Labour & birth are very personal experiences and there will never be one story which matches another, not even for the same person! This post is my account of my labour & birth experience, as clearly as I am able to remember it!
At 9pm Sunday night (10th February 2013), I was at home with Rob when I realised I needed to wax my underarms. Strange you might think but seen as I was almost 2 weeks overdue & booked in for an induction in the morning, which pretty much meant I wasn’t going to be allowed the waterbirth I’d hoped for, I figured I may as well look my best when I arrived at the hospital! So out came the wax pot & then I had a shower, dried & straightened my hair. We joked that maybe this was my way of nesting, making the most of the time I had to be able to have a shower & do my hair 🙂
I was having the odd twinge whilst I was in the shower & doing my hair but nothing I was particularly concerned by, no worse than the braxton hicks I’d experienced earlier in pregnancy & nothing worse than I’d been having on & off all day. By the time I’d finished, at about 10pm, I realised that it was probably pointless trying to go to bed as the twinges were getting longer, more intense & more frequent so I’d have been annoying Rob by getting in & out of bed all night so said I’d sit on my ball for a bit, see if they tailed off again & let Rob get at least a couple of hours sleep since he’d been up since 5.30am! Rather than go to sleep he decided to time the twinges & see if there was a pattern using an app on his phone! At one of our ante-natal tours, the labour ward had said to ring them when we had 3 contractions in 10mins, lasting around a minute each, painful to the point I couldn’t talk during them & we’d been going like that for around an hour. At about 0:30am we’d got to roughly 3-4mins apart, a minute long & I was having to concentrate on breathing my way through them, so Rob rang the labour ward & was told not to rush but to bring me in & they’d check us over although it was probably only the early stages of labour. So we got everything together, I got dressed again & off we went, although I was fully expecting to be sent home again!
The journey to the hospital we’d worked out was about four & a half minutes without traffic. I’d had a contraction whilst Rob was locking the front door at home & I had another one about half way there. Once we’d got to the hospital,at about 1am, we had to go to the maternity entrance & press the buzzer for someone to come & let us in, so off Rob went to get someone & I had another contraction whilst I sat waiting for him to come back to the car to get me. Once someone had finally come to let us in & I’d got through my contraction, Rob got me out the car, I got across the car park, into the hospital & proceeded to have another contraction in the corridor. I had to stop, lean over, prop myself up on the wall & breathe it through, I think the poor girl who’d come to get me didn’t know whether to let me get on with it or go & get a midwife!
They have an assessment bay at the hospital which is were you’re taken to be assessed to see if they’re going to put you in a labour suite or send you home. We were sat in one of the beds whilst the girl went to get a midwife to come & check us over, one of the midwives came through looking rather frantic & apologised that it was extremely busy but they were getting a midwife off the post-natal ward to come & check me over. I sat on the ball to wait for her as we’d been told in the active birth class that the worst thing you can do is to lay down, keeping myself moving would keep labour progressing & help with the pain. The midwife arrived & because of the periods of reduced movement we’d had during the pregnancy she decided to connect us to a monitor, although I think this was also possibly because they were so busy. She also offered me a couple of paracetamol. We’d been told in the active birth workshop that we did that this is the first line of pain relief they offer when you’re in labour, so rather than biting her head off in a ‘paracetamol??? Are you ******* kidding me???’ fashion, I accepted it graciously & tried to concentrate on not having a complete meltdown. Being hooked up to the monitor meant I had to lay on the bed, one of the things I’d got it into my head I didn’t want to do, all I wanted to do was be on my ball & keeping moving. When I was on the monitor, it really made sense to me why they’d said not to lay still, you’re just stuck there & the only thing you end up concentrating on is the monitor & the contractions. I got to the point where I was starting to think that if I had another 12 hours of this there was no way I’d be able to cope with having a waterbirth & just the gas & air that I’d hoped for. As that thought kicked in, I cried, not because of the pain but because I was gutted. I told Rob that I didn’t think I could take another 12 hours of this & he kindly pointed out at this point that the contractions were going off the top of the monitor printout but Bean seemed to be doing well!
