This week's birth story is from Emma a fellow blogger. Emma shared Jenson's birth story on her blog in June last year.
I wanted to write this post before I get proved wrong. For months people have been telling me that I’ll forget what happened when I had my son and I’ll want another one. I don’t buy it but just in case, I wanted to document his labour here in a blog post so I have something to refer back to. Don’t get me wrong, Jenson is worth every single agonising second that I’ve been through in the last week (and every bout of morning of sickness, every painful step, every hot flush…) but one is enough. I already love him more than I ever though possible and all we need to complete our little family is a dog!
When I got pregnant the first time (more on that another day) I had terrible morning sickness and swore that I wouldn’t be going through that again. Then I miscarried at around eight weeks and, as terrifying the prospect was of going through the same thing again, I knew that I really wanted to have a child. And, trust me, there’s nothing more terrifying than being pregnant after a miscarriage. In those initial weeks I kept checking for bleeding, then once we’d seen his little heart beating at the 12-week scan, at the back of my mind I still expected something to go wrong. I was surprised to hear he appeared perfectly fine at the 20-week scan and once we knew he’d be a blue one, I started imagining what he’d be like. With each passing week and each midwife appointment where I got to hear his incredible little heartbeat, I felt both reassured that he was ok but still anxious that the big day was getting closer. Anything could happen.
Now for the gory details – and let’s just say, it didn’t go according to plan. Is there really any point in writing a birth plan?! As you already know, I had a sweep on my due date and I can’t recommend these highly enough! I was nervous about having one, as having a medical professional root around in there is never fun, especially when my cervix always seems to be a bugger to find. But it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be – more bearable than a smear test. I had the sweep done on the Thursday at 3pm and my waters broke at 7.30pm on the Friday. I had a couple of niggles during the day but nothing that felt like contractions, especially when I knew that having a sweep meant that I might experience some bleeding and cramping. And let me tell you, it felt bloody weird! I got up off the sofa to check on dinner and as soon as I stood up I felt a weird pop and water started gushing down my legs, like a water balloon going off and feeling like I’d wet myself. Lovely!
I was surprisingly calm at this point. On TV/in the movies you always see someone’s waters break and then they immediately start puffing and panting. Why do people write things that are totally different to real life?! Luke was up in the office at the time so I called him down as I waddled to the bathroom to stand on a towel. I kept gushing on and off for a couple of hours and it was so weird. I called the emergency midwife and was told that someone would need to examine me if I wasn’t in active labour within 12 hours. Rather than going to hospital at 7.30am I was told I could call to see one in Penzance at 9am. But I didn’t last that long…
Strong contractions started at 11pm about 20 minutes apart but within a couple of hours they were getting more intense and happening four to ten minutes apart. I popped a couple of Paracetamol and called the midwife back again. They asked me to go in to be assessed but warned me that I may be sent home again as I couldn’t be admitted until I was 4cm dilated. Luke’s mum drove us to the hospital at about 2.30am and the midwife was surprised to see that I was already 4-5cm dilated. She was sure that because I had walked in so casually I was going to be sent home but I was already halfway there and had gotten by on just Paracetamol. I was strapped to a machine to monitor my contractions and the baby’s heartbeat before being admitted to the delivery suite where I was looking forward to getting some stronger drugs.
Throughout my pregnancy I was adamant that I only wanted Luke with me while I was in labour and as little interference as possible but en route to the hospital I text my mum to say that she could come in the room with us – as long as she promised to be quiet and do what she was told! She got the first train up and in the meantime I did my best to relax in the hospital bath. I was straight on the gas and air – amazing stuff – and soon got the giggles. Each contraction was bigger than the one before and it wasn’t long before I was asking for something stronger. When the midwife was out of the room I asked Luke to get her back so I could arrange for an epidural but she encouraged me to stick it out. When the time came to get out of the bath so I could get a shot of Pethidine I threw up in the bath tub first. It was lovely waiting for the water to drain so I could get out with help, surrounded by labour ick and puke.
