Whilst I was pregnant hearing/reading about other people’s birth stories was one of my favourite things! (Post pregnancy it still is!)
I know every labour is different and you shouldn’t bog yourself down too much with what may or may not happen as you’ll soon drive yourself insane, but for me I found it encouraging reading about other women’s labours. I never assumed that what I read would or wouldn’t happen to me, I just took it as reassurance that so many women go through labour everyday and absolutely ace it!! No matter what may be thrown their way.
If I had to describe my labour using a cheesy cliché it would be a ‘tale of two halves’ (I told you it was cheesy). It didn’t go exactly to plan, something I was fully prepared for but actually it was still pretty great and I hope my story shows that even when things don’t go to plan that doesn’t mean a disaster…
I was booked in for a sweep at 40+2 weeks, regardless of the horror stories I’d read about sweeps I was really looking forwards to it! I was so excited to hopefully get things moving! Much to my delight it went very well, I was already 1/2cm dilated and the midwife, Paula, could feel my little babes head! I was booked in for another sweep on Sunday where I would be 1 week overdue but Paula confidently told me she didn’t think I would need it…
Immediately afterwards I felt some twinges which I tried not to get too excited about as I know this is common with sweeps but I couldn’t help but feel excited that this was the start of things.
The next day at 40+3 Brett decided to work from home, I’d had a few cramps in the night and something told me that this was going to be the day. I spent most of the morning on my birthing ball and walking around the house to try and get things moving, at midday we decided to go for a little walk to grab some lunch. I had to stop a few times en route as my cramps were…dare I say it….turning into contractions! It’s funny, they say you know when you’re in labour but I wasn’t too sure! I was so reluctant to get too ahead of myself but something was happening for sure!
Back at home, a few hours passed and I took to my birthing ball again where I started to breath through the now painful (but bearable) contractions I was getting. A few hours passed and come 6pm they seemed close enough together to start timing them, Brett used an app on his phone and informed me they were about 40 seconds long and averaging 8 mins apart. Knowing we were potentially in for a long night before the contractions were much closer together and lasting longer we tired what we could to ensure I was comfortable.
I hooked myself up to a tens machine, I was well prepared for a long labour at home and had bought one in preparation. I filled up on some snacks, an entire layer of milk tray and full bag of haribo (ha!) and drank as much water as I could. By 8pm we decided to head up to bed and watch something mindless on the laptop to distract us both. At about 9pm I was getting quite tired, unfortunately sleep was a long way off, the contractions were strong enough to the point that sleep just wasn’t an option. At about 11pm I got myself in the bath whilst Brett sat with me timing the contractions. I’d opted for a water birth so I was pleased to see how much being in the bath relaxed me and eased the pain of my contractions. However, annoyingly they were still averaging 8 mins apart, every so often I would get a period where they were 3 mins apart but then it would jump back up to 8. I was fairly certain I was still a long way off active labour. How much longer was this going to take?!
The next few hours passed in a blur of snatched minutes sleep, boosting my tens machine, paracetamol & hypnobirthing breathing.
Eventually it got to 6am, I was 40+4, exhausted and still averaging contractions of 40 seconds long and 8 mins apart. I decided to call my birthing suite for some advice. Having explained how my night had gone to the midwife on the phone and how frequent my contractions were she agreed that it didn’t sound like I was in active labour yet…however with how exhausted I was and it unclear when things could ramp up she instructed me to come in with my bags (just in case) to assess me and discuss some pain relief in order for me to get some rest.
We arrived at the hospital during a shift change meaning waiting about 1.5/2 hours before anyone was able to see me. Eventually the midwife, Sue, turned up to my room (where my contractions still were no closer together) and honestly she seemed a little annoyed by me. She initially said with how mobile, talkactive etc I was there was no way I was in active labour. She gave me 2 options – prescribe me some codine and send me on my way to try and get some sleep (her preferred option) or do an internal assessment on me to judge whether or not to give me some pethadine.
Now I hate codine, it doesn’t agree with me at all so I wasn’t too keen on this option. Yet on the other hand I was initially against pethadine as I know it can slow things down (and they already seemed to be going pretty damn slowly) but Sue basically said it only slows things down when you’re well on your way and since I wasn’t, it wouldn’t really cause any delays. I eventually decided that pethadine would probably be the best course of pain relief plus there was the added incentive of the internal exam, I was desperate to know how much more dilated (if any!!) I was so I asked for the assessment, again she didn’t seem too happy at this – clearly she’s not the type to entertain silly first time mums over reacting at every little twinge.
I laid back and crossed everything that I was at least 1cm more dilated!!! In a split second her tone changed as she examined me, she did a sort of laugh and asked me ‘do you have an extremely high pain thresh hold?’ Not knowing quite how to react I think I just stared blankly at her and she informed me I was 5cm dilated and in active labour!!
I distinctly remember her saying ‘there’s no going home for you now, you’re in labour’ I was so happy I could have cried. In fact I think I may have shed a little tear as I hugged Brett!! It was about 9am and I was 5cm dilated, this was the day we were going to meet our little babe…..or so we thought!
