All the authors of our birth stories speak very candidly about their experiences and talk about the things they wish they had known, what they would have done differently and what tips they would pass on to others.
Water Birth in Hospital
My latent labour started on the 14th of April at about 3am when I woke with mild contractions at home in bed. I went back to sleep and woke intermittently for the next few hours until I got up. I spent a relatively nice/strange/surreal/calm day at home with my husband just having what felt like bad period pains and Braxton Hicks together. I ate and drank normally and had a 45 minute nap. After lunch we strapped the TENS machine on and went for a 2 hour walk in the park, went to Sainsburys and was even approached in the street by a film crew asking me to talk to Camera about why I love living in Balham! I told them I was in labour and they retreated pretty quickly!
The TENS machine was lovely, it felt really really nice and was a very welcome distraction. By about 3 or 4pm my contractions were becoming more painful and I had to breathe through them. I was trying to remember to welcome each contraction (as my Ante Natal teacher had taught me) but by about 7.30pm the pain suddenly ramped up and became unmanageable and I didn’t want to be at home anymore. I got into Hospital at about 8.30pm and was already 5cm dilated!
I tried Gas and Air and I thought I was going to be sick and I felt really disorientated and panicked, but I then tried it out when I wasn’t having a contraction and I felt a lot more in control and quickly got used to it- I would recommend persevering if the first attempt isn’t positive, although I don’t know how much it actually did for the pain.
They ran the water bath, which took ages, and I got in about 20 minutes later- this felt amazing and although it didn’t do anything for the pain really, it does give you an amazing feeling of warmth and comfort and weightlessness. I basically then closed my eyes and held my husband’s hand and the gas and air in the other hand and concentrated on breathing. Time went very quickly but at about 11 30pm decided I couldn’t take the pain anymore – so I decided I wanted to be examined to see how far dilated I was, as I was about to beg for an epidural (I was secretly hoping she would say I was only 6cm…and then I would get an epidural and end the pain!!!) but I was 9cm and in transition… so I jumped back in the bath and pretty soon after I started pushing!
This bit was hard, and painful but I was so encouraged by the thought that it would only last an hour or so maximum! After about half an hour I pushed his head out- and a little hand (he was coming out in a Superman pose) – the midwife explained that with a water birth she would not touch him as he came out and I would just push him, so there was a strange few minutes where I could look down and see his head out, not breathing yet- but I had to wait for another contraction so I could push his body out. However I felt very calm and so relieved that the end was near!! One last push and he came out all on his own and the midwife grabbed him and helped him swim up to the surface!! He cried straight away for a few seconds and then chilled out as soon as the midwife put him on my chest. He was born at 10 minutes past midnight on the 15th April, one day early, weighing 6lb 6oz. My labour was recorded as being 4 hours as this was the time from when I came into hospital.
I had the injection for the Placenta delivery whilst still in the water- I got out of the water to deliver it, but as I stood up, it came out, so that was great. The injection made me contract for a few hours longer but they gave me some painkillers to deal with the pain of that. As soon he was delivered I felt absolutely fine, my hideous indigestion had disappeared and I felt completely normal!
My son is absolutely amazing and worth every second of discomfort during pregnancy and labour, the memories of which have faded fast!
I don’t think I would have done anything differently. I would have liked to have known more about Latent Labour as I was confused when people kept telling me I wasn’t in “proper labour”.
My advice to a first time mother would definitely be to have an open mind regarding pain relief and the way in which your baby will be born. I am aware I had a very good and relatively quick labour but this is something that was down to luck and perhaps genetics rather than anything else. I would also say DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE! It sounds so obvious, but I kept forgetting to breathe and my husband had to remind me! I had made him read lots about labour and breathing and how he could help me, and this was a great help when the pain was unbearable.
