Week 39. Bump news. The birth story.
To be fair I only made it to 39+5 in this final week, and two and a bit days of that was spent in labour, so here we go!
MONDAY — LABOUR DAY 1
This week started off with actual contractions 3am the Monday morning. I woke up as usual for the 3–5am window and felt a sort of low down period pain type tension which lasted only for a few seconds before going away. They weren’t exactly regular (generally about every 15/20 mins) but after a few I knew that’s what they were. I was super excited and wide awake, but as Ben was due to be up for work at 6am I decided to wait until then to tell him. In the meantime I stayed calm and got my google on.
Once Ben was awake I told him and so he called into work to start paternity leave — we know it would likely take some time but he just didn’t want to chance it.
For most of the day we spent in sporadic contraction land, just enough to not let me sleep but no where near enough to start counting or getting myself in the bath as planned.
I actually had my 39w midwife appointment this day, so Ben and I went together and explained. She had said it’s very likely to take a while and so could do the usual clichés to move things along; spicy food, walks and sex (ha!) By this point we had been having what we called ‘practical sex’ daily, in the only position achievable and for the fastest time possible! Baby’s HR sounded fine and thankfully my BP had gone down to a more manageable rate of 130, which was a huge improvement on last week.
For the rest of the day we rested and watched films — Wreck it Ralph I think it was, while having minor contractions and snoozing in between when I could. We had a mega spicy curry for dinner and finally finished the jigsaw I’d had on the go since finishing work. Something to keep the mind off it all.
As the evening approached I got myself in the bath for a mega long soak and relax. As we got into bed I started to time my contractions with the app, and use my hypnobirthing breathing a lot more as the intensity had kicked it up a bit by this point. Probably due to the relaxing. I got back in the bath and Ben called the Birth Centre to let them know how our day had gone and to ask for their advice on what to do next. They said to wait a little longer until I felt I needed to come in, but that I probably wasn’t very far on yet.
TUESDAY — LABOUR DAY 2
We decided to go to the hospital around 1:30am after contractions started to vamp up in timing and my app told me I was in established labour. Ready with our bag in hand, and hot water bottle on the crotch, we waddled up to the Birth Centre to be told to wait on a sofa for someone to become available for a consult. During this time I was having quite a few contractions and had said hot water bottle pushed up against my uterus along with mega hypnobreathing on the go.
Eventually we were taken to a side room and were seen by a lovely midwife Rachel, as we walked past the Birth Centre suites I saw that two of them were free! I was so happy! I had my blood pressure taken and annoyingly it had gone high again, back up to 150. Bloody typical! She waited a little while and came to take it again but it remained high which meant the baby and I needed constant monitoring and that meant goodbye Birth Centre and hello Delivery Suite. She wasn’t able to let me go back home either as the high BP meant I was at higher risk of stroke etc. Before we moved on I was given my first exam which was incredibly uncomfortable — and only 2cm so far — at which point she also offered to do a sweep which could help get things moving for me since I had already spent 24 hours in labour by this point.
Hobbling over to the Delivery Suite I remembered from the tour there was one room with a pool, so I asked if they could get us in there to help have the birth I originally wanted. Rachel was on it and asked if I wanted any pain relief so I thought back to my hypnobirthing/ antenatal classes. Up until now, for the last 24 hours I had been breathing only so I decided to opt for a shot of lovely pethidine. An opioid injection into your leg which makes you feel VERY relaxed/ drunk/ off your tits. It’s to help you rest and get whatever sleep you can but wears off (supposedly) after a couple of hours so you can still get in the pool.
It was pretty amazing I have to say. Ben and I both had a lovely 45min snooze which really helped my energy levels — I also had a bit of a snack, some Pringles, sweets and coconut water. Unfortunately I was unable to snooze any longer as my contractions would wake me up each time. So I decided to start walking around and use my breathing again. It took a while though as I was INCREDIBLY dizzy I had to get Ben to help walk me to the loo so I didn’t fall over. I also sat laughing and talking to myself for quite a while longer.
I’m a bit hazy on the timeline here (on account of the drugging) so you’ll have to forgive me. But I believe I was then examined again and now onto only 3cm. We were on a new midwife now as Rachel clocked off after my drug giving around 8am and another wonderful midwife came to take over; Abbie! During this exam she had noted my waters were ‘bulging’ — pretty gross term really but it meant things were going well and she was in a position now were she could safely burst them for me (with the vein hope things might progress a little). The feeling of this was very bizarre — light a very warm and surprising amount of fluid suddenly coming out of you like you have never felt before…
I was also asked again if I wanted any further pain relief, I asked to try a bit of gas and air. The pool room was still unavailable but at least this meant I could still go in on these drugs and it would be something to use with my breathing. I have to say the mixture of remaining pethidine and gas/air combo was sending me high into the clouds!
