It took me a long time to feel comfortable with my birth story – every time someone asked how the birth went I had no idea how to answer. Do I say it was fine or do I let them into the little truth that I found the whole experience quite terrifying? How honest should you be, especially when people who haven’t had children yet ask you?
Throughout my pregnancy I tried to have a very relaxed and realistic outlook on the birth. Thousands of women go through this every year, some do it multiple times, some do it in Africa without any pain relief and others are recorded for TV (One Born Every Minute). If this many people could do it then so could I. Don’t get me wrong I was not going into this with my eyes closed – I was very much aware that it was going to be hard work and painful but I had hoped that I could “man up” to be able to get what I have always wanted – a baby. So I felt ashamed once Amelia was born that I had such a difficult time and found the whole experience quite traumatic. It was beautiful and who knows maybe I will want to do it again but especially in those first two months I just cried whenever I thought about it all. It could have been a lot worse and I have read/followed other blogs where mothers have gone through a lot more than I had and that also made me feel like a failure that I was struggling with what I faced. But do you know what I have learnt; no matter what has happened its my story and I am not a failure. I brought this amazing little human in to the world – its not meant to be easy.
Well… here is my birth story. It has taken me so many attempts to put it all down on paper until I finally decided to not worry about how it was written but just to get it down. For anyone else that struggled with their birth and found it as traumatic as I did I would highly recommend writing it down – it has really helped me to feel more comfortable with the experience.
On Friday 25th August 2017 I headed into Epsom Hospital to be induced. Amelia was 9 days over due and with the midwife we had decided that an induction was the best thing for me and baby. By this point I had been for one sweep and an extra scan as the midwife thought that Amelia had bobbed out of my pelvis. That week the temperature had been on average 22ºC and I was so fed up and hot. As I have mentioned in my blog post “My Pregnancy Story” my bump had dropped and I had started to swell everywhere. I was super uncomfortable, hot and eager to meet my baby.
For those of you that are not aware of the induction procedure the first step is the Pessary. This first stage was performed by a midwife at Epsom at the Maternity Assessment Unit (MAU) on the Friday morning. The Propess pessary is like a flat tampon and was inserted into my vagina just behind my cervix after a physical examination. At this point my cervix was soft but not dilated so the pessary had a lot of work to do! I was sent home and told to return back the next day for it to be removed and hopefully accompanied by some contractions. The midwife was pretty frank with me – because of the angle of my cervix and the fact that I hadn’t started to dilate yet meant that I had a 50/50 chance of this propress working and getting contractions going without any further intervention. After an hour of monitoring I was allowed home and told to keep as active as possible to try and encourage labour to progress. Steve took this very seriously and as soon as we got home decided it was a walk around the common for us. It was a lovely day but I must have looked like a right state; 9 months pregnant walking in 25ºC heat I was definitely a sweaty mess. It was a slow walk and I was exhausted but I still remember every bit of it – our last walk just Steve and I before we become a family of 3. It was just perfect.
As much as I was told to keep active to try and induce labour it was also important for me to rest and gather all my energy for the exciting couple of days ahead. Designated Survivor, a cup of tea and my bouncy ball was pretty much my evening planned. It felt a little bit like Christmas Eve after the walk – we were just waiting excitedly for it all to get going.
Around 8pm I started to get little cramps but in all honesty these were so small and more like the menstrual cramps I used to get I didn’t pay too much attention. I kept thinking that I would know that when they started and it would be painful – little did I know that this was the start; little cramps and twinges. These cramps continued throughout the night and they increased in their frequency, length and intensity. I didn’t really sleep at all and spent most of the night tossing and turning and curling up with the cramps. The pain wasn’t excruciating but it was definitely uncomfortable, bit like a bad menstrual cramp. I woke up not entirely sure if this was it or not so decided to start tracking my contractions in both duration and intervals to see if there was a pattern. I had downloaded an app to help me track the contractions. There are quite a few free apps you can download for android and iPhone but I would definitely recommend Contraction Timer. It was very simple to use and I actually continued to use it throughout my labour and it used very little battery.