I kept the gas and air on hand for hours and had a shot and a half of Pethidine until I was fully dilated. As the contractions grew and grew I had Luke stood on one side of me and my mum on the other, squeezing their hands almost to the point of bruising. When I was examined, even after a perfectly normal examination with the midwife less than 48 hours before, it turned out that the baby was back to back – and that wasn’t good. We hoped that he might turn before it was time to push but I wasn’t so lucky. As a result, I felt the contractions more in my back that in the front and it was absolutely agonising.
Once my cervix was gone I was told to start trying to push but I just didn’t have that natural instinct. Instead of the usual feeling of needing to do a big poo and pushing the baby out myself, I just tried to deal with the pain. I had the gas and air taken away and was told to concentrate on each contraction and push down. I was on my knees, hanging over the head of the bed, crushing Luke and mum’s hands, doing my best to hold my breath and push but nothing was happening. After two hours a doctor was brought in for the world’s most painful examination and I was told that we were running out of options. By this point each contraction was somehow even more painful than the one before. In the beginning I didn’t mind when they peaked in the middle because I knew that it was about to get better but they were lasting longer and were only 2-4 minutes apart, with longer peaks and taking longer to come down. It was unbearable and I was allowed the gas and air back to take the edge off.
There were three options left:
1. The doctor could try and turn the baby (internally – eek!)
2. Forceps delivery
All of the final available options (turning the baby, forceps, cesarean) would be pretty intense but I wouldn’t feel a thing. The anesthetist came in to talk to me about an epidural and all I kept thinking was that soon I wouldn’t be able to feel anything. Each contraction could be the last one I would feel.
Luke was taken to scrub up ready to come to the operating theatre with me and I was read the various risks and asked to sign a consent form. Once I was numb it was amazing – albeit mildly terrifying as I still didn’t know how far down the list of options we’d have to go. There were loads of people in the room with us ready to help me and the baby whatever happened, which on the one hand was reassuring but also made my mind race through all of the things that could happen. They had to have a pediatrician on hand and had a little area set up in the corner in case the baby needed any assistance. Scary stuff!
The doctor was incredible and actually managed to turn him around to face the right way but I only had two contractions worth of pushing to get him out. I didn’t know until I read my hospital notes when I got home that he was in the first stage of distress and they needed to get him out. Because I was numb the midwife had to tell me when to push and he actually shifted down a bit but with the second contraction he was back up again. Even forceps couldn’t help. It was cesarean time.
One Born Every Minute does not prepare you for a cesarean. They make it look like an easy final option – you’re wheeled in, baby is cut out and boom, all done. Turns out, not so much! I lay there shaking from the effects of the drugs, still clutching the gas and air with one hand and Luke’s hand with the other. They had to move fast and it took a couple of uncomfortable tugs to get him out. While they waited for delayed chord clamping they lowered the screen so I could see his little feet – it was incredible. Luke got a much gorier view and saw me completely opened up. Rather him than me! Once Jenson was out and crying I balled my eyes out. Like, proper ugly crying, complete with snorting, snore-like sobs. He was ok! They checked him over and when he was three minutes old Luke went over to be with him and the anesthetist took over hand-holding duties. He was lovely, talking me through everything that was happening, monitoring my heart rate (which went iffy for a bit) and making sure I wasn’t getting too much gas and air.
I wanted skin to skin ASAP so while they were working on putting me back together again, Jenson was placed on my chest so I could see his gorgeous little face. By that time my sobs had started dying down and I was a bit calmer. I couldn’t even look at Luke until then because I knew I would cry even harder. I’ve never cried like that before.
The worst point in the operating theatre was when they were finishing up after the cesarean. Although I was numb from the chest down I could still feel what was going on – the stapling, the sutures, all the tugging and pushing and pulling… The next step would have been general anesthetic, which they wanted to avoid (both to keep an eye on me and also because it would mean I wouldn’t be able to see the baby straight away), so I just tried to grin and bear it for 20 minutes or so. I had Jenson on my chest for a bit, which helped to calm me down and then Luke took him through to recovery to meet my mum while the doctors finished putting me back together again.
