My Birth Story
I suppose I was slightly niave, I didn’t think birth would be a problem. I was nervous about it, the same way I suppose all first time parents are, but only because I didn’t know what to expect. I also knew it would be painful, but I believed it was a pain I could deal with – after all, the pain was bringing my baby into the world.
I’d coped with everything else my pregnancy had thrown at me, birth was just the final step, and as my due date approached I started to feel excited.
I was aware complications could happen during labour, but I was certain mine would be straight forward. I was fit and healty, and I was stubborn enough to deal with the pain, without the need for an epidural. The thought of being confined to my back whilst in labour filled me with dread, so I was determined to have a quick, active labour with no drugs and as little intervention as possible. I was so certain things would go smoothly, that I didn’t even mention contingency measures in my birth plan. After all, I wasn’t going to be one of those women who couldn’t cope and ended up with a C section!
5th May 2012
39+6 weeks pregnant
I’d been having frequent Braxton Hicks contractions throughout the pregnancy, so when they started again the day before my due date, I didn’t think anything of it. The Hubby (Mr X) was at a football match (the last Sheffield Wednesday game of the season), so I had gone to my parents house for the day, just so that I wasn’t alone if the baby decided to arrive.
At 11am we noticed that the Braxton Hicks were in a rough pattern, so my mum (who was beginning to get excited) suggested we start to time them. They were coming like clockwork – every 10 minutes! I found them uncomfortable, the pain was like bad period pain, but the tightening and pressure were the worst bit. I found myself breathing through the worst part to allow me to deal with the intense feeling, but it wasn’t too bad. By this stage I was still in denial that it was actual labour, as it was nothing worse than the Braxton Hicks I’d been experiencing since about 18 weeks gestation.
My mum made chilli for lunch (one of my favourite meals), but I found it hard to eat it. My appetite had gone, and I felt restless. I couldn’t stop pacing.
My 2pm the tightening were still happening, but we’re now every 8-9 minutes. I started to mentally prepare myself for the fact that is could be it!
By 4/5pm they were every 7 minutes, and the pressure had gone up a notch. I was having to grab hold of something for the worst part – the sofa, my parents work tops – anything I could dig my nails into would do! I sent Mr X a text message asking him to come and get me straight from the football match, as this could be it (he was planning on hanging out with friends at the pubs near the ground for a bit afterwards).
When Mr X picked me up at 6pm my mum was bounding about like an excited puppy, as she believed the baby’s arrival was imminent. I still wasn’t completely convinced.
The drive from my parents house to our house was about an hour, with a 40 minutes stretch on the M1. As we got onto the motorway the tightenings kicked up a gear again, and were now coming every 6 minutes. The pressure in my uterus felt like my insides were being squeezed my a giant claw. I was still managing to breath through them, but I was struggling to get into a comfortable position with the constraints of the car seat and seat belt.
It was at this point that I knew this was the real thing. As soon as we arrived home I gave the labour ward a call. They said I could come in to get checked over, but as the contractions were still 6 minutes apart there was no rush. Mr X insisted I had a sandwich before we set off, so I forced myself to eat despite having no appetite! We checked, and double checked the hospital bags, grabbed my maternity notes and set off on the 15 minute drive to the hospital.
Although I had a slight touch of nerves, I was predominantly excited – we could be leaving the hospital with our baby in a few hours!
On arrival I was put on a bed in the ward and examined by a midwife. The examination was awful, and felt very similar to a smear test. I awaited the verdict with baited breath…
I’m not going to deny it, at this stage I was pretty disappointed. 1-2cm meant that I’d potentially got about another 12 hours to go.
The midwife was lovely and friendly, and told us there was no need to stay in hospital at this point, but we were welcome to stay if we wanted to. I was advised to try and get some sleep, but if I couldn’t sleep I should stay active. As I was coping with the contractions, we decided to head home.
It was now about 8pm, and I felt too restless to sleep so we decided to take Brodie (our crazy collie) for a walk. The walk was hard work, the contractions were now every 5 minutes and were getting quite painful. I was struggling to just breath through the most painful part. Contractions come in a wave, you can feel it slowly building – a culmination of pain and pressure that gets more and more intense until it reaches a crescendo, then it peters out until finally the contraction is over. I was having to really grit my teeth through the most painful part, the peak of the wave.
