It’s taken a while for me to write this, life gets in the way somewhat when children are on the scene! I wanted to document my pregnancy & birth story (or birth stories as I’ve done it again since) for my children’s baby books so figured I’d write it here. Be warned though – it’s a long one!
I remember doing the pregnancy test the day before Mother’s Day in 2009. Saturday 21st March 2009. Dave was working and I picked him up from work at 7pm and insisted on buying a test on the way home as I was about 4 or 5 days late by this point but he kept saying “you’ll just be late” blah blah blah. So we bought a test, arrived home with a pizza for dinner, and it took me at least two hours before I felt like I needed a pee, coincidentally while Dave was walking the dog! I did the test, it was positive, and I met him at the front door with tears in my eyes. We were both delighted! Shocked but completely over the moon.
My parents were in Portugal on holiday so I couldn’t phone and tell them and we initially agreed to wait until they were home. I texted my mum the next morning (mother’s day) saying something like “Happy Mother’s Day – hope you’re having a great holiday. Give me a call when you can” as I couldn’t wait any longer, I was too excited! She texted back something like “Having a great time, home on Tuesday – do you fancy lunch on Wednesday?”, clearly not keen to phone me from abroad and run up a hefty bill, so I replied “yes, lunch for three – you, me and your newest grandchild”. Needless to say, the phone rang seconds later! And oddly, when we had that lunch on Wednesday, she commented that she had recently thought about when I’d have children and hoped I wouldn’t leave it too late. I was 26 at the time, hardly old, but my mum had four children by that age and my sister in laws had all had children before me so she must have been aware of my ticking biological clock, probably at the same time as we had been trying to conceive.
So the pregnancy progressed, I didn’t have any morning sickness at all. Nausea, but never actually sick. As I was very healthy throughout, my local hospital’s policy was not to offer a 20 week scan but by 27 weeks the control freak side of my nature was too keen to know whether to paint the nursery blue or pink so we had a private scan and discovered we were having a little boy. I finished work on 6th November with the baby due on 29th. I loved my maternity leave, regular daytime naps cannot be beaten when heavily pregnant, but I was also keeping active walking the dog every day and fully expected to be very late as this was my first baby.
On Friday 27th November I went out for lunch with my twin and his family, he had picked me up as Dave had the car at work. The restaurant were very slow and my brother had to leave to collect his eldest from school so I had a leisurely stroll around the shops and got the bus home, walking up the hill to our flat. I had a nap on the sofa and Dave woke me up when he got home from school around 4. I told him I thought I’d had a couple of contractions while I’d been lying on the sofa. His response was “are we still going to the cinema?”. Classic Dave. With it being two days before my due date, I thought it would be braxton hicks or a false alarm so along we went, watched the second twilight film New Moon, with the contractions continuing throughout. I didn’t wear a watch so was squeezing his hand with every contraction and about half an hour into the film whispered to him “how far apart are they?”. He whispered back “every ten minutes or so” and I burst into tears! Silent tears though. I was in a crowded cinema hall!
He asked if I wanted to go home but I knew we were in for a long labour so figured we might as well stay. After the film we went next door to Asda and bought paracetamol, as I had none at home, and went home planning on having a bath and trying to sleep. Oh, and packing my hospital bags! Lastminuteitis.
How anyone manages to sleep through early labour I do not know. I struggled to relax all through my first labour, easy to say now, but at the time I was steeling myself for the pain and fighting against it rather than letting it sweep over me and do its job. Around 3am I had a ‘show’ which made me think it might have been my waters going with meconium in them so we phoned the hospital. They were able to tell that it wasn’t my waters going and talked me through staying at home another few hours. By 5am the contractions were around 3 minutes apart and I was struggling. Around 7am, both our mums had been in touch and when Dave told them the contractions were 3 minutes apart their response was “get her to the hospital!” so, even though the midwifes were reluctant to see me, they agreed we could head in. I knew Dave would be sent home if it was before 9am and I wasn’t ready for the delivery suite so we got ready slowly and headed for the hospital for 9am.