At 9.30am I was having cramps every 4-5 mins lasting between 1-1.30 mins. Once I had entered it into the app it was very clear for me to see a pattern and this proved very useful to show the midwife when we arrived back at hospital. The drive to Epsom Hospital was very strange – in between all the cramps all I could think about was that next time I drove through here I would have my baby with me and that this would be the last time that it was just me. Soon it would be me and my baby and the excitement for that was just too much. It also made me quite anxious that although I had all this excitement, there was this pang of worry that something was going to go wrong and that there was a chance that I wouldn’t be walking out with my baby. Basically I was a big bag of emotions!
After the pessary was removed I was examined and I was 1-2cm dilated, my waters hadn’t broken but my cervix was favourable. As I was having regular contractions and labour had started to progress on its own they decided to try and break my waters and see if my body continued to progress with labour. Now it was a waiting game for a bed on the labour ward to become free. Alongside being a bank holiday weekend Epsom Hospital Maternity Unit was short staffed which meant they had to close the birth centre. This meant that my chances of having that water birth that I had dreamed of was very slim with only 1 room available with a pool – it was all about luck of the draw now. We were told that it would likely be 2-3 hours before we were taken down due to C-Sections that were already pre-booked but I wasn’t allowed to go home. Steve and I decided to keep active and went for a walk around the hospital before heading back to bounce some more on the ball to try and get my waters to break naturally.
The pain seem to get a little more intense over the day but the frequency and duration remained the same. I am not sure if they really did get more intense on reflection or if I was just tired of contractions with no pain relief and being in hospital not in my own home around my comforts. By 4pm I was really uncomfortable and felt quite anxious. I had been contracting for over 16 hours now with very little sleep and needed a bit of help but unfortunately there wasn’t anything they could really offer until we were on the labour ward. I was however offered a bath in one of the birth rooms in the birth centre to see if that helped with contractions as it was closed they had lots of rooms available for me to take a bath. The midwife had set up one of the rooms with some calming music, a warm bath and left myself and Steve to relax.
The rooms in the Birth Centre were lovely and I really wish that I had the opportunity to have Amelia in one of these rooms. They were less clinical and I automatically felt so much more relaxed. Getting in the water definitely helped my contractions and I would absolutely suggest to do this in the early stages of labour if you are at home and haven’t been induced.
By 10.45pm I was still waiting to be taken down to the labour ward with no pain relief for my waters to be broken and contractions still coming every 4 mins and feeling quite intense. I was so tired at this point and getting quite worried that I wouldn’t have the energy to actually give birth. It looked like we were not going anywhere anytime soon so it was important that Steve and I tried to get some rest. At 11.40 a midwife came to tell us that they had a bed for me down in the labour ward so Steve and I packed up our stuff and headed down.
Once I got down onto the Labour Ward I was examined and this was the first time I was examined since 10am that morning after having contractions all day. I was so disappointed to hear that I had only progressed from 1-2cm dilated to 2-3cm. My waters were broken at 00:40 on Sunday 27th August and I was given 4 hours to encourage labour to start naturally before exploring other options to get things going. Once again they encouraged me to be active and to walk around the hospital. At this point I was exhausted, barely slept or eaten in the last 24 hours and was in pain with the contractions so a walk was the last thing on my mind. I had to keep reminding myself that I wanted to remain as active as possible during the labour and this was my opportunity to do so and also control the situation a little bit. Walking around Epsom Hospital in the early hours of the morning was so eery and felt like a scene from Creep or the Walking Dead. We must have done about 3 laps of the hospital before I just couldn’t do it anymore and decided to go for a couple of laps of the car park outside. The hospital itself wasn’t too bad during the warm weather however the Maternity and Labour wards were like saunas. After sitting in front of a fan for the last 20 or so hours it was so nice to get some fresh cool air.