I was so relieved to be wheeled to recovery with it all over. I was still numb but could feel the effects of being put back together again, so I got some more awesome drugs. The most important thing was that I was back with my boys! Luke was already picking up on Jenson’s wants and needs (he knew that he doesn’t like having his feet touched already!) and had the pleasure of putting his first nappy on. We were also treated to tea and toast – it was 5pm and I hadn’t eaten anything since dinner the night before. Once everything had calmed down and I’d had my first go at breastfeeding (Jenson took to it straight away) we were taken to the post-natal ward for the night.
While I was in labour I was told that with a cesarean I’d likely be able to go home on Monday evening but we didn’t actually go home until Wednesday lunchtime. I’ll spare you most of the details of the four nights post-labour in hospital (I spent five nights in there in total if you count the night I was in labour) but I do want to tell you a bit about why we had to stay, especially when everyone and their mother seems to have an opinion about breast vs bottle feeding. It turns out that you don’t really have an opinion until you’ve given birth and are in a real-life situation where you have to decide what’s best for you and your baby. Normally with a cesarean you have to stay in for 24-48 hours to give the epidural a chance to wear off and check that you’re safe on your feet and can pee properly, etc. If you’re planning on breastfeeding you can opt to stay in longer to make sure you’ve mastered the art. As I wrote before, I wanted to breastfeed. I knew the benefits for myself and the baby and it seemed like an easy and cheap option. And for the first day or two it was an easy option – Jenson was latching on regularly with no problems, nothing hurt… Then on the day we could have gone home everything went tits up. He was sleeping for long periods of time and I struggled to wake him for feeds – and when he was feeding he wasn’t getting enough colostrum. He had a couple of syringes of formula that night but the next day I was told that he had developed jaundice and would have to be tubed to be fed through his nose if he wasn’t feeding more later in the day.
The midwife tried to get me to express by hand and continue to formula feed until my milk came in. When he tried breastfeeding the night before it was agonising. I was told your nipple was supposed to look the same when he is done as when he starts but it was coming out squashed and square-like because he was sucking so hard and getting nothing out. And hand-expressing hurt too, especially as it took ten minutes to get two whole drops out. It was ridiculous. I had to feed him via syringe and encourage him to keep sucking in preparation for breastfeeding by putting my little finger in his mouth to suck as the milk was pushed into his mouth. He needed to be consuming 45ml of milk every couple of hours and each syringe only held 5ml so it was pretty time consuming.
I was getting emotional by this point because breastfeeding wasn’t what I thought it would be. I was frustrated at myself for not being able to feed my baby, I was tired from trying to get him to feed the night before and I was worried because he was poorly and might have to be tubed. The most important thing was that he got better so within a few hours I made the decision to switch completely to bottle feeding. I didn’t want to put him on formula until my milk came in and then switch back; I wanted to make a decision and stick to it, which I did, and I felt so much better once I did. So did Jenson. He was soon feeding better and two days later we were allowed to go home. Scarily, not until his jaundice levels rose to just below treatment levels. We almost went home on Tuesday but had to hang on until Wednesday to make sure they were falling.
The worst thing about those extra couple of nights in hospital was being away from Luke. It was great having him around in the day for feeds, nappy changes and cuddles and when the night came around it didn’t half drag – especially on the last night where Jenson was up from 2-6.30am, unable to settle. I didn’t want to keep disturbing the staff when there were women on the ward worse off than me and all I needed was to be able to sleep. Over those four nights I slept for about 12 hours so for my first two nights at home Luke took Jenson completely on his own so I could catch up. He’s pretty friggin’ awesome. Since then we’ve been sharing everything (well, what I can do while I’m still knitting back together again) and it has been great having that support.