After about half an hour of being stuck on the monitor the midwife came back, took me off the monitor, explained that Bean was doing well & asked if I wanted to be examined. Being examined is pretty much the same as having a sweep done. Now, I don’t think I explained this in particularly great detail in my previous post. Basically, they need to feel your cervix to work out how thin it is & how open it is. A sweep is something they do to kickstart labour by examining you to check this & then using their finger(s) to stretch & sweep your cervix, basically running their hand around the babies head. Eyes watering yet? I had three. It near enough involves a whole hand. My favourite example of this was from one born every minute & a lady called Joy, she was so surprised when the midwife examined her & just kept repeating ‘her whole hand’ with a shocked look on her face. So not something you’d necessarily want to say yes to if you think about it too much, however at this point in time I couldn’t have cared less & actually just wanted to know how far I was into my labour. In her words, I was ‘a good 5cm’ & she said they would take me through to a labour suite. The feeling of not being able to cope just dissappeared. I felt so empowered. I’d got half way (you need to be 10cm before you start pushing) with just a couple of paracetamol.
I explained to the midwife I’d hoped to have a water birth. There is only one birth pool at our local hospital which was currently in use but she said the lady was actively pushing & would only be 2-3hrs (not in labour, they let you spend some time in the suite before they move you to the ward after delivery) so they’d clean the room once she’d left & then move us into there from the room we were put in initially. Because we’d mentioned wanting a water birth the midwife decided to put us in a room with a bath so she could run me a bath as it was the closest thing she could give me to labouring in water. I hate having a bath, the only time I’ve had a bath in the last 12 years is when Rob has made me have one because I’ve been unwell, I much prefer to have a shower & sit in that. However I didn’t feel like arguing so decided to just go with it & get in the bath. She even went to get Rob a jug so that he could pour water over me whilst I used the gas & air!
Because its important that the water is within a certain temperature range during labour & birth, the midwife kept coming in to check on us & top the bath up, other than that they like to let you have some peace & get on with it. When she came in to top up the bath, I remember her pushing the water up the bath over me so I didn’t end up with a ‘hot spot’ around my feet. I could have kissed her because the water moving over me was amazing, it definitely helped with the pain, it was like what Rob was doing with the jug just on a bigger scale. I don’t have many memories after I got in the bath. Another thing we learnt at the active birth workshop, and one of the things that I think got me through labour, was to ‘just go with it’, remember that your body will let you know what it needs to do so just be guided by it, don’t try to control it too much. I spent the majority of the time submerged as far as I could be at 42 weeks pregnant, in labour & in a domestic bath as opposed to a birthing pool, laid on my side & sucking on the gas & air! I also remember kicking the end of the bath in the later stages, full on planting the bottom of my foot & stamping on it. Rob has said since that he worried I was going to put my foot through it!
One thing I remember distinctively is the midwife coming in & saying to Rob that she was going to get the delivery pack because I was ‘doing something very different now’. I’m presuming she’s referring to the noise I was making. I thought the midwife in the active birth workshop was joking when she said there was a noise that every pregnant woman makes, one that sounds like a cow moo-ing, thats completely instinctive & there’s nothing you can do about it. She wasn’t joking. It just comes out & the closest thing I can like it to is exactly how she said, like a moo-ing cow. She also needed the other midwife as there are supposed to be two there when baby is delivered meaning the chair Rob was sat on had to go as there wasn’t enough room along with everything else so he ended up kneeling at the side of the bath! According to my notes & the times for each stage of labour, this must have been about 4.15am so I’d been in the bath for around 2 1/2 hrs, I’d lost all sense of time by this point.
Asking Rob what he remembers about the time between me getting in the bath & this point, his initial response was that his knees hurt! The only other thing that sticks in his mind is feeling completely useless & helpless, he felt like pouring water over me was such a small thing to be doing. He has no idea quite how helpful that was. Holding my hand & pouring water over me was one of the most helpful things he could ever have done, it’s one of the things that got me through labour.
I remember her asking me if I’d felt the pressure change because she thought my waters had broken. Yes. That’s right. I’d been in labour for hours & my waters had only just broke. No gushing in tescos (other supermarkets are available!). No feeling like I’d wet myself. I don’t even recall losing my plug like some women do. I just agreed that I had even though I really wasn’t sure & to be honest, I didn’t care, I just needed to push! I remember the other midwife coming into the room & just having a baffled look on her face as if to say ‘what on earth do you expect me to do in here?!?’ because it’s not like there was a great deal of room for anything, let along another person to get involved. She wanted me to roll onto my back so I was in a better position to deliver Bean & I have never felt more whale-like in my life. It was such an effort just to get from being on my side & onto my back. Then they were worried about Bean’s head breaking the surface of the water, they needed to sit me up slightly to tip my pelvis, so the other midwife straddled Rob & held my left foot like it was in stirrups whilst my right leg was draped over the side of the bath, Rob had one hand behind my back & the other was being tightly gripped by me.
