My baby has just turned six months old. Whilst the memory of giving birth is still quite fresh in my mind, it does fade a little with each passing month but thankfully I did write it all down in the first month after having him, with the help of some really great notes my sister kept throughout the process of delivering and meeting this wonderful, tiny human.
Now, I want to share it with the world – well, the small part of the world that reads this blog. I do want to state before I go any further, that it will be detailed, and it will be very personal. I want to share it because I feel that I had quite a positive experience, and there aren’t many positive labour stories out there, especially not ones that involve being induced.
Before having my baby boy, I had written about my experiences of pregnant in 39 Weeks and Counting – My Pregnancy. Little did I know then that my due date would come and go, and that the baby that everyone – ourselves included – had been convinced would arrive early, would actually be 9 days late. Nine days was only because we took matters into our own hands, or more put them in the hands of the NHS.
I spent a good couple of weeks bouncing on a birth ball every day, drinking raspberry leaf tea, going for walks, and so on. Nothing. No baby. Not even a lost mucus plug! Who knew I would start getting annoyed each time I went to the loo and would find that there was no “show”. We assumed every twinge I had meant something, just for it to pass like each week of this pregnancy.
At 40 weeks, I declined a sweep at my midwife appointment. I had heard that this could be quite painful, and that it rarely worked. I had so wanted to avoid any form of intervention, I was absolutely determined that I would go into labour “naturally”. Just to be on the safe side though, we decided to book in an induction at 42 weeks. She rang the hospital and booked me in for the 19th of January. It seemed impossibly far, but I was so sure I wouldn’t make it that far. On top of this, I also needed to have an appointment at the PAU at our local hospital (UHND, University Hospital of North Durham) just for a sort of check up and chat about the process.
Another week of bouncing on the birth ball, and binge watched The Crown on Netflix, and it was 41 weeks, the 12th of January. We went to the hopsital, and the M/W discussed our options. We could wait to get induiced when we were booked in for it, or bring it forward, and they could also perform a sweep to see if that helped. I had no idea what to do, and when I looked to my husband for advice, he didn’t either.
She then brought a Doctor in who basically told us that the risk of still birth between 41 and 42 weeks, then beyond is quite high. He didn’t give us much more than that, and said at the end of the day he couldn’t make the decision for me, he could only give me the facts. Then he left. My heart sank a little. I suddenly felt that my desire to have everything happen has naturally as possible was very selfish. Was I putting my baby at risk? I still don’t know. It doesn’t happen to everyone, after all.
The M/W suggested having an internal exam to see if she thought the big event was imminent, and whilst she was there she could also perform a sweep to see if that helped things along.
So that’s what we did. She took us into a different room, and went out to do some prep, so we took this opportunity to discuss our options in private. Without much discussion or thought, we seemed to arrive at the same conclusion – we should be induced as soon as possible. It was suddenly quite exciting, although I was aware we could still be in for a long wait.
During the exam, the M/W determined that I was 1 cm dilated, and she could actually touch the baby’s head which was surreal. She then did the sweep, and for those of you who are dying to know, that was super uncomfortable, but to be honest it wasn’t much different to say having a smear done. I was then attached to a monitor to make sure baby was happy, and once they knew that, we explained that we wanted to bring the induction forward. Off she went to check the diary, and the next thing I knew, I was booked in for the following afternoon.
She sent us home to prepare, and get some rest. We told our parents and siblings – my sister was to be my second birth partner. At home, I tried to relax, but I was so nervous and google was not my friend. I had been advised to read up a bit on what the process involved but I kept reading the risks and the downsides and getting more and more worked up. I’m not going to point you in the direction of any websites, because I am wanting to keep everything as positive as possible here, and it is entirely up to you if you read up on it prior to starting the procedure or not.
After hardly any sleep – let’s face it, who sleeps when they’re pregnant? – we tried to keep our day relatively calm and simple. We went shopping, tidied the house, repacked our bags – I’ll do a separate, shorter blog about this at a later date -, that sort of thing. Then we went to see each of our parents before heading to the hospital for 5.00pm. It was the 13th of January.