On Friday 7th Sept (3 weeks before my due date) we went to stay in Northampton for a wedding. I went to bed on the Friday and asked my husband to sleep in another room as I was feeling uncomfortable and knew it would be a bad night. At 5.15am I was woken by my waters breaking so I waddled into the next bedroom to wake Andy. Whatever happened I wanted to give birth in my own home in London, so I wanted to get in the car and drive home as quickly as possible.
We were at home by 6.45am and I phoned my midwife (Hospital Community Midwife). Although my waters had broken I wasn’t having any pain. She said that I should take myself to bed and try and get some sleep, which I did. I woke again at about 11am but still no contractions. I then phoned my friend who was getting married to break the news that I wasn’t going to make it!!! Andy then went into panic mode as nothing was ready – he blew up the birthing pool (which we had bought the week before) and then legged it to B&Q to get plastic sheets and then onto Sainsburys to stock up for what we thought would be a long haul.
My midwife came round at 2pm and examined me. I wasn’t having any contractions and she said I was 2cm dilated. She said that it was going to be a while yet and that to keep bouncing on the ball and try not to get into the water too soon after the contractions start as it might slow them down. She said to phone her when they were 5 minutes apart.
I started to feel cramps at about 3.30pm but I could still talk (and watch TV – England were playing cricket, football and rugby all on that day so it was very important that I didn’t miss that!!!). By 4.45pm they started to become quite painful and I started to concentrate on my breathing. It was now that I got into the gorgeous warm water. I also took 2 paracetamol at this point to ease the pain.
At 5.30pm they started to feel really really painful. As I had only been 2cm at 2 and my midwife had said it would probably be a long time to come I was thinking “oh my god if it’s this painful now and I might only be 4cm how am I going to cope til 10cm??” So I asked Andy to pack a bag so we could go to hospital, but every time he went to walk up the stairs I screamed at him not to leave me (poor man).
The baby was back to back and I didn’t realise that this could mean I would feel the pain in my bottom. As I didn’t realise this, every time I had a contraction instead of going with it and breathing through it I squeezed it back in – oh my god I wished I hadn’t done that, it was pretty unbelievably painful!!!
He phoned the midwife at 6.45pm and said that we really needed her back as I was struggling to cope and I wanted to go into hospital. She said not to worry and that she was sure I wasn’t that dilated and to keep breathing. She then heard me scream in the background “I WANT TO PUSH!!!!” and realised I was very close to giving birth! Both midwives arrived by 7pm and she asked me to get out of the pool so she could examine me but I told her in no uncertain terms that the only reason I would leave the water was to get into a car to go to hospital and she could examine me as I was. 2 seconds later she apologised profusely and said thank goodness we came now as you’re ready to push. They were amazing, very very calming for both me and Andy.
Seb was born at 7.21pm weighing 7lbs 13oz (3 weeks early), I lifted him out from under me and cuddled him straight away. Andy then cut the cord and we stayed in the water for a bit while I got my breath back! As he came so quickly I did have to have a few stitches and so then Andy was able to take Seb and have a bit of Daddy and son time.
My mother came over about 9pm for a quick snuggle and then we went to bed and ordered a pizza. We had a glass of wine to celebrate the birth of our amazing boy and also the success of the England rugby, football and cricket teams – what a great day to be born
I was very lucky that I was able to do it again with my daughter. Contractions started about 10pm and she was born at 12.08 again at home in water.
Labour is an amazing experience and I know how very lucky I was to have them so quickly and easily. I would not change anything about my births, but I wish I had known that if the baby was back-to back that I would feel the pain in my bottom. It was such a shock that I really held back from pushing for a while. My advice to anyone wanting a home birth would be to really “get into a zone” where you are concentrating on yourself and your breathing and nothing else. I did not do hypno-birthing or anything like that, it’s just something that seemed to happen when I focused. I would also say, if you want to have a home birth, you have to be open minded about it all. If you have to go into hospital and have an epidural you are not a failure.