Next thing I remember is a lot of pushing. Another thing that I remember from the active birth workshop (I definitely recommend it, I’m sure you can gather I learnt a lot from it!) was being told that this stage burns and if you stop pushing because it’s burning, the head will start to go back up the birth canal so if you can push through the burn (excuse the pun!) then it’ll be over a lot quicker & you won’t have to keep repeating the process over & over. Then Bean was being put on my chest, both me & Rob crying. He arrived at 4:43am, just hours before I was supposed to be getting to the ward to be induced & less than 4hrs after I’d got to the hospital. I never swore (which suprised me), I never screamed like you see in the soaps or on One Born Every Minute & I never uttered the words ‘never again’, in fact I said within minutes that I’d do it again! It’s a completely surreal experience, one I’d definitely like to repeat in the future. I don’t think the midwife had expected it all to happen so quickly, she even said that I’m a perfect candidate for a home birth although that won’t be happening, I’d much rather be in the safety of a hospital when we do it again!
They gave us 5-10mins or so for me to have skin-to-skin with Bean but one of the midwives was always there, just checking we were ok & she gave us a towel to pop over him whilst he was laid on my chest so he didn’t get too cold. Then they told Rob to whip his shirt off for more skin-to skin whilst they got me out of the bath to deliver the placenta as this has to be done out of the water. That is an odd experience. You have to get out of the bath, with the placenta & umbilical cord still in place, with legs like jelly. They use one of the protective mats to support the cord (think nappy style here!) & both midwives helped me onto the bed. I had the injection to help deliver my placenta, its something you’re asked about during your antenatal appointments but she asked again before she did it. I’d made the decision to have it as it apparently means you don’t have to physically ‘push’ the placenta out & can help with bleeding too. The delivery of the placenta was a very strange feeling, but not painful at all, as once the injection has had time to take effect, the midwife basically tugs on the cord a few times & then out comes the placenta. I then had to be examined again. Oh yes, it’s not all over once you’ve given birth, it continues. The midwife found I had a 2nd degree, internal tear. She said it was most likely caused by the little fella coming out with both hands up like a boxer! A Dr had to come & check the tear which she recommended I had stitched to help keep it together, reduce the risk of infection & for cosmetic reasons. I have never wanted to laugh so much in my life. Cosmetic reasons?!? Noone was coming near that region for some time & I’m guessing it didn’t exactly look pretty after what it’d just been through, I imagined that the words ‘train wreck’ would spring to mind! I was given gas & air whilst the Dr examined me as well as when she stitched me up along with a local anaethestic. The midwife was most amused that I asked to hold her hand after everything I’d just been through!
They also found it amusing that when they offered to run me a bath, I asked for a shower as I hate baths yet I’d just spent hours in one & given birth in it! They asked me to do a wee in a cardboard bowl which sat in the top of the toilet before having my shower as they needed to measure my first wee, I believe it’s something to do with checking that there has been no damage during birth or stitching. It was nowhere near as bad as I expected & barely burnt at all, think cystitis! I think the walk to the shower was worse than that first wee. My legs were still like jelly & I just felt worn out. They even got me a chair for in the shower so I could just sit down. I spent about 40mins in the shower with Rob talking to me & keeping watch over me with Bean in his crib keeping the bathroom door open so I didn’t get too warm in there. I think the care assistant was a bit worried as she kept popping in to check on us but I’m just a bugger for spending an eternity in the shower!
Once I’d got dressed, I had cuddles with Bean & they brought me some toast. They left us for a bit longer & we finally let everyone know that Bean had arrived. We didn’t tell anyone that I’d gone into labour because I figured that we didn’t need the texts or phone calls to find out how I was doing or if he’d arrived yet, especially if the labour was going to be a long one. People are bad enough when you go overdue. In fact, I even had texts a week before I was due asking if he’d arrived! You don’t need texts or phonecalls asking ‘is he here yet?’, surely people know that you’d let them know?!? I didn’t mind people asking how I was doing but sometimes it felt like all people were bothered about was Bean & weren’t bothered about how I was feeling.
Then they encouraged me to try & give the first feed because I wanted to breastfeed, he fed for 30mins & I was thrilled! Everyone tells you breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful but it might be a little bit tender or take a bit of getting used to in the early days & it wasn’t painful, more like a bit uncomfortable, so I figured we’d obviously just taken to it really well. Turned out that Bean had completely butchered my right nipple. But noone came to check how we were doing or how his latch was so I’d definitely recommend asking someone to check the latch as once the damage is done it can make feeding uncomfortable whilst it heals 😦 The care assitant came back to take us onto the post-natal ward, she swaddled Bean & he proceeded to throw up all over the blanket & the bed she’d just remade! She explained this was perfectly normal (despite looking like a scene from the exorcist the amount of fluid that came up!), nothing to worry about & it was just mucous that was still in his stomach from the birth.