Here I am right before they broke my waters enjoying a cup of tea in front of a fan. My lovely husband decided to catch the moment I was mid contraction with a cuppa in my hand. At the time I hated these photos but looking back now I love them!
At 4.30am my contractions were pretty much the same in intervals, duration and intensity. I was still 2-3cm dilated and we (Steve, midwife and I) decided to give my body another hour to try and get labour to start naturally. Queue another hour of me bouncing on my ball contracting every 4 minutes. It had felt like I had been having contractions for days and I was exhausted but in my mind I knew this was only the start of it all. Whenever I need to focus or if I am feeling sad James Taylor’s Greatest Hits is my go to album. My Nan and Grandad used to listen to James Taylor and especially since my Grandad passed away it helps to calm down and centre my focus. It has worked for the last 12 years in pretty much every situation and in that moment I needed it more than ever.
After an hour my contractions seemed to be slowing down so my midwife suggested that we helped labour progress with the Syntocinon drip. I had originally wanted as little intervention as possible and in my labour plan I had outlined this but that’s just it; it was a plan and the plan needed to be changed to the situation. As I have mentioned previously I had attended NCT classes and had been given some information about the Syntocinon drip but right there and then in my tired state I had forgotten it all along with my hours of research on inductions of labour. I totally put my trust and faith into my midwife that this was the right thing to do for my labour and more importantly my baby. As I was now having the drip my plans for labour had to adjust slightly – I could no longer have an active birth and also I had to have a cannula in my hand. Now I can’t stand needles… every time I have had to have an injection or a needle put in me I have fainted, feel light headed and dizzy and my heart rate has soared. If you times that by a thousand that is what I am like with those cannulas that have to go in the back of your hand. I have had to have it twice before during a gastro procedure and my knee operation and it was horrific. I can’t even look at someone with one and it even goes for people on TV. I have no idea where this phobia has come from. I had to focus and take strength in the fact that it meant I could finally have some pain relief in the form of gas and air and I was one step closer on meeting my baby (with a bit of James Taylor thrown in too!). I was very lucky to have such a great midwife who inserted the cannula and then wrapped it up with gauze and lots of plasters so I couldn’t see it and it definitely wasn’t going anywhere. In all my research I do not remember reading that if you had the Syntocinon drip your baby would need to be monitored more closely via a little clip that is screwed onto the top of their head. I am sure it was mentioned in my readings online, the books and also in my NCT classes but it had escaped both mine and Steve’s brain. When the midwife said that they were going to do this I remember the sheer panic I felt and I still remember Steve’s face. My husband is not a worrier, in fact we argue about how laid back he is about pretty much everything however the mention of screwing something into our unborn child’s head had us both so scared and worried debating whether it was the right thing to do.
At 6.30am the Syntocinon drip was started just as the midwives changed their shift. I felt a pang of sadness that my midwife was rolling off shift and she wasn’t going to be with through the birth of my baby. She was kind and soft in her approach towards me and I felt connected to her. When my new midwife walked in for a handover I was instantly worried… on first glance she seemed the opposite in terms of her approach. She was a slightly older lady with an Irish accent and seemed very short, stern and very forward in her approach. We were told that it was likely that it would still take the reminder of the day before we had our baby. We waived my midwife goodbye and hoped that she would be able to deliver my baby when she returned on her night shift that night.
At this point I was finally allowed some pain killers and opted for gas and air. I have had gas and air before when I dislocated my knee and it really did help my self management of pain so I was really hoping that it would be the same throughout labour. Over the next hour the dose via the drip gradually increased and with that so did the intense contractions and the pain that came with it. I had reached my pain limit and didn’t feel like I could go any further and asked my midwife for an epidural. Again in my birth preferences I had said I wanted an epidural as a last resort but the pain was just too intense and I couldn’t cope any longer. By this point I was really relying hard on the gas and air and chugging that down to try and cope with the pain. From here it is very blurry and my memory drops in and out but thanks to Steve I have been able to piece together the rest of my birth story.
