Anyone who knows me will know that I am a planner! I like to make and keep to plans. Plans give me structure, something to look forward to, reduce anxiety and make me feel calmer. So Paul and I had a plan about roughly when we wanted to conceive our first baby and therefore all going to plan, our baby would be born within my first year of me being a qualified midwife. This meant we would both be earning money, and I could take maternity leave and make sure I completed my course.
I am also an incredibly positive person, the glass is always half full, always! And so, it never even crossed my mind that it wouldn’t happen as we had planned. I stopped my contraception before we wanted to start trying and my periods got back into a regular rhythm by 6 months, we both made sure we ate healthily, and tried to look after ourselves.
Luckily the baby takes after me and likes a plan, but she followed that plan a little too closely. Resulting in falling pregnant within the first 4 months of trying, a little earlier than we had planned but we didn’t complain. It just meant I finished by student midwifery placements in my first trimester.
I remember completing shifts on the antenatal ward and community feeling really sick and having bad back ache in the first three months. Doing the usual thing of not telling anyone we were pregnant yet. I was battling through by eating little and often and putting a heated wheat bag on my back. I ended up getting a reputation for myself as being someone who is constantly eating LOL! To be fair it continues to this day – I am a grazer, what can I say.
I have some lovely graduation pictures of me in cap and gown with our daughter (we didn’t know the sex at the time) in my tummy right there with me at 5 months pregnant.
When we fell pregnant according to my calculations, baby was due around 24th February, however according to our first dating she was due on the 14th of February. This was quite a difference, and I knew it didn’t really have any bearing on anything until the end of pregnancy if I didn’t go into spontaneous labour.
The pregnancy went without too much of a hitch, I continued to work within the community with an amazing team and mentor called Eta who really looked after me, in the pregnancy as well as within my first few months of being qualified. I remember going to a wonderful homebirth towards the end of my pregnancy and struggling to get into some of the positions that were needed to care for mum and baby – fun times! – wouldn’t have changed it for anything though – I am sure the flowing oxytocin was all positive for me and baby too.
The due date of the 14th February came and went (as I knew it would) and I discussed with Paul about what would happen if I went into another 10-12 days of the pregnancy, what induction meant and the fact I didn’t agree with my dates so I would ask for a few extra days before I was induced. He agreed that I knew what was best for me and our baby and trusted my instincts (which I loved!), so we waited. I was already hand expressing and was keeping active, and of course positive. In my mind there was no way I was having anything other than a vaginal birth and I was going to give myself the best chance possible to do that spontaneously.
As is routine I was booked in for induction on the 12th day after my due date (26th Feb). I knew that should that day come I would go into the hospital, get me and baby checked over, and as long as everything was ok I would decline induction for another 2-3 days.
On Sunday 24th February at 2am I woke up with a contraction. I stayed awake lying next to a sleeping Paul to wait and see if this was a one off or was going to come more regularly. Much to my delight another one came about 15-20 minutes later, and then another and I knew that something was starting. I also knew I needed to stay in bed and reserve my energy for when things really picked up because right now they were mild. After a little while I woke Paul up to put my TENS machine on to try and help me get comfy in bed and allow me to sleep in between the tightenings. He helped me put the TENS machine on ( we had had a little practice a few weeks before) and I had it on a low setting while we both just dozed on and off.
Paul was due to go and play football in his Sunday league team and I remember him asking if he should go. I knew we probably had time for him to go without risking him missing baby but I didn’t want him to leave me so I asked him (or maybe told him) he couldn’t go. It was a semi final and if they made it to the final he could go to that!
We got up and I got dressed. I tried to keep my energy up and ate when I felt like it. I went between walking and all fours on our bed.
Then in the afternoon around 2pm I felt like I needed to go into the maternity unit and get checked to see how much progress I was making, although in my gut I knew it wasn’t time yet, but being first baby I really just wanted some reassurance I think.
The journey in the car when contracting was horrible! I was so uncomfortable! I remember hanging onto the handle on the roof during a contraction, closing my eyes and focusing during a contraction while we made our way in.
Once in we were greeting by Sarah’s lovely friendly face, our midwife who happened to be working that day, (it was like the baby knew) and she examined me and said I was doing great but not in active labour yet, being 2cm and not 4cm. I was about to write ‘I was just 2 cm’ but that was not her words those are mine, and as a midwife and a mother I know that it is not ‘just’ 2cm, there is a lot of work that goes on to get to 2cm, so no one should ever say ‘just’, but it is not classified as active labour and in my heart of hearts I knew that the contractions weren’t strong enough to be active labour yet.
We lived quite far from the hospital so instead of going home we went back to my mum’s house. She had cooked a Sunday roast, which Paul appreciated, I could only stomach a cereal bar. I did get in the bath though and that really helped. I did need help getting out of the bath, being heavily pregnant and contracting meant this wasn’t an easy feat.
