Warning: Long and rambling post with all the gory details left in.
I wanted to record my whole birth story so I don’t forget any details of it. Although it was nothing like I wanted it to be, it was still my experience, the most intense and amazing one of my life.
I had been having episodes of regular Braxton Hicks since about 32 weeks. I lost my mucus plug two days before my due date (27th March), but had no further symptoms until 5 days later (1st April) when I started getting what I thought were Braxton Hicks at about 10am. By midday I realised they had been going on for a while so started timing them. They were lasting between 45 seconds to 1 minute 20, but at very irregular intervals, anywhere between 1 minute 45 seconds and 7 minutes apart, but averaging at 4-5 minutes apart. This is when I started to think ‘this is it!’ At this point they were very mild, and low down in my tummy, similar to period pain.
I spent the afternoon bouncing on my birth ball and went for a walk. The contractions continued coming about every 4-5 minutes all afternoon and didn’t seem to intensify. I knew this could go on for some time so didn’t tell S as I didn’t need him to come home and knew he wouldn’t be able to concentrate at work if I told him (although he may have thought it was an April Fools prank!).
I tried to have a nap but found that the contractions intensified when I laid down so had a nice warm shower instead which I found really soothing. When S got home from work at about 6pm I told him that I had been having contractions for a few hours, which made him panic slightly! I told him it would be a while yet and he started to calm down but insisted that I ring the hospital. By now my contractions were generally lasting about a minute, but the interval was still varying between 2 and 7 minutes, usually around 4-5 minutes. When I phoned the hospital at 6.40pm they advised me to take some paracetamol, have a bath and something light to eat, and call them again when I wasn’t coping with the contractions. So S and I went for another walk and on the way back I decided I really fancied some chips! In the chip shop where we bumped into S’ friend and his little girl. We talked to them for a bit, and I was clearly still in very early labour as they had no idea I was having contractions.
We went home and ate our chips then I spent the rest of the evening alternating between sitting astride a dining chair and bouncing on my ball. At about 8pm I felt the contractions were starting to intensify as I was no longer able to talk through them. By now they were longer, lasting between 55 seconds and 1 minute 50, and varying between 3-5 minutes apart. But they were still very manageable. S got me a hot water bottle to use as pain relief. At about 10pm we decided to go to bed. I took some paracetamol and tried to get some sleep, but again the contractions intensified when I laid down and I couldn’t sleep so I got up again but told S to get some sleep as there was no point us both being up.
So I went back downstairs at about 11pm and watched some more TV while bouncing on my ball. The contractions had lengthened and were lasting about 1½ minutes and coming on average every 4 minutes but this was still varying between 2½ and 5 minutes. At about 1am on 2nd April I asked S to put on the TENS machine. I tried to watch a film, but was getting very restless and feeling a lot of pelvic pressure and pressure in my lower back. I kept feeling like I needed the loo and passed some pink (blood-stained) discharge. I felt like I couldn’t cope as I felt like there was a while to go and the contractions were relentless, but in hindsight I think I just needed some company and support at this stage to breathe through the contractions. So I decided it was time to go to the hospital, even though, deep down, I knew it was too early. At 2.30am I woke S and got him to phone the hospital who said we could come in.
After a very uncomfortable car journey we arrived at the hospital and made our way to the Maternity Assessment Unit (MAU). It took a while as I had to stop walking when I got a contraction. I started crying on the way there as I was convinced they would send me home (I knew I wouldn’t be very far along) and I would have to repeat the horrible car journey. On arriving at MAU we were sent straight up to the midwife led unit where I had planned to give birth. When we got there just after 3am we were shown to an assessment room. I was pacing backwards and forwards in between contractions and leaning on the windowsill during them. From the window I could see the dark, empty car park and I could make out the lights of the city in the distance.
A midwife came to assess me. I was only 2cm dilated at this point and the baby was back to back. This could explain why my contractions were so close together right from the start and why I was getting so much pressure in my back. However, she was concerned that she didn’t think the baby’s head was engaged and she could possibly feel his cord in front of his head. Also, his heart rate was 190bpm; it should have been 120-160bpm. So she and a student midwife walked with us back down to MAU for me to be monitored. I was attached to a monitor and told S that he needed to press the boost button for the TENS each time the numbers started rising showing that I was having a contraction, but he kept forgetting!
