I’m really not sure how to begin this one. Mainly because I can’t actually remember what happened between my waters breaking and pushing her little head out but also because i still think i’m yet to fully appreciate the magnitude of what my body did 6 weeks ago.
The thing with labour is, you can prepare as much as you like but as soon as it’s your time, you just have no clue what’s going on. Each birth is different, whether you’ve had 1 or 100 children. You can swear down that you’re an old hat and use experience from your previous labours but fundamentally, that little human inside you is not the same as the last and in no way wants to be upstaged by his/her sibling or by any of the fellow babies already born into the world. My advice for any new mummy about to give birth would be to just roll with the punches and for her birthing partner to do the same (except we’ll throw in the mandatory supporting role for them too, because they probably have the easier job). I’ve had to rely on the memory of my better half for this story and from the facial expressions he’s been pulling as he recounts various parts, I’m pretty sure it’s the most accurate recollection of events that we could come away with.
It all started at the beginning of April, 30 days before Milly was even born. I’d been feeling niggles and aptly, being April Fools Day, I couldn’t quite believe our luck when i was on my way to a routine antenatal appointment and started to have contractions. Venturing into Maternity Triage for the gazillionth time in 9 months, our favourite Obstetrician Helen (she gave the best hugs and I was always in awe of how great her hair was despite being in and out of Theatre under a scrub hat) checked me over.
“Well, something’s happening. You’ve started to dilate!” …Greeeaaat. This is usually a happy moment but pregnancy had been tricky and knowing there was a possibility that our baby could be born early before her lungs were fully developed put me in an uneasy train of thought. Although i’d been experiencing contractions though, I came back out later that evening with an extensive course of IV antibiotics which I had to attend back in Antenatal daily for a week for a water infection that was starting our labour too soon. “If baby comes now, I’m not too worried” she’d said, “but we’d rather she stays cooking a little longer because labour right now for you wouldn’t be ideal.” I was advised to stay in to receive the antibiotics but there was no way i was spending 7 days on a ward of screaming women whilst i waited impatiently like a sitting duck. So we went home, attended the hospital once daily to be hooked up for drugs and I started to feel better.
The following Thursday I was back in again. This time, for a flare. My daily dose of Mesalazine was no longer having the desired effect and I was in so much pain that I couldn’t sit down due to the ulceration coating my colon. I was experiencing near constant PR bleeding and upon review from my Obstetrician, I was immediately admitted to Maternity and given a high dose of steroids, anti-clot injections and IV fluids. It was decided that I should stay for a few days to let the flare calm down under the supervision of my Doctors, however being almost 38 weeks pregnant at this time, I naughtily discharged myself for the comfort of our own home. This decision wasn’t approved of by any of the midwives on duty but I still believe that I made the right choice. I was able to spend the last fortnight of pregnancy with Adam and discharged with steroids in tablet form, I could still make myself comfortable and hope that remission would come round the corner in time for our little girl’s arrival. Upon discharge it was decided that i would be induced on the due date, 28th April. I would be on IV steroids to assist with delivery and my placenta would be delivered for me. Obstetricians would be on standby for a suspected difficult labour and even though my dreams of having the idyllic water birth had been firmly sunk now, there was still a chance that surgery wouldn’t be needed. We remained hopeful for this. And miraculously, hope won.
I was induced at 1.30pm on 28th April, 2016. The pessary was inserted and we were hooked onto a trace for an intended 30 minutes. Within 20 minutes my contractions were coming 6 within 10 and the baby’s heartbeat was too fast. Time to come off the hormone, the midwives said. It’s too risky. “We’ll let you progress naturally,” they continued, “but your waters will be broken later today when there’s a room for you.” And so the eager wait began.
Two days later i was still on the trace, 2 injections of Pethidine down to help me sleep from the pain of back labour and awaiting for my waters to be broken on Labour ward. Emergencies had demanded the services of the Midwives and Doctors around us and by this point, both Adam and I were exhausted, sleep deprived and smelly. He’d been roped into being my chief back labour masseuse and was on feeding duty, as well as my water jug filler donkey. I was getting through a litre jug every half an hour if not more, so you get the extent of his needed services. I had also been severely constipated for 3 days by this point and the thought of pooing myself during labour was heavily playing. Luckily though (i double checked after birth with the midwife), i didn’t!…Or that’s what she said, anyway.
