Thursday, 24 March 2011


Alfie is two weeks old today - time goes so fast. It seems like only minutes ago I was on all fours on my sofa trying to push him out!

Generally, having him here is wonderful. He's very content, sleeps a lot, loves cuddles with his mummy and only really cries if theres something majorly wrong. He hates having his nappy changed, thats inevitable crying, but the minute you start buttoning up his clothes again he stops wailing and makes this little bleating, wimpering noise which is just adorable. We gave him a bath last week & he was not impressed with that. The next time, I'm going to take him in the bath with me and get OH to help and hopefully that'll make it less traumatising for the little man. I think he just doesn't like to be naked which is a shame really coz I'd love to have more skin to skin contact with him when he's feeding or having cuddles.

We've got into a good routine now of feeds every 3-4 hours. He has his nappy changed first while the bottle is warming up and then he goes to sleep after hes been 'burped'. Its great as it means I'm getting regular sleep, if we need to go anywhere we can time it so he's back home for the next feed and OH can help out when he's back from work. Alfie seems to have a restless period from about 4-8 each evening when he wont settle after his feed and just seems to want more very hour or so. OH usually comes back from work to find Alfie having a bit of a cry & being difficult but is very good at settling him, even though he doesn't have the patience and wants the baby to be asleep within 10 minutes.

The big challenge has been breastfeeding. I've had numerous nurses and midwifes and specialists help me with positioning and getting him latched on etc but it only seems to work for 1 or 2 feeds then he goes back to his default behaviour. This involves spending 10-15 minutes trying to latch on, a lot of the time he does (which hurts a little bit but thats normal) and then spits my nipple out and has another go so after about 10 mins I'm feeling pretty uncomfortable and a bit frustrated that he's not doing it properly. He's of course getting more agitated because he's hungry. When he does eventually latch on, he'll take 10-20 big mouthfuls, where you can hear him swallowing the milk, and then drift off to sleep, sucking occasionally, especially if I try to pull away from him. The specialist said that you should always wait for him to take himself off the breast because then you know baby is finished. Well, Alfie might take himself off after 20 minutes, or after 4 hours. or he might come off so I can burp him and then want to go back on again immediately or maybe half an hour later if I'm lucky. It's very annoying because I obviously can't do anything - eat, have a drink, go to the loo, do any chores, I'm just sat stuck holding this limpet that won't feed properly and won't let me go.

OH came home from work on sunday to find Alfie crying and me in absolute bits. He'd been feeding on and off since 9am and by this point it was nearly 7pm. The only break I got was when OH's mum drove us back home as we'd been staying with her - and he cried the whole way. I was exhausted as I'd been up in the night with him and he'd been playing around for ages too, I was starving hungry as I'd not had chance to go to the shop let alone make any food. With us being away for the week we had nothing in the house. I was desperate for a wee and was generally feeling very miserable.

I told Him that I felt like a failure because I wasn't able to give birth to him properly and now I was struggling to feed him properly and it made me feel like a useless mother. He of course tried to say nice things to make me feel better but as he rarely displays any kind of emotion or sentimentality it made me cry even more. He told me I did an amazing job when I was in labour and he was incredibly proud of me and that if he could feed Alfie himself then he would. He took the baby for long enough to allow me to express, so we could feed him and finally get him to sleep. I decided at that moment that I was going to express every 3-4 hours and Alfie would be bottle fed. He's obviously happy having the bottle as we've had no problems with it so far, and it means he's getting a proper feed, regularly, and proper sleep and I'm not getting myself all worked up. I've been feeding him and then expressing after each feed since sunday night and we're both so much happier. I know its not ideal, because it is a bit time consuming having to express and then waiting for the milk to warm up, but it's working for us. I'm so much more relaxed, I' enjoying spending time with him, OH can feed him too so we can share the responsibility and I'm not spending all my time trying to feed a baby that's clearly just paying around.

I think that because I've found breast feeding so difficult, I've got a bit of a negative attitude towards it which obviously won't help the situation, especially since Alfie can pick up on my discomfort which upsets him too. I was talking with my mum about it and I came to the conclusion that I just don't like it. It makes me feel uncomfortable - even on the few feeds that have gone well, I've felt awkward and wanted it to be over. The idea of doing it for half an hour several times a day makes me feel a bit weird - not sick or anything that drastic, but I found myself willing him to sleep longer between feeds so I wouldn't have to do it quite so often.

I do feel like I'm letting him down, especially since when he was born it was quite a while before I got to hold him, so I feel like the bond between us is already tainted somehow and my not feeding him is bound to make that worse because we don't have the closeness you get when you're breastfeeding. The most important thing though, is that he is happy, he's getting fed regularly and he's gaining weight. The midwife is on her way round now so fingers crossed he's back up to his birth weight which will prove that I've been doing the right thing. The fact that both the 'breakdowns' I've had since he was born have been breastfeeding related says something really - and as he gets older, we'll have plenty of time to bond, he does stay at home all day with me after all, and likes cuddles with mummy better than cuddles with daddy!!

