This time 8 weeks ago, I was in hospital. I was tired. I was sore. I was a mother.
It’s fair to say my birth didn’t end up being how I had planned. I wrote about my hypnobirthing experience before labour, and as a result of these classes, we planned a drug free, natural, water birth at home using hypnobirthing techniques. In hypnobirthing, we didn’t make a birth plan. We made a list of birth preferences – and boy am I glad we made that distinction! Settle down, it’s quite the epic read…
Everything was set – we had our pool ready, I’d bought loads of battery operated candles and fairylights and I’d been listening to my affirmations on repeat every day (and every night!) and on Tuesday 9th April, something phenomenal happened… I decided the house was a squat, and that I couldn’t possibly bring a baby home to it. I decided we had no cleaning products, no cloths and no sponges, so I decided to head into town that afternoon to stock up. I bought baskets, organisers, cloths, sponges, spray bottles… the lot. And that evening, I sat on the floor in my kitchen, and rearranged the cupboard under the sink… for HOURS. I was all ready for my cleaning spree the next morning. I stood up at about 10.30pm, and those little niggles I’d been feeling all day were suddenly a bit stronger…
“My tummy hurts a bit…”
“Well we’ll keep an eye on that…”
Off to bed I went. At about midnight, I got up for one of my thousands of night time wee trips (TMI, but pregnancy is a magical, beautiful time that must be shared, am I right?) and realised I’d had a show… I knocked on the bathroom wall to call Oscar in (knowing his head was the other side of the wall…) and suddenly I felt my waters go. Brilliant!
A late night call to my Mum and Dad to come and get our wonderful doggo for his seaside break, and we were downstairs and raring to go. I called the hospital, and as my contractions were sporadic, they advised me to get some sleep and to call again when the contractions were closer together, and they’d get the home birth team out! The next morning, I was having regular contractions every 5 minutes, so we called the midwives out, got the pool up and got ready to meet our baby boy!
Now, when your waters break, you have 24 hours to have your baby before they like to speed things up (risk of infection, blah blah). I was HIGHLY aware of this time frame throughout Wednesday, and I’m pretty sure it’s got to be the most pressure I’ve ever felt in my life. As my ‘deadline’ approached, I started to worry. The daytime midwife, Tracey, had gone home hours before, promising to come back when things had progressed. Some of my contractions had started to be closer together, so the night shift midwife, Lisa, came out to join us.
“Don’t worry – the average woman’s labour is 12-18 hours, it’s not a short process!”
We laughed, we chatted, I breathed through my contractions, the clock ticked. The midwife timed my contractions. The clock ticked. The 24 hour mark passed, and we were advised to get some sleep and to head into the hospital when the pain started to get worse.
At about 1am on Thursday, we drove over to the hospital, and appeared on the labour ward, nervous, lost and a bit bewildered. Our midwife, Sam, put us on monitoring and did some observations, until we were lucky enough to be allowed into the pool room and we spent the night in the pool, breathing our way through contractions. An amazing midwife named Nic started on the morning shift at 8am, and started to advise me of the plan; something didn’t feel right. I didn’t want induction, I didn’t want to move to a bed, I didn’t want to be pumped full of drugs. The only person I wanted was my mum – so she came, without a moments hesitation. Nic was amazing; was I sure my waters had gone? I explained what had happened, and she suggested testing to see if my waters had broken. It was a strange little test – almost like a pregnancy test. It came back negative. My waters hadn’t broken. We were back on. It was time to go home. So at around lunchtime, we headed home, unsure when we were going to meet our baby, but thankful that we could go back to the birth we had planned!
That evening, we went round to my parents to collect the dog – it could be a while yet, and we wanted him home – he’s not good with disruption. I continued to have contractions throughout the evening, and into the night. We both tried to get some rest (which, as any labouring woman will tell you, is impossible). The following morning, Friday 12th April, my contractions were stronger, closer together, and definitely feeling harder to breathe through! We called out the midwives (again!) and the team, Emma, Katie, Tracey and Maisie came and told me I was 4cm dilated – we were on, active labour time! I had ketones in my urine – my body was running on empty, and I needed to get some energy into my body. I didn’t realise I would ever resent people for feeding me chocolate, but eating was the last thing on my mind, and I was being force fed sugar in order to get my energy levels up! My mum came to drop off snacks and to collect Jasper for part two of his seaside break.
“Relax, breathe through it…”
“Tell me to relax one. more. time.”
Sadly though, after 4 more hours of little progress, they realised I was only 3cm… The way my waters were sitting had meant my first examination was wrong. I wasn’t in active labour. They told me to keep doing what I was doing and to call them back out when I was consistently having 3 contractions in 10 minutes. And to try and get some rest.
So I watched Superbad in bed.