Emergency Caesarean Section
So being 11 days overdue we were booked in for an induction. Got to the hospital at 2pm and had yet another sweep bringing the grand total of sweeps to 5!! Sent for another god damn walk!!! Once you go overdue be prepared for everyone on the block to tell you what to do to make the baby come! “oh go for a walk, oh you must eat lots of pineapple, you know the best way to make a baby come is to have lots of sex”.. yeah you try having sex when you feel like a beached whale and can barely pull yourself out of the bath!!
At 6pm my contractions started naturally just as the induction gel was being prepared which I was very grateful for. As we already had a bed on the labour ward I was allowed to stay and not sent home -Phew!! From 6 until midnight the contractions were getting very strong and were continuous, not coming and going as I had prepared for but just constant pain. Milo had been breech until 36 weeks when we had an ECV procedure in hospital to turn him which was successful. However, a quick examination revealed he was back to back which is not a great position for labour and explained why my pain was continuous.
He hadn’t moved down at all and at 2.45am I was still only 2cm dilated so they broke my waters. After this the pain became unbearable and there was me thinking I had a high pain threshold!! I was still not dilated enough for an epidural so I was given some Pethadin which didn’t do much for the pain. As soon as I hit 4cm I had an epidural – thank god for the drugs!!
By 6am the contractions were fairly frequent but with every one Milo’s heartbeat would slow right down as something was compressing the umbilical cord. He was monitored for a while but when meconium appeared they decided to wheel us into theatre and prepare for an emergency c section. After 3 scalp test where they scraped the top of Milo’s head to test the levels of oxygen in his blood they decided to go ahead.
The first incision was made at 7.28am and at 7.30am Milo was born. He was quickly whisked away and given some oxygen to help him with his breathing. I think he was fairly distressed but quickly came round and was in my arms before I knew it. Hearing the words “you have a son” was unforgettable. The staff were amazing, I couldn’t fault them and we both trusted them 100%.
Whilst having a c-section wasn’t in my birthing plan it was the best result in the end for both of us and I’m glad they made the decision to go ahead. Listening to Milo’s heartbeat go thud thud thud was pretty scary and by that point I just wanted him to be born safely.
The title “Emergency C-section” is a bit misleading. You expect alarms to be going off and people to be rushing around shouting “Help Help Help!” but actually it’s the complete opposite. Everyone involved is very controlled and calm. You do seem to be surrounded by hundreds of people in uniform but they all have a very specific role and they work as a complete team to make you feel as relaxed as possible. As soon as they decided to whip Milo out the radio was put on, so some kind of classical soothing song was wafting in my ear, and the atmosphere was very mellow. I distinctly remember thinking I was relieved that Milo had been born into a serene place rather than a mad chaotic hospital theatre.
In the run up to labour I was very against having a c-section. I wanted to experience natural labour and was worried about recovery. I feel lucky that I got to experience natural labour without having to be induced but I definitely wasn’t prepared for the level of pain. To be fair I don’t think you can prepare for it. You can’t imagine how you will deal with it until you are in the moment. I certainly have no regrets about having an epidural and my views of a c-section have completely changed, my recovery compared to some of my friends who had natural births was quicker. I was up and about in hospital the afternoon after my operation and I could easily pick up and hold Milo without having to call for help.
The only tip I think I would give would be to stay active and do some form of gentle exercise during pregnancy. I tried to walk everyday and I’m sure it helped with my recovery.
My waters broke on Saturday morning at 8am (40 weeks plus 5). I got up to go to the loo and there was a splash in the water and when I stood up it just kept coming, it didn’t gush as such but it was certainly obvious they had gone! We called the labour ward and went in. They did some observations and sent us home pretty much straight away. My contractions started at 2pm, very mild and totally manageable, about 20 -10 minutess apart, lasting about 30 – 50 seconds apart. They were not at all regular so I strapped on the TENS and just carried on as usual. We went back in at 10 pm for some more observations (once your waters break they want to see you every 12 hours) and I was sent home again and told to return at 9 am Sunday morning (at 24 hours they have to keep you under constant observation). They could tell that the baby was back-to-back (OP) at this stage so we were hoping that by going into natural labour she might right herself but I really wasn’t getting anywhere with the contractions and actually managed to get about 5 hours sleep that night.