Sunday, 20 March 2011


Breastfeeding - considering its supposed to be the natural and normal option, WHY IS IT SO BLOODY DIFFICULT.

That is all.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

The first week of motherhood

I'd be lying if I said this week hadn't had its ups and down. I've had an overwhelming mix of emotions going through my body, all made worse by the limited sleep and general waves of hormones women experience post-pregnancy.

The first day, after leaving theatre and being on the ward with Alfie was very surreal. I couldn't feel my legs as they'd been numbed for surgery and I still felt a bit groggy from the drugs I'd been given and the gas and air I'd had. OH, my mum, his mum and his sister were all there with me, taking pictures, asking me how I felt. The texts and phone calls had started to come through, and we'd both announced his birth on facebook to our friends. I was feeling very hungry and remember constantly asking for toast which didn't appear until about 9.30! Everyone left by about 7ish, OH was exhausted so I told him to go home and sleep. I knew he wanted to but didn't want me to be angry at him leaving me. My dad came to see Alfie and I for ten minutes on his way somewhere else. My mum had called to tell him, which is a miracle in itself as the two of them have only spoken twice without the need for lawyers in the last 11 years.

Alfie was struggling to settle that night. I was on a ward with three other women, who were all in the late stages of pregnancy and obviously experiencing some complications otherwise they wouldn't have been on the ward. I felt bad that Alfie was grumbling and crying and was probably keeping them awake and making them more anxious or upset. I'd fed him, but he just seemed to want cuddles with his mummy. I wanted him in my arms and next to me as I'd missed out on skin-to-skin with him straight after he was born, but the nurses kept coming to check I wasn't asleep with him in my arms. Its frustrating because had we been at home, I would have had him in bed with me. I was told off for putting him in the cot, because I could have pulled my stitches - it felt like I couldn't get anything right. Hold him and fall asleep is bad, put him down on my own is bad, let him grumble is bad. AAARGH. in the end I gave in and let the nurse take him to settle him. I was too exhausted to argue.

The next day, friday, I was moved to a private room, had my catheter taken out and had a shower, which I was longing for. I was told to take my dressing off so I had a good look at the damage from surgery. I have a huge (it seems huge to me) cut, just on the top of my bikini line with STAPLES in it holding it together. It looks like some sort of creepy scary movie smile thats been sewn together. Very odd. I clocked the sight of my post-pregnancy body too - with the exception of my utterly rediculous boobs which look like they belong to another person, and a slightly swollen tummy (which is probably the size it was when I was 5 months pregnant), I look pretty much exactly the same, A very pleasant surprise.

During the afternoon, we had SO MANY visitors: my sister, my mum and step dad, my friend Jodie, our friends Tommy and Lauren, OH's sister and her BF, OH's mum and brother, my aunty and uncle and finally my lovely midwife Maxine. From 2pm til amost 10pm there was someone else in my room other than me, OH and Alfie. I managed to get a feed in mid afternoon, and by the time everyone had left I was shattered. I'd only had 2.5 hrs sleep the night before, very little rest during my labour and hardly any sleep in the days leading up to it. I still felt alright thought, i felt with it and happy and content, just sleepy.

Saturday, I was sent home. I had to wait around til lunchtime to be discharged as the doctor kept getting called away. Granny Nicola (my mum) came to fetch us and take us back home. Michaela had cleaned the house for us - something that hadn't even crossed my mind. Apparently there were latex gloves, packets of lube, bloody stained towels, blankets and gowns everywhere, half drunk cups of tea, sweet packets and just general clutter. I'm so glad I didn't have to see it, I would have been mortified. Tommy and Lauren came round straight away with their daughter whose 3 and a half. It was adorable seeing her holding Alfie. They were the first people to find out I was pregnant, even before OH, and their daughter has been there every step of the way, looking at ultrasound scans, feeling the baby move, watching my belly grow and understanding that a baby was going to come out of it. She was so excited to see him - she even has her own new baby dolly that she has called Francis!

We took a walk to the local shop because I was desperate for some fresh air - I pushed the pram a bit, which I shouldn't have done as I think it put a bit too much strain on my belly. Its frustrating because I feel fine, I feel normal and like I can get back to my usual routine, but I have to keep reminding myself that theres several layers of stitches under my surface wound that need to heal and I have to rest. Its SO HARD because its really not in my nature!! That night, Alfie wasn't really settling properly. I was struggling to get him to feed properly. He only seemed to be latching on to the very ends of my nipple which was making them quite sore, and he'd only feed for 5 mins or so and would then want more an hour later. I ended up sleeping with him in bed with me as every time I tried to put him down he'd cry - and he seemed happy enough with his face on my boob.

