that exact) Samuel finally came out, I honestly can’t remember what I felt. I do remember that there was silence. He was whisked away because his oxygen levels were low but he was held out to me briefly before being taken to intensive care. It sounds awful now but the 2 hours of recovery time I got before he was returned was great, I was stitched up (eugh), had tea and food, looked out of the window and felt pretty relieved. To be fair I did get updates that Sam was also recovering from his experience.
Once reunited we were wheeled to a post-natal ward and as visiting hours were over my husband had to leave. I had absolutely no idea what to do. I hadn’t a clue when to change a nappy, whether I should try and feed him or even pick him up. We learnt together slowly and he slept a lot those first few days but the stay in hospital was something I wish someone had mentioned to me before as a possibility. We were there for 5 days because doctors were concerned he had picked up an infection. By the 3rd day I was desperate to leave and being told we had to stay in was really grim. That said I learnt a great deal from the midwifes, particularly about handling a newborn, the way they threw the babies around made me much more confident and being told to give the baby a cup of formula when I was really struggling to produce milk was such a relief.
Anyway we escaped at midnight on the 5th day and being at home as a family was amazing. I have to admit I didn’t bond with my baby immediately, in fact I found the first few weeks pretty tough. The slightly patronisingly titled ‘baby blues’ hit me and I didn’t want the baby there. I also cried, alot, which I think shocked my husband – I don’t think he had seen me cry before. But day by day things got better and as Samuel started to interact, to smile and laugh I have finally started to acclimitise to being a mother and love my son.
ANNA AND JAMES
My plan for giving birth to James was to have a natural birth with little pain relief for the simple reason that it would get him here the quickest. I’d read that pain relief often slows things down, as can anxiety. The idea of being back in the labour ward again was quite frankly terrifying following the stillbirth of my first baby Rose the year before so I was going to try my hardest for a natural birth (although I was aware that anything can happen). To prepare myself mentally for being back in hospital I read a lot of care guidelines for labour and delivery. I wanted to know what sort of care I should be receiving, and also what they would do if things took a turn for the worse. I also made my poor mum and husband read everything in case I was out of it! With the support of my consultant I was booked into the Birth Centre with an ‘ish’ plan for a waterbirth…
I had the first inclination that James might be on his way on the Friday morning (18th October) when I was 38 weeks and 4 days. A bit of a show and lots of Braxton-Hicks contractions, so after freaking out a bit I spent the day keeping busy (caulking and painting the cupboard under the stairs and putting up a load of hooks…as you do!) In the evening I was still pretty nervous as the Braxton-Hicks were still going and my body seemed to be getting ready, so I had a nice big bowl of pasta and went to bed early. I even sent my husband for a shower/shave before bed in case we needed to rush in overnight (and because daddy has to be clean shaven when he meets a newborn??? What odd thoughts go through your mind!)
I woke up at 4am on Saturday morning with slightly stronger Braxton-Hicks and after laying there for an hour or so pondering them I decided that something was definitely happening. I had a bigger show this time and woke up my husband up to tell him. It was very nerve-wracking – that feeling of being just at the top of the rollercoaster… We got up, had some breakfast and cleaned out our house rabbits. They were very confused, poor things, but it seemed like a practical thing to do! Cleaning them out was pretty slow going as I had to stop and sit down every so often and after a while we started to time the contractions. At this point the contractions were still quite mild but they were coming regularly at about 6/7 minutes apart.
At about half 7 I phoned the birth centre and spoke to a grumpy midwife who said that they were full and that I had to call the labour ward. Not the end of the world I know, but it really threw me. When I spoke to the labour ward I had another grumpy lady on the phone who said I should come in to be assessed. The whole thing was stressing me out and I know that stress in early labour can slow or even stop things happening so I thought I’d hold on a while, get a hold of my mum and head down to the hospital to coincide with the change of shift (8am).
I’m so glad we waited – from that point things were a lot smoother. For one thing we found a free parking space when we got to the hospital (good omen!) Then disobeying what we’d been told we went to the birth centre instead of the labour ward. I spoke to a lovely midwife who made me feel a lot calmer and she didn’t say “no room at the inn” like the last one had! She assessed me and I was about 2cm so we decided to go for breakfast and a walk to get things going. Three hours later we’d been walking for so long that I was getting quite tired, but the contractions were a lot stronger. Back at the birth centre a really lovely midwife who I’d spoken to before about my stillbirth reassured me that there would be room for me, and put us in the breakout area to wait for things to progress a bit more. They said that they didn’t want to assess me again just yet because as soon as you’re assessed it starts the clock ticking. Good idea if you ask me!