The waters just kept on coming, and they told me to come straight in if the colour changed to red or green or if I felt reduced movement. We came in at 9am on Sunday and I was induced with gel (being 1 cm with an unfavourable cervix) at 10am which they gave 6 hours to get to work. I went for a 2 hour walk to try and get things going and carried on contracting with the TENS on. At 4pm they did another internal and I was only 2 cms so they started the oxytocin drip. The contractions quickly became v intensive with a different level of pain completely, and much more frequent. I was shocked at how quickly and forcefully they came on. The pain came from nowhere, 0-60mph within minutes. By 6.30pm I couldn’t handle the pain and asked for an epidural which was done really quickly and efficiently. By 9pm I was 6 cm dilated and fully dilated by about midnight.
I started pushing at 1am and had let the epidural wear off a bit so that I could feel the pushing. I pushed for 1 hour 15 minutes but she was still OP and her heart rate was dropping in-between contractions so I was taken into theatre for Ventuse which worked really well and with 3 pushes she was out. I had a v small tear which didn’t require stitching and my recovery was fantastic apart from my coccyx which is still sore 11 months on!
I would not change a thing about my labour, but would encourage anyone to ask for pain relief when they want it. I thought that my midwife might judge me for having an epidural and was afraid to ask too early, and felt slightly like I was letting myself down. I would also say EXPECT ANYTHING!!! We went from a calm, chilled environment, listening to music with 2 midwives (when I was pushing) to suddenly being rushed into theatre with bright lights, and about 8 people with masks on all looking at you, but you have to believe that you are in the best hands and try to enjoy the experience!
A Long Labour
I gave birth to my beautiful daughter Wilhelmina on Tuesday February 7th. She was born at 4.40pm and weighed 7lb 2oz. It was rather a long drawn out labour, some might call it a marathon! But by no means was it a horrible experience, just long and tiring.
From roughly about Thursday the week before I was aware of sort of period pains. I certainly didn’t feel incredibly active and mobile. We went out for supper on Saturday night and in the car on the way home my lower back was aching and I definitely felt a couple of waves of what I think were the first few contractions. During that night I felt contractions fairly consistently, roughly about 12 – 14 minutes apart. They were not too painful but bad enough to keep me awake.
On Sunday morning I saw the ‘show’, so phoned the hospital to check that was all fine. They said to come in just to make sure. We went in and they agreed that it was very early, yes it was the show, and go home and see what happens. That day contractions carried on, not really getting much more often, or more painful. Sunday night, again, contractions throughout, slightly more often and still no sleep!
Monday morning I had my 41 week appointment. I had a sweep and found out I was 3 cm dilated. Contractions were about 4-5 minutes apart, and more painful. She told us to stay in the hospital. We were sent to a ward that was not the labour ward, but a sort of half way ward! Throughout the day contractions got more painful and by the afternoon I was still only 3 cm dilated, but the contractions were not speeding up, in fact they were slowing down. At 8pm my husband was sent home as I was not in ‘active labour’. That was a low point. At about 1.30 am I was 5 cm and my husband and mother were allowed back. Having had only paracetamol up until now, I was ready for some gas and air! We huffed and puffed until about 5 am, and my waters still hadn’t broken, so I decided to go up to the labour ward where they would break them for me. They gave me 2 hours after breaking my waters to walk around and try and get the contractions going to 3-4 every 10 minutes. They didn’t. I was so tired by now all I wanted to do was lie in bed, NOT walk around!
Finally they insisted on inducing me (on a drip), at which point I demanded an epidural. I was too tired, my breathing had gone out of the window, and the induction would have been too much to handle at this point. It also allowed me 4 hours of rest.