More visitors on sunday, Grandad Clive and Beth, and Grandad Paul in the afternoon. Aunty Na and Sam came in the evening. I found myself getting a bit lairy, for want of a better word. Every time I tried to sit down to feed him. someone else would arrive to visit, I was tired, OH was cooking lunch and there didn't seem to be anywhere calm in the house for me to go and just be alone. Alfie spent the night in bed with us again, I didn't even bother trying to settle him in the crib this time as we'd really struggled feeding and he wasn't happy.

Monday we went to Jamcafe to show Alfie off to all OH's work mates and then we went to Grandma Pips. We're staying with her until sunday so OH and I can have some time together with the baby, getting used to the routine of looking after him, without having to worry about cooking and cleaning and what not. Plus, we can have time away from visitors and I can really take time to rest and relax and look after myself so I can heal properly. My milk started to come in today, more so on the RHS than the left, so I look like Pamela Anderson has been spliced with a saggy old granny. We're still struggling to feed properly and because I was getting so full, I was feeling very uncomfortable. I asked OH to pick up the breast pump from home so I could get a bit off and drip it too him if he was refusing to latch properly.

Tuesday the midwife came and weighed him, He's lost 10oz since he was born, which is quite a lot, and I explained we were having trouble feeding so she's going to send the lactation specialist round tomorrow to help me. I had a mega breakdown about it today. It took Alfie 2 hours to even latch on for a feed this morning and then only fed for 10 minutes, wanting more an hour later. I was in agony, both sides were engorged and painful and horrible, I was feeling guilty because my son was hungry and I couldn't feed him. I couldn't stop crying about it, I couldn't even bring myself to look at Alfie let alone hold him I felt so bad. I gave in and decided we needed tog o and get a bottle so I could express and feed him and at least them he would be fed and happy. We fed him every 4 hours during the night and the following day, giving me a chance to relax and my nipples a chance to recover. When the lady came on wednesday afternoon, it took 2 minutes to get the positioning right and he was feeding away :) It's not been perfect since then, but buying a nursing pillow has really helped. He seems to prefer one side to the other so I'll probably stick with feeding him that side, express the other side and then we've got back up for night feeds and so that OH can do feeds too and let me sleep.

I booked an appointment to register him on wednesday, we were running late and rushed to get there, which meant I overdid it a little bit and my 'wound' then hurt for ages afterwards. Turns out though we were actually a week early - the appointments not til next wednesday! Baby brain strikes - not for the first time I'm sure!!

Despite the feeding troubles, Alfies been wonderful this week. He sleeps well, and a lot, wakes up regularly for feeds and is generally very happy and content. He cries when he has his nappy changed, and he screamed his little heart out when we bathed him last night. He is sometimes a bit sick after feeds but I think that's because the fatty hind milk he gets part way through is a bit rich for him, but i'm sure he'll get used to it.

I can't get over the fact he's actually here. It seems like I'm going to wake up from a dream soon and still be pregnant.. or still be in labour!! He is absolutely amazing, I love him so much already. He's developing really well, he already sucks his fingers and can lift his head up and he stares right at mummy and daddy. This child is going to be a genius, I just know it!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Alfies birth story

I warn you, its long, but my labour was long too

Tuesday March 8th 2011

I woke around 6am, not unusual for me, especially over the last few weeks. This morning though, I just felt different. For one, I felt like I was coming down with something, all headaches and achey and bunged up, like the first day of a bad cold. I got out of bed, and felt a trickle run down the inside of my leg, probably just wee I thought, as I knew it was quite common in late pregnancy to leak urine due to the pressure on your pelvic floor. This continued throughout the morning, random little leaks and the occasional tightening across my tummy that felt a little bit like someone was pulling on a belt round my middle. I was pretty exhausted and stayed in bed for a huge part of the day. I had a lot of pain in my lower back, and had a hot water bottle on it a lot of the time – it was like I was having period pains, just without the period. Around 6pm, I had another leak, much bigger this time, and it smelled different to wee, or the discharge I’d had since my plug went 2 weeks ago. I wondered if this might be my waters starting to leak, so asked Maxine, my student midwife what she thought. She said it might be ‘hind waters’ which sit just in front of baby and can leak before the main bag goes. She advised me to ring labour ward and let them know, because when your waters go, you have 24hours for labour to start otherwise they like to induce you, as there is risk of infection. Quite soon after, the tightenings in my belly started getting more noticeable. Very similar to period pains, a kind of dull ache in my lower abdomen, mixed with the belt tightening feeling. Throughout the night, I got these little cramps roughly every ten minutes or so, until around 3am when they were every 4 minutes.

I decided to phone the midwife to see what she thought as I’d been timing my contractions on my Iphone app, which was telling me I was in active labour. It didn’t feel like active labour though. The midwife asked if I wanted her to come out and I said no as I just didn’t feel like this was ‘IT’ but we agreed I would call her back if they got any closer together, any longer, or any stronger. They were about 4 minutes apart, lasting 45-60 seconds and were no worse than strong period pains. By the morning they’d tapered off and had become much more irregular. I hadn’t slept all night though as my contractions were too strong to sleep through.