A midwife came to put in a giant grey cannula and take some blood. She said that if the baby’s head wasn’t engaged and my waters broke I could have a cord prolapse which would mean a crash section. I felt very calm and matter of fact about this. After she left the room I said to S, ‘How much do you want to bet I end up having a Caesarean.’ A doctor came to do a scan to check if the baby was breech, which he wasn’t, but said I would need another scan to check if the cord was in front of the baby’s head because he wasn’t very good at scans!
At about 6.30am I was transferred to delivery suite as I needed 1:1 monitoring. I went to the loo on the way but was finding it difficult to move around because of the contractions so it took me ages and the midwife had to check I was ok. At about 7am a doctor came to see me and said that he would like to try and break my waters. I was concerned about what the midwife in MAU had said about a cord prolapse but he assured me that as a first time mother, the baby’s head would definitely be engaged. When he examined me he found that his head was now engaged (2/5ths palpable) and I was 3cm dilated. I found the examination pretty uncomfortable, but I found him breaking my waters to be extremely painful. At first I refused gas and air as I didn’t think it would take long but it seemed to go on for ages. I was trying to relax but couldn’t help but tense up with the pain. As the tears started to stream down my face I asked for the gas and air. It didn’t take away the pain but made me feel distanced from it somehow, like I was watching what was happening.
My waters broke and rushed out in a gush. It felt like I was wetting myself. The doctor said it was pink and clear, which was a good sign.
As I had a slight temperature (37.4) and fast heart rate (135bpm) and baby’s heart rate was fast (now about 175bpm), I was given antibiotics both through a drip and as a tablet. Almost immediately after taking the tablet I asked for a sick bowl and soon saw my dinner again. I said, ‘I probably shouldn’t have had chips for dinner,’ which made the poor midwife gag! My cannula started to feel painful and looked a bit swollen, so it was replaced by another one, but I barely noticed it go in as my contractions were coming about every 4 minutes.
It was shift change time, and my new midwife was an Aussie called Rebecca. She changed me onto mobile monitoring which meant that I was able to move around a bit instead of being confined to the bed. This was a huge relief as I found lying down and sitting back to be the least comfortable positions and the contractions had intensified since my waters had been broken. I got up and sat on a rocking chair for a while and was using gas and air. I barely noticed when my first cannula was taken out and then started bleeding everywhere. S and Rebecca helped to clean me up but I was zoned out at this point, aware of what was going on, but not aware at the same time, rocking backwards and forwards with my eyes closed. Time passed by at an indeterminate rate. There was building work going on above us and S later reminded me that it had been very noisy with almost continuous drilling, but I wasn’t really aware of it.
At 9.30am a consultant came round to see me. She examined me again and I was still only 3cm dilated despite contracting every 3-4 minutes and it being nearly 24 hours since my first contractions. She said that they were concerned about the tracing of the baby’s heartrate and, as my labour wasn’t progressing very quickly, she felt the best course of action was to do a c-section. I calmly agreed to this, having already come to terms with the likelihood of this happening many hours earlier. She said that they would take me to theatre as soon as one was available.
It then seemed like several things happened at once. A doctor came to consent me for theatre and I was still in the rocking chair with my eyes closed. As he read out the risks I acknowledged them with a simple ‘ok.’ The risks didn’t scare me as I just wanted my baby to be ok; and I was well aware of the risks, having previously worked on a surgical ward for 3 years. I just wanted him to quickly go through the process of consenting me and stop making me talk!
Next the anaesthetist came and I was helped into a hospital gown. Then it was just a matter of waiting for a theatre to be free. At about 11am I moved into a kneeling positon, resting my arms on the bed. At this point the baby’s heart rate came down to 150bpm. S was on the opposite side of the bed, holding my hand. I ‘mooed’ through each contraction, which was about every 3-4 minutes, and was looking at S fearfully. In between contractions I rested my head on the bed. I had been awake over 24 hours by this point and was exhausted. I stopped using the gas and air as it no longer seemed to be working and I was feeling a huge amount of pressure in my back that, although worse during contractions, seemed fairly constant. Rebecca massaged my lower back, which helped a bit. Another midwife kept coming in to look at the baby’s trace with Rebecca and every time she came in she told me to relax, in a way that didn’t make me relax but did make me want to hit her! I’m so glad she wasn’t my main midwife! My hospital gown was open at the back and people kept trying to make me decent, but I was too hot and didn’t want to be covered up. I think this was probably when my last shred of dignity disappeared!
