So what no one really goes in to detail about when you’re expecting is labour and birth, especially when it’s your first baby!! Sure you have classes and books and programs on the TV, and your family and friends tell you all the fluffy fairy bits of labour and how wonderful it is to hold your baby. But no one is brutally honest about what it will actually be like, what it’s going to feel like, all of the extra scary things like drips and drugs, and what to really expext when your baby is on their way to meet you.
I’m one of the “lucky” ones, my labour was only 2 hours 20 minutes long. But I still had the struggle of spending days on end in hospital, I ended up being induced and I think I became pretty familiar with the staff, the hospital corridors and the girls on the ward whilst waiting and waiting to meet my baby. I ended up going into RBH on the Tuesday morning after 24 hours of erratic movements and then no movement at all from our little peach. It was the usual sit and wait for what seems like forever in the Day Assessment Waiting Room! Finally after almost an hour and a half I was taken through to be put on th ECG to monitor the baby’s heartbeat, movements and any contractions I may be having (mine were very regular and annoying Braxton Hicks!). After 30 minutes on the machine they had a look at the print outs of heart rates and movements, and they decided to send me down for a scan to check what was going on with my baby in my tummy. So the next waiting game began. I then sat and waited for 2 hours before they finally sent me down to Ultrasound to sit and wait for a sonographer to see me. She scanned me and checked everything in under 10 minutes, typed everything up on my notes and then sent me back up to the Day Assessment Unit to see a doctor. By now it’s 3pm, I’ve been in the hospital for over four hours and apart from the fact that my little peach is now wriggling around like normal, I still have no answers as to what’s going on. Finally a doctor comes to speak to me about my scan and ECG results and what she would like to do about them. She explained to me that there was a resistance in the blood flow from the placenta to the baby, so it wasn’t doing it’s job as effectively as it should have been, this meant that the baby was also not growing as they would have expected and because of this they would be inducing me there and then, I immediately start to panic thinking James isn’t here, I’m on my own, what happens now?! The midwives were amazing at keeping me calm and relaxed and explaining the whole process to me and agreed not to begin until James got there (luckily he was on his way so the 45 minute journey didn’t seem to take as long as it did). The induction process began at 5:30pm on Tuesday 9th August by having a pessary inserted, which is some sort of long string elastic like thing, it was not a pleasant experience (one of the ones no one tells you about). The internal examination was the most undignified thing (at that point of labour) and then once I had the pessary put in I had to lie on my side under this sheet to allow it to expand so it wouldn’t fall out, it just seemed to be getting weirder by the minute! After 30 minutes I could get up and dressed again, which made me feel slightly less violated, and I then got taken up to the ward to wait for something magic to happen, hopefully labour. When 9pm came and I hadn’t gone in to labour James had to head home and be on standby incase I miraculously went into labour over the course of the night. 8:30am arrived and so did James, still no contractions, no waters breaking and no signs of labour. So off we headed for walks around the hospital for hours and hours, ensuring we were back at my bed in time for my 4 hourly checks of blood pressure, temperature, pulse rate and the baby’s heart beat. We got to 5:30pm which meant my 24 hours of pessary time was up and they would assess and decide what the next course of action would be. I got the pessary taken out and then had to wait for shift change for the midwife to come and assess me, 3 hours later she finally got to me! The pessary had started to do something, I was 2cm dialated which was amazing, it meant I didn’t have to have a second one in, thank goodness! BUT, she said to me that delivery was busy and unless I went into labour on my own I would be waiting a while for a room and midwife to be available to break my waters to get my labour going. She offered me a sweep to try and help things along naturally, I obviously said yes thinking “this will definitely make me go in to labour!”. The sweep was horrendous, so bad that I actually cried, I’m not sure whether I was being a massive girl about it or whether it really was that bad, it felt like she had put her whole hand up there and was trying to scoop out my insides. That is something I never wish to have repeated, I would rather have my eyeballs tattooed. Thursday we walked more miles around the hospital grounds, trying not to go stir crazy as I wasn’t allowed to go too far away incase I suddenly popped a baby out on the streets. The end of visiting hours came on Thursday and it was the third day that James had to go home without me, without a baby and without any indication of when we would be moving rooms. By this point I was slowly losing the will to live, and the thought of throwing myself down the stairs just so I would be put in a different part of hospital was becoming more appealing! Another sleepless night of 4 hourly checks and listening to crying babies and I was pretty fed up and cranky when James arrived. At 10am we had our usual checks and the midwife finally had some positive news, we had a delivery suite and we would be going down in the next few hours, YAY! I was so relieved, but then the nerves set in, I was going to have a baby, the pain, the unknown, I didn’t want to go down, I was actually quite happy sitting on the ward watching everyone else do labour and have babies. After my half an hour of panic and suddenly being terrified of this strange thing I would have to do soon, James managed to talk me out of having a breakdown and reminded me what it was all about. Hours passed and I thought that I would be spending another night sat in my bed with my hideous patterned curtains surrounding me with no baby!