Wednesday 9th March

My midwife Yvonne phoned me about 9.30am to see how things were going. She knew that I’d called the midwife last night and that things were happening and suggested I go to see her, just to get my blood pressure checked and to talk things through as it had been 24 hours since my first ‘trickle’ and labour suite were quite keen for me to go and be induced. I went to see her, I was having irregular contractions still, lasting about 45seconds, but randomly spaced out – sometimes 15 mins would pass, other times I’d have 3 in the same time frame. Yvonne recommended I go to hospital to have something called a speculum test done to see if my waters had actually broken or not, as this would put me in a good position to argue for extra time, or to just go home and see what happened. It’s an intrusive procedure, which is something I wasn’t comfortable with, but if it meant avoiding pressure to be induced then it was something I needed to do. I decided that seeing as I was having that done. I would ask for a membrane sweep to see if that helped regulate my contractions and get things going a bit more. So off I went to QMC, I called Maxine and she met me there. Having contractions on the bus was a bit odd. I was worried the bus would pull up at QMC while I was contracting and I wouldn’t be able to get off, but luckily that didn’t happen, although I did have to stop in the middle of the main entrance to breathe through one!

By now, it was about noon, 30 hours since my first twinges and despite the lack of sleep and the nerves about the procedures I was about to have, I felt quite calm, but excited that this could really be it and that pretty soon I’d have my baby in my arms. My blood pressure was a little bit high, the bottom number (which should be below 90 and is usually about 60 for me pre-pregnancy) was 92, but they weren’t too concerned and put it down to anxiety about having the speculum test. It really wasn’t as bad as I thought. No worse than slightly rough foreplay. The result was negative – my waters hadn’t broken which meant I could relax and not worry about silly inductions – so the home birth was back on track. The midwife came to give me a sweep, which was much more painful than rough foreplay – it took my breath away and I could feel myself trying to pull away from her hand – but the good news was that things were progressing. Id written in my birth plan that I didn’t want to know how dilated I was and things like that but she hadn’t seen that and told me not only was I fully effaced (i.e. my cervix was as thin as it needed it to be) but I was 3-4cms dilated! All that contracting last night was obviously doing something after all. Both her and Maxine were really surprised that was the case and I returned home (contracting all the way, including in Waitrose while getting some lunch) feeling really quite excited. The OH was at work and when I spoke to him told me he would be leaving earlier than planned. I think he sensed things were starting to happen. He’d tweeted something about ‘today I wil be mostly waiting for my child to be born’ so he knew things were properly happening. It did mean that I’d started to get texts from people asking what was happening and if I was in labour, which is something I didn’t want to happen.

By the time OH got home from work at 6pm, things were happening. I was contracting every 7 minutes for at least a minute, and they were getting closer together and stronger. It had now been 36 hours since the first twinge, still no sleep and I hadn’t eaten much either. His sister, Michaela, who goes to uni in London, had asked to be at the birth so we texted her to say things were happening and that she should get on the first train in the morning to be here. We didn’t think things would happen much quicker than that – but she thought otherwise and replied that she was already on the train! At 9pm, I suddenly went from contracting every 7 minutes to every 4 minutes and they stayed like that for an hour. I texted Maxine to check if I should call the midwife – I didn’t want to get anyone here too soon, especially after last night & it all slowing down. She said yes, and that she would make her way over. By 11pm, the midwife Jackie, Maxine and Michaela had all arrived and I underwent my first of many internal examinations that night to check my progress. We were all very surprised (again) to learn that I was 6-7cms dilated this time so I asked the OH to start putting the birth pool up the front room. Lauren, our very good friend from next door popped in to say hi and to offer to take the cat incase he was getting in the way – he was very interested by all the people in the house. The second midwife, Lisa, had arrived by this point, and my tiny kitchen was feeling very crowded. I was sitting on my birthing ball, happily talking to everyone, smiling through contractions, which were still 4 mins apart, lasting at least a minute and getting stronger, but feeling very relaxed and really enjoying the experience of labour. Lauren told me she was amazed at the calm atmosphere in the house and couldn’t believe I was so relaxed and happy at 6cms dilated. She told me how proud she was of me and encouraged me to continue as I was an to enjoy every second. I gave her a big cuddle, told her I loved her and that I would let her know either when baby arrived, or if I needed her here for support.