Once in – for those of you who are curious, I wore a black, loose fitting top and grey sweat pants with easy slip on shoes – they “checked” me in. Then they came and did all of my checks – BP etc – and a health questionnaire. I was then hooked up to a monitor and we had a mini scan – the baby was lying back to front, head down – and then I had my tea! A three course meal, which was surprisingly lovely!
After this, I was told that I had had a “show” in my urine, which I had noticed but to be honest I had thought it was just from the cardboard tub that I did my sample in.
So the process of being induced, much like pregnancy and birth, isn’t always straight forward process and it can be done differently as well. For me, they had advised I would have a pessary placed behind my cervix. About six or so hours later, I would have an internal exam and depending on how far I had progressed, I would potentially have another. By morning, they repeat the process however if I wasn’t progressing, they would have to wait another 18 hours before giving me another pessary. However, if things were going well they would look to see if they could break my waters, but I would have to be examined by a doctor at this point as that decision would lie with them, rather than the M/W. And beyond that there were lots of other variations and options.
So, at about 6.00pm, they took me into a private room and examined me. I was 2 cm dilated, and they placed the pessary behind my cervix. Again, it was quite uncomfortable but not too different from the sweep. Once it was up there, I couldn’t really feel it. They did advise that there was a small chance it could fall out, or that I might get some strange marks in my underwear but to just keep going to the toilet etc as normal.
Then, we walked. Keeping active and upright can really help encourage things in the right direction – gravity and all of that. We did laps of the hospital about five times in a row. At this point, I was having very mild cramps, very infrequently.
The next stage was a waiting game. My husband left about 8.30pm, and I tried reading for a bit. I had a cup of tea and a ripple and shared the news with some very close friends. I then decided it was better to get what rest I could so got myself ready for bed – a nightie I had bought especially for the occasion – and got into bed. Of course, hospitals are very noisy places. Random beeps aside, there were other ladies getting checked, then at around midnight they came in and put me on the monitor again, but baby was being a bit naughty and as per his usual pattern, wasn’t moving about much so I was on for nearly 2 hours! Once satisfied though, they checked me again – still only 2 cm – and gave me the second pessary. This was one was bit more uncomfortable, but then off I went back to bed. Still no rest though – the smoke alarm went off, then the lady opposite me went into labour, and a girl was brought in on a drip with an alarm on it. I had started to get stronger cramps, that were a bit more frequent than what I had experienced earlier, but nothing to really write home about, they were like period cramps.
Finally, morning came. They brought breakfast round – am I the only person who loves hospital tea and toast? – and as I was eating, I felt my first proper contraction. It was about 7.30am. I knew it was a proper contraction because of how different it was to how I had felt up till that point. The pain was stronger for a start, but it also climbed to peak, hovered there then started to fade. I would say to start with they about 3-4 minutes a part, and my sister suggested it was time to start keeping track of them. For this, I used the Full Term app.
Gradually, as the contractions got more painful, I buzzed for the midwife and told her what was happening. It was the worst time really, because the staff were just doing the change over from night to day shift so no one was available to examine me, and despite the fact that I was pretty sure I was in labour, I still had to wait for the doctor.
By the time my husband arrived at around 9am, I was pacing the floor, and they were coming every 3 minutes, lasting about 40-50 seconds. He did actually go and ask for paracetamol, just to take the edge off whilst we were waiting but the M/W stated that there was no point as I would soon be examined.
At about 10/10.30am, the midwife finally came along to take me to see the Doctor. By this stage, I was having to stop and really breath through the pain, and grip on to my husband. But I could walk and talk through them, and in between them I was reading him snippets from Gurgle Magazine! I went through to same private room I had been in for my previous exams, and the Doctor had a good look and a bit of poke around to see how dilated I was and if there was enough room for them to break my waters. With each check, things had become more uncomfortable, but he said they could indeed proceed to the next step, which was a relief.
So it was a quick trip back to the ward to collect my stuff – and my husband – and then off we went to the delivery room, where privacy and gas and air awaited!