But 2:30pm came and we got collected by our midwife, her name was Amy, she was lovely, I was so glad she was so positive, hapy, upbeat and chilled, she made both of us feel so at ease with the whole situation. We got taken to one of the newly decorated delivery suits, which was so much more spacious than I thought it would be, with a whole bathroom attached to it. James got himself comfortable in an arm chair whilst all of the paperwork was done and all our information was put on the system. I changed into one of those really flattering hospital gowns, Amy told us that when you’re induced you’re more likely to have an intervention in delivery (csection, forceps etc) so it was easier to have me in a gown just in case we had to go to Theatre for any reason. The word Theatre put the fear of god in me, but it also made me unbelievably determined to make sure that I pushed this baby out before anyone got near me with any kind of operating equipment. At 3pm I had a cannula put in to attach a drip of Oxytocin to (this was to make my body contract to dialate my cervix as my body wasn’t doing it on it’s own). The cannula wasn’t too bad having put in, but I didn’t realise I would turn around and see my hand coated in blood, it was pretty gross. Once I was on the drip, I was strapped to the ECG to monitor the baby as labour began, and I then had my waters broken. It’s a very strange feeling, the water is all warm like wee but you don’t feel like you’re weeing. I was then allowed to move around freely, sit on a birthing ball, walk as far as the drip would allow me, which was all of 2 meters away from the bed. I quite liked sitting on the birthing ball rolling back and forth and side to side to help move the baby down (this is what my NCT teacher had informed us would help) and finally my Braxton Hicks turned into real contractions, getting stronger each time I had one. I was breathing through each one thinking “this is fine, a walk in the park, it’s going to be easy” HA! How wrong was I! As the contractions got closer together they got more intense, it’s the strangest feeling, I just felt like I needed to poo, and it got worse every contraction. As well as that, each time I had a contraction more waters came out! It was like a continuous flood every few minutes, I thought once they had broken your waters they were gone, I didn’t realise quite how much liquid is surrounding the baby! A few more contractions and I ended up doing a poo, not quite my finest moment as I was no where near a toilet, but by the next contraction I was cleaned up and apart from James laughing at me I had forgotten about it. A few contractions later I was really struggling and thought I would give the Gas & Air a try, worst decision I could have made, god that stuff was awful! A few puffs of that and I gave it back. By now the baby’s heart rate is slowly dropping and I had the worst contraction of my life! I almost cried, I didn’t quite know how I was going to cope apart from all I had was James telling me to breathe which actually helped. Amy assessed me again and I was praying I was at least nearly fully dialted otherwise I was seriously considering an epidural to cope with that pain. Luckily I had gone from 4cm to 9.5cm in 20 minutes! So it was time to push and get the baby out as quickly as possible!
Unfortunately when the baby is distressed the situation becomes a little bit worrying and you have to focus on your contractions instead of wasting time thinking about all of the various scenarios that could happen. We suddenly seemed to have millions of extra people in the room, I never would have imagined so many people could fit so comfortably in to one space, but they did with ease. My legs got hoisted up into some stirrup like things and I was finishing this labour on my back which was the last place I wanted to be when I was doing my birth plan, but at that point in time I didn’t really care. The doctor and my midwife were down keeping an eye on the baby as it was working it’s way to meeting us, I had another midwife pushing against my feet to help me push as hard as I could with each contraction (the chin on the chest advice my mum gave me really did work!), There was also a baby doctor of some kind with a baby resus unit in the corner incase the baby arrived and needed help to breathe! Scary I know. But that was the incentive I needed to push as hard as I could to get this baby out. My mum always said I would feel “the ring of fire” as the baby’s head crowned, so I was aiming for this as an indicator of when it was almost over. During this time the doctor had done an episiotomy on me (I’m not sure whether a knife or scissors were used for this but I didn’t actually feel any pain surprisingly!) and she attached a kiwi-cup to the baby’s head to help pull them out as I pushed. I could feel exactly where the baby was by the pressure on the inside of me, and I was thinking “it’s not long now until I’m going to feel this burn”, I’m not sure whether I was excited or nervous about this. At the same time I could see the doctor pulling and wiggling up and down as I pushed, I assume to move the baby’s head into the right position as they were delivered. A few more pushes and I heard a POP, the doctor and the midwife both said “that’s your baby’s head, they’re almost here now, 1 more big push!” So I grabbed my legs again and pulled them to me as I put my chin on my chest and pushed as hard as I could, the absoloute force behind those pushes is amazing, I didn’t realise I could do something like that. I then heard a second POP and then 2 seconds later I heard a cry a James said “it’s a boy, we had a boy!” and he started booing his eyes out. This baby wrapped in a towel was put on my chest and I just stared at it thinking “What do I do now? What is this thing?” it was all very strange! I looked back at James and said “Harley?” to which he immediatly agreed, I think I could have asked for a trip to the Bahamas First Class at that point and he would have said yes!
