When pregnant, people seem to really love sharing their experiences with you; pregnancy symptoms, gross details about mucus plugs that definitely count as over sharing, weight gains and losses, false alarms, annoying midwives and of course, their birth stories ‘welcome to the world!’ and not just the positive ones, oh no.
However I am going to tell my birth story right now which could be perceived as a tad hypocritical – ya know, shoving my experience and opinions at you after saying how annoying it is! You don’t have to read it though, I won’t be offended, so this is your notice to skip this post if you’re pregnant and don’t want to hear the scary details!!
Have you gone?
Ok, so brave people, let’s continue. This is going to be a long one I’m afraid.
After what was not the most fun had in pregnancy, I honestly could not wait to have this baby. Funnily enough I wasn’t scared about birth. I was scared, don’t get me wrong, but not necessarily about the actual labouring a human out of my body bit. This is where my mental health really came into play. I’ve touched on it very briefly in my previous posts and it is something that will come up again because it’s a part of me. Fairly unavoidable. But in those last few weeks it was a constant, unavoidable subject. You see, the thing that scared me was me. As with a lot of people, I’m not the most confident, however coupled with my depression, I have bouts of crippling doubt in myself in all aspects of life. This was no different. The thought of labour petrified me because what if I wasn’t strong enough? What if I couldn’t do it? If I failed?
Throughout the last two years, as my mental health issues peaked and my treatment began, I have become increasingly dependent on my Husband. Emotionally and mentally. It’s as if I can only cope if he’s by my side. Which does make a huge difference, he makes me feel so safe and secure that I could probably take on the world with him there. However feeling like I may actually fall to pieces when he’s not there meant that I tried to avoid being apart from him. This is another thing that really made me scared about the whole birth experience. What if he wasn’t there? In the UK, most hospitals don’t allow the partner to stay overnight if early labour is long and not much is happening. Which is perfectly understandable, I get it. But I could not deal with the idea of being in hospital without Husband. And what the hell would I do if my labour got going again and he wasn’t there?! And then how would I cope once the baby arrived and Husband had to go home then? If I can’t do it, and he’s not there with me then everything will fall apart. In the last month of my pregnancy I had three panic attacks because of these fears.
At this stage the NHS shone, they were amazing. Between my therapist and some amazing midwives that saw us when we went in one night with some leaky fluids (I’ll come back to this!), a plan was made and the right people were contacted to ensure that we could have a private room and Husband could stay with me the whole time. Oh the relief! Just knowing he would be there, I had so much more faith that I could do this! Hurdle number one, cleared.
The run up to D-Day.
I had a growth scan booked for 34 weeks from very early on for a couple of reasons; my BMI was raised so apparently it was routine for growth scans later on but I also have extra ribs. I know, a freak of nature! Aha! I have two; one on each side of my neck, above my collarbone (cervical ribs) and five extra; two on one side and three on the other, below my ribs. This made pregnancy a tad more complicated because what is already a very restricted space for a human to grow in, was in my case, further restricted and so they needed to keep an eye on us to make sure the baby had plenty of room to grow and that her growth was in no way restricted or stunted by the extra ribs. The little madam actually quite liked them and spent about four weeks wedged so much into my roomy ribcage that I couldn’t breathe! All was good at the scan but we had a follow up with a consultant two weeks later.
Sometimes I wonder how much these Drs really know because she decided the baby was too small and so we were sent for another scan to check. Again , we were told all was fine but we had a follow up with the consultant two weeks later. Are you seeing a pattern yet? She then decided I was measuring big and that I had Gestational Diabetes and so they toyed around with the idea of another scan but ended up referring me to the diabetic midwife instead where Gestational Diabetes was confirmed. This wasn’t as bad as it sounds because I had no symptoms and felt fine but because they were worried baby would get too big, it was decided that I would be induced. So really what I got was a definite date that my baby would be here! That’s a pretty good outcome in my book! I am not a patient person and am a control freak so this was perfect; a set date.
We had a few false alarms in those last couple of weeks. I started early labour at 38 weeks, lost my show (mucus plug – believe me, it’s nicer to refer to it and think of it as ‘a show’) and had on and off contractions fairly consistently. My waters also began to leak. Twice we went into the labour ward thinking my waters had gone only to find I’d lost a small amount and it had now stopped and off I was sent back home again to wait some more.