Arrived at triage, felt that my contractions had stopped in the car but still had the delightful first examination and was so disappointed to discover I was only 2cm dilated!! They gave us the option of going home or being admitted to the labour ward and allowed to roam around the grounds etc. As I felt that the car journey had slowed everything down, we waited at the hospital, going to the canteen for breakfast and walking around the corridors. They gave me more paracetamol but by 11am I’d had four doses of paracetamol since 11pm the night before so wasn’t allowed anymore.
My plan had been to try with paracetamol, water, gas & air and to avoid an epidural at all costs. I was really struggling to cope with the contractions which were very painful, but still quite far apart. The midwife who had assessed me in triage popped her head round my curtain around 6pm and asked how I was doing. I said “still around 5 minutes apart”. Her response was “that won’t be dilating your cervix – you should’ve went home!”. Hardly encouraging! After that I asked to be examined again and discovered we were around 5cm dilated so progress was being made, albeit with 5min contractions.
9pm came around, I wasn’t ready for the delivery suite yet and Dave was about to be sent home. I was in tears, I really didn’t want to be alone in hospital at this point and asked to be examined again, which they agreed to at 9:30pm after Dave had left. I was 6cm by this point. Hadn’t had any pain relief since the paracetamol at 11am. Contractions were painful, I was very tense and now alone in the hospital. The midwife asked what my plan had been, I said ‘gas & air’ and she said she would check with the delivery suite if they would take me as gas & air was only available in the delivery suite, not the labour ward. As my contractions were still 5 minutes apart, the delivery suite wanted me to stay on the ward. I asked what other options there were as I was struggling so much and opted for diamorphine.
Had the injection around 10pm and almost instantly fell asleep. For the first time in around 24 hours I could relax and sleep! This was enough to allow the labour to progress and I woke around 11pm with two strong contractions and my waters going. The midwife said I could phone my partner and ask him to come back in as I wouldn’t be on the ward much longer and we were sent up to the delivery suite around midnight, where I finally got my hands on some gas & air! Wow that stuff is good!
When I was examined on arrival I was 8-9cm. How good it felt to hear that! An hour or so later I was fully dilated but my midwife, Gayle, asked me to wait an hour before pushing. I think this was to give me the time to feel the urge to push, which is totally consuming, my body felt like it was doing the job itself, rather than me forcing my body to push when it wasn’t really ready. After around 2 hours of pushing, where the baby’s head could be seen but wasn’t really progressing, the midwife spoke to a registrar and asked how I was. I said I wanted to continue as the alternative was “intervention” which, to be frank, scared the hell out of me! I think this fright was enough to make me push even harder as I was holding back a little, scared of the imminent pain which I then realised (slow on the uptake) was unavoidable. My boy was born at 04:32am on Sunday 29th November 2009, his due date! Punctual baby. The midwife had one of my legs and Dave had the other so saw everything and was sobbing when he saw the baby arrive. Perhaps a bit too much detail here, but I remember watching his reaction and being so overwhelmed. The baby was placed on me all warm and wet but I don’t think I cried myself, it felt like an outer body experience. Shock.
All this happened in a tiny delivery room, just Dave, Gayle and I and now there were four of us. The four of us remained there, very relaxed and peaceful, while I had stitches, we phoned both sets of grandparents and Dave was left in sole charge of his new son while I had a shower and put my new pyjamas on. Around 6:30am I was wheeled down to the ward and Dave went home to sleep for a couple of hours before life as new parents really began.
I remember feeling afterwards as though it hadn’t been a great labour and I wish I had done better but when Gayle handing me over to the postnatal ward she said “she was 8-9cm before arriving at the delivery suite!”, which they were quite admiring of, but first time labour is looooooooooooooong and I wish I had been better able to relax and allow my body to do its job. In the end though, I pushed him out, he’s healthy (as am I) and we are totally blessed to have our beautiful boy, Ethan. One of the most amazing, empowering and beautiful experiences of my life.