Image by the lovely Leanne at leanneelizabethphotography.com
Four months later and I’ve finally decided to write about one of the best but hardest days of my life: the day I gave birth. I’m not going to lie, I’ve had to really jog my memory to remember exactly what happened because quite frankly, it’s all a bit of a blur. I do wish the midwives would let you keep your notes – or at least give you a copy?? Thank god for a husband who remembers it pretty clearly (traumatised perhaps?!)
I’d planned (well..I wanted) a natural water birth at our local birthing centre that was attached to our nearest hospital, however said hospital no longer had a maternity ward. If something was to happen and intervention was needed, a trip to the next nearest big hospital would be inevitable. This I understood. I was convinced this wasn’t going to happen to me. I mean, I was low-risk?
Three days prior to my due date
It was late Friday night that I’d had my suspicions things had started. I woke up pretty suddenly with what felt like a trickle in-between my legs. I wobbled over to the bathroom to check but there were no real signs of my waters. I was however very convinced that this was just the beginning and my waters were trickling out instead. I’d googled. I’d read stories. A worried me decided it would be best to visit the birth centre to be checked.
I quickly woke my husband and off we went (around 3am). The midwives at the centre were lovely and made sure it was of no inconvenience to check me. I knew that if my waters had broken, I would need to be in labour within the next 24 hours to reduce the risk of infection. I held my breathe, in went the speculum and low and behold, I was wrong. Baby was still being held nicely in his cosy pool of water. Home it was. Back to bed.
Both of us woke a bit later than usual that morning, after the previous evening’s shenanigans. I decided that I needed to get out of the house and that maybe a nice, long walk was needed. So off we went to nearby National Trust property, Newark Park. I was definitely pretty uncomfortable at this point as I remember we had attempted to walk down a small hill to get to the main walk, and I basically decided that was enough walking and that we should just go home. Via home we stopped off at a Lidl… probably would have picked somewhere else If I’d known that was our last real day spent as just us two!
That evening I enjoyed a nice soak in a warm bath; observed baby’s wild movements and watched a film with the husband. I had had some light cramping but nothing major.
That night I woke with what seemed like light contractions that came and went. Whilst my husband slept, I lay there drifting in and out of a slumber, timing them on an app. No real sleep was had that eve. I remember thinking that these contractions were already pretty uncomfortable (little did I know!)
Another episode of ‘my waters have broken!’ Another trip to the birth centre (paranoid!) No waters. Told to go back home and see how I felt in the morning.
Contractions continued all night and I hardly slept. I knew this was the beginning.
Another lazy morning trying to gain some sort of rest around the contractions. I have a vague memory of coming down for a coffee around 10ish, sitting at the table and noticing my contractions getting a bit stronger. I decided I’d better go shower. I think the warm water sped things up a bit as by this point, I could hardly stand. I had to shout for my husband to come up and help me get out! I felt like maybe the baby was coming?!
We both decided that having a relax in the bath would be the best option (I mean, that was the done thing to keep contractions strong – stay nice and calm – just chill?!) In the meantime, the husband rang the birth centre to see what they thought and they said it was best to come in to be checked, but no rush. As soon as I was given the option, I wanted to get there asap! In my head, the quicker I got to the birth centre meant the sooner I’d have the baby! So, In-between contractions, I gathered the last little bits to put in the hospital bags (I remember grabbing onto the side of the bed at one point, and sitting in a heap on the floor – they felt that strong!) and off we went (again) to the birth centre (around 2pm), to be examined.
Crap. I was only 2cm dilated. Since the centre was so empty, I was given the option to stay in to see how I progressed. I liked this option. I still thought I’d meet baby sooner. Going home felt like it would reverse progress, like taking steps backwards!
We were given a pool room to hang out in – the room they planned I’d give birth in eventually. At this point time went very slowly. I’d had no pain relief and the contractions were still coming. I tried to go on the birthing ball but I was getting pretty restless. I needed to chill. The husband put on some music for me and I just lay on the small sofa-bed, listening to the LOTR soundtrack (no idea why I chose this at the time), trying to breathe through the contractions. The breathing techniques helped A LOT – I’d learnt them on the hypnobirthing course I’d done online via The Positive Birth Company (highly recommend). The midwives kept telling me to nap but no way was that happening. Did they know how much pain I was in?!
It was suggested that I have a go in the pool, so one of the lovely midwives got it ready and in I went. The room I was in was really nice actually. It was spacious and had a sofa for family members to chill on, a bed and a long tube light which changed colours – I did find the red setting a bit brothel-esque though! The pool was so nice – I felt like like I was in my own little private spa. I stayed in for what felt like hours, still having plenty of contractions.
An examination was offered to me, so out I got. I was so hopeful that I’d be at least 6/7cm but baby had other plans. I was only 4cm! A very disheartened me got back in the pool. I was then told that a woman was coming in to have her third baby, was hoping for a water birth and that she’d be in and out like a flash – would I move rooms for her? Who was I to stop her from fulfilling her wishes? I mean, If my baby wasn’t coming anytime soon, she might as well have hers.