OH had got the pool ready, with the lights dimmed in the front room and lots of candles dotted around. The atmosphere in the front room was so calm and relaxing, really warm and inviting too. Ollivander was eyeing up the pool and trying to jump in the midwives handbags. I got myself into my bikini top and a pair or shorts and got into the pool. The water was so lovely and warm, it really helped ease the discomfort I was starting to feel in my back, not only during contractions, but between them too. OH sat with me, holding my hands and talking to me between contractions. His presence was so comforting to me, I felt such a strong bond with him at that point, like we were really going through it together. I know he felt a bit unsure as to what to do, but he sat with me nonetheless, sometimes reading his book, but remaining there with me.

The next few hours all blur together and I’m not really sure of the timeline anymore, but during the night things started to stall. At my next examination, there hadn’t been any progress, which was a little disappointing. My contractions kept going from being very regular to suddenly becoming irregular again – I got out the pool and kept active, walking round the house, up and down the stairs, bouncing on my ball. I found a really good position in the spare room, squatting over a towel incase my waters went, with my back leaning against the radiator as this was helping with the ever increasing pain I was getting in my lower back. It had started to move lower, more towards my back passage – a constant pressure pushing against it. The midwives said it was babys head, and that this was a good sign he was moving lower into my birth canal and that things were still going in the right direction. I was managing to breathe through every contraction using the techniques id been practicing for the last few months and I still felt incredibly relaxed, although as time passed I was becoming disheartened by the lack fo progress, but still trusted in my body that it was doing the right thing and was letting baby decide when he was ready to move things forward.

By 4am, things still hadn’t moved past 6-7cms so we agreed it was time to break my waters in the hope that this might move things along a bit more. I was starting to feel very tired and although I had previously had very strong feelings about interventions such as this, I knew we needed to try something before I got too tired to do any actual pushing! The feeling of my waters going was very odd. We’d covered the bed in towels and bin bags to protect it, and as they went it felt like someone had poured a bucket of warm water out of my lady parts. I stood up to let gravity bring the rest out and instantly started contracting, much harder than I had done before. Things were picking up and I had a renewed burst of energy as I began pacing the house, rocking my pelvis as much as I could, squatting during contractions and trying to help baby move down more.

Thursday 10th March

6am – 48 hours since the first twinges on Tuesday morning. By now, I was starting to feel the most intense pressure around my back passage during every contraction and it was becoming harder to breathe through them. Over the next 3 hours, I contracted regularly and then at around 9.30am the urge to push suddenly became overwhelming. I was almost fully dilated by this point, there was just a tiny bit of my cervix to go on one side. There had been a shift change for the midwives so Jackie and Lisa had gone, to be replace by my midwife Yvonne and another lady called Gill who I don’t recall actually saying hello to, let alone seeing. She arrived with a student who the OH told in less polite terms to leave because she didn’t need to be there. The house was so small and I was feeling incredibly overcrowded. I’d spent quite a lot of the time pacing upstairs on my own, away from everyone, with Maxine sitting at the top of the stairs to monitor the babys heartbeat and talking to me through contractions. Apart from the earlier period in the pool, this was probably my favourite part of labour. I felt very relaxed pacing in front of Maxine wearing only a bikini top, leaking waters and blood, squatting over a towel, with every thing all exposed. I’d certainly lost any sense of modesty or dignity by that point, and it was to only get worse.

I was finding contractions really quite difficult by now as the urge to push was pretty much uncontrollable. My contractions were becoming irregular again – and although baby was doing fine, further examinations revealed his head was starting to swell up a bit and was possibly in not quite the right place. At some point in the night, baby had gone from lying with his back down the left of my bump, to being on the right which had altered his heads position and was no doubt accounting for a lot of the extra pain I was experiencing in my back.

Transition hit about 10.30am. I decided to text my mum. Although she had expressed that she didn’t want to be there when that baby was born, we all sensed it was about to happen and I wanted to give her the chance to be there. I was leaning over the back on the sofa in the front room – I’d started to use gas and air by this point as I was finding it very hard to get through my contractions and fighting the urge to push – telling OH that I couldn’t do it anymore and I wanted it to stop. I was exhausted beyond belief, had hardly eaten for 2 days and was quite dehydrated too. OH was wonderful telling me I could do it and it wasn’t long till baby would be here. Maxine had examined me (from my very ladylike all fours over the back of the sofa position as I hadn’t got the energy to move) and confirmed I was fully dilated and could now start pushing. She did learn however that babys head had turned too soon and instead of presenting with the narrowest part ready to go through the birth canal, he was presenting with the widest bit first. I knew things were about to get very hard and very very uncomfortable.

11am – Finally being allowed to give in to the natural urge to push and to let my body do what it wanted to do was such great relief however my contractions were irregular still so it was very hard to get a good rhythm. I alternated with each contraction – using gas and air for one, and my own controlled breathing for the next. Everyone was telling me how well I was doing and all I could think about was OH stood behind me with a view of my nethers, aware of things leaking out, and wondering if he would ever be able to look at me in the same way again. I knew my mum had arrived, and felt a renewed burst of strength just from having her nearby. She couldn’t bring herself to be in the room – I think she didn’t want to see her baby going through that – it was probably bad enough she could hear me – I was moaning a lot by now, not screaming though like you see the women doing on One Born Every Minute!

