This week’s birth story is from the very lovely Katie at www.benourishd.co.uk .
Having a due date of the 30th of December is like playing a game of ‘Which of holiday will I be in hospital for?’ Christmas Eve was spent on tenterhooks. No baby. On Christmas Day, we went for a very long walk before lunch (which I could barely eat thanks to horrendous late pregnancy heartburn). No baby, On New Year’s Eve, I was totally paranoid that the baby would come at midnight and we wouldn’t be able to get a taxi. We went to my parents’ for dinner and left early. We watched the fireworks on TV because, guess what? No baby. Finally, at 11pm on the 2nd of January, my waters broke and the baby was on his way. Good thing, too. I was booked in to see the midwife and start the sweep/induction process on my birthday on the 5th and that did not sound like a great way to spend my 34th.
I spoke to a midwife when my waters broke, and she said to wait an hour, and if I was still wet down below, I should let them know I was coming in, and then head into hospital. I guess they get people who think their waters have broken when really it’s just a big pee? I remember my husband, Peter, kept telling me I should try to get a little rest and shut my eyes while we waited but how could I? We were HAVING A BABY! An hour later, we were on our way, taking the short taxi ride to the hospital. Frustratingly, the driver didn’t know where to go, and dropped us off at the wrong entrance, about 10 minutes walk from the wing we were meant to be in. I was not impressed. My contractions were fairly mild (at least, they were in hindsight), but I think I may have hammed them up a little bit at this point, because I was so annoyed with Peter for not insisting that the taxi figure out where we actually needed to be!
Once we got into the midwife unit, we sat around waiting to be seen. There was another woman there who didn’t seem to be in labour, and I felt very self conscious about my heavy breathing. My contractions were getting stronger, and I thought they were pretty bad. Ha! They were nothing. And as we were waiting there, they started to fade out and by the time I was seen, about 30 minutes after we got there, had disappeared entirely. So I could understand the midwife’s reaction, which was to tell us to go back home again. Because they advise minimal intervention once the waters have broken to prevent infection, she was reluctant to check how dilated I was. I was so upset at the thought of going back outside into the freezing cold, but equally wanted to do everything I could to keep the little baby inside me healthy, so we agreed to pack up and leave. But before we left, I just really needed a wee.
And all of a sudden, I was having the baby.
I came out of the loo a different person. These contractions were intense. Like nothing I had ever experienced before.
The midwife snapped into action and checked me out – I was 5cm dilated already. We were very lucky that a birthing suite was available, and while she did her bits, I tried to get some form of release from the absolute waste of time that was gas and air. I looked at the pool and the birthing balls and the lovely, spacious room to walk around in, and I felt the baby apparently trying to rip his way out of my belly and I made my decision. I wanted an epidural and I wanted it now (NOW).
Thankfully the opiate gods were on our side, and there was a bed free in the delivery suite and an anaesthesiologist was available right then. I was transferred straight away, and before we knew it, someone came along to stick a needle in my back and stuck a monitor on to Theo’s head inside me.
The next few hours are hazy. I had no pain. Peter and I enjoyed a fairly surreal early morning of nervous laughter and chat. We had two midwives with us – one old hand and one student. I’ve since heard quite a lot of negative stories about midwives at my hospital, but these two couldn’t have been better. These were helpful, kind, good to talk to, very clear and great and explaining what was going on. And when Theo was ready to come out, they were encouraging and gentle with me. But…
But he just refused to come out! Peter took a brief look (before I yelled at him to ‘GET BACK TO THE HEAD END!’) and told me he could see Theo’s monitor starting to come out and then going back in again, and then poking out, and then going back in again. He was stuck in the birth canal, and as hard as I pushed, he just would not budge. By this point, I’d been pushing for just over an hour, and after a night without sleep, I was completely exhausted, plus Theo was getting distressed inside me. It was time for intervention.