We got home and Mr X went to bed, he’d been on nights the previous night, so was knackered. I decided to have a bath to see if the warm water would help. Just before getting into the bath I went to the loo. There was a ‘plop’, and I looked in the toilet to discover I’d lost my mucus plug. This is as gross as it sounds. It was a rough spherical shape, about the diameter of a 50p. It looked to be comprised of slime and blood, like a giant bloody bogey!
Despite its grim appearance, I was actually excited to see it as it meant labour was progressing – maybe I’d be about 4cm now?
The bath didn’t help, I was too restless and I couldn’t get comfortable so I got out. I tried to watch a bit of TV but couldn’t concentrate on anything through the pain of the contractions. By 11pm I gave up and went up to bed with the intention of trying to get a bit of sleep between contractions. At this point I took two paracetamols as advised by the midwife, but they appeared to be as useful as a chocolate teapot!
I laid in bed, maternity pillow wedged between by legs and against by body, and tried my best to sleep.
6th May 2012
40 weeks pregnant – due date!
I’d been trying to sleep for about 3 hours, and only managed to doze for a few minutes at a time before a contraction woke me. At around 2am I started to time my contractions again – they didn’t feel any worse, but were coming every 3-4 minutes, and lasting about 60 seconds. At 2:30am I phoned the labour ward, and they told to come in so they could see how I was progressing.
I woke Mr X, we got dressed, got in the car and made our way back to hospital and to the labour ward. I was taken to a bed where I laid legs akimbo for another examination, and anxiously awaited the verdict…
1-2 frikkin cm!
What the actual f@ck!?!
What was my body playing at?
I couldn’t believe I had nothing to show for all this pain! What had all these contractions been doing? They certainly hadn’t been causing my cervix to dilate!
I was gutted!
We went back home. I was going to get this baby out one way or another, so I sent Mr X back to bed, grabbed my birthing ball and bounced, and bounced, then for good measure I bounced some more.
At about 9am Mr X got up. We decided we should get dressed and showered, because surely things were bound to pick up pace soon. I got ready first, then got back on the birthing ball for some more bouncing.
At about 11:00am, whilst Mr X was upstairs getting dressed, something changed. I was sat on the sofa having yet another contraction. At the peak of the contraction my bump went rock hard, then it seemed to roll beneath my hands. As this happened the pain and pressure changed, and it felt as though my lower spine was being crushed. It was agony. I actually screamed, and in a desperate attempt to escape the pain, I found myself crawling up the back of the sofa. Mr X ran down stairs just as the contraction was finishing. I told him we needed to go back to hospital, surely pain like this meant the baby’s arrival was imminent.
We had just got in the car when the next contraction came – again it was agony. It felt as though my back was being ripped apart, and the pressure in my hips and lower spine was almost unbearable. I was drenched in sweat and with each contraction I was letting out a primal growl.
We arrived at the labour ward, but as I’d already been examined twice recently, they didn’t want to examine me again just yet. The midwife had a feel of my bump and explained that the baby had turned ‘back to back’ (also known and occiput posterior, or ‘OP’ presentation).
This means that instead of the baby’s head facing towards my tummy in an anterior position (meaning it’s head was in an optimum position to press against my cervix) the baby’s back was towards my spine, meaning that each contraction forced the baby against my back and hips! This explained the increase in pain and the change in pressure.
They thought it would be better to keep me in, as the baby was hopefully only a few hours away. I tried my best to keep active – primarily by bouncing and rocking on the birthing ball and marching up and down a spiral staircase. I was only just coping with the contractions, they were pushing me to the very limit of my pain threshold, but I still refused any pain relief.
I wasn’t trying to be a martyr, I had good reasons for refusing pain meds:
The drugs that can be given during labour are limited, and all have side effects that that I wasn’t happy about.