The water breaking seemed to have accelerated things indeed, after much walking around and still leaking everywhere — the bursting had got me to at least 4cm in the next hour or so but with the baby pushing on my bum it had started to get a bit out of control and gave the me the feeling of pushing. I started to panic and what this meant was very fast contractions, very often with pushing onto a not-yet-ready cervix. Leading to swelling and way too much pain for me to handle. At this point I asked again about the pool, still not ready, so I made the executive decision for an epidural. This was not something I had planned for nor did I originally want! I wanted the pool, the gas/air only and the Birth Centre. In my mind since everything was off plan I was not going to be a hero, and I was getting me some pain relief/ rest! Bearing in mind we’re now around 1pm the second day without sleep or much food.
The epidural bit was a nightmare, as my body started to go hard it was causing the baby distress. It took 30mins for the anaesthesiologist to come free. Then when they finally arrive, my contractions were coming too fast I was unable to stay still long enough for them to get the catheter in time. I, still completely off my head, was biting and squeaking on the gas/air as much as I could, thinking every time they had got the line in I could relax, only to find it wasn’t and I had to wait again. This went on for over an hour. Ben was very distressed, crying his eyes out onto me. I was barely in the room mentally, but Ben told me I was going green in the face and looked basically dead. Even the baby kicked off and had enough, to the point where they had to pull the ‘red cord’; to which a million doctors run into the room ready to do something drastic. Thankfully baby calmed immediately and the king anaesthesiologist was put on the case and got it in first time.
Once that was over I was sitting up in bed chatting normally. I don’t really remember when things came back around. I was encouraged not to eat anymore just in case now, so that sucked. Ben and I continued to enjoy our time with Abbie for the rest of her shift until 8pm when the midwives changed over. She gave me another exam but unfortunately now the epidural was in, things had slowed down again. SIGH.
We then were given a new midwife whose name I can’t remember, and a student midwife I think named Sarah. Again not something I originally wanted, but the birth plan was well off schedule at this point and so I continued to keep pumping my epidural button as and when it started wearing off. The weirdest thing when you have contractions without feeling them is they seem like violent baby movements, like in the last few weeks. I was very uncomfortable not being able to move around though, I could still move my legs so I was fidgeting a lot from left to right. The baby monitor only liked picking up baby HR on my left side though, which caused my right leg to ache (where I’d been injected with the pethidine earlier). It was getting late in the evening now, and things were progressing but slowly.
Doctors in pink scrubs were coming in to see me now, which gave me the inkling things were getting a bit more serious and ever so slightly closer to an OR. The king lady surgeon doctor gave me an exam where everyone was then surprised to see I had pretty much made it to 10cm. This meant soon I could start the real exhaustion of pushing. I was excited about this bit because not only did it mean I would get to meet our baby, but I could finally rest afterwards. She gave me a quick scan as the baby’s position was not favourable. I was annoyed this could have been due to my being sat down and on epidural but this was the same as the scan in the previous week so I had to put this out of my mind. I also quickly reminded her we did not know the sex, so please stop pointing that scan at me without thinking!
WEDNESDAY — LABOUR DAY 3
Pushing came — the weirdest sensation when you can’t feel anything and have no idea how hard you’re doing it. They tell you when you’re contracting and then off you go, genuinely like you’re having the biggest poo of your life. It was bloody knackering. I moved around from all fours on to my side as I was exhausted and didn’t have much strength in my legs from the epidural. Speaking of the devil, I realised I hadn’t pumped many drugs lately and so asked for my epi to be topped up — oh look the machine is broken and now I’m starting to feel everything again. Yikes! At this point when they say ‘don’t push’ it’s literally impossible not to! FINALLY the bloody thing gets swapped and I am back to pushing without feeling.
A couple of hours later and it would appear things weren’t really progressing, again. Bloody baby was not coming down the way they were meant to — facing the wrong way completely. The pink scrubs lady came back to see me, another exam and they made the decision I was going to need an assisted delivery with a ventouse/ suction thing in an OR. I signed away my consent, and consent for a c-section should the need come about. Then it was like go, go, go — Ben got taken to get into some scrubs, all my piercings were getting taped up, my epidural was put on max and I was just very excited to be getting a change of scenery and having a break from pushing all by myself.
Theatre was bizarre, bear in mind it’s 4ish in the morning and it’s bright and busy like the middle of the day at Waterloo station. There’s music playing loud and everyone appears to be in good spirits. Pretty good actually! The anaesthetist was chatting above my head and keeping me laughing, as my legs were being popped into GENUINELY LEATHER stirrups… I’ll leave that there. Ben was, of course, by my side, and the whole scenario was just madness. It certainly did feel a little exposing however the lack of sensation and the fact I had been naked all day and been examined numerous times it was BAU by now.
