And I’m back. Huge thanks to Cath for keeping the show on the road while I grappled with a rather unexpected turn of events.
This is my labour story…
I will leave the explanation of how I ended up in hospital to another post – I was in the middle of writing one when rudely interrupted by my waters breaking, so I think I’ll post that just for fun at a later date.
But there I was on Sunday, in hospital, feeling very sorry for myself having been stuck in there since Friday evening. I was busily writing a blog post and and was in the middle of adjusting my very attractive olive green hospital-issue compression stockings (do they make them olive green so they are unattractive to steal?) when I felt a flow of water entering the bed. I quickly pressed the emergency button and two midwives came to my rescue. I must have looked completely panicked as my memory of my side of the ensuing conversation went something like:
“I think my waters have broken”, “How can they have broken, I’m only 35 weeks?”, “I don’t know anything about labour – my NCT classes are due next weekend!”. So while they went to find something to mop me up with, I rang Fred who was running late to visit me due to having been left with a scavenger hunt for various items I had decided I wanted to pass the time in hospital (where was that uno pack?!) and told him to get in on the double as my waters had broken – I think the level of panic in my voice must have been quite special at that moment!
So it turned out that the doctors had been conspiring to induce me on Sunday anyway, so I persuaded them that given my waters had broken that they should leave it 24 hours and see whether labour did come on naturally (normally the first contractions can be felt within 12-24 hours of the waters breaking – if it takes longer, labour is often induced anyway to prevent infection). They didn’t seem convinced it was going to be fast coming and decided to let me take my morning round of anticoagulants (hence preventing any spinal-based anaesthesia until 11.30pm that night – so for the next 12 hours, epidurals were out, and if I needed an emergency c-section it would have to be under general anaesthetic).
Recollecting the timings of things is tricky in retrospect – some events are muddled together in my mind. I remember skipping to the Labour and Delivery chapter of What to Expect when you are Expecting and reading it out (Fred quite quickly had to take over this particular task). Fred’s parents visited around midday and I think I was feeling discomfort in my back then. And from 2.30pm I started timing the intense pain in my back (like back period pain but on acid) so I think those had started around 1.30-2pm. I think I managed to time two myself before realising that having a contraction and timing it at the same time were not a level of multitasking I could manage – so Fred was charged with that task too. The midwives didn’t seem entirely convinced at that point that it was labour given I was feeling very little other than major back pain, but I was pretty sure these were contractions.
Anna arrived with emergency supplies (a multitude of extra disposable knickers and more huge pads – since the waters were more of a tsunami at times) – she had also sent Gwilym to M&S to buy snacks for Fred (more on this in a later post) and so he didn’t have to be traumatised by being involved in the purchase of disposable knickers.
I threw up about four times in a row – mostly onto myself and the floor, apart from the final one when I actually made it to the sink. The midwife said this was nothing to worry about, just my body adjusting to a major change.
I remember various attempts to get me on the monitors, but this was so painful lying down on the bed that I had to resort to a chair and even that could only be coped with temporarily as the pains in my back got worse. I was walking up and down to try and lessen them and remember thinking that if this was only early labour and these were going to get worse then I wasn’t sure I’d be able to cope and with no hope for an epidural that was scary.
What I was experiencing was something called back labour although the jury seems to be out on whether it is caused by the baby’s head pushing on the lower back or the pain from the uterus being transferred to the back. My non-medical opinion would be the latter in my case – I hardly felt anything up front, everything was in my back and that seems more in accordance with transfer because surely if it was pressure on my lower back I would feel that and the pain of the contractions up front?
The feeling of the contractions was like a wave – I could tell one was coming as the pain intensified in advance leading up to a peak level of pain and then residing although with back labour this was mostly to a generally lower level of pain rather than none at all.
Coping mechanisms included wandering up and down, getting Fred to put the palm of his hand on my lower back and apply pressure, and also simply leaning my weight on him when the pain got too much. But the biggest coping mechanism of all was simply to close my eyes and checkout (Fred refers to this as “zenning out”), which was basically entering a kind of weird mental state almost like a pre-sleep when you are awake but not really there. So as the contractions got worse, I spent more and more time in this state – I couldn’t really respond to anything while doing this, Fred had to provide answers on my behalf, I was conscious and could hear what was going on – but I was not exactly engaged with the world. When in the zen state, only the most irritating of questions would get a response (such as the doctor in the delivery room demanding the midwife get compression socks on me – I remember vociferously complaining that the socks could wait till I’d given birth!).