12 noon, 30th April, 2016: Jenny, my glorious midwife, comes to find me. She pops her head round my bay curtain, finding me kneeling and legs spread apart, facing the top of the bed. I’m resting my bump on a pillow and hands clasped over my head with elbows on the mattress edge, I’m breathing deeply. Her timing, could not have been more perfect. I tell her I was just about to ask for pain relief, that each contraction has ramped up without any warning and that it is NOT OK.“I think,” she smiled, “that you may have already done my job for me. I’m taking you onto labour ward to get this baby out!”The relief of those words was more holy to my ears than Emmental. FINALLY! What a shame I’d only just sent Adam home for a shower, oops YOLO. He could live another day unwashed. Jenny broke my waters twenty minutes later, in between contractions. (I will never look at knitting needles the same again) Adam arrived pretty much as soon as this had happened, complete with the king of snack bags and for some reason i insisted on having a Solero despite feeling horrifically nauseous. I do remember it was the least enjoyable ice cream of my life however and apparently i had to keep passing it back to Adam and the midwife frequently as the baby moved further down with each pain. Jenny told us to go for a walk to get the labour moving but not to go “too far” just as a precaution. She told us that she’d be back to check in on me in 2 hours, so we went for a walk. I think we made it down the hallway – a whole 20 ft – before the next contraction halted all movement, this time seeming 100 times stronger and more paralysing. I barely had half a minute to catch my breath before the next one started and 5 minutes later we found ourselves back in the delivery room with Jenny, Gas & Air in mouth, bobbing up and down on my yoga ball and a further 2cm along. IT WAS ALL HAPPENING SO FAST AFTER 3 DAYS OF NOTHING.
Between this point and her birth, there was some pretty intense projectile vomiting over Adam on my part (hellooo, Solero my delicious friend), a lot of dithering with fluids being dripped into me due to collapsing veins and a large steroid bag, 3 midwives with their hands going in and out of my hoo-haa and several doctors standing in the doorway with their arms crossed and heads tilted, to gain the best view inside my extremely exposed birth canal. I was asked to change position several times as baby’s heartrate was dropping and she was becoming distressed due to my own dehydration from the vomiting spree and I remember the strength i distantly found between contractions to move from my side, onto my knees and then into a sitting position felt as if i had just lifted a mountain range. The spreading ache in my back was agony as i silently cried and gave up with the Gas & Air and let it drop out of my hand. As far as I was concerned the pain I was experiencing would never stop and I temporarily decided to give in to the exhaustion of labour. At this point, I felt Adam’s face touching mine and Jenny’s words of “Emma don’t give up, you can do this!” being repeated again and again. I remember silently saying to myself, “bitch please, I haven’t given up, my face just makes this expression when a baby comes out of me!”. And with a new found form of determination I found the energy to reach for the Gas & Air once more and hoisted myself upwards onto my bottom, before crying out that I needed to push.
I wasn’t allowed to push for another hour as my fluids were so low. The worry was that unless I become more hydrated I wouldn’t find the energy to give birth naturally and the baby could be in severe danger. More fluids were attached onto my IV drip but by this point the baby was already making her own way down and into the world. I hardly needed to push (in fact I pushed once slowly as an attempt to protect my perineum and once hard as her shoulders emerged) and in 6 minutes she was out and screaming. That burning sensation as her head crowned prompted me to breathlessly mutter something about never complaining about constipation again and she was born into a room of laughter, instead of tears. I will never forget the instant that she was lifted onto my chest and whilst I slightly question my first thought being, “wow, does the inside of my womb really smell like this?!” as I kissed her tiny head, the whole moment was perfection. Oh how I wish I could rewind the clock and experience it all again and share that first kiss with my daughter and Adam as a family.
Emilia Olympia was born at 19:40, 30th April 2016; 7lbs 12oz.
She latched instantly for 45 minutes and didn’t leave our sights once, even as I was stitched up for the next hour and a half. Apparently I tore pretty badly; this was something that I was pretty miffed about. I had brought 5 flannels with me in preparation to protect my perineum which I had ordered Adam to warm in hot water around 10cm dilation, but the midwives had quietly gestured that they wouldn’t be of any use as I had already started to tear a great deal. I had 12 stitches that evening and if you’ve ever been stitched for a minor cut or graze, imagine it a million times worse when it’s on your raw, bloody and freshly ruined fanny. Mmm. The local anesthetic was the worst part, prompting the need for more Gas & Air than Emilia’s head crowning but afterwards it was all pretty easy going and I’m pretty happy with my new vagina. I’m glad i stopped my best attempts of protest against the stitches (there were several questions of, “but do i really need them? Are you sure they won’t heal alone?”, followed by a regretful midwife face and one full of pity from the trainee paramedic in the room too) as during the procedure i distantly heard from down the bottom of the bed the senior midwife quietly murmur, “see, this bit should be up here..”. So ladies, if in doubt – stitch it up.