FINALLY I was 10cm and ready to push!! It was now about 4pm on Tuesday. I had the most incredible midwife who talked me through it all, as I couldn’t really feel the contractions due to the epidural. After about 40 minutes Wilhelmina came out and no stitches were needed. It was just the most incredible moment, and the tiredness seemed to disappear with the adrenaline.
My intentions were to have my baby in the birth centre in a pool, using hypnobirthing techniques (all breathing). It couldn’t have been more different! But Willa came out healthy and happy, and therefore I couldn’t be happier. My only complaint was that it was tough starting mother hood with 3 sleepless nights in the bank.
We had 5 nights in the hospital, as Willa had a bit of mucus on her chest when she was born. This was not ideal, but the midwives were all incredible and any questions I had were answered. They gave me good breast-feeding advice and by the time I went home, I was probably a tiny bit more confident. So in a way it was no bad thing to have a bit of time in hospital.
I think the whole experience has made me realise just what an unbelievable achievement it is to give birth and not to be remotely upset if it didn’t go how you wanted it to, or how you expected it to. All you want is a healthy baby and mummy at the end of it. That, I call success!!
Induction- Obstetric Cholestasis
This was my first pregnancy and apart from a couple of queasy spells around the 7 week mark, it was all going really well. It was during my routine 33/34 week check up when my midwife referred me to the hospital for a scan and check up with a Consultant. She was concerned because my bump seemed to be relatively small. At this stage, I wasn’t terribly concerned. My bump had always been quite small and I had been reassured throughout my pregnancy that the scans were fine. The scan was booked for the following day and the results were absolutely fine. I was checked over by the Consultant and it was only as my husband and I were leaving that I remembered to mention a symptom which had developed a few days before, really intense itching, only occurring at night. It was unbearable, during my sleep I would have scratched so severely that I’d broken the skin especially on my palms, forearms and ankles.
The consultant responded immediately and wanted to carry out a blood test and take a urine sample to check that I hadn’t developed a liver related condition called Obstetric Cholestasis (OC) where the main symptom is severe itching. I was told that developing OC was unlikely because it was most common in Latin American and Indian women (I am white caucasian). I’d need to wait a couple of days for the results and she would explain more if the diagnosis was positive… And it was!! Although we’d done our own research, it was explained to me in much more detail. Obstetric Cholestasis has only recently been identified (in the last 20 years, which apparently in medical years is pretty recent). As a result of this there isn’t a vast amount of information available. OC as I understand it basically means that the liver doesn’t breakdown bile acids as it would normally. This builds up and leads to an increased level of toxins present in the blood.. If left alone, it can be extremely harmful to an unborn baby and could eventually lead to still birth. As a precaution, a pregnancy is not allowed to go beyond 38 weeks. Obviously, the longer I could carry the baby the better as I was not full term, however when the level of toxins in the blood become dangerously high, it would then be time for the baby to be delivered (at short notice if need be).
So I began to visit the hospital every day, blood tests and urine samples were taken to measure toxin levels. In addition to this, I was attached to a CTG machine for an hour or so during each visit to monitor my baby’s activity. I was given an ointment to help with the itching and if my OC had been diagnosed earlier a medicine would have been given. It was too late for me to take the medicine because it takes several weeks to take effect. This would have taken me beyond 38 weeks.
It suddenly became very real. There would be no waiting around for things to happen naturally (unless my baby decided to come very early of her own accord). Birth preferences and ideas about staying at home for as long as possible in a relaxed and calm environment were fading fast!!!
The increase in toxin levels was gradual but steady. The itching continued, so every night was pretty much sleepless (for my husband and I!). My induction was booked for Monday 21st March so I was 37 weeks and 4 days. It was at this point that the toxins present had reached a level of concern. It was actually a tremendous relief. The constant monitoring and testing not to mention the itching (which disappears when the baby is born) was incredibly worrying.