When you picture birth you assume you pop this baby out and it’s all done, but that is not the case at all. Now all of the after bits had to happen, the placenta had to be delivered, I had to be stitched up and then eventually get all clean. I had an injection stabbed into my thigh to help release the placenta from my body quicker as I still had a wonderful gash to stitch back up. The umbilical cord was still attached to the placenta and was just hanging down my bum which was actually the bit I found the worst, it felt really gross. Then the doctor started to gently push and massage my tummy to help move the placenta away from the wall of my uterus, and at the same time she pulled on the umbilical cord, it was a werid tugging sensation as the placenta moved away from my body. She then asked me to give a little push and the placenta came straight out, after having a baby the placenta just felt like a massive jelly as it came out. She passed the placenta to the midwife, who said to us “do you want to see your placenta?” I laughed and I’m pretty sure I looked horrifed as I said “NO!” I couldn’t think of anything worse than looking at this massive blobby, bloody thing that I had just pushed out. The doctor gave me an injection of local anaesthetic to begin my stitches, she asked if I wanted to wait a few minutes for it to kick in but I just wanted this whole thing over and done with, I was now aware of the fact that I still had my legs spread eagle in stirrups as people walked in and out of the room. As she was stitching me up I just kept looking at this small bundle of joy I had in my arms and thinking “I can’t believe he was in my tummy, I made that, I just had a baby”. There’s a very surreal feeling to the whole birth process, once it’s over it’s almost like it hasn’t even happened, it’s like someone just found a baby and handed it to me. The stitches were taking quite a while, so long that she had to give me another injection as she finished them off, all I could feel was my skin tugging as she pulled the stitch through each time. When she was finished all I could think was please let me put my legs down and stop flashing the world and his wife.
With a thank you to the doctor, I was allowed to take my legs down and put some pants on! (disposible ones of course, with a maternity pad so thick I felt like I was wearing a nappy), but being on my back with a baby in my arms the midwife had to dress me, which was quite embarrassing, after birth all of my dignity and pride had returned so now this was an experience I wish I wasn’t having. After H got weighed, James got him dressed and he got to feed him his first bottle. All of his instincts kicked in, he knew exactly how to hold him, cuddle him, talk to him and feed him (clearly the NCT classes paid off better than expected!).
Over the next few hours I had a change of midwife (shift change), tea and toast and I got to have a shower whilst they went and sorted our room on the ward. That first shower is very strange, you’re really sore and you waddle (no one tells you that waddling happens post pregnancy), and this is the first time you’ve looked at something other than your baby in great detail. Stripped off I stood under the hot water and looked down at my deflated tummy, with nothing in it now it was like I had gone back to having an 18 week baby bump, the blood as well that continues to pour out of you is baffling! I was amazed I hadn’t died from blood loss, I must have washed pints of stuff down the plug hole! As I washed I noticed burst blood vessels all over my shoulders, all these purple dots everywhere, when I told James he informed me that they were all over my face as well, cue the concealor. The midwives expect you to wee within 6 hours of giving birth and by this point it had been 3 and I was starting to panic that they were going to have to put a catheter in me, so I stood under the shower waiting and waiting for the urge to wee and when it came I made sure I did it in one of those brown paper sick bowls so that I could prove to her that I had done one! No more needles for me! I then put on one of James’s t-shirts and some more of those beautiful disposible pants and another huge maternity pad. We then got all our stuff together as we waited for a midwife to take us up to the ward where we would spend the night. Another undignified moment was waiting just around the corner for me, after birth walking anywhere further than 2 meters is exhausting, so I had to go in a wheelchair to the ward, in my disposable pants, awkward! They did cover me with a blanket at least.
Now the aches, pains and exhaustion hits you like a bus. I’m finally feeling all the effects of what happened hours before, get me some painkillers! Dosed up on Codeine and Paracetamol we both attempted to get some sleep. I think I just stared at H for a solid hour in his little fish tank, I was totally in awe, I was amazed that he was our little person and also super confused as to what I was supposed to do with him now. I tried to sleep but each time H moved, made a noise, coughed or cried we both shot up and checked he was still alive. We probably got a total of 3 hours sleep that night, the least I’ve had the whole 3 weeks that he’s been here. The next day after all the usual checks of both me and H, we were finally dicharged to go home. Now the real fun and games of parenting begins!