My contractions got worse. So out came the night shift midwife, Amanda. We laughed, we chatted, I breathed through my contractions, the clock ticked. We discussed the merits of Game of Thrones (Season 8 hadn’t yet reared it’s ugly, ugly head). The clock ticked. The midwife timed my contractions. The clock ticked. My contractions still weren’t regular enough. Another midwife went home, but not before we planned our next move – head into hospital again in the morning if he hadn’t arrived by then!
Lo and behold, my contractions were still irregular, so first thing Saturday morning, the 13th April, we headed down to the hospital again for monitoring – just to check everything was tickety boo. After half an hour of monitoring, he was fine. I was still contracting. We didn’t know what to do next… The midwife, Louisa, offered to examine me to see what was going on… 4cm dilated – ACTIVE LABOUR TIME!
Technically, I wasn’t allowed home, because I was in active labour, but after getting it signed off, as I was so early, and as long as we thought we could get home safely, we were sent on our way, with the home birth team ready to meet us when we got there! Emily, Mia and Sandra met us at home and we got the pool up again! We were on! The plan was in place – we’d examine again at 3pm to check how much progress we’d made! Mia, the student midwife, helped me through some intense contractions – I was getting tired by this point, so I was finding it hard to put my hypnobirthing into practice. I wouldn’t have been able to manage it were it not for the midwives and Oscar reminding me and helping me through. 3pm came and we got ready for my examination.
I was still 4cm. I hadn’t made any progress. I needed to transfer into hospital. My waters probably needed breaking. My dream of a home birth had disappeared into dust. All those false starts came to nothing. But I was exhausted, I was hormonal, I was emotional. I needed my baby here safe. I needed help. The ambulance was called and we were advised it would be with us within 17 minutes. It arrived in 2.
In a panic, we threw everything back into our hospital bag making sure I had Bobo, my teddy bear, with me. I hopped into the back of the ambulance with Emily, the midwife, and Oscar followed behind with all our bags. I was offered pain relief, and I accepted – I’d said I didn’t object to using gas and air beforehand, if needed, so I started to breathe it in. I have to say, it’s quite possibly the best thing I’ve ever experienced – it felt like a night in Wetherspoons circa 2009, after a few vodka redbulls and a jug of Woo Woo. I chatted with the paramedics as they wheeled me in to the labour ward. I was the calmest I had been since my labour started.
I got in, met my midwife, Denise, and she told me off for puffing on the gas and air too much, and for being too dehydrated. This is where my memory of events gets really hazy.
“Wait until you feel a contraction coming on. Oscar, you’re in charge of making sure she drinks every time she has a puff.”
8pm came, and another shift change. Another midwife, Jules. She waited for the consultants to come in to examine me. She knew I needed help. I needed my waters breaking. The consultants came in. They examined me. They said I was 3cm. They said I wasn’t in active labour. They’d be back in 4 hours to check my progress. My heart sunk – how can you go backwards?
“We’ll sort you out an epidural”
“She doesn’t want an epidural”
“She wants to be able to move during labour”
“An epidural won’t stop that, she just won’t feel any pain, she’ll still be able to move”
This is where Jules really came into her own. She reminded me that every decision was mine. She reminded me I didn’t need to do anything I didn’t want to. I needed my waters breaking, and the more time that passed, the more obvious that became. She became my champion, pushing and pushing for my waters to be broken. A doctor came in and agreed to break my waters. I felt almost instant relief, a release of pressure. I suddenly was dialated 6-7cm.
I was pushing uncontrollably. I was actually convinced I was having my baby right there and then. I looked into Oscar’s eyes, pointing down, wondering why the hell nobody was doing something about the baby coming out of me, while he told me ‘Not just yet’. I was livid – WHAT DO YOU MEAN NOT YET? SOMEONE NEEDS TO CATCH HIM! In the background, even Jules started to prepare for delivery – I was making all the right noises, all the right movements. I could hear the conversations, which only made me believe my own lie more – the baby was coming RIGHT NOW.
“What’s the plan for the cord?”
“Do you want Vitamin K? Oral or injection?”
“What’s the plan for third stage placenta delivery?”
Push. Push. Push. I couldn’t stop pushing. He was back to back – his back ran alongside my back. Back labour is one of the most painful ways to give birth. His neck was deflexed and his head was off to the side. My cervix was swelling. His head was swelling. The widest part of his head was pushing against my swollen cervix. They advised me to have an epidural – not for pain relief so much, more to let me get some rest. I’d been uncontrollably pushing for hours, and they were worried that I wouldn’t have enough energy to push when I was fully dilated, and that it would cause the baby to become distressed. I agreed. I knew I needed to rest. And for the first time since Tuesday 9th, I managed to rest in the early hours of Sunday 14th April.
Another shift change. Another midwife, Annalee. I still wasn’t making any progress. My next examination showed that. I had two options.
- They’d put me on the hormone drip to see if that made me progress, and would check again in 6 hours.