I think because of being 35 weeks, the midwives couldn’t examine me and it took what seemed like forever for a doctor to turn up (Fred said he saw the doctor furiously trying to read my notes for quite some time beforehand – looking rather concerned about the cocktail of medical issues he was being faced with I suspect). He turned up around 4pm and did a speculum examination from which he declared he “couldn’t see anything” (which I interpreted at the time as meaning nothing had happened down there and remember wondering how much worse it could get) and that he’d have to do a manual exam with his fingers. And that was quite painful – lots of fingers up my yingyang, poking around – not even my zen state could cope with that. Having done that, he announced in a calm voice but with all the body language of absolute panic, “it seems you are 6cm dilated – so we need to get you upstairs to the delivery room”.
So off we toddled – me being wheeled in a wheelchair and Fred loaded with all the various bags that had accumulated with us (must have been about ten!). When up there we were asked what our birth plan was – “there’s no birth plan”, we responded; we were making it up as we went along. I remember the anaesthetist from earlier coming in and apologising for the fact that the labour had got so far without being able to offer an epidural – I could hear the guilt in her voice about the earlier decision to let me take the anticoagulants, but given my preference was to not have an epidural – it was fine!
Fred disputes the following as a post-labour invention (part of the forget the pain of labour so you’ll do it again theory), but I can remember thinking that it wasn’t so bad – for any pain above a certain threshold the zen state kicked in and that threshold was lower than the pain I had been consciously coping with in early labour. I was offered gas and air and remember thinking that I could probably do this without it, but that it would likely take the edge off and why experience pain if I don’t have to (I had only had two paracetamol and some codeine up to that point) and so accepted it. And I am glad I did as it’s wonderful stuff and something about it allowed me to take deeper breathes and properly breathe through the contractions, which was not happening beforehand (however much I was told to take deep breaths – they were more of the hyperventilating variety).
As soon as I made it to the delivery suite, I started having the desire to push, and so thinking I probably shouldn’t be, I did anyway. This felt much like the desire to do a gigantic poo – not the most glamorous way to describe childbirth, but there it is. The midwife vaguely broke through my zen state to say that I should just do what felt right – they hadn’t interfered so far and she didn’t see any need to start now. All she wanted me to do was change the pushing out to pushing down, push for longer and take longer breaths. Fred was amazing during the pushing part – they wanted me to push more often and for longer and I was struggling, so Fred started counting me to ten on each one. This provided me with a goal and something to focus on and massively helped me prolong the pushing as I knew once I hit ten that I had done my bit and anything extra was a bonus. Without his coaching the whole thing would definitely have gone on significantly longer.
So all this natural labouring was going swimmingly – I was the Usain Bolt of labouring, except for one minor issue, that as the pushing and pain increased so did the desire to close my legs (I guess to protect the area that was feeling pain) and being crushed by my thighs was probably not the entrance into this world the baby desired. Cue a lot of trying to get me to put my feet on stirrup type things and towards the end, Fred and a midwife had one leg each holding them back with all their might to stop me from trying to close them!
Then we entered the end state, at which point my gas and air was taken away from me (much to my dismay) and I was left pushing. The midwife (I think – it was hard to tell at this point who anyone in the room was, people seemed to be there and then be replaced by someone else without me noticing the transition) said this final section was like pushing the baby round a u-bend – basically a push (or three) would push her someway round the bend and they might start to see her, but if the pushing didn’t provide enough momentum then once it stopped she would slip right back to where she started. This part of labour was incredibly frustrating – I don’t know how many times her head popped round the bend only to disappear again, but it seemed to go on forever.
Finally I managed it – three big pushes and two almighty screams from me as she crowned and she was out. A blue body wrenched into the air, a tremendous cry and she was delivered into my arms as Fred went to cut the umbilical cord.
We had a daughter and Fred his first Father’s Day!
It was all over. I was no longer pregnant. I am a mother.
I wouldn’t say my labour was typical or representative – I went from my waters breaking at 10.40am, to contractions starting round about an hour later to delivery at 6.28pm, so a total of less than 8 hours; it was almost entirely back labour; and I delivered her prematurely so she was much smaller at 6lbs 7oz. Nonetheless I delivered naturally (the only concrete desire I had in my theoretical birth plan) and most importantly delivered a healthy baby girl to share our ongoing adventures with.
Welcome to the world little one…