One of the things the midwife had told me when the anaesthesiologist was inserting the epidural into me was to keep an eye on my pain levels. If I started to get any feeling back, I needed to let her know straight away, so that she could top up the drugs. Well, when you’re pushing a baby out, it seems you kind of take your eye off the ball in other places. I didn’t manage my pain relief and soon after the doctor came in and started talking us through our options, all the pain came flooding back into my body. It was like someone had turned up a dial in my body, and I think I actually went into shock.
The brain’s capacity for forgetting is astonishing, because as I write this, I can’t really remember what the pain felt like. But what I do remember is that I started to throw up and although I didn’t actually lose conciousness, the room was blurring in and out. My legs were like jelly and kept falling out of the stirrups. Peter had to make the decision about what method the doctor should use to get Theo out of me, and soon she had the medieval looking forceps out. After some cutting, she went in, grabbed Theo, and then I had to push. By this point I had stabilised after that initial shock of pain, but I felt so weak. That said, I knew this was it – if he didn’t come out now, I was going to have to have an emergency c-section. So I pushed and pushed, and with the doctor’s help, he came spilling out of me.
Once he was out, all I could think about was that I needed that baby on my chest and I needed him there right then and now. I desperately wanted to try to feed him. When they took him away after only a few seconds on my chest, I was distraught. I didn’t want him cleaned or weighed or wrapped up, I just wanted to hold him and have him on me.
What I didn’t realise at the time was that the blood all over Theo when he was on my chest wasn’t from the amniotic sac, it was me bleeding. And bleeding. And bleeding. As well as the doctor’s cut, I had also torn internally. So I’m pretty sure the reason they didn’t want him to be on my chest was because they thought I might pass out. While the doctor stitched me up, Peter held Theo and the midwives mopped up. My blood was everywhere – all over the tools, the bed, the floor. While I was gazing adoringly at my husband and my son, Peter informed me later that the room looked like someone had been murdered in it. The doctor worked quickly, and after a brief scare when she thought she might have left one of the sponges inside of me (grim), soon enough I was holding Theo again and he was at my breast, feeding. Feeding him was a huge struggle for the first two or three weeks of his life, so I still find it remarkable that it came so easily in that first instance.
And then the room was cleaned and my epidural needle was out of my back and I was in a wheelchair and Theo was still nursing and we were out in the world together. There were so many other challenges to come over the coming weeks and months, but after years of trying and months of waiting, our tiny baby boy was with us at last.
Theo’s birth was not at all what I had planned. I wanted to have a drug free, ‘mindful’ birth. I wanted to use the birthing pool. I wanted to be one of those mums who I’ve met who say it didn’t hurt that much – just mind over matter. But I totally wasn’t. In retrospect, do I regret asking for drugs straight away, especially as the epidural probably made the forceps and tearing more likely? No. I wish I had stayed on top of the pain relief, but there’s nothing to say that I wouldn’t have ended up with the forceps and tearing without the epidural, and I genuinely don’t think I would have survived 12 hours without it. I didn’t know what my pain threshold was before Theo came along. Now I know – it’s very, very low. Having a natural birth might be a badge of honour to some, but I’m okay not to have it pinned to my chest. And surely the end result is the thing that counts, right? Theo was 8 pounds 3 oz, born on the morning of January 3rd, 2015, and just perfect in every way.
Immediately after the birth, I found it really difficult to process what I had been through. I did the post-natal NCT course, and it was so helpful it getting me to talk about the birth, what my expectations were versus what the reality was, and allow me to come to terms with how it all happened. Now it’s many months later, and I actually feel very positive about my birth. It was quick, and apart from the very beginning and very end, it was mostly pain-free, and it resulted in the most amazing child, who astonishes me every day at his curiosity and strength. This amazing little boy, causing trouble and making me laugh – he used to be inside me! Birth really is a little daily miracle, no matter how it takes place…
I would LOVE to hear your birth story. Whether you gave birth this year, last year or 40 years ago. Please email with your story at littlepaperswans@gmail. As much detail as possible and photographs too.