I wrote this not long after Lucas was born, but I realised I hadn’t shared it on here yet. It’s not as positive a story as the twins’ birth, but I think it’s important to share because that day, almost three years ago now, brought me my beautiful boy. That’s not all that matters, but it matters a lot.
On Sunday 29th April 2012, I went into labour with my first baby. I’d started to lose my mucus plug from when I first woke up that morning and it continued through the day. I had a ‘bloody show’ during the afternoon and I’d been having period-pain-like cramps. However, as I’d had Braxton-Hicks contractions regularly for the past three weeks, I didn’t want to get my hopes up that true labour had started!
At about 5pm, I was on the phone to my dad when the contractions started to get quite painful and difficult to talk through. I got off the phone and ran a bath, and my husband poured warm water over my back between contractions. We burned some essential oils (jasmine I think) and tried to create a relaxing atmosphere, which was difficult as I was in a fair amount of pain by this point. I got out of the bath and started to struggle with the contractions, completely zoning out when they hit and clutching onto a blanket and towel. I also started to shiver and shake quite a lot and had really bad back pain. We called the hospital (Stepping Hill maternity triage) and they said to try and stay at home as long as I could deal with the pain – I didn’t think it would be much longer at that point. I put on my yoga breathing CD and tried out some yoga poses, but nothing really helped alleviate the pain, so I started to think I’d like to go to the hospital…the thought of gas and air was very appealing at this point!
I felt very sick so during the car ride, I clutched an old washing up bowl (I didn’t need to use it, luckily) and wrapped myself up in a blanket. We got to the hospital and I found it really, really hard to walk to the ward as the contractions felt so strong. When we finally got to triage, I was begging for gas and air! I had an internal and I was dilated only to 3cm, which meant I was not in established labour and would normally be sent home. But because I was in so much pain, the lovely midwife gave me some gas and air and put me on the fetal heart/contractions monitor. The gas and air really helped me to cope with the pain, although it also made me throw up a few times. I remember telling my husband, “I love gas and air, it’s like being on drugs!” and telling the midwife that I loved her.
Next, things started to go downhill as the baby’s heart rate was dropping quite dramatically with each contraction, although it was recovering in between. The midwife on the birth unit spoke to the midwives on the delivery suite (where any labours with complications have to go) and they decided to monitor me down there for a while, and if the baby’s heart rate seemed fine, I’d be allowed to come back up to the birth centre (with the lovely water pools and everything – that’s where I’d wanted to give birth).
At this point I was completely out of it and almost fell asleep in the toilet while the midwives were waiting for me with the wheelchair. I was taken down to the delivery suite and had to lie flat on the bed so the baby could be monitored. The consultant obstetrician came in to check on me and said he wasn’t too concerned as long as the baby’s heart rate didn’t drop any further. At this point I was still only dilated to 3cm (it was about 1am on the 30th April now), so the midwife dimmed the lights, sat in the corner and said they’d perform the next checks in four hours.
This period is a bit hazy as I had a lot of gas and air and was in a LOT of pain, but I remember asking for stronger pain relief and quite forcefully being offered pethidine. I specifically hadn’t wanted pethidine, as I was concerned about it crossing the placenta too close to the delivery and affecting the baby. My husband asked me whether I was sure, and I remember saying, “I can’t cope with this if it’s going to be hours, it’s code red,” which is what we’d agreed as a code word when I absolutely needed pain relief. While the midwives were out of the room dispensing the pethidine, I threw up while having a contraction (not very nice) and suddenly got the urge to push. I told my husband, and when the midwives returned he asked them to wait until I’d finished the contraction to make sure I was 100% happy having the pethidine. He also told them that I had the urge to push and they asked me if it felt like I needed a poo – it didn’t, so I said, “No, it feels like there is a head coming out down there!” They offered me an internal before administering the pethidine, and found out that I was 9cm dilated! I couldn’t believe it and kept saying, “What? What? 9CM?!” At that point I knew it would only be an hour or two more until I met my son, so I decided not to take the pethidine. At some point, my waters broke while he was crowning but I’m not sure of the chronology of events.
I wanted to push at this point and was screaming through the contractions and feeling very out of it and confused. I was inadvertently pushing a bit and the midwife kept telling me not to, and my husband kept telling me to keep the gas and air nozzle in my mouth as I was taking it out to scream. Then the baby’s heart rate started to drop even more as he was getting tired, and it seemed like all of a sudden the room was full of people – I found out afterwards that there were two midwives, the supervisor of midwives, the consultant OB and a consultant paediatrician. They decided that the baby needed to be delivered right now, so they would need to use forceps. They gave me a local anaesthetic in preparation for an episiotemy and explained to my husband and I what was happening. Possibly in response to the threat of the forceps, my body started to push extremely effectively (although I kept trying to keep my legs shut!) and in no time the baby’s head was delivered! I’ll never know how I managed to stop pushing while the body turned, but I did, and the rest of our beautiful baby was born. The midwives placed him on my chest and he started to cry, pooed, and looked up at me with his beautiful, angry, inky blue eyes.
I was so tired and overwhelmed at this point that I elected to have a managed third stage. My husband cut the umbilical cord, which he found very strange and said it felt spongy. The whole thing took 2 hours 45 minutes from 3cm dilation to the placenta being delivered. I had a second-degree tear so I had to have stitches but I didn’t mind, because I had gas and air and my gorgeous new baby to look at and distract me.
The whole experience was very traumatic because it happened so fast and I felt like I had no control whatsoever over what was happening to me and my baby. We still don’t know why his heart rate was dropping – he swallowed quite a bit of amniotic fluid, so it could have been that or he could just have been getting tired. It had no lasting effect on him, thank goodness, and he got a perfect score on his Apgar test at all three intervals.
And the tea and toast afterwards was the best thing I’ve ever tasted!