A room move later (non-pool room) and we’d ordered Deliveroo – pizza for me and a burger for the husband. Yes, you can order takeaways to most hospitals! I couldn’t really eat much between contractions – they’d gotten a lot more frequent at this point. The midwives kept telling me to nap but I just couldn’t see how I was able to! There was talk of gas and air (I wasn’t allowed any until 4cm) and I jumped at the chance. One inhale and I was addicted to the stuff. No-one was able to part me with my beloved until baby arrived!
Mrs third baby had been and gone and back we were in the pool room again. I’m told by my husband that this was when I entered what is known as the ‘transition period’ – a time where a mother usually decides she’s given up and is going home! It’s when the baby begins its descent into the birth canal. We got the calming Indian spa music on, the breathing techniques were in full force – in for 4, out for 8. I really wanted to push as it felt like I needed to go for the biggest poo ever, but I was told not to as It was too early. I was also remember thinking that I can’t go for a poo in the pool and tensed up – from reading about it after, I definitely should have let myself surrender to it. In hindsight, I reckon this is where things went a bit wrong. I remember feeling so spaced out. The husband was on hydration duty – passing me my water as well as sweets to eat for an instant sugar-rush.
At some point I was told I could push. I remember gripping onto the side of the pool, pushing with all my might but getting no where. I don’t think I truly visualised it. It didn’t seem real that a baby was going to come out of me, here in this pool. Maybe not believing in myself hindered the birth too? Perhaps I could see the future?! I was asked to try sitting on the toilet as this would help with the natural feeling of pushing. Still nothing. I really didn’t want to birth my baby on the toilet.
The midwives decided that a catheter should be fitted in case my bladder needed emptying (I had tried) and was in the way of baby descending. I honestly didn’t know this was a thing, and by this point I don’t think I really cared what happened – as long as baby would come soon! Surprise, surprise – no urine came out. I knew I didn’t have to pee! Not long after the catheter, as I walked back into the bathroom, what felt like a huge piece of jelly fell out of me. This would be my mucus plug. A few more steps forward and there was my waters. After notifying the midwives, back I was, assuming a pushing position on the toilet with my beloved gas and air. How dignified.
A midwife walks in to tell me that an ambulance had been called. Baby had done a (meconium) poo in the womb. Great. I told her, I’ll only go if I can take my gas and air with me. Of course, my wish was granted. This is when it got a bit confusing. I remember lying on the small sofa-like bed, waiting for the ambulance whilst people moved around me. Midwives I hadn’t seen before. I think at this point I tried to bargain with them, asking that if I went whether the surgeons would be so kind as to agree to give me a caesarian instead? Of course the answer was probably not!
The husband was busy packing my stuff, reading to make the drive separately. Off he went. I don’t even remember saying goodbye!
The ambulance arrived and there I was was, pant-less underneath my nightie, a towel wrapped around me, trying to keep my dignity in front of the male paramedic. Once onto the stretcher, I was strapped in as if I was going to try escaping! I felt like I was being taken off to a mental institute! I closed my eyes and I don’t think I really opened them again until I arrived at the hospital (apart from a little peek in the ambulance). I remember just praying for this to be all be over as soon as I arrived.
Upon arriving, I was helped onto a bed. I felt so vulnerable and helpless at this point. I was exhausted. Thankfully, not long after, the husband arrived. This was around 5am in the morning by the way. I was told to put my legs in stirrups to help the pushing – the complete opposite to my birth plan. I never imagined I’d have the sort of birth I ended up having. I was put on a syntocinin drip to help speed up my contractions, making them more intense and even more painful. As the dose was upped, I begged again for a caesarian. No use, not going to happen. Towards the end, the doctor offered me the use of forceps or ventouse to help deliver baby, however this would be just as painful and there were a few risk of hurting baby. I refused – no way did I want to hurt baby. It felt like I had been pushing for years. They kept telling me “you’re doing so well, you’re nearly there!” They said that half an hour ago! When would I actually be close?? Why were they lying to me?! The husband was so supportive and was by my side every step of the way, helping me through the pushing and even did a bit of coaching himself!
Of course I arrived just before a shift change, so the two midwives and male doctor who coached me at the beginning, disappeared, and in came the one lovely midwife who was the one to deliver baby. I was so thankful to her. Having a team of people I’d never met, coaching me, was a bit too overwhelming. It’s fair to say that things progressed a lot quicker when I had just one midwife looking after me. Baby boy was finally born at 8:15am that morning. I held him in my arms and I never felt more relieved.
I opted for the injection to help push the placenta out. I don’t think I even had to push – it came out fairly quickly. I lost about 500ml of blood but nothing major happened. I had stitches for a second-degree tear. Then lovely midwife drew me a bath. Boy that felt good. I did my first two wee’s (I was determined to as this meant going home quicker). I got into my new John Lewis pyjamas and let baby latch on for his first feed. I didn’t find it too difficult, thankfully. I held him in my arms and just couldn’t believe he was mine and that I’d just birthed him. So surreal but oh my, the motherly instincts kicked in straight away. I cared for this boy and he was mine. Ours.