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.