Once we’d moved onto the post-natal ward, I had some more toast & we just spend most of the time staring at the little person who’d just arrived in the world. It’s a bizarre feeling going from a couple to a 3-person-family but it’s amazing, like they’ve always been there. It seems like every health professional in the entire hospital wants to come & have a word too. The Dr comes to check on baby, the midwife comes to check on you both, the physio comes to see you about exercise after birth, the breastfeeding support worker comes to see how you’re doing, the bounty lady comes to bring your packs, the audiologist comes to check little ones hearing, someone comes to show you how to give them a bath…the list is endless! It got to the point where Rob just took one look & said to one of them that he didn’t know why they were bothering because it wasn’t going in, apparently I’d just glazed over & was nodding in agreement!
Overall the support during the day wasn’t amazing, I think because we’d had a natural birth & didn’t appear to be struggling then we were pretty much left to our own devices other than everyone coming to talk at us. One thing I did have an issue with was the pressure I was under from one of the midwives with regards to breastfeeding. We’d been advised that we needed to try to feed every three hours & if Bean wouldn’t latch on or feed then I needed to hand express then pop a drop of milk on his lips using my finger to encourage him to feed & stimulate my milk flow, but one of the midwives appeared at the end of my bed bang on every three hours & questioned if I’d tried to feed yet. And when I explained at 6:30pm that we were expecting visitors so I was going to try in half an hour when they’d gone I got a massive lecture on that I couldn’t not feed him because I was embarrased & that babies feed when they need to, when in fact he was sleeping contentedly in his crib & I had no problems with being embarrased whatsoever!
Whenever we’d spoke about what would happen if we had to stay overnight, Rob had always said he would stay at the hospital, even if he had to sleep in a chair. In reality, it didn’t happen. Having been up for almost 43/44hrs, we decided that it made more sense for him to go home & try to get a half decent nights sleep, especially seen as I would have the support of the midwives on the ward. He left the ward at about 11pm, went via the shops to get a newspaper from the day of Bean’s birth which we almost forgot about & ended up falling asleep on the bed full clothed! The midwives on duty that night were amazing. I was still struggling to get him to feed & the support during the day was good but they’re not supposed to touch you when they’re trying to help you get feeding established, I was on the verge of tears & this wonderful midwife could obviously see how much it was upsetting me so she just got hold of us both, got us into position & that was that, he was feeding. It was exactly what I needed & the relief was amazing! I was also struggling to get him to settle in his crib, he only seemed to settle on my chest which as lovely as it is isn’t practical when you’re not allowed to co-sleep in hospital. It seemed like everytime I tried to put him in his crib, he would start crying. At about 4:15am, one of the midwives came & offered to look after him at the desk. She explained it was quiet & if all he wanted was to be cuddle then she’d gladly cuddle him whilst I tried to get some sleep, it was such a lovely offer & she actually swaddled him, put him in his crib, he went out like a light & stayed in his crib, at the end of the desk until Rob arrived back on the ward at 7am! I am eternally grateful to both of those midwives on the night shift, I got a decent chunk of sleep & breastfed my son successfully with their help!
In the small hours of the morning when Bean wouldn’t settle, I sat & chatted to him about what he’d like to be called. Rob & I had pretty much settled on George during the day but we were struggling with middle names. We’d originally intended on giving him one middle name & I loved the name Beau but Rob really didn’t like it next to our surname so chatting to Bean I thought about Edward as a second middle name. When Rob arrived back at the hospital I suggested it to him & we finally settled on his name, George Beau Edward, so sent out a text to family & friends who’d been getting quite impatient by this point! We spent the rest of the day pottering about on the ward, saw the midwife & the Dr again, then we were finally discharged at about 3pm to begin life as a family in the real world.
I had a pretty good pregnancy & birth to be honest but I firmly believe that being relaxed about it all had a major impact. I didn’t let anything worry me & strangely had no fears or worries about the birth which definitely spooked a few people out considering George is our first baby! My biggest tips with regards to pregnancy, labour & birth would be try not to worry about anything as there’s really not a great deal you can do other than look after yourself as best you can & do as your body tells you to, it knows what it needs to do to get that baby out so don’t fight it or try to control it!