- I could have a C-Section.
More drugs, more uncertainty, and 6 more hours, or major surgery. What a choice to make at any point in your life. But on day 6 of labour, in the early hours of the morning, it’s virtually impossible. I looked at Oscar blankly. How could I make that choice?
So which one do you want to do? We need you to decide so we can prepare.
Another magnificent midwife moment – she ushered out the consultants to give us space and time to consider our options. She told us we weren’t under any pressure. She told us to let her know if we had any questions. We had tonnes. We didn’t know anything about the drip. We didn’t know anything about caesarean. We pushed our button and called Annalee back in. She told us everything we needed to know, from recovery time to when we’d be going in for the operation. I wanted my mum. She came.
It was the hardest decision had to make, but we decided to opt for the C-Section. Up until this point, the worst our baby had felt was a few hiccups. I didn’t want to run the risk of him becoming distressed.
So within a couple of hours, I was prepared for surgery. I had an anaesthetist at my head and a midwife at my side. Oscar sat by me throughout. This was the first time that panic truly set in. I’d had a few moments of panic, but I lay on the bed and I could feel my hands shaking. I’m sure, if I wasn’t under strong local anaesthetic, I’d have felt my legs shake too. Sunday April 14th. The release date of Game of Thrones Season 8. Oscar kept. me calm by talking about Game of Thrones theories while surgeons rummaged around and rearranged my insides.
A squawk. No louder than a bird. Then, over the curtain, Annalee called me, and held up my baby. He was here.
Sunday April 14th. 11.41am. 7lb 6oz. Caesarean Section.
6 days since first contraction. 45 hours active labour.
A list of things I didn’t want that did happen:
- 6 days of contractions, ranging in intensity and frequency
- A ‘dry land’ birth
- A hospital birth
- A labour ward birth
- An epidural
- A caesarean
- A surgeon to cut the cord
- Thousands of examinations
- Several trips in the car
- An ambulance journey
- A cannula
- A catheter
- A painful postnatal stay
- A cocktail of pain-relief that knocked me out for his first night
- A 6 week recovery time
A list of things I did want that did happen:
- To use our beautiful cord tie
- Outstanding medical care
- My wonderful family’s support
- To feel in control
- A happy, healthy baby
But Rufus arrived, healthily and happily. He grows more beautiful every day. And at the end of it all, isn’t that the only thing people want from their birth plan? A happy, healthy baby? Some people don’t even get that. So despite my trauma, despite the challenges, I am looking for the positives.
I genuinely believe that I had a hypnobirth. It might not look like the hypnobirths you’d film and use as case studies, but I believed in my body throughout. I believed in Rufus. I stayed calm for about 99% of my birth, despite everything. Rufus stayed calm throughout, despite being stuck. We birthed together, despite medical intervention. Without the tools hypnobirthing gave me, I would have had a very different birth. It wasn’t natural, it wasn’t without intervention, it wasn’t always peaceful. But it was a birth I was in control of. It was a positive birth experience.
And that’s just it, isn’t it? I had a horrific birth experience, where nothing went to plan. It was traumatic, and it’s going to take me a long time to come to terms with it all. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I’m not sure what it will take for me to move on from it.
So I’d like to say thank you:
☆ To Anneka at Heartstrings Umbilical Ties for making the beautiful cord tie and blanket – the only part of our birth preferences that went to plan!
☆ To Shelley, Tracey, Lisa, Emma, Katie, Tracey, Maisie, Sam, Nic, Amanda, Louisa, Emily, Mia, and Sandra, and the rest of the Dover and Deal Community Midwife team; most of whom were in a Whatsapp group chat asking if anyone knew if I’d had the baby throughout the entire week!
☆ To Denise, Jules, and Annalee; for being my champions in the hospital, who never gave up on me, even when I felt like I’d given up on myself.
☆ To the other midwives and medical staff I met – including, but not limited to, Vicky, Rebecca, Jo, Hannah, Jemma, Leisa, Chelsea; you saw me at my worst, and supported me to become the best I could be. I only wish I had gotten all of your names.
☆ To Rufus’ wonderful grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins; thank you for sticking with me through the epic tale – sorry for so many false starts!
☆ To Oscar, for everything.
☆ To my beautiful best friends, Sara and Lizzie; for keeping me smiling with your speculative group chat, being pissed off that I hadn’t told you I’d gone into labour and for noticing that I hadn’t been on Instagram in nearly a week.
☆ To Becca, Jo and Jacque at Canterbury Hypnobirthing; for giving me the tools to breathe through 6 days of contractions, for teaching me so much about my own body’s strength and for helping me to understand that, no matter the circumstances, it’s my body, my baby, my choice.
☆ To Rufus; for making me a mama. For teaching me strength I never knew I had.
And to you, reader, for making it through to the end of this tale. It’s probably taken you hours – and I truly appreciate it.