The midwife ran off to get me some breakfast and said whatever I was doing keep on doing it because it was clearly working! In a blur I almost forgot I wanted a water birth until Brett reminded me. I asked Sue about it and she relied ‘perfect – I’ll go and start running the bath now’ I couldn’t believe how to plan everything was going.
The only thing she expressed concern over was that my contractions were still a little too far apart compared to what’s ‘normal’ for this stage of labour, she wasn’t keen on me getting in the pool until they were closer together. About an hour or so passed and I was getting frustrated that there was still no change in the frequency. That’s when Rachel, a student midwife came in, she was working with Sue that day and honestly she was a god send!
She instructed me stop timing them so rigidly as I would know when they were closer together and that getting in the pool would calm me down and hopefully get things moving a little quicker. It was about lunch time by the time we were moved into the room with the pool, Rachel said to not think of it as a birthing pool but a spa day, she also brought me some lunch and instructed Brett to feed me in the pool! This was not how I expected labour to be at all. I felt completely calm, the pain was manageable and the pool was heavenly.
4 hours passed and at 1pm it was time to examine me again…Sue said to me that it’s unlikely I’ll be much further along purely based on the fact my contractions still weren’t that close together but even if I was a further 1cm it’s a step in the right direction. Again, her face broke into a wide smile as she told me I was actually 8cm dilated and that she could more or less stretch me to 10cm, apparently there was the smallest bit of cervix left which at the rate things were going would be gone in no time! Both Sue & Rachel were amazed at how calm I was and how well I was managing the contractions with just breathing…they kept asking me if I’m a calm person in general which Brett and I had to laugh at because I absolutely am not!!
I just didn’t feel the need for pain relief, breathing & the pool were getting me through it so I hopped back in the water and waited….although they normally check women in labour every 4 hours they said they would keep an eye on me and maybe check me sooner because of how quickly things were moving. They also said if I feel the urge to push or like I need a poo to go with it!!
I couldn’t believe I was so close!
Over the next few hours the pain did seem to go up a notch and I requested some gas & air, it definitely took the edge off and I was confident I could get through the next few hours. The full 4 hours passed since my last examination and I wasn’t feeling any urges to push to I hopped out the pool to the bed for Sue to do her thing. Unfortunately I was still only 8cm and my waters hadn’t broken, Sue decided to break them for me and seemed confident that would do the trick and get me to 10cm.
Another 4 hours passed and still no urge to push from me so I was examined again, this time a doctor had to come as things had slowed down so much, by this point I was exhausted and the pain of the contractions was really intense. The doctor decided the best course of action would be to move me to the delivery suite (I was on the birthing suite) and hook me up for a hormone drip to force the last 2cm dilation. I couldn’t bare the thought of going through that without any significant pain relief so I asked for an epidural, as I was so exhausted the doctor agreed that was probably for the best. The next hour or so whizzed by in such a blur I don’t actually remember it all.
The way I described it to Brett was I felt like a rag doll being pulled every which way but honestly so long as it would get baby here safely I didn’t care. The only point I specifically remember was talking to the doctor who administrated the epidural! At about 10pm the epidural had started to take effect and I was feeling much calmer. I was hooked up to a monitor for baby’s heart beat, my pulse & blood pressure were continuously monitored, of course I had the epidural in my back and the hormone drip in my hand…it was a far cry from the natural birthing pool labour I wanted but such is life.
By this point I was with a new midwife & student midwife Ruth & Chloe who were both lovely! We were all making polite chit chat waiting for 11pm where I would be assed again. If I wasn’t 10cm by this point I would need a C Section so I was crossing absolutely everything that the hormone drip would work! Sure enough 11pm rolled round and hallelujah!!!! I was finally at 10cm. Ruth advised we wait another hour or so before I start pushing to let baby slowly move down the birth canal himself to save me having to do all the work.
I’m not actually sure the epidural took full effect on me (a risk for people who have a curved spine which I do ever so slightly) I could still feel the contractions in the pit of my tummy and needed the gas & air to get through them. Come 12pm I was definitely feeling the urge to push!!! The midwives told me to go with it so I did! I was pushing for 1 hour and 22 minutes and I remember every second of it. Brett was my absolute rock, offering words of encouragement, holding up my water and patting my forehead down with a cold compress. I don’t know how much time passed but eventually the head was starting to crown and I was allowed to reach down to feel my baby’s head! It gave me all the encouragement I needed as before much longer I felt the burning ring of fire as the widest part of his head was coming out. It seemed like no time at all before the midwives were telling me to stop pushing and breath through the pain…then just like that his head was born at 1:20! One contraction later and one more push Wren Oscar Clark was born on 14th July at 1:22am weighing 8lbs 7. He screamed the second he was out and was immediately placed on my tummy. My immediate feeling was relief, after such a long labour I was so releived that Wren was here safe and sound and that labour was over!
As I mentioned it wasn’t my ‘perfect labour’ on paper but actually it was! I was able to give birth naturally which I really wanted to do and Wren was born happy and healthy without any concern which ultimately is all any of us want when it comes to childbirth.