My birth story: part 1
Apologies for the long delay in more postings, but we’ve been getting used to life with baby. Hopefully, now that the grandparents have vacated the house and James and I are bonding with Baby as a family, I’ll have a little more time to sneak away and write. At this moment, Baby and James are making scrambled eggs for breakfast.
This is the beginning of my full, unabridged birth story. I’ll have to tell it to you in 3 parts because it’s quite long, even though the actual birth only lasted 24 hours. So, without further adieu…
It all started with Dr Who.
This episode was actually quite scary, which is good, because James had taken to jumping at me from behind doors to jolt me into labour.
Then I went to bed and started reading an article about Charlie Sheen’s dramatic meltdown in Vanity Fair. Perhaps it was all that talk of drugs and tiger blood combined with scary Dr Who, but my waters broke at 1:30am, not with a splash but with a trickle. I was worried that it was only a sudden bought of incontinence, but it didn’t smell like pee. We called the hospital and they told us to come in.
James quickly gathered the hospital bags and put everything in the car. He has always said that he wasn’t going to be one of those men who freaks out and drives like a nutter on the way to the hospital. And he wasn’t. But he did start to pull away from our house, having left the front door wide open.
On the way, I started to feel some vague menstrual-style cramping. Contractions had started (or “ripples” as we were calling them after hypnobirthing). At the hospital, they monitored the foetal heart rate, took my blood pressure and checked my mofo-sized maternity pad to see if my waters had actually broken. They sent us home, telling us to get some sleep and to give them a call when I was experiencing 3 contractions in 10 minutes of at least 60 seconds in duration. James excitedly revved up his contraction timer app on his iPhone and started time trialling me. The party had begun.
By the time we got home, my contractions were a lot stronger than menstrual cramping. Every bump on the journey back was like a little knife in my back. In the next three hours, I probably slept about 15 minutes and I was wondering how other women I’d heard of managed to snooze while experiencing early labour. My contractions seemed to be gaining in speed and strength – a real surprise as I’d been told that the first stage of labour is a slow, gradual process. Also, I realised my first misconception about the birth process: waters don’t just break and that’s it. Amniotic fluid keeps running out continuously until you give birth. I was going to need a lot more mofo-sized maternity pads. The three boxes of ten I had wouldn’t be enough for before and after birth.
At about 7:00am, I wanted to get up because I felt that moving around would help lessen the pressure in my body. I wanted to try a bath. We had concocted a plan that, as soon as I went into labour, James would draw me a bath and get me a glass of wine. Well, I just wanted the bath. But when I got into it, I didn’t find it to be as relieving as I had hoped it would be. James helped me slosh out of the bath like a whale on roller skates. Then I decided I wanted a shower because I had become fixated with the idea of shaving my armpits before going to hospital. That never happened. By 7:30am, I had hit the magic formula they’d given us for a second phone call. They told us to come back in.
James hastily figured out how to use the TENS machine, slapped the pads on my back, gave me the controls and bundled me into the car. Contrary to what he thinks, I only started using it on power 3 (out of 15). I never got past 6 because it felt like ants eating chunks out of my back if I went higher than this. I also wouldn’t say it was effective as pain relief, but it was effective as a distraction from the pain.
Back in the triage unit at Kingston Hospital, I went through another round of testing. This is where it started getting interesting:
- My contractions were already approaching 45-60 seconds every two minutes and I was in serious pain
- The reason for this was that the baby had moved into a back-to-back position. This means that her back was facing mine. Optimal birthing position is back-to-stomach. She had spent the majority of the last few months in this position only to start moving into a bad position when contractions began.
- To get back into an optimal position, she would have to continue in a clockwise motion until she was back-to-stomach (about a 270 degree shift).
- My body’s way of doing this was to have frequent contractions
The midwives checked my cervix to see how dilated I was. Proper labour is defined as being 5-6cm dilated. I wasn’t even 1cm.
At this point, the triage midwife said something to me that completely ruined my state of mind. She said: “This could go on like this for another 48 hours.” Mentally, I just crumbled. I was in so much continuous pain – pain that felt like it should be coming at the end, not the beginning, of my labour. She suggested James take me for a walk and that we get a cup of coffee.
James had romantic ideas of walking in Richmond Park to help “loosen me up”, like I was just constipated or something. The Park is about 10 minutes away on foot. I couldn’t even make it 100 metres from the maternity unit door. I didn’t want coffee (don’t drink caffeine anyway) and I didn’t want to walk; all I wanted was to lean up against the boot of our car in the empty parking lot with the early morning sun on my face, wiggle my hips, and hit the TENS machine. He wrapped me in the ugly cerise towel he bought for my post-birth shower to protect me from the cold and pushed my hips together in the way a friend had taught us to help relieve contractions.
And in the middle of all this pain, I felt this overriding sense of guilt and failure. I started crying and whispering to James, “I can’t do this. I can’t do this. It hurts so much. I’m going to need pain relief.” What I was trying to say to him was, “Remember that natural birth plan? Don’t hate me, but go burn it, please.”
We went back into the triage unit and they strapped me up to the monitor again.
Two more issues came up: the baby’s heart rate was dipping whenever I had a contraction. Not good. And the final issue: the nurses found meconium on my latest mofo-sized maternity pad. Meconium is what the baby’s first poo is called. When they pass this in the womb, it signals that the baby may be in distress.
At this point, the consultant was called in and confirmed that he thought we needed to get this baby out sooner rather than later. None of us would realise how important this decision was until the moment we saw what was causing the distress many hours later. At the very least, I would need to be induced and possibly have a caesarean section. When I was offered an epidural, I turned to James and whispered, “Will you think I’m a failure if I have the epidural?” I think that at that point he would have given it to me himself, as he was finding it difficult to see me in so much pain. And so my natural birth plan was finally laid to rest and they moved me into a birthing room…
I’ll aim to get the next instalment up on Monday.