It was about 45 minutes before the anesthesiologist arrived and talked me through the procedure and the risks/complications that go with that. Steve took away my gas and air so I could focus but I had remembered most of the information from my research. I agreed to the procedure and sat on the edge of the bed hunched over ready for the big needle to go into my back. Now they ask you to be really still while they are doing this but it is near on impossible to do when you are having contractions every 4 minutes and you are bent right over. The gas and air was the only thing helping me to keep still but because I was chugging away at that it started to make me feel really nauseous. While they were attempting the epidural I had taken in too much gas and air and was going to throw up. All I could think about was what the anesthesiologist had said about the dangers of hitting nerves and causing paralysis and it was vital that I remained as still as possible. I told Steve that I was going to throw up and I needed the needle out and I still remember the panic across his face and his stern words “Lauren do not move, they have the needle in your back and it is really important that you don’t move”. Steve is never serious but hearing this tone I knew that I had to remain still… my mobility and my baby’s life depended on it. Luckily they removed the needle in time for me to throw up into a bed pan. Unfortunately the anaesthetist had failed to give me an epidural and kept on hitting bone or blood vessels. Little did I know that in that period of time I was hunched over an hour had passed and he had attempted to administer the epidural 4 times. I had 4 lovely puncture wounds down my spine but no pain relief to show for it.
I then had a strong urge to go for a wee… like instantly and felt like I couldn’t hold it. Funny thing is though Steve said I didn’t actually go but oh my gosh it felt like I wee’d for days. During this the hospital nurses/doctors were doing rounds and thought it would be a good idea to come into my room and try and talk to me.. thankfully my midwife told them that it wasn’t a good idea and left me to it. After this I had a real strong urge to push and my midwife decided to take a pause on any more attempts on the epidural and to examine me. I had dilated to 9cm and now it was all on me to do as it was too late for the epidural. It felt so good to hear that I was finally at 9cm but felt so exhausted I didn’t feel like I could give birth as I had used all my reserves during labour. I really focused on pushing during a contraction but it just felt like they weren’t going to be strong enough, not enough of a push to get a baby out. I remember getting to this point and feeling like I was going to fail at the last hurdle and all I could think about was how tired I was. I had been up for over 30 hours and been having contractions for over 36 hours. Steve was amazing during this giving me the best words of encouragement and my midwife was great in telling me (and Steve) what was going on and what I had to do. Again due to the gas and air my memories are a bit blurry but I just remember hearing that my baby’s heart rate had dropped to 50bpm from 140bpm and that I needed to push now to get them out. Panic just flooded over me, I couldn’t have carried this little one for 9 months, felt them kick and move, go through this labour for something bad to happen right at the end. It was like my worst nightmare flashing before my eyes. This gave me focus and I gave a big push and with the help of an Episiotomy my baby was born at 11.17am on Sunday 27th August 2017
When they lifted Amelia up and started to unravel her from the umbilical cord I swear time stopped. The cord was wrapped around her neck twice and around her shoulder once, she was blue, eyes wide open and she wasn’t crying. In all the films and TV shows with labour they show the baby being born and crying instantly but there was nothing I instantly thought the worse and started to panic. I remember asking if she was okay and if she was breathing and everyone told me that she was fine. It must have only been seconds before she was placed on my chest but it felt like a lifetime. This little tiny person that I made, grew and birthed was here safely, eyes wide open looking straight at me. Gorgeous eyes and a full head of hair my beautiful daughter was here and I was finally a mummy. Words will never be able to describe that moment, my first cuddle with my daughter. I remember looking at Steve and looking back at her thinking I never thought I could be this happy… my perfect little family.