12.30pm – After almost 2 hours of pushing and nothing happening, I was starting to talk to myself in my head about the possibility of going to hospital. I knew I was losing the ability to do it on my own, my contractions were so irregular and baby wasn’t moving. I kept telling myself, lets try one more contraction and see what happens. Maxine was talking to me the whole time, telling me how well I was doing. They’d shone a torch up my bits and could see babys head – or at least some black hair during each push, but they knew as much as I did that he wasn’t moving. I made the decision to ask to go to hospital. I knew what the outcome could possibly be and was fine with that. I felt in control still and that was the most important thing. All the research I’d done during my pregnancy meant I understood everything they were telling me about babys presentation and without them having to say anything else, I knew what that meant and felt empowered to make the call. I told Yvonne I wanted to go to hospital. I was frustrated, I was exhausted, I was crying, I was uncomfortable, I wanted my baby. It had been such a long time now I needed it to be over while I was still with it enough to stay in control. She asked me several times if I was sure, as did the OH. I was sure. She made the call.

1pm – I’d moved to the bathroom and was in the empty bath squatting over a mirror giving it everything I’d got to try and get my baby out. The paramedics were waiting by the back door, OH and Michaela were rushing round the house getting my hospital bag and things I needed. I was still in control enough to be bossing them around and thinking about what I wanted to take with me. My priority was the camera. Someone near me must have the camera with them at all times. On my way from the front room to the bathroom I’d walked through the kitchen and received a massive boost from being able to cuddle my mummy. She told me she was very proud of me and to keep going because she knew I could do it. In the bathroom, I contracted hard, pushed as hard as I could – I looked in the mirror and I could see him, I put my fingers there and could feel him. I knew I was so so close and was giving it everything I possibly could but he just wouldn’t come. I got out of the bath, into the wheelchair and cried as the wheeled me to the ambulance and my home birth I so desperately wanted drifted away from me.

1.30pm – at the hospital everything got a bit mental. OH was with me the whole time. I’d had 3 canisters of gas and air by now and was feeling really quite doolally (and very very tired). I had an ultrasound which confirmed everything we knew about babys head position. The doctor explained they were going to give me syntocin to boost my contractions, give me a spinal anaesthetic and try to get the baby moving using ventousse. If they could get enough movement, Id be able to push him out, they just needed his head to turn from 12 o’clock to 1 o’clock and that should allow me to deliver him. His head was swollen from the pushing so if they couldn’t get any movement, I’d need a c-section. I was bombarded with info from the doctors, questions from the anaesthetist, OH asking me if I was sure I understood. I signed the consent form, my contractions were coming hard and fast, the urge to push was constant and unbearable. It was frantic. I was in theatre, sitting slumped over a cushion, having a needle pushed in my back while I contracted harder and harder trying not to push the baby out into a rock hard table. They lay me down, all feeling in my legs had gone, put them into stirrups and each time I contracted Maxine told me to push. It’s a bizarre feeling having to be told to push, but not being able to feel where its going. OH was next to me holding my hand – looking white as a sheet and a bit distressed by the sight of a fully grown man using all his weight to pull on a plunger shoved up his girlfriends privates. There were 10 people in theatre, all encouraging me to push all telling me how well I was doing. Maxine was monitoring babys heartbeat telling me he was fine and wasn’t bothered at all by what was going on. I was laughing to myself that he’s inherited the Castledine stubbornness from me. And then they said it wasn’t working. I felt hands inside my stomach and someone pushing my abdomen like it was a tube of toothpaste. A little cry and my heart leapt. I looked at OH ‘babys out’ he said and tears clouded my eyes. ‘What is it?’ I asked. ‘A boy’ he replied, as I looked up and they held him over the screen – I got an eyeful of his testicles but couldn’t see his face. ‘I told you so.’ I said. OH cut the cord and I cried as I watched them take him over to the other side of theatre to check him over. He let out a few big cries and then he was placed in OH’s arms. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I longed for that first hold. I drifted in and out of consciousness, exhausted from the experience, overcome by drugs, aware of hands tugging at my tummy as they stitched me up.