Cue mum to mum advice:
At this point I’d like to offer up some advice – if you are concerned about ANYTHING to do with your pregnancy and your baby, call your midwife or the hospital. You’ll have read it in many different places, been told it by many different people and you won’t believe it. You’ll still feel like you’re being a drama queen, you won’t want to make a fuss, you’ll think ‘they have to say those things, doesn’t mean they mean them!’ All untrue. You are the ONLY person that knows your baby right now, you’re the ONLY person that can speak up for it. The two times we went in I ummed and ahhed as to whether it was the right thing to do and if I was just being silly and after phoning and being told to come in, I got upset and after being sent home I felt embarrassed for wasting people’s time. But that’s ok! At least your baby is healthy!! Imagine the feelings you’ll have if the worst happens and you didn’t go in? Even after me saying this, you’ll still doubt yourself but bite the bullet anyway. Just call.
Those last weeks of seemingly never ending early labour were the longest two weeks EVER. I tried everything to move things a long: walking, curry, birthing ball, warm baths, raspberry leaf tea, evening primrose capsules, sex. Nothing hurried her along. It became clear she obviously took after her father!
So our induction date arrived; our due date. Eeek!
We were told that someone would give us a call in the morning to let us know what time to go into the hospital but if we hadn’t heard anything by 12pm, to give them a call. I was seriously nesting by this point – huge! But nesting all the same! I had cleaned and tidied everything so that the house would be beautiful when we brought the baby home again – not that she would know or care! But it also meant I didn’t have to worry about housework when we came home with a teeny baby (oh looking back, I’d love to tell that heavily pregnant, finding it painful to move me that she doesn’t need to do the housework because when she gets home she’s not going to see a clean house or care about anything other than that tiny human! Could have saved myself a lot of work!). I left myself some jobs to do on the Friday morning so that I wasn’t just sitting around waiting for a call. Good plan I thought!
6:30am the call came in. Basically the middle of the night! “We have a bed for you, you can come on in as soon as you’re ready!” Oh shit. I am not ready. I’m not even awake let alone ready! I was prepared for it to take ages before we even got to go in, I wasn’t prepared for this. I showered, grabbed the few last minute things I needed to pack that couldn’t have been packed before hand and off we went in a slight state of shock! It hit me leaving home that morning what was about to happen. As I looked around trying to make sure I’d remembered everything I realised the next time I was in my flat, stood here looking at these walls, I’d be a Mum… there’s weight in those words right?!
Let’s get this baby outta here!
We arrived at the hospital at 8am and spent some time hanging around in the waiting room before being shown through to a bed. There were two other women in the induction bay and they both looked like they’d been there for a while. There was a fair old bit of paperwork to do once we arrived – I handed over my birth plan, which we referred to as Birth Preferences rather than a solid plan. They did my blood pressure, weighed me etc. etc. and then finally we were hooked up to a monitor where a midwife kept an eye on baby’s heart rate for about half an hour. Finally someone came in to examine me and get the ball rolling! Upon doing so, she discovered I was already 3cm dilated although she could stretch it easily to 6cm and so I didn’t need the first stages of induction, they could just break my waters. This too was a little overwhelming considering I had also prepared for the induction to take all day! We were told that they do the first pessary and then it’s a six hour wait and then if nothing happens they can keep repeating that cycle before moving on to other options. I was under the impression that inductions often take over a day! I didn’t expect to be actually going into proper labour that day.
It took two midwives to break my waters, the membranes were so tight to baby’s head they couldn’t quite hook them to break them. This was a good sign though as it meant baby was very engaged and in a good position – perhaps all the things I’d been doing for the past two weeks had been doing something after all! So one midwife pushed down on the top of my tummy to make the waters bulge so that the other midwife could hook and break them. Whoosh! When midwives had told me earlier on when I’d been in with leaky waters, that I’ll know when they properly go, they weren’t kidding. It was a strange gush of warm water that took my breath away. There’s no mistaking it but there’s also no way of knowing that until you’ve experienced it!
We were then told to go grab some food, have a walk around and come back in two hours, it was 10:30am.
Let the waiting continue.
Strange and horribly uncomfortable, I just wandered around the hospital with water leaking out of me. I advise wearing black trousers and a maternity pad in your knickers. No one told me. I suppose I should have thought about it but you don’t. There was still water to come out and the more I walked around the more it leaked out. I felt like I had wet myself and everyone was staring at me (this wasn’t the case Husband assured me!). We wandered around a little before heading to the Costa within the hospital grounds to eat something. SO many people told me to eat while I could and Husband needed food to keep him going too, so that was the plan. By the time we got to Costa however I decided I couldn’t eat and so I went and sat down because I was already feeling niggly and uncomfortable. And then by the time Husband returned to the table with his food I was in agony. The pains were coming quick and strong and it was very uncomfortable to be sat down when they did come. We decided we’d walk back to the ward the long way – I would rather wait around outside in the sunshine than on a bed in a ward with strangers! By the time we went back to the ward at 12:30pm my contractions were 3-4mins apart and I was not having fun! The midwife took one look at me and we were off to delivery.