I remember, even now, the pains of my contractions being in my thighs, so mum and Paul took it in turns to rub my legs while I lay on my side on my mum’s bed.
I was determined I was not going to make that journey into the hospital again until I was in active labour! So we managed between us to get me to the point where I thought it was time, and having a mum who is a midwife is a massive bonus because I got her to examine me vaginally so I knew it was time and she said it was - so in we went, again!
By this time it was just past 8pm and so the next shift was coming on, we had lost Sarah (she needed to go home after an 11.5 hour shift understandably) but we got Denise instead and that was amazing.
From this point I don’t remember specifics about that night. My memories are mainly made up of fragments of memories and photos that were taken during the labour (which I asked for, I love looking back at them and remembering how I felt like a superwoman).
I remember the TENS machine really helping me in the beginning.
I remember loving the gas and air, it really helped me focus during each contraction, it helped keep my breathing regulated and slow, and it helped to close my eyes to focus with each one. I also remember being completely pain free in between contractions.
I remember using pethidine to help me get a few hours sleep and take the edge of the contractions that were now regular and strong. Paul also tried to rest during this time but with me calling his name with every contraction for his hand to squeeze he didn’t get much.
I remember Paul being there every step of the way and being prepared to do whatever I needed him to, including rubbing my thighs constantly, giving me massage, and ‘dancing’ with me – or at least swaying me side to side to help during contractions.
I remember walking up and down the corridor with my mum and my gas and air on wheels feeling like Rachel from friends as other women in the birth centre seemed to be coming in after me and having their babies before me.
I remember the feeling of getting into the birth pool in the early hours of the 25th, as I was getting closer to birth my baby and feeling the warmth surround me and help me cope with the final stretch.
I remember the overwhelming feeling that I needed to push, and I went with my body and followed that urge (it had guided me up to this point so why would it fail now). But when I pushed, I couldn’t feel the baby move down like I thought I would be able to. I felt like I was pushing against a door that wouldn’t open.
We all agreed (me, Paul, our midwife now Jo and my mum) that I needed to get out and we needed to examine and see what was going on.
On examination the baby’s head was slightly off centre and needed to turn a little before she came down and out. My waters were still intact so Jo also broke my waters to see if that would help. My mum got me into all sorts of positions (one leg up on a step while rocking, high knee marching and swaying hips from side to side to name a few) to try and get the baby to do that little turn. Alas she wasn’t budging, I was getting tired after more than 12 hours of active labour, and we had been pushing for quite a while with no signs of her coming down any further. We made the decision to go up to the labour ward and get reviewed by a doctor for an instrumental birth.
My original plan DID NOT include an epidural. For me this was something I did not want if I could avoid it, and up to now I had managed. But after one of the obstetric doctors examined me it was agreed that I should have an epidural and be transferred to theatre to try and birth baby by instrumental delivery.
At the time the move to theatre didn’t really register with me, I just wanted labour to be done and to cuddle my baby. I now look at it and see that I was very close to needing a caesarean section because they were concerned that an instrumental wouldn’t work either because of her position or her size.
As I said before, I was positive that I would be getting a vaginal delivery. The epidural was put in and it was a huge relief, I couldn’t feel the contractions anymore and I was comfortable, but my job didn’t stop there. Now I had to push with all my strength I had left as the contractions continued and the doctor pulled from below.
In theatre my legs were put into stirrups to give them the most space possible. They used forceps to turn her into the right position before bringing her down the birth canal, I needed an episiotomy, none of which I felt because I was numb from the bump down! It was great!
With each contraction I pushed with every ounce of strength I had left in me, although I had no idea if I was doing it right because I couldn’t feel a thing. I must have been doing a good job though because a few contractions later she was born.
She was placed on to my tummy and I took one look at her size and completely understood why she wasn’t straightening up! She was almost 9 lbs.
She was taken over to the baby doctor (paediatrician) and checked over. Paul was crying, my mum was crying and I was astounded that we had done it, and trust me it was a total team effort from start to finish, we realised we had a daughter and our family had grown.
We were all exhausted, and you only have to look at the after photos to see that! But we were all relieved and ecstatic. She was a great little feeder, I took a while to get over the exhaustion but healed well, with no real issues from the episiotomy or the forceps.
I look back at it now and feel like superwomen. Hours of contractions! Mobilising! Breathing my way through each contraction. Using different coping mechanisms to get me through. Working with my midwives, Paul and my mum to get to the end. I am gutted that I couldn’t experience the feel of her moving down and through the birth canal, and feel a little robbed that I will never get to, but I know that I could not have had forceps without an epidural and so I am happy with the decisions that were made along the way and happy that I understood them and was in charge of them. The people I had around me, the knowledge I had before i went into labour, it all helped me along the way.
That is what makes my experience positive, not necessarily what I had hoped for but it was positive.