I was concentrating on getting through each contraction, knowing the end was in sight and I would soon be taken for my c-section. But soon I felt like I couldn’t cope much longer with the pain and asked Rebecca for some Meptid at 11.15am. She said I couldn’t have any at that time because we needed to wait for the consultant to come back as the baby’s trace was looking better and I now might not need a c-section.
At about 12.30pm the consultant came back and said that because the trace was much better they wouldn’t give me a c-section, but would try to speed up my labour with the syntocinon hormone drip. I knew this would make my contractions much more painful and, as I was struggling to cope with them as they were, I asked for an epidural. Everyone agreed this was a good idea. I had another vaginal exam at this point which showed I was 6cm dilated.
So, the anaesthetist came and put in my epidural just before 2pm. It was so difficult not to move while she put it in as my contractions were still coming every 4 minutes, but she got it in, and within minutes I started to feel some relief from the intense pain in my back. It was bliss. It soon became clear that there was an area in my lower right abdomen/groin where the epidural wasn’t working, but this pain was easily manageable by sucking on the gas and air during a contraction and using a heat pack. The pain in my back had been so intense that I hadn’t even been aware of the pain at the front up until now!
The next few hours were very pleasant. I was feeling normal again now that my pain was controlled- not zoned out like I was before. S and I chatted with Rebecca and I got S to phone and cancel my community midwife appointment that was booked for that afternoon- I wouldn’t be needing that anymore! Apart from a slight blip where my blood pressure dropped to 75/35 (I felt fine, just pleasantly sleepy all of a sudden), everything seemed to be going well. I couldn’t really move as my legs were heavy, so although I tried to be upright on the bed on my knees, most of the time I was lying in bed. I had to be catheterised as I couldn’t wee, but that didn’t bother me.
The syntocinon drip was started at about 4pm. But then there were more concerns over the baby’s heart rate- this time the rate was still normal at about 150bpm there wasn’t as much variability in the heart rate as there should have been. Apparently the heart rate should vary a bit from the baseline and his wasn’t. At 4.30pm a doctor came in and examined me. I was now 7cm dilated. My contractions were every 3-4 minutes and his head had descended lower, with only being 1/5th palpable now. During the past few hours he had also started to turn and instead of being completely back to back his head was now transverse. She said she would go and talk to the consultant. When she and Rebecca left the room I cried as I realised this now meant I was definitely having a c-section; I really thought I was going to be able to avoid it when his heart rate had improved before.
By the time the consultant came in at about 5pm, I had gotten over my little wobble, and felt very calm when she said I would be going for a c-section. There was no waiting this time and within a couple of minutes I was being wheeled out of the room for a category 2 c-section, leaving a scared looking S behind.
In theatre the anaesthetist started topping up my epidural, but even though she kept adding more medication, I still had an area of skin on my lower right side where I had full feeling. The only time I was scared of what was going to happen was when she said that they needed to get the baby out and would have to start the surgery and if I could feel it she would put me to sleep. A few moments later she asked someone to fetch the GA drugs (for putting me to sleep). I did cry at this point. I didn’t mind having the c-section awake, but I would have been absolutely gutted to miss my baby’s birth if they had to put me to sleep. Fortunately, though, the epidural finally worked all over.
Someone brought S in. At this point I could not stop shaking. I was told this was due to some medication that I had been given. I wanted to reassure S that everything was ok. The theatre environment is just a normal workplace to me, but I can imagine it would have been frightening to him.
The surgery started at 5.25pm. They tipped the theatre trolley slightly to the left, which was quite scary, as I really felt as though I was going to fall off! Then after a bit of tugging, at 5.28pm I heard a baby screaming! My boy was here and he was alright! The relief was overwhelming as there had been concerns about his wellbeing for a number of hours. I started sobbing uncontrollably. It was the most wonderful sound I’d ever heard in my life. The anaesthetist told me to calm down as my heart rate had gone sky high and had made her monitors start binging!
T was taken over to the resuscitaire and checked over briefly. S went over to take a picture. The paediatrician who had been called said, ‘well, you won’t be needing me then,’ and left. T was on the scales and S trimmed his umbilical cord. Then they wrapped him up and gave him to his Daddy for a cuddle. The rest of the surgery passed in a happy blur as I had skin to skin with my boy before being taken round to the ward at about 6pm.