1) An epidural completely numbs you, but it means you have to lay on your back, which is naturally not a great position to give birth. This means in most cases labour takes longer as you haven’t got gravity on your side . It also has other potential risks – such as messing with your blood pressure, possible spinal/nerve damage, and an increased chance of a c section. Plus there is an enormous scary needle!!
2) Aside from the epidural, all the pain relief options for labour have a possible side effect of nausea. I seem to respond particularly badly to the emetic effects of opiods, and if there is a chance of being sick, I WILL be sick.
3) Most of the pain meds available have side effects that can make you spaced out, sedated and can even cause hallucinations. I didn’t want to be ‘out of my head’ when my baby was born, and I was pretty sure I’d react badly to these meds. I’d previously been given Tramadol to help with the pain of a small operation that was done under local anaesthetic (it was to remove a botched up contraceptive implant, which had accidentally been placed into my bicep muscle). I was given Tramadol to help with the pain whilst it was healing. I had two tablets of a pretty low dose – within half an hour I was off my head. I thought my living room light was emitting floating diamonds that were being eaten by my dog, and I spent the whole day desperate for a wee, as I daren’t go into the bathroom as I though there was a monkey in there!
So enduring the pain as best I could, I soldiered on.
At about 6pm Sunday evening Mr X and I were both exhausted, so we decided to invite my mum to be a second birth partner.
When she arrived I was struggling to cope, so I decided to try the gas and air. Gas and air, or Entonox is a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide, and is also known as laughing gas – I quickly found out why. I few deep breaths through the Darth Vadar mouthpiece and I was on all fours in fits of giggles. It felt like all the good bits of getting drunk – the fuzzy lightheadedness, the blurry slurry happy feeling! I loved it!!!!
It didn’t take away the pain of my contraction, but it gave me something else to focus on, and it helped me to distance myself slightly from what was happening.
At about 8pm it was time to get examined again. I knew from the severity of the pain I must be quite far along.
I laid back again, toking away on the wonderful Entonox whilst the midwife prodded away at my insides, and waited with trepidation for the verdict…
This had to be a joke?!
How the hell could I still be 1-2cm.
At this point I lost it. I was tired, I was scared, my whole body hurt, I’d been in labour 32 hours and nothing had happened. I started to feel the first icy prickles of panic. I laid on the bed and sobbed.
The midwife explained that because the baby was back to back, labour had slowed down and and become more painful.
I was barely keeping my growing terror under control – this wasn’t how my labour was supposed to happen!
Mum, Mr X and the Entonox managed to keep me just calm enough to cope with the contractions as we entered the second night of labour!
7th May 2012
40+1 weeks pregnant
I was tired, more tired then I’d ever been in my life, I was existing in a haze that was punctuated only by the excruciating pain of the contractions. Minutes and hours blurred together and time held no meaning.
By 3am my body was started to feel the impact. A doctor appeared to tell me I was dehydrated and he needed to get some fluids into me ASAP or labour wouldn’t progress. I was also told I needed some sleep.
I really didn’t want to go down the drug route, but after lots of pressure from the doctor and the midwives, I was eventually persuaded to have one dose of diamorphine with some anti-sickness meds, just so I could get a few hours sleep whilst the fluid drip kicked in. The diamorphine took away some of the pain, and I managed to get about 3 hours sleep between contractions, but it made me sick – despite the anti-sickness injection. I was angry with the doctor as I knew this would happen.
Even more fluids were required to balance my frequent vomiting.
At about 8am Monday morning it was time for yet another examination. This time the midwife also broke my waters. This was a bizarre sensation, it felt like I was peeing myself!
The verdict of the examination wasn’t good. I was only 4cm!
I was devastated and lay on the examination bed crying. I was scared, frustrated, and increasingly feeling that control was spinning away from me. By this time the diamorphine had worn off and the gas and air was having no effect! I was yelling and growling my way through contractions and trying anything to take the pain away – including getting mum and Mr X to push against my back, and even pushing my back against the cold sink in the bathroom.
Despite the fluid drip I was still dehydrated, and they were struggling to get a trace on the baby’s heart so they moved me from the midwife led unit to the labour suite.