57 and a half hours after I’d felt the first twinges, and 21.5 hours since established labout had started the night before, my birth experience was over and Maxine placed my son onto my chest. I felt no rush of emotions, I just stared at him, wondering if this is how I was supposed to feel. My body was numb, I was still quite out of it, I wanted to sleep. This wasn’t what I’d envisioned my first contact with my son to be like. I cried. He opened his eyes and he looked right at me. There it was. That overwhelming love, that uncontrollable rush of knowing that this little man was mine and I never wanted to let him go. Im crying now as I write this, remembering exactly what that rush felt like. It was delayed, more than I wanted it to, but it was wonderful and it was him, my son that made it happen. As they wheeled me out of theatre, I stared at him, the image of his father. Our family was complete, my son was happy and I was, finally, a mother.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

My Son

I'm delighted to announce the birth of my son Alfie Francis John

Born On : Thursday March 10th 2011
At: 3.35pm
Weight: 8lbs 12oz (3.98kg)
Length: 22 inches

Labour was 57.5hrs from the very first signs - but the active phase was a slightly less traumatising 21.5hrs. Due to various complications, Alfie wasn't born at home as planned and instead was born by c-section, a decision I made after a prolonged second stage of labour. His dad was there by my side and even cut the cord completing Alfies journey into the world.

We spent 2 days in hospital and had lots of very excited visitors, returning home yesterday late afternoon. The Other Half and I are absolutely delighted with our beautiful son, who is every bit a clone of his father - even their birth stories are almost identical!

I will blog the full birth story in the near future once I've got my head together. I've had about 8 hours sleep since waking up at 6am on tuesday morning and still need to piece together events properly as there are stages which are a little blurry due to the silly amount of drugs I was given.

I'm feeling great though, despite it only being 3 days since I had major surgery, and am really enjoying having my little man here. The best thing is watching his movements and kicks when he's sleeping as I recognise them from when he was in my womb - I can almost feel them still when I see him do it. It really amazing that he came from me. He's just perfect.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Due date and natural labour induction

36 weeks ago today I came home from Wales where I'd been on a dissertation writing retreat with my mum and the dog. I'd spent the week feeling very hormonal, really tired and craving fresh crab, constantly aware that my period was 2 weeks late. Despite mums reassurance that it was probably just stress from uni, and the fact I'd come off the pill a few months before hand so things were probably going to be a bit irregular, I wasn't convinced that her relaxed attitude was quite right. I had a pregnancy test in my drawer from another time I'd been late and decided to do it, just to put my mind at ease. I hadn't even started unpacking, as I'd decided on the route home I'd do it as soon as I got back. They say you're meant to do tests first thing in the morning when the concentration of pregnancy hormones is likely to be at its highest and I was so convinced the test was going to be negative that I stood and watched it, rather than leaving it and having the agonising wait. Within seconds, a plus was starting to creep across the display - I watched for another 5 minutes, feeling myself slowly start to shake as I realised it wasn't going to turn into a minus sign. I paced my kitchen, swearing A LOT and then took the test next door to my neighbours (our very best friends) where I waved it at them and burst into tears. We had a big cuddle, and their 2 and half year daughter came and cuddled me too which made me cry even more. After about half an hour though, I was fine. I'd got over the shock, I was ok with it, now all I had to do was tell Him and mum.

And now here we are today, our babies official due date, and I can't believe its actually here. Time went to slowly the first few months, then suddenly shot by and now it seems to be dragging again. I'm excited, he's excited, we're completely ready, crib and all, and we're just waiting for the baby to decide it wants to come out and meet us. As natural birth is very important to me, and I'm quite firmly against any kind of medical intervention along the way, I've made the decision that as long as baby and I are healthy and theres no complications, I will wait as long as takes for baby to be born. I have no intention of having membrane sweeps or inductions or any of that. Nobody is going to rush this baby out, even if the 'norm' is to be induced 2 weeks after the due date. I've read hundreds of stories of women who went to 43 or even 44 weeks and baby was absolutely fine - infact, baby showed no evidence of being 'overdue' (where the skin is more wrinkled, or the placenta is in less good condition) and many were born average weight (7ish lbs) with vernix still on the skin (a whitish substance that keeps the skin moist which usually disappears when babies are overdue).

My midwife is already pushing me to have a membrane sweep which I've refused - this is where she runs a finger round the edge of babies head (internally) to try and separate the membranes from the cervix to induce labour. There is a chance that this process can break the waters, which puts you under pressure for labour to begin spontaneously within 48 hours otherwise they will admit you to hospital for chemical induction as there is risk of infection to you or the baby. This is something I obviously want to avoid, which I have made clear to her.

Instead, I've opted to try natural methods of induction - many of which are old wives tales as nothing will actually have any effect unless baby is ready to come, and in any case theres no way of actually knowing whether its the technique you're trying or if baby was just going to come anyway, but even so, I'm prepared to have a go as lots of the techniques can be beneficial during actual labour. So heres a list of some of things I'm trying to help bring on labour, and a few others too....

1. Raspberry Leaf Extract - I've been taking this since 37 weeks in 400mg tablets. You can also drink it as a tea but it tastes pretty vile. A friend of mine suggested brewing some and leaving it to chill, and mixing it half and half with apple juice, so I'll try that later. Many people argue raspberry leaf helps to soften the cervix in the weeks leading up to labour, and others argue it actually causes contractions to start, as their labours have begun within hours of drinking a cup (or 2). The consensus is that actually raspberry leaf extract strengthens the uterus making it more efficient, particularly during the second stage of labour when you push the baby out. Lot of women therefore drink cups on it during the early stages of labour in an attempt to make later stages 'easier'. Who knows if its doing anything, but its completely natural and contains lots of Iron anyway, so it can't be doing anything bad.