My husband got a message to my sister and told her it was time to get up to the hospital. In the delivery suite, I met my lovely midwife Katie, and she put me on the monitor again and we discussed my options. She went through my birth plan and she informed that I wouldn’t be able to have use of the birth pool because of the pessaries. I had also stated in my birth plan that I had wanted to avoid having the hormone drip, pain relief – other than gas and air – and intervention that wasn’t absolutely necessary. I also wanted to be upright or on my hands and knees for that delivery if possible.
Katie explained that with regards to the hormone injection, they would see how well I progressed but if it was slow it would eventually be something that we would need to discuss. In the meantime, I planned to use the gas and air, and the birth ball.
My sister arrived, and at 10.45am they burst my waters. They lay me on the bed, and inserted something that looks similar to a knitting needle or a crochet hook, and used the little hook to nick the sac, and then I felt a warm gush flood the bed. It was a pretty small flood if I’m honest, but I had quite a small bump so I suppose that’s why. It’s quite strange because once they’ve been popped, for a little while every time you contract, a little more comes out. Thankfully though, you should come well prepared with gigantic maternity pads and big knickers! If not though, the hospital should be able to provide you with whatever you need.
The bounce ball is nice to use, because being in labour is exhausting, so it gives you somewhere relatively comfortable to sit on but keeps you active unlike if you sit or lie on the bed. The tens machine is sort of like having pins and needles shot through you. For me, it didn’t really stop the pain, but it gave me another sensation to focus on. It was similar with the gas and air – it didn’t really stop the pain, but the process itself was such a distraction. It didn’t make me feel a little queasy at first but after that I was pretty much fine. It is strange because you’re meant to try and breath normally which is hard to do when you’re having a contraction. I was told – and this really helped – to start taking the breath as the contraction was starting, then to breath normally throughout, and as the contraction started to become bearable, you stop. I’ll admit, I didn’t always stop straight away, but part of me was scared that as soon as I stopped, it would start up straight away.
Anyway, at 11.08am , I came off the monitor and was able to get up and about again. Between 11.15am & 12.30pm, we were all chatting, joking and such, but at some point in this time frame – and this is direct quote – I had a particularly “ferocious” contraction. Katie attached me to the monitor again, but she let me stay on the ball for this one, and she actually felt my stomach during the contractions, although I can’t quite remember why as from this point, things are a bit of blur to me until the point of delivery.
I do know that as the contractions became more painful, i became quieter and kept pacing the floor. My sister suggested that I lean on the bed and rock back and forth, which did help a lot.
At 12.30pm we noticed that the contractions were roughly 1 minute and 30 seconds a part, and they were becoming extremely painful. At 12.50pm, I was back on the bed being examined – this process becomes more difficult the further along you get, because the last thing you want to do during a contraction is lie still on a bed. Katie could feel his head in my cervix, and I was 4 cm dilated which meant I was now in “established labour” – a term I actually dislike because you can labour for so long before this stage, but its not really recorded – and she advised me that she would check me again in four hours. FOUR hours. At this point I wasn’t sure how I would make it that far. Some good news though was that I was progressing well enough that I wouldn’t need a hormone drip. She had also briefly put me on the monitor again and the baby was happy.
At 1.13pm I came off the monitor and some point during this time, I vomited between contractions. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, other than a banana malt loaf, and I had attempted to drink water and some lucazade but again, this was also a struggle. I also ventured away from the safety of the gas and air, to try to have a wee but nothing would come out. I actually don’t know how I didn’t wee myself at any point.
It was this point that I was starting to consider pain relief. I remember leaning against my sister, and crying. I was so torn. Each contraction felt like an earth quake inside of me, and they were becoming relentless. I knew that I wasn’t doing myself any favors if I felt that I couldn’t go on, but refused pain relief. All I was doing was exhausting myself. She hit the nail on the head really and said “If you knew how long you would be in labour for, the choice wouldn’t be so hard, but because they can’t tell you how long you will have to be in pain for, its frustrating.”
With each contraction, I could now feel the baby bearing down, pressing against my bowel and making me feel like I might poo. I was told that this was normal, however I actually also felt as though my body was pushing. I wasn’t actively doing this, and feel that this is an important distinction. With each contraction, I was now yelling into the gas and air, because my body was also pushing, but because I had only been 4 cm at my last check, I felt that this was wrong and so I didn’t say anything. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I do wonder what might have happened if I had just said, I think the baby is coming and had stayed upright, against the bed where I was.