Whilst I was in the bathroom, pressing my back against the cold sink and screaming my way through another contraction, a team of doctors appeared. This didn’t feel good, there were 4 of them, dressed in scrubs and wearing surgical caps.
They told me they were worried about me and the baby as my temperature was going up, and they needed to speed things up. They wanted to put me on Synoctin and antibiotics. They also wanted to give me an epidural!! I was really against this, but they explained I was moving around so much with each contraction that if they gave me the Synoctin without an epi, then if there were more complications and I had to go to theatre they wouldn’t be able to do the epidural and they would have to use general anaesthetic – so I reluctantly agreed. I sobbed as they put the epidural in, as I hated losing control, and it was completely against my birth plan.
So I laid in bed with an epidural in, a drip containing fluids, antibiotics and Synoctin, feeling pretty miserable.
At 5pm something amazing happened. My examination showed I had finally reached 10cm – hooray!!!
Suddenly I felt back in control as I knew this was something I could do. The doctors told me to rest for an hour before pushing and they left me with Mr X and mum to try and relax.
At 6pm Monday evening I was allowed to push – eventually. The midwife and student midwife (who were amazing) let me know when to start pushing, and I gave it everything I had. With each contraction I was doing 3 huge pushes. The midwives and doctors said my pushing was some of the best they had ever seen – unfortunately the baby wasn’t moving. My temperature was still going up, and they were really struggling to keep a trace on the baby’s heartbeat. The doctor said she would give me an hour to push before they intervened.
In that hour I gave it everything I had, and I was told I was doing amazingly well – but the baby didn’t budge.
At about 6:45 a team of doctors came in – they said they would have to take me to theatre! They wanted to try and turn the baby, and if that didn’t work they would have to do an emergency C-section. I was absolutely heart broken. This was my worst nightmare and I was terrified. I sat sobbing as they read the consent form to me. I hated the lack of control and the fact that I wouldn’t be able to deliver my baby by myself. Signing over control of the most important event of my life was utterly devastating. As soon as the form was signed it was all stations go – about 10 people appeared from nowhere! Somebody put me in a surgical gown, another person took off my nail-varnish, the anaesthetist was topping up my epidural whilst other people were topping up my drip. My mum was crying by this stage. I told my mum to phone my dad and ask my dad and sisters to come to hospital so that she wouldn’t be on her own. By this stage I felt numb. The amount of people and the bustle was overwhelming, and the fact my mum was crying was beyond terrifying!
I was wheeled to theatre and transferred to a different bed. Mr X appeared in scrubs and a sticker saying he was the daddy. More drugs were injected into the epidural, my feet were placed in stirrups and a screen was put up. After feeling lots of weird sensations between my legs I was told they had managed to turn the baby and I was allowed to push again. I gave it absolutely everything, but after 4 contractions there was still no movement, and the doctors said my body was just too exhausted, so they were going to perform an emergency cesarean.
The epidural was topped up even more – I hung onto Mr X’s hand as I felt the horrible tugging and pulling sensations in my stomach. I asked the midwife how long it would take and she said I would hear a sucking sensation just before the baby was born. A few moments into the operation I heard the sucking – the midwife smiled and said that my baby was nearly out.
Suddenly they lifted my baby up over the screen, and I could see a little purple head and upper arms. Mr X said “Its a girl”, and he was grinning at me! Then she cried and I burst into tears.
After 58 harrowing hours of labour, my baby girl was finally here. They wrapped her in a towel and brought her over to show me. It was the most amazing moment of my life. She looked at me with her big blue eyes and I was instantly in love with her. She was then taken over to another part of the room where she was weighed and measured, then she was placed in Mr X’s arms as they stitched me up. I asked somebody to tell my mum, and a nurse went out to tell her.
Emily Charlotte, the Gruffalo Girl, arrived at 7:07pm on Monday 7th May weighing 7lb 7oz.
I was wheeled to recovery and my daughter was placed in my arms for the first time. We had skin to skin and just stared at each other for about 20 minutes. I knew then that she was worth every second of pain, and I would do it all again a million times for her.