It seems a bit strange to be writing about my birth experience when Toby is already four months old but it seems that a blog primarily about being a mum would be incomplete without a record of how my baby arrived in our family. I am also finding as the weeks and months pass I am forgetting some of what happened so I want to write it down before it disappears from my memory altogether!
I had a straightforward pregnancy really. I had nausea constantly from about week 6 to week 12 but I was only actually sick twice. From about 30 weeks I had quite severe pain in my hips but it came and went and only usually lasted a minute or two when it was there. Other than that I was just really tired, which wasn’t helped by the fact that I was still teaching (and on my feet for a lot of the day) right up to 37 weeks. And whereas in some jobs your colleagues might make allowances because you’re pregnant, teenage kids show no such sympathy!
My bump was measuring a couple of centimetres big throughout most of my pregnancy. I got really fed up with everyone asking me if I was sure it wasn’t twins, or telling me I was going to have a massive baby. I’m still not sure how measuring the outside of a bump can be at all accurate or useful – I know some of my bump was definitely due to excessive cake consumption and nothing to do with the size of my baby.
Anyway, to the birth. I had somewhat ill-advisedly decided to work right up until the end of the summer term, which took me to 37 weeks pregnant. I was really glad that the last couple of weeks of term were pretty quiet – I was huge, and knackered! If I had made it to my due date I would have had almost three weeks of summer holiday to relax and prepare myself. As it turned out Toby had different ideas! Eleven days after we broke up was sitting on the sofa with my husband and we were discussing whether we would be able to go to the recording of a comedy TV show which we had tickets for the next day. I got up to go to the loo and just before I got there my waters broke all over the kitchen floor! Decision made.
I wasn’t having any contractions or other signs of labour but after a quick call to the hospital they asked us to go in so I could be monitored. So at 11 pm we made our way to the maternity unit. We were there an hour or so while I was put on a monitor. The baby was doing fine and they could detect some mild contractions but nothing much was happening. The midwife advised us that their policy was to allow 72 hours after waters breaking for labour to start naturally before induction. Apparently after 72 hours there is a much greater risk of infection. So we were sent home with an induction booked for 3 days later and appointments to come in and be monitored on the days in between. I was so weird going home that night thinking that our baby could arrive at any time and would definitely be with us by the weekend.
The next day I was still leaking amniotic fluid but no sign of any contractions so we went back to the hospital in the afternoon as planned. While we were there one of the midwives came and said they were very busy on the day my induction was booked so would I mind being induced the next day instead. Now, I know some women maybe just want to get their baby out as soon as they can but I was keen to avoid an induction if I could help it. They seemed quite put out when I said no and tried to get me to change my mind, telling me I’d have to wait until the evening to come in on the planned induction day but I stood my ground and I’m glad I did. There was no medical reason to induce me earlier than planned, the baby was doing fine and I was only at 38 + 5 weeks so I didn’t want to rush him out if I didn’t need to. So off we went home again for another evening of waiting.
Luckily we didn’t have to wait too long. About 5 am the next day I woke up with a bit of a crampy feeling under my bump and in my back. I quite often woke up feeling a bit sore though so I wasn’t sure whether this was really the start of something. I drifted off back to sleep for another hour but when I woke up again the pain was still there. I decided to get up but told the hubby to stay in bed – if this was the start of labour then he needed as much sleep as he could get. I had some breakfast and watched a bit of TV but over the next hour or so the pains were getting stronger and I decided this was definitely labour. I started using an app on my phone to time the contractions and when they were about six minutes apart rang the hospital. I explained what was happening and they told me I could go in if I wanted but it was probably best if I stayed at home as long as I could. The hubby was up by this point – I had taken some paracetamol (which was doing nothing!) and was kneeling on the floor trying to do the breathing I’d learnt at pregnancy yoga. I think about half an hour after the initial call to the hospital I decided we weren’t waiting at home any more. The contractions were coming every three minutes by this point. The hospital was about half an hour’s drive away and I knew it was only going to get more uncomfortable the longer we waited. So we got our things together and set off.
We arrived at the hospital about 10 am and after settling us in one of the delivery rooms the midwife examined me. I was 3 cm dilated. She also gave me a sweep during the examination to ‘help things along’ and told me it was unlikely we’d see a baby before tea time and they would check me again in four hours. They contractions seemed be coming more frequently and more strongly, I wasn’t sure I could cope with another four hours of that! My birth plan was to try and avoid pain relief if I could; I had wanted to use the birthing pool for my delivery but the midwife explained that because of my waters having gone two days before I would need antibiotics via a drip during the labour to prevent any infection in me or the baby. I couldn’t go in the pool with a cannula in my hand so they would have to take it out then reinsert it a few times during the labour. I’d only had a drip once before and the cannula was really uncomfortable so I didn’t fancy that and decided to abandon the birth pool idea.
The midwife suggested I try getting in the bath instead. After about ten minutes though I gave up on that too – this was in July when we were in the middle of a heat wave. I was too hot in the bath and it wasn’t deep enough to cover my bump anyway. So I got out and tried to find some way of getting comfortable. I eventually found that kneeling up, hanging over the back of the bed seemed to be the most comfortable. It was now about 11:30 am and the contractions seemed to pretty much constant to me. There was no way this baby was waiting until tea time. The hubby had been doing a great job helping me with breathing through the contractions and rubbing my back but the pain was getting unbearable. I had a TENS machine on but that wasn’t doing much apart from giving me a button to push. I needed something stronger so we called for the midwife and got the gas and air hooked up. After that it gets a bit hazy for me – I kind of went into a world of my own, just sucking on the gas and air, occasionally asking for water, and just trying my best to cope with the pain. At some point during this stage I had to turn over on to my back while they put the cannula in my hand. It was excruciating – I have no idea how anyone manages to give birth lying flat on their back!
Anyway, I think maybe an hour passed before I felt the urge to start pushing (although as I think is quite common in labour I wasn’t sure at first if I wanted to start pushing the baby out or if I just needed a poo!). ‘Just do what you need to do’ advised the midwife. So I started pushing. The next bit didn’t really take very long. At first the baby’s head would come down then pop back up again after the contraction. Towards the end I had to stop using the gas and air because I was actually doing it so well I was breathing away the contractions. So with a couple more gas-free pushes Toby arrived in the world at 12:58 pm.
It was then a bit of a manoeuvre to turn from kneeling facing the back of the bed to lying down with Toby still attached by the umbilical cord! We managed it though and had immediate skin to skin contact while we waited for the cord to stop pulsating before the hubby cut it. He wasn’t sure if he would want to but then decided he might regret it if he’d had the opportunity but not done it. I had a managed third stage which was over in a few minutes without me really realising and I was massively relieved to have got away with out needing any stitches.
So, I didn’t need my induction after all. From the first twinge to the arrival of our beautiful baby took just eight hours. All the midwives seemed quite surprised at how quickly it had gone. In fact they said if I have another baby I should go to hospital as soon as I feel the first pain of labour because a second baby is likely to arrive even quicker! I never did get my antibiotics either. After they had put the cannula in my hand they didn’t have time to get them prescribed by one of the doctors before Toby was born. So I could have used the birthing pool after all!
I know I was very lucky to have such a straight forward pregnancy and labour. I honestly don’t know how women cope with labours that go on for days! Any longer and I think I would have been begging for an epidural. We spent one night in hospital so Toby could be monitored for infection and then although they were trying to get us to stay another night so we could get breastfeeding properly established I thought we were doing OK and just wanted to go home. So that was it. About 30 hours after we first arrived, we went back home taking our new baby with us.