I thought now would be a good time to look back to the 24 hours that changed our lives. It’s been about 12 months and it’s still fresh enough that I can be subjective, yet long ago enough that I can be more objective!
Amelia arrived exactly two weeks earlier than her due date. Something I was not really expecting but was a pleasant surprise. From the time we were given my EDD (estimated delivery date) we added two weeks to it. Term can mean anything from 37-42 weeks, and many people we knew had been overdue. So we decided to plan for 42 weeks and anything sooner would be a bonus. As such I had considered what I would want to happen should she still not have arrived by the time they would be looking to offer an induction of labour.
I tried to avoid spending too much time thinking about the actual delivery and how it might pan out. It was difficult to imagine that day arriving and it going smoothly. This was simply based on the experience that I’d had as a doctor, and that (in the UK anyway) we very little involvement in straightforward pregnancies and deliveries. This role being undertaken by all the excellent midwives out there. As such the births I had witnessed tended to be more complicated, protracted and intervention based. There had been many long, drawn out inductions that had failed to produce a satisfactory outcome, and emergency caesareans in the middle of the night for one reason or another. I desperately didn’t want to have a long and complicated delivery. I also wanted as much control over the process as possible. (See here for more about how I chose to retain control over the birth) I lived in hope that the relatively short, easy labours experienced by my own mother and sisters would be an inherited trait, and that I would get lucky and pop Amelia out with ease!
The day before her arrival was a day where I didn’t really stop. My dad and some friends of his were kindly doing some work to lower a big hedge we have. I was assigned to the role of supplying drinks and food. I went over the top – making quiche (not my most successful attempt) and cake. I should have been doing more sitting around with my feet up as I was getting tired. The reason for my continued activity was guilt at them working so hard and me not being able to get involved. I am excellent at garden demolition work! Then as they went to dispose of some of the sawn off branches I took an opportunity to help. I thought I could perhaps just rake up some of the leaves and put them in the bag for waste. It wasn’t too heavy duty and they wouldn’t know, as they’d be gone. So I got to work raking leaves, ending up on my hands and knees, scooping leaves into the bag. A celebratory meal out ensued at the local pub.
It was the early hours of the morning when I woke to use the bathroom, at the same time that had been my usual wake up call for the last three or so months. But this time I couldn’t hold it. Suddenly my pelvic floor had given up on me. It’d been doing so well. Then it dawned on me that perhaps I hadn’t suddenly become incontinent and that maybe this was my waters breaking. Upon inspection it was pinkish, and didn’t have a smell of urine. Excited that I wasn’t incontinent but nervous because I wasn’t sure if it should be pink I woke my husband who called the labour ward for advice. It must’ve been a rare quieter night as they offered for me to come down and get checked over.
We packed my bag into the car and set off to the hospital calmly but with some excitement in the air. After being checked over, confirming that my waters had broken but my cervix wasn’t dilated we were booked in to be reassessed should contractions not start, and sent home to wait it out. If the contractions started we should let them know when they were regular, strong and I was having about 3 every 10 minutes. Off we went. As we left the hospital I began to get what felt like period cramps, which were completely bearable. We stopped via the McDonalds drive-thru that we passed on our way home. This was an inspired move that would get us through the next 12 hours! On reaching home I took a Paracetamol and tried to sleep. But as the time passed, quickly, the cramps began to come more regularly and intensely. By 7am I was out of bed and hunched over my gym ball. We had only got home at 4.30am. By 8am I was finding them really uncomfortable and they were coming thick and fast. We decided it was time to return to the hospital. The husband went to fit the car seat in whilst I tried to shower. I am not entirely certain why this seemed a good idea. I spent quite a bit of time knelt in the shower wondering how I’d get back out and dressed! But I did and we set back off to the hospital. This time the journey wasn’t as laid back. The 15 minute journey seemed to take forever, and we could only think about reaching there and being told that I wasn’t that far along, and being sent home to wait longer.
At the labour ward waiting area I clung to a rail and tried to act cool in front of heavily pregnant women who weren’t in labour. I didn’t want them to see what labour looked like! Again we waited for what seemed like an eternity for a midwife. We had chosen to use the midwife led birth centre. The rooms were not set up like a delivery suite. There was no bed, just some beanbags on the floor and some kind of swing-type thing. I changed into a nightie and then proceeded to hunch over a beanbag, where I would spend the next few hours! Our midwife asked about pain relief and I was tempted to ask for anything and everything. The husband suggested we start with gas and air. A part of me wanted to beat him up for suggesting this when I desired something stronger to erase the pain I was feeling. Again, looking back it was a good choice because the labour continued to progress quickly. At admission I was 5cm dilated. The midwife came in and out. By around 12.30 things were getting to be unbearable. I had the overwhelming feeling that I needed to poo. I can only describe it as having the worst tummy bug ever mixed with irritable bowel syndrome. The midwife returned and was, I think, in slight disbelief that I could be close to the 2nd stage as it’d only been 2 hours thereabouts since I was 5cm dilated. We, too, were unconvinced I could be anything more than 7-8cm having been taught that it is 1cm an hour. We had prepared for it to be 3pm before I’d be close to pushing. However, re-examining me I was fully dilated. So she let me start pushing. I was still on a beanbag on the floor, and spent an hour with the three of us on the floor willing this baby to get out! I was pushing as hard as I could and trying to make the most of the moments between contractions when I could have a little respite. It got to a point where the midwife injected me with some local anaesthetic, preparing to perform an episiotomy, when her and my husband willed me to make one last really, really big push, and finally her head popped out. The came the shoulders and suddenly a baby was plopped on my chest, crying loudly. I was in a state of shock and relief! She’d arrived, and the pain suddenly subsided!
Everything from that moment on was so much better. I needed some stitches, and the place looked a bit like a crime scene from blood but who cared! The gas and air worked well to tolerate the stitches, along with some local anaesthetic.
I had a really good birth. It was a positive experience and made me realise that it is possible to have a straightforward labour. Yes the tear was painful and problematic for a little while afterwards but I didn’t expect to get through the delivery without one. I am so thankful that it progressed quickly, but glad I was able to keep as mobile for as long as possible, since I think this helped it move along. I was also glad to not need any big cannulas and needles. Don’t get me wrong – had the labour taken much longer I would’ve accepted anything on offer and probably opted for an epidural. We opted for an early discharge, so by bedtime we were home again, and a family of three. Life has not been the same since, but is wonderful!
How was your birth experience? Was it what you expected or hoped for?