2. Evening Primrose Oil - this contains Prostaglandins, which are crucial to stimulating the cervix to dilate and are supposed to be one of the hormones that stimulate labour. Medics argue it is prostaglandins which are released during a membrane sweep, hence why they argue this is the most 'natural' way of kick starting labour fi you prefer not to have chemical induction. You can take EPO orally, several times a day, or (using a sterile needle) make a couple of holes in the tablet and (with clean hands) insert it into the vagina as close to the cervix as possible. I'm sticking to oral methods for the time being. Applying the oil directly to the cervix is the best method, but this relies on a partner who is prepared to do it for you. Its also suggested that you can use EPO for perineal massage (which helps prevent tearing during birth) but again, this really requires a willing partner.

3. Pulsatilla - This is a homeopathic remedy which is supposed to stimulate the uterus to begin contracting, or if you are already in early labour, can help to strengthen and regulate contractions. It is also given to women to help with PMT so whether it has any effect during labour is unknown (but some would argue that no homeopathic remedy works anyway...)

4. Clary sage and Lavender aromatherapy oils - both of these are not recommended for use before 40 weeks of pregnancy because of the supposed inducing effect they can have. I've been having lavender baths for the last 3 weeks though and I'm not in labour yet! Lavenders best use is for relaxation, and I plan to use it during labour to help keep me calm and focused. Clary sage is one of those things that can help stimulate contractions as it helps strengthen the uterus, but it also has an effect similar to gas and air so is often used during labour as a method of pain relief. I will probably have lavender in an oil burner, and have clary sage on a flannel or tissue to inhale during contractions. I'm yet to try clary sage in the bath, but will start alternating it with lavender baths from now on.

5. Walking and bouncing - midwives argue one of the best ways of helping baby in the right direction is to take long walks, to walk up and down the stairs and to bounce up and down gently on a birth ball, as well as rocking the pelvis while sitting on it. The rocking action involved in all of these is supposed to help move the babys head downwards encouraging it to engage into the pelvis ready for birth, and to get it in the right position. Some of my friends went for 5 mile countryside walks and after a nap found they were in labour. I've ben walking every day, bounce on my ball every evening and go up&down the stairs as much as I can but am yet to go into labour - the babys head is almost fully engaged though so it might be doing something!

6. Sex and nipple stimulation - these two are good for dads so they can feel like they're playing a role in helping baby to come. Sex is good for several reasons - sperm contains prostaglandins which can help stimulate labour, as can the regular contracting of orgasms and the release of oxytocin which occurs during sex. Oxytocin is produced exponentially during labour and has a natural anaesthetic effect on the body. When you are induced chemically, it is a synthetic form of oxytocin that they give you - so the more sex you have, the better!!
Linked to this is nipple stimulation - when you deliver the baby, you are encouraged to attempt to breast feed as soon as possible as this stimulate the uterus to contract and helps deliver the placenta, thus nipple stimulation is encouraged for the same reason (and it releases oxytocin). It can be done by the partner, or alternatively, hand expressing is recommended as this mimics the natural effects of feeding. I've been expressing for about a week now (successfully) and am looking into donating what I do express for premature babies, however the local hospital doesn't offer the facility so I may have to look further afield.

7. Accupressure - there are 2 pressure points on the body which are supposed to be directly linked to the reproductive system and can therefore be used to induce labour The first is the webbing between the thumb and forefinger, which when pinched firmly and rubbed in a circular motion is supposed to stimulate contractions. Alternatively, a spot 4 finger widths up from the ankle bone on the inside of the ankle is directly linked to the uterus promoting contractions and thinning of the cervix. Again, pressure needs to be applied in a small circular motion.

8. Eating curry - one of the most common old wives tales is that spicy food is supposed to stimulate labour. Its argued that the capsicum compounds contained in peppers and spices often stimulate the bowel and this can lead to the uterus having sympathetic contractions too. For some women it works, for others not so much. I guess it depends on how familiar your body is to spicy foods, and how strong the actual curry is!

Although any forum you read will be full of anecdotal evidence of women who've tried these methods and then been in labour a few hours later, the most important thing to bear in mind is that these will only have any kind of effect if baby is actually ready to be born - if at all - they're not called old wives tales for nothing! And, as much research has shown, even chemical indiction is unsuccessful when baby is not ready, often leading to c-sections which could have been avoided if everyone just waited a bit longer.

Hopefully, the next time I write will be to announce the arrival of our baby, so keep your fingers crossed and I'll see you on the other side of my pile of herbal pills and aromatherapy oils!