I felt sorry for the other ladies on the induction ward. They were still on their beds not looking any further along than when we’d come in at 8am and I was already on my way back out again! I imagine they hated me a tad right then.
The delivery room.
I was examined once in delivery and was 7cm dilated but moving along quickly. I wanted to go for as long as I could without pain relief because if possible I wanted to cope with just gas and air and so figured I didn’t want to start on it too early and then need something else when that stopped working.
It becomes a bit of a blur at this point. I remember clinging onto husband to get through the pains while two midwives discussed me and my pregnancy and my birth plan and asked me questions that I couldn’t answer because I couldn’t talk! Then I remember being on the bed but I don’t really remember getting there. I believe they needed to monitor the baby’s heart rate and that’s why I had to lie down but I didn’t want to lie down, I think that was the first time I got a bit stroppy… Husband kept trying to make me drink water when I didn’t want to and that made me stroppy too. A few times…
Anyway, the next thing I properly recall is the midwife getting a more senior midwife to come and look at the monitor. Baby’s heart rate kept dipping and at this point I remember a complete fear, something was wrong. Husband had a serious look on his face and strange people were in the room muttering around the machines and it’s like fog cleared and all of a sudden I was very aware. They got me to move position and luckily her heart rate picked straight back up again. Phew! They then changed midwives while my midwife went for her break I think. At this point I was struggling and asked for pain relief.
Gin and air? Gas and tonic?
Gas and air is the strangest thing. It genuinely feels like you’re drunk. You know that hazy, foggy feeling you have as the alcohol sinks in and you know you need to slow down a bit? That. That’s gas and air.
It was also at this point that I had a wobble. So far my anxiety had been pretty under control because I knew that I had bigger things to worry about and I needed to get this baby here safely. And then along came Mrs Drunk and Woozy. I loved the gas and air because in my happy, bubbly little world there was no pain! But it meant I lost my clarity, my grip on myself, opening up a little door for my anxiety to come creeping back. I remember the midwife getting cross with me and telling me to slow down with the gas and air only I wasn’t breathing it too quickly as she thought, I couldn’t actually breathe but the mouthpiece was still in my mouth. I was trying to get my breath and couldn’t and she didn’t see that, she shouted at me. Luckily Husband knew, he knows me so well and he knows the signs. He was able to get my eye contact and talk me through it and calm me down. I knew from there that I couldn’t depend on the gas and air too much because losing it like that scared me. The baby needed me to be in control.
Time to push.
At 3:30pm the midwife told me to start pushing. I was so very tired already but this was it. Showtime! I pushed when she said push, with everything I have. She told me she needed more. More? More what? That was it! That was everything I have I’m afraid!
We wait for the second contraction, push she says, I pushed, more she says. At this point I decided this wasn’t for me. No thank you. We’re going to be here for hours and if this isn’t good enough then I’m not the person for the job.
Husband, in my ear: “we’re nearly there, I can see her hair, you can do this!!”
No, no I can’t, I’m sorry to tell you this but it’s not going to work out.
They say your body automatically does what it needs to in labour but for those first two contractions my body really didn’t seem to know what the blooming hell was happening! I found this very frustrating because everyone assumed I knew what to do and I didn’t. I wasn’t pushing right and I wasn’t pushing enough and they tell you to push in ways that make NO sense. My poor body took a little time to catch up and realise it needed to get to work now but when it did, well I totally got it. It did feel like it knew what to do and that I was kind of just the muscle behind the brains.
I was using husband’s hand to push off of and it quickly transpired I had super human strength during labour and he couldn’t support me. The midwife flipped up these super handy handles and we were away. I managed to pull muscles in both my upper arms with my efforts here. See, super human.
When husband said we were nearly there and I didn’t believe him, he wasn’t lying. One more push and her head was born (ouch) and another push on the same contraction and all of her was out. Although I did discover afterwards that it was with a little help from the midwife as my wonderful daughter had tried to squeeze her way out with one fist by her ear. Not the most helpful!
Welcome to the world!
I’m not sure there are words to adequately describe that relief as the baby is born. You immediately forget the pain of just seconds before. I know everyone says it and it sounds like a huge cliche but I promise, it is true. And magical! If only the brain did this for period pain, or a stubbed toe even?
The midwife put her straight on my tummy and I remember looking down in serious shock and disbelief – how did that baby get there?? In fact I looked at husband and I believe my words were “it’s a baby! We did it!”
So weighing 7lb 3oz, Sophia entered this crazy old world and made it all the more bright and beautiful. I have never been more in love with the kind of love I never knew even existed, welcome to the world! ♥️