Steve and I had a couple of names for girls but always a firm favourite was Amelia Rae. As soon as she was born both Steve and I knew that this was the right name for her – our little Amelia was here. Steve got to cut the cord and as Amelia was already rooting I was able to get her to latch and give her first feed within the first hour she was born. It was the most magical feeling that I didn’t even realise I was being stitched up downstairs! I also got to see my umblical cord and my placenta which are gross but also the most amazing things to see. My body had grown these organs and they had kept my baby healthy and alive for 9 months – I still to this day am in awe of the human body and what it can do. My midwife told me that I had a very long umbilical cord which is not normal and why it was wrapped round Amelia so many times. I have to praise the midwife team at Epsom hospital because during that first hour of Amelia’s life they gave us such privacy to enjoy her first moments in the world. They stitched me up quickly and quietly and cleared the room so we could have some privacy.
I love my husband dearly but seeing him hold our daughter with tears in his eyes just made me love him even more. This little tiny human had deepened my love for him, for us and for our future.
My midwife returned to weigh Amelia and help me get cleaned up. Our little star weighed in at 7lbs 12oz and meausred 53cm in length which we were told meant she was quite a long baby.
Our midwife Geri offered to help me get out of bed and into the shower. In all honesty moving was the last thing I could think about but on reflection I am so glad she got me up on my feet and moving as I do think that this really helped my recovery. I was so weak from the tiredness and blood loss and had no muscles in my stomach or back due to the birth and failed epidurals. I felt like I couldn’t move at all but with Geri’s help I managed to make it to the toilet. She helped to freshen up and helped to to get changed into new clothes. I had my first wee and it was so painful due to the stitches! We had left Steve to get Amelia dressed. The sheer panic in his face that he was being left alone with Amelia and was given responsibility to get her dressed on his own still makes me laugh. By mid afternoon we were transferred back up to the ward and I don’t think I had put Amelia down.. I just couldn’t stop staring at her. We had our parents and Uncle Dan to visit and she was spoilt rotten with cuddles. It was such an amazing experience seeing my parents become grandparents for the first time and my brother become an Uncle.
We decided that Steve should go and home and get some rest as we were being kept in overnight for some more monitoring. It was really hard saying goodbye to him but we both agreed that one of us needed to get a good nights sleep. I found with Steve going home that all the pressure fell on me to keep this new tiny human alive. I sat there for hours watching her, feeding her, cuddling her and taking as many photos as I could of her. I worried that she was too hot, too cold, lonely in the crib, not wearing enough, wearing too much and then settled on if she was in my arms and on the boob she was where she needed to be. I think I got about an hours sleep that night – I was just buzzing and I didn’t want to take my eyes off her. The hours went by so quickly that before I knew it morning had arrived. We had some additional checks and Amelia did her first poo – my most stressful experience to date. Forget any job interview or competition that I have been part of, changing her first dirty Meconium nappy in front of the midwife was definitely my top challenge. You read all the books about how its black and think and tar like but its not until you have it in front of you to realise it’s so thick and sticky and its gone everywhere. Que a full outfit change and bedding change on the crib we had a beautiful clean little girl and a very sweaty stressed mummy.
Steve arrived a little after the dirty nappy (good timing daddy!) and Amelia had her hearing test which she passed. We were told we could go home and that someone would be out to do the newborn checks the next day. It was weird just over 24 hours after giving birth we were walking out with our baby girl.
After the most nerve racking drive home (its literally 5 mins in the car!) we welcomed our baby girl to our home. We sat there for a couple of minutes just starting at her and both thinking – what do we do now?
Now the real fun begins……
I later found out that it is recommended that if you have the Syntocinon drip you have an epidural as the labours are more painful and the pain gets more intense a lot quicker than normal labour. As with all most of research of labour during my pregnancy I must have forgotten about this as I made it quite a way through before I requested the epidural and then with it failed I actually delivered Amelia on just Gas and Air after induction. My community Midwife called me hardcore for having an induction involving Syntocinon and not having an epidural which I needed to hear the first couple of days after birth as I had quite a bit of trouble mentally coming to terms with the fact I didn’t stick to my plan, the trauma of the birth and latching issues when feeding (I shall be posting about some of these shortly!)
If you have made it to the end of this post and are still reading then WELL DONE and THANK YOU. It felt so good getting it all including my thoughts and feelings down on paper.