When I found out I was pregnant I was full of mixed emotions. I was overjoyed, but equally petrified as I thought about the birth. I had spent many evenings in watching episodes of one born every minute to know what it could involve.
As I began telling people, I inevitably began to hear stories of their own birthing experiences. Many of these sounded negative and included experiences such as 36 hour long labours, and ones ending in emergency c-sections.
I have therefore debated writing this, but I did want to record it and I feel that any first time mums should read and/or listen to a range of birth stories, as they don’t always pan out how you’d like them to.
During my pregnancy, along with my husband we attended some antenatal classes which helped us to prepare for what was ahead. Through these and subsequent conversations with our midwife, we were encouraged to think about our birth wishes (formally known as a birth plan).
We were encouraged to think of them as wishes as they are just wishes. What we hope to happen, but not will happen.
Some things we had hoped for were:
A water birth at the midwifery led unit
Minimal monitoring of baby and an active labour
Skin to skin contact with baby upon her arrival
Delayed cord clamping (and husband to cut the cord).
Vitamin K injection for our baby.
I didn’t get all of these things though, but I am totally ok with that.
As I went on to prepare for the arrival of our little one, I looked into hypnobirthing, as a lot of people said it would help to manage my expectations; which it did.
I completed the positive birth company’s online digital course and it really helped me to prepare for the physical aspect of birth, learn more about the body and changed my mindset.
As I was approaching my estimated due date I still felt really good and that I could go on being pregnant until the end of the year (thank heavens I didn’t though).
Around this time, myself and family got a number of messages asking if our baby had arrived yet. I usually replied with “no, I think she will be late!”
However, there is no lateness about it. Due dates are only an estimate, and can be so inaccuate. Full term can be anything from 37 to 42 weeks. Therefore you could expect to have a baby before, on or after the due date you’ll be given at your 12 week scan. Approx. 4% of babies are born on their due date, so I was happy in the knowledge that our baby would likely arrive at the latest by the end of September.
Throughout my pregnancy I remained very active and walked around 3 miles per day. When my maternity leave started I wanted to continue to be active. So there I was at 39 weeks pregnant out in the garden with an electric sander, finishing off our garden table project, and later taking things to the tip. Like who even does that?!
I did also make a shed load of bulk freezer meals (and I am now thanking my former self for that!)
During this period, my mum arrived and stayed for 10 days, in the hope that she could be here for when our baby girl was born.
No such luck.
I left my mum off at the train station on the Saturday, knowing she would be returning on the Tuesday, and said “hopefully you’ll have a baby to cuddle when you’re back!”
During the 38 week appointment with our midwife, I had been offered a sweep to see if it could get things going. However, through my birth prep I was aware that anything offered was all optional. I used my BRAIN (Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Intuition, and Nothing) and decided to decline, as I felt that my baby would be born when she was ready.
I did later decide to accept one at 41 weeks. Mainly to avoid induction (which of course is also optional, unless cause for concern to the baby).
I arrived at the hospital and had my bump measurement (fundal height) taken, and was told that I was 32cm.
I had previouly measured at 35cm the week before, so they were quite concerned. I was then put on a CTG monitor and told that I would have to return in a few days for a growth scan.
To me this was absoulte silliness as clearly our baby had moved down further, ready to be born, especially as the monitoring revealled that everything was ok.
I then had the sweep, which I thought would be like having a smear test.
It is nothing like a smear test! (I’ll leave it at that).
I went home from that appointment with no other signs other than mild cramping and feeling tired. I went for an afternoon nap that lasted 5 hours, followed by a warm bath with my favourite candle and chocolate.
As I went to bed, I looked at the bedside crib all set up and wondered if it would be the last night I would be seeing it empty.
Again, I have never been so right.
During the later half off my pregnancy, I hadn’t been sleeping so well. Turning over in bed felt like an olympic sport and I regularly used my hot water bottle due to having mild back pain.