By 2.25pm, Katie wanted to monitor me again, but I really didn’t want to get on the bed, so she tried to do it with me standing however it was difficult. I managed to get onto the bed, and for some reason – maybe it was some kind of instinct, I’m not really sure – I removed my knickers. At this point, another midwife had come in, and was talking to me whilst Katie was checking me. She couldn’t pick the baby up on the monitor anymore, and wanted to place a clip on his head instead so that they could pick up his heart beat.
Suddenly, Katie’s head appeared over my legs, and she looked at the other midwife, and said something that I didn’t quite pick up on. My sister panicked a little, as she thought she heard her say “she’s still 4 cm” but what she had actually said was that I was fully dilated. 10 cm and ready to go apparently! It had been just over an hour since she had last checked me and had told me I was 4 cm.
Things started to happen very quickly from there on. The room filled with people – about 2 or 3 midwives, and the doctor that had examined me – and by 2.40pm my legs were in the stirrups. It wasn’t the position I had wanted to be in to give birth, but again it was happening so fast, and I sort felt like I wasn’t really in control at this point.
With each contraction, I pushed. (I very quickly felt myself poo, sorry, its horrid but its true, and your midwife will scoop it up and scurry away with it.) At first, I was allowed to use the gas and air as normal, and there was one midwife on one side of me, and my husband at the other – able to see so much more than he had ever said he wanted to – and I was aware of my sister just off in the distance, not wanting to intrude but still wanting to see what was happening.
As the birth got closer, they actually told me stop using the gas and air, and with each push, I was told to take a deep breath, then hold it and push my chin down on my chest. I was pushing with everything I had, I felt exhausted and I honestly thought he was never going to come out. It felt like he wasn’t moving. I’m even sure that I heard one of the midwives suggest to Katie – who I think was only recently trained – to prepare a scalpel for an episiotimy, which only caused further panic in me. But then, the doctor was telling me that he would be out in the next push, although it certainly didn’t feel that way. I actually yelled at him “no he won’t!” They told my husband to pull back on one of my thighs, and for me to do the same on the other, and I pushed.
Without even knowing what had happened, his head burst out of me – my sister described it like a splat, or a sort of explosion – and his body just sort of followed. I think as it happened, I actually went “oh!” like I was shocked, and my husband… well let’s just say he had a few choice words, especially as he had always stated that he didn’t want to be able to see anything happen.
And there he was, at 2.53pm. It took around 3-4 contractions, with about 2-3 pushes per contraction. He was placed – plonked – in my arms, all slippery and gooey, covered in blood and other gunk, and I just couldn’t believe what I was looking at. The most beautiful creature ever to have existed.
In those first moments I had three initial thoughts – That I had never been prouder of anything else in my entire life; that I could never do that ever again and that I was absolutely starving. I feel a bit differently now, especially about the second thought. Although I feel that I am starving quite a lot!
My husband cut the cord, in what felt like no time at all (I had wanted to do delayed cord clamping and although I think it probably was delayed a little, not for as long as I had wanted) and they placed a little white hat on his head. I remember being amazed that the contractions had stopped so quickly. I think I was having an adrenaline rush because in the moments immediately following delivery, I couldn’t physically feel much.
That did not last long. The next stage – the third stage – is the delivery of the placenta. This can be done in two ways, and I opted to have managed third stage, meaning that they would give me an injection to cause the placenta to come loose, and they would then be able to gently pull it out. I chose this because I didn’t fancy another round of pushing so hard, I thought my eyes might burst. However, my placenta nearly split, and so she was unable to pull it out. I had to push, in the exact same way as I had to deliver the baby. It didn’t take that long, but it was quite frustrating because unlike the baby, I couldn’t really feel any progress. Once it came out, they carried it away – and it looked pretty gross, I’m not going to lie – and I actually have no idea what happened to it!