So the pink lady is back — she seems like she had control and knows what she is doing! I trust her authority! She explains to me the procedure, I still need to push and they will have a go at turning baby with their HANDS first (good lord it must be gaping down there hahahaha). Then they will try with the ventouse..
Hands go in. Two or three pushes and no avail.
Ventouse goes in and on. Two or three pushes and no avail.
OK explains the pink scrubs lady — we’re going to have to do an emergency c-section. In my head I had already accepted this was very likely, knowing the odds, stats and all my hypnobirthing training. I was just SO READY for sleep I accepted of course and as soon as I said OK, the room buzzed into action again. Firstly we’re going to have to push the baby back up (all that pushing for nothing!) so a water balloon pump is shoved god knows where and pumped to move baby up to the c-section access point. I later was told baby was almost delivered vaginally to the point where an episiotomy was nearly given. Thank god that didn’t happen!
My stirruped feet are moved, my body positioning is moved, more drugs are pumped, a screen is put up and here we go. My hands are moved up to rest on my boobs out of the way of my tummy which feels weird as I can’t hold Ben’s hand! Things start feeling rummagey which is bloody weird and people continue to chat to me to make me feel at ease. The pink scrubs lady tells the room we don’t know the sex, and that Ben would like to be the one to tell me what baby is when they are pulled out of my abdomen.
I start to fall asleep as I am soooo tired now and can’t feel anything but rummaging around. Eventually they say something along the lines of ‘and here’s baby’ or ‘baby’s trying to have a little cry’ and I cannot fathom what kind of feelings were going through me, I was peering as much as I could over the top of the screen which was really high! They presented baby to Ben and at first he genuinely couldn’t tell (genitals are swollen at birth due to hormones) and obviously the shock and bizarre scenario, then he goes ‘Oh it’s a girl!’ and I am godsmacked as I have spent this whole pregnancy mostly thinking it’s a boy.
They lift her up so I can see her, and I think to myself, so we have an Ione (her name we had picked and planned from the start). I wasn’t crying or anything which I thought I would. In fact I feel more tearful writing this back now at the whole thing. I was just so relieved it was nearly over and now we have our little baby. And that I could now SLEEP!
They quickly take her to clear her airways of mucus (a c-section treat), weigh her and to wrap her up warm. She gets presented to Ben to hold first (as I mentioned my hands are trapped) like a teeny tiny bug in a rug. I manage to free a bit of hand to touch her — and I kept thinking ‘wow I’m a mum’, ‘is this what being a mum feels like?’, ‘should I be crying?’, ‘why do I not feel immediately bonded?’ etc. etc. The midwives snap a couple of pictures which we will treasure forever of course.
Ben weirdly gets asked to leave and I am busy being tied back up/ falling asleep wondering what is going to happen next? Where’s my baby and where’s my partner?
After a bit more drugs and I’m finally all sealed up.
I’m taken to a recovery ward to be reunited with my baby and to try breastfeeding for the first time ever. I’m SO tired at this point but equally wired to meet her. I’m laid down but propped up at the shoulders which is very uncomfortable but is the perfect position I hadn’t realised for boobing. We do some skin on skin and she latches on pretty much straight away. I’m sat there left alone in a now quiet empty(ish) room holding my baby as she feeds (which feels so odd at first!) and am talking to her saying “hello little one” a few times and “goodness me you’re hungry!” I ask the midwives if she should be feeding so much as she stays there about 20mins. I also ask where the hell Ben has gone, he’s waiting on the ward and we see him shortly.
Next baby and I are wheeled to the ward which is the hottest tiniest curtained room you’ve ever experienced, empty when we arrived but full of mums and babies by the end of the morning.
Ben and I are together at last but Ione is constantly being whisked off in her little cot for blood tests and cannulas and things. Because I spiked a fever in labour we are both treated to regular antibiotics and temperature checks at whatever time of the night they feel. I hated this as I wanted to be with her the whole time, but I was bed bound on account of the C and the catheter. Once we are all finally together, we sleep until 8/9amish for breakfast as it was the best few hours I have ever slept.
We didn’t get to leave hospital until Friday night, once we had both been discharged and there was certainty we didn’t have infections. Those days were a blur of endless wake ups, some feeding troubles, yummy hospital meals, one pizza hut pizza (the BEST thing I had tasted after 3 days not eating), one trip outside to the gardens to drink chai latte alone, many cuddles, many black poos for Ben to change and the rest is a blur.
A beautiful and completely mad blur.