I think we were there for about 4 hours with me bouncing on one of those balls and my husband and mum ferrying drinks as required. By this time a had a very good system for dealing with the contractions – gripping tightly onto my husband’s shirt and burying my face in his belly. He was talking to me through each one and gently rubbing my back. It really helped as I never felt alone or panicked. Most importantly I got him to repeat the phrase “It will pass” as it’s easy to forget that when you’re caught up in it.
There was a scary moment when I thought the room that was being prepared for me was going to be given to a woman who was literally about to give birth. How relieved was I when she gave birth right there in the assessment room?!
When we finally moved into one of the three birthing rooms I was more than ready. I just wanted to take my shoes off! I was assessed and found to be 5cm at about 4pm and she said my cervix was very soft (hooray!) I remember wanting to be as relaxed as possible so I went and sat on the loo. I’ve heard it said that it’s just like a birthing stool as you naturally relax all the key muscles when you’re on the loo, and it’s so true! Now that I was officially in active labour they started doing the doppler checks every 15 minutes and every time the midwife said “there’s a happy baby”. Music to my ears!
After about an hour and half on the loo (!) I was starting to feel like I wanted to be in the pool, but I know they only like you to be in there when things are very well progressed and the baby’s arrival is imminent. I think it was about half an hour later when heard the pool being filled and it was such a relief just to hear that. I found it helped so much to have milestones, and to me getting in the pool was a big one. I tried really hard to get from the loo to the pool between two contractions, but I didn’t quite make it and had to go through one sat on the edge. That was a really tough one, but oh my god getting into the water was so good!
By this point I had no idea who had come into the room, but I was aware that there were more people. They were so sneaky and just kept whispering to each other about what was happening I think so that I wouldn’t be distracted by anything. Wouldn’t even tell my mum how far along I was when she asked. In the pool I found this area where I could kneel and lean my head and arms on the side. I was squeezing my husband’s hands through each contraction and doing my best to let them go a bit afterwards so that he didn’t lose circulation! One thing I didn’t expect was that there is hardly any grip when you’re on your knees in the pool. I managed to say that I was slipping and the midwives helped me by putting some towels under my knees for grip. It was a bit better, but still quite tricky to stay in a decent position.
I hadn’t been in the pool that long when the contractions and feelings changed a bit. I couldn’t get through them without making some noise, and as my mum so delicately puts it I ended up “mooing” (thanks mum!) I remember someone telling me that they were really good noises I was making – now I think about it they’d said in the tour that low down noises can help you to relax your nethers!
I think it was about 7 when my waters went. The midwife said “did you feel that?” and I was thinking “hell yes!”, it was such a huge bursting feeling. I’m not sure how to describe the next bit but thinking back there wasn’t a moment when I started pushing, it was just a sort of transition from uber strong contractions to my body actively pushing. I didn’t actually think “I’m pushing now” it just sort of happened. The position I was in wasn’t all that great, so the midwife told me how to move onto my side, and eventually onto my back (still in the pool) with my husband holding me under the arms. At this point I suddenly knew that the chief midwife was the one who was right in front of me telling me what to do, and her second in command was just to my left (how utterly fantastic as they both knew about Rose and I knew that they both really cared). She coached me through getting him out and did everything she possibly could to avoid a tear. We went super slow for his head but my cheeky little man came out waving so a tear was unavoidable. Anyways, a few huge pushes more and suddenly I had this amazing little person up on my chest crying away.
I couldn’t believe it. The most amazing incredible wonderful moment of my life. He was looking around, cried a bit, had a huge cuddle and stole my heart instantly. My little guy pooed all over me and I watched husband cut his cord right on my tummy.
My husband took him while I got cleaned up and delivered the placenta (ewwwwww!) and then we had some super special skin-to-skin in the bed. Bit of a scary moment when they thought I might have a third deg tear. You have to have a spinal and got to theatre for a third, but not for a second, and they were really sorry as that would mean going up to the postnatal ward where my husband wouldn’t be able to stay. As it turned out it was just a second (how insanely relieved was I?!) Reeeeeeeeally difficult getting through the stitches though. I had some gas and air for that bit and on no food or sugar it was horrrrrrible. It was bloomin brilliant returning to the birth centre and my gorgeous boy though and the midwives were so pleased that I had’t had to go to theatre.
We stayed overnight, and returned home on the Sunday. What an experience. I am still so stunned that all that happened to me. So proud too. James is a little star.