That concluded my labour. My established labour was 2 hours and 17 minutes, but I feel that I labored in total for 7 hours and 23 minutes, which really isn’t very long in comparison to many people.
Immediately following the delivery, they had to check to see how much damage was done. This in itself was awkward because not only was still holing the baby, but half of the bed had been lowered, my legs were still in stirrups and the last thing you want is a midwife poking around such a tender, sore area. But needs must. So they set to, and tried to just focus on my tiny baby boy.
It turned out I had a second degree tear in my perineum, and a tear in my clitoral hood – something that I didn’t realize was even possible – so I would need stitches. Thankfully there was surgeon free who was able to do it. They gave me an injection (of course in the affected area) which I was allowed the gas and air for, and she set away stitching, which felt awful. It took about 20 minutes.
Finally, they let me put my legs down! It felt good, but I was starting to feel very sore. The adrenaline was leaving me. Katie came to the rescue though and offered me a pain killer in the form of a suppository, and I thought why not, after all I had no dignity left at all! And boy, did it work. It last 12 hours.
Every time I moved, I felt a gush of blood but I was told that this was normal, and that it felt worse than what it was. I had only lost 450 ml of blood (no idea how they measure that, any ideas?) and yet I looked so pale!
They took my baby from me and let me get a bit more comfortable, removing the tens machine – which I had forgotten about – and weighed him (a gorgeous 6lb6oz) and wrapped him. Then my husband and sister took their turns holding him. My sister then left, and we got to spend some time alone with our little miracle. We dressed him – although all of his clothes were too big for him, and this would be an issue for some time – and they then came in and attempted to get him to latch onto my breast, but he was having none of it. Then they let me get a shower. I got quite a shock when I stood up because I was bleeding, and just sort of leaving a trail behind me, and even though I knew I was bleeding, I hadn’t expected this to happen. I had a wee – they needed to measure my urine, and it was terrifying but I think the aforementioned painkiller really helped but I managed – and got in the shower, where I started to cry. I was so used to having my baby bump and suddenly, I just had a loose, saggy tummy. I felt lonely, and of course the hormones that run through you cause the baby blues as well. I was quite weepy, but after my shower and into the night, other than being exhausted, I felt wonderful. It wasn’t till the following days that I started to feel really emotional and stressed.
We went back onto the ward eventually, and then our parents all came to visit their new Grandson.
I have more to tell, about the first few days – we were in hospital for 4 nights in total – and then of course life as a Mam. However, I wanted this to be about the birth of our beautiful baby. I still to this day can’t believe that he is here, and I can’t get over how amazing he is.
I do want to say that first of all the care I revived from the NHS was absolutely fantastic. The midwife that delivered my boy was wonderful, and when she came to see me after, I nearly cried saying bye to her! Even though my labour didn’t go to plan – and I don’t know if it often does for anyone, so don’t be disheartened if this is the case for you – I wouldn’t change a thing, not even the fact that I was on my back with my legs in stirrups. My child was delivered safely, and even though I tore, I was stitched promptly, and they did a great job. I managed – only just – on the gas and air, and I really think that this, and my delivery going as well as it did, is down to a combination of the fantastic support I had from my husband and sister, and the pregnancy yoga I did throughout my pregnancy. I learnt so much there about child birth, and I feel that it helped me both mentally and physically prepared. Don’t get me wrong, nothing at all can fully prepare you for childbirth, because everything can change so quickly, and every birth is different.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for mothers everywhere. However you came by your baby, whether it be natural conception or medical intervention; vaginal birth, assisted delivery or a C-Section; if you labored for days on end, or hours; if you had all of the drugs or no drugs; if you were in hospital or at home; adoption, or fostering; however you did it, you it wasn’t easy for you. Physically, mentally, emotionally, this experience is life changing, and it is difficult because each path has its own challenges. You are all superheros.
I just want to give a special mention to my sister here. I wrote about her first labour and at the time it seemed so amazing knowing what she had been through but I now a better understanding of it. She went through so much, she was in labour for days and that baby just would not leave her. I don’t know how she did, but she is truly magnificent for getting through it, and having her by my side when I went through it was wonderful.
And my husband wasn’t so bad either.