My labour story – Part I: labour of love

On my discharge notes from the hospital it says that my labour was 5 hours and 9 minutes.

I’m a bit peeved this is on my record and assume it must refer to the bit following the moment my waters broke, as my contractions had in reality gone on for a LOT longer than that! Although when I tell people it took 31 hours to birth Pip, I don’t mean it was 31 hours of constant pain… it was actually only those last hours that were truly challenging and the rest was mainly just exhausting.

My due date had come and gone (sorry Americans) and I was gearing myself up for a sweep. However, on the Monday evening, 4 days after I was due, I started to feel something. It was like fairly mild period pain, a constant ache in my tummy. I’d actually experienced this before at around week 37, and this had been the one time I’d rung the hospital to check I wasn’t going into labour. They told me at the time that a constant ache wasn’t anything to be concerned about – when the pain started coming and going, this meant contractions!

To this day I don’t know whether these two incidences were Braxton Hicks contractions or not. The NHS leaflet I was given about signs of labour said they are “painless” but then in the same paragraph compared them to “period pain” which all sounds pretty contradictory to me.

Anyway, whatever this pain was, I was able to sleep as normal that night, although I woke up a bit early the next morning with exactly the same feeling (6:20am… it’s funny what particular details stick in your mind!) Until our alarm went off at 7am I occupied myself by reading the news on the Kindle – a good idea in retrospect as I wouldn’t be aware of any current affairs for the next week! As soon as Mr Cath woke up I told him I felt the same pain, but he should still go into work as it was probably nothing to worry about. He must have seen something in my face as he insisted on working from home; sure enough, by 8am the pains were definitely receding then intensifying. These were contractions!

We then proceeded to have a rather strange day, which I can only compare to being off sick with man flu. You know you’re supposed to rest, but it’s not all that bad. The time really flew. I ate normally, had a bath and at some point strapped the TENS machine on. I’m pretty sure it helped, or at least fiddling with the million different settings provided a distraction! I did miss it while in the bath which showed it must have done something. We watched Life of Brian and an episode of Pointless, which took up several hours as I insisted on pausing the television while I hugged my yoga ball. It was really helpful to have a good laugh in the meantime though!

The contractions still weren’t that strong and Mr Cath was even able to make me laugh during them. I remember thinking “this labour lark isn’t too bad after all!”

At some point in the afternoon – I can’t remember exactly when – I had a “show”. This was more unpleasant than I’d expected… I thought it would come away in a neat blob but it actually kept spooling out. Nice! I may have shed a tear as the reality of what was happening hit me – Mr Cath’s reassurance that it was all natural and in fact a positive thing helped (although he turned down my invitation to see it).

By the time we’d had dinner the contractions were beginning to intensify and increase in frequency to about every 5 minutes. Mr Cath had been tracking them all day on an app, which was incredibly helpful – without noting down the times I wouldn’t have had a clue how long they’d been or how often they were.

I started to think it was perhaps time to call the hospital. Inevitably, the midwife I spoke to told me to stay at home for the time being. We decamped to the spare room as one side effect of the contractions I was beginning to notice was the need to go to the bathroom nearly every time – not that much ever happened once I was there (once in the hospital, I was told to try and resist this urge as it’s just a result of pressure on the bladder rather than a real need, but at home I didn’t know any better and found it, well, irresistible).

I know you’re supposed to “sleep in between the contractions” but is this really possible when they’re happening every few minutes and are increasingly impossible to ignore? There was no way I could sleep at this point anyway. I called the hospital again and this time the midwife listened to me mid-contraction. She clearly thought I didn’t sound too bad as I was instructed to stay put! By the small hours, things started getting a bit more serious, reflected by how Mr Cath’s Monty Python quotes and mantra of “no pain!” (a la Rocky) stopped being funny and became very annoying. I started to need more positive affirmation – “you can do this” etc…

For the third time, I called the hospital and this time I was told it was up to me whether we came in or not. I had the impression they’d rather I stayed at home but at least it sounded certain that they wouldn’t turn me away.

So finally, at precisely 3am, 19 hours after my contractions had first started, we loaded up the car with my three hospital bags and two pillows and set off. I was still coherent enough to appreciate how a drive that normally takes around 20 minutes took just 5 at that hour!

To be continued..

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