In the early hours of the following morning I started getting what I felt were period pains. I woke up on and off in between midnight and 3am feeling uncomfortable, but I thought nothing off it.
At around 3am I had sudden intense pains in my back which radiated around to my stomach. I got up and made a hot water bottle, returned to bed and lay awake trying to figure out if something was happening.
Throughout my pregancy I did not get any braxton hicks and didn’t really know what labour pains felt like . So it was initally difficult to know if it was the real deal.
A few minutes later more pain returned, so I decided to time their frequency and duration. They were every 5-6 minutes and lasted approx. 30 seconds. I knew this wasn’t long enough in between, so I went downstairs and bounced on my ball with a cup of raspberry leaf tea in hand.
The pain suddenly got so intense and I debated waking up my husband to see if he’d help me get into the bath for some relief (thinking of this now it makes me laugh, as I certainly didn’t have time for a bath).
I got to the bathroom and suddenly threw up, so I knew it was the real deal.
I woke my husband at 4am and asked him to get the TENS machine. Contractions were then coming every 3 mins for 45 seconds and I wasn’t managing very well with them. We called the birthing unit and were told that they were full and were asked to contact the labour ward. They felt that I may be in early labour and said I should come in to be assesed.
I got dressed in between contactions which was a bit of a challenge. I had previously wanted to braid my hair and have my bikni top on in the event of a water birth, but again we had no time for that. I grabbed a dark t-shirt, leggings and a hoodie and we were off.
“Don’t leave me”
During the short 5 minute drive to hospital, my husband said “I’ll drop you at the door, park up and then come meet you”.
However, I did not want to be left, so decided to park in our church car park across the road and walked with him.
I was glad it was still dark as due to the frequency of the contractions I had to do everything in 2 minute increments. I crossed the road and made it to the bus stop then needed to squat down on the ground. I’d use the TENS and hold the hot water bottle to my stomach, and shout some choice words.
I got to the main door and ordered my husband to find a wheelchair.
That journey from reception to labour ward seemed the longest of my life, but I am glad i didn’t have to walk it.
On arrival onto the ward (around 5am), we were told that they’d been really busy that night with many woman in labour. The birthing pool was also not available.
At that point I didn’t care, and just wanted some pain relief.
I was assessed shortly after (around 5:30am) and was told I was 7cm, so was officially in labour. The midwives that looked after us were amazing. They read my birth wishes and knew I wanted to stay active, as that helps with the birth.
So I was asked if I wanted to use a birthing ball or get up and move around. However, due to the intensity of the contactions and having gone from nothing to everything within 1 hour I felt a bit shell shocked and exhausted. So I was happy to lie on the bed and use the gas and air (which felt more like a distraction than anything else).
The lights were dimmed and everything felt really calm.
From then on time seemed to pass very quickly. My husband was a true gem. He set up the speaker and played music from our playlist.
In between the contractions we talked about the songs we had chosen and he made sure I stayed hydrated and gave me some snacks (bananas and harribo won the day).
Around 8am the contractions seemed back to back and I felt my body bearing down ready to push. At 8.15am my waters broke and I was told that if she wasn’t here within one hour that they would need to intervene, we then asked to be assessed again as wanted to know where I was at and only wanted to push when ready. At 8:30am I was told I was10cm.
After this my body just took over. I remember saying to my husband “it’s like I need a really big poo.”
Our little lady arrived 20 mins later after about 5 active pushes and she was then placed on my chest. It felt like such an incredible experience, and any pain I had just been in had already been forgotten about.
I was later informed that I had a postpartum haemorrhage and 3 second degree tears, so spent much longer in the delivery room having stiches.
During this time, we both had skin to skin time with our girl and just stayed in our little newborn bubble, which was an incredible feeling.
Later when I had moved to the recovery ward I looked at our little girl lying in her crib and couldn’t believe what had just happened.
Overall our birth experience felt positive and totally different to what I had imagined.
We are now so in love and delighted to be home as a family of three.