Thankfully, after being admitted to hospital, this story becomes much less stressful! I was given a pessary at 11am and left to my own devices so we could see what would happen over the next 24 hours. We strolled around, had lunch, watched a couple of films and contractions started around 6pm and were quite far apart.. My husband attached the TENS machine but I didn’t really feel any benefit at first.. It wasn’t until the nurse repositioned the pads that I understood what all the fuss was about!
We walked around the hospital grounds for most of the evening until eventually the cold and dark forced us inside and we walked the corridors.. I was given pain relief (a tablet of some form) and got into bed. It was just past midnight, my husband left and over the next few hours, the contractions stopped all together.
The following day was pretty much a waiting game.. I needed to wait a full 24 hours after the pessary had been put in place before I could be examined. So at midday I was 0.5cm dilated and seemingly going nowhere! A couple of hours later I was examined again and the decision was made to transfer me to the labour ward where my waters would be broken to get things started. Finally a bed became available late afternoon and upon first attempt my waters could not be broken. Quite literally they just couldn’t get in there! So another more sinister looking device was used and hey-ho I was on my way!
To speed things up I was given Syntocinon, an artificial hormone administered through a drip which opens the cervix. As the contractions would build very quickly and not really allow my body time to get used to the increasing pain, I decided that I wanted to have an epidural before we got started. Much of the evening was spent waiting for this, but when the epidural was administered the drip started, it was around 10.30pm. I was settled into bed, in my own room and my husband was told to go home to get some sleep. Although I would be examined every couple of hours throughout the night, I was told that I wouldn’t be fully dilated until the morning. As my husband was leaving, I felt an excruciating pain in my bottom. It felt like a beach ball was being inflated!! My midwife had a quick check and sure enough my baby was on its way. She began to prepare the room and my husband helped her lay out various things… It was actually very relaxed and my midwife was calm, constantly reassuring us both so we were completely at ease. Although my epidural was topped up, I could still feel the contractions and knew when to push but there was no pain at all. I felt extremely alert, ridiculously excited (especially when she suggested that I feel the top of my baby’s head). We were asked whether we wanted the baby to be delivered before or after midnight, it was getting pretty close and I remember thinking that if we waited until 12am, we’d be able to buy a copy of the newspaper on the day she was born as a keepsake!!! After several pushes Florence arrived at 12.03am weighing 5lb 11.5oz. It was an amazing experience. An injection in my thigh helped deliver the placenta but I really don’t remember that part.. We did have a good old look at and prod of the placenta though, it was most educational!!!
It is my understanding that women who develop Obstetric Cholestasis during their first pregnancy will most likely develop the condition in further pregnancies. It certainly hasn’t put me off and I would love to have another baby. However I would try to be less stressed about the ongoing tests and monitoring next time around. My advice to a first time mother would be to keep an open mind when considering the type of birth you would like to have and options for pain relief. Be ready to be flexible because you never know what’s around the corner even if your pregnancy is seemingly straightforward. Finally, if you feel an itch and it’s definitely more than a slight tingle then get an expert opinion!
Induction with Pre-Eclampsia
I was free! My maternity leave was kicking off with a train ride (shared with Princess Ann no less) to my parent’s tranquil home in the Cotswolds. Admittedly I was starting my leave relatively early at six weeks prior to my due date but I figured I deserved it. I loved my job (something vaguely corporate in The City) but the commute/ stiletto combo played havoc with my ankles which were now so puffy they resembled large peeled cucumbers and the long hours were clearly taking their toll as I was unusually exhausted and suffering uncharacteristic headaches. But with a weekend in a Spa hotel with my mother and the best celebrity spot ever what better start could I have to my new – if temporary – life as a lady what lunched? I danced excitedly towards my mother who was meeting me at the station, keen to tell her of my near Royal acquaintance. As I got nearer I saw her face drop and immediately I thought she was embarrassed by my over-enthusiasm at having sighted the Princess Royal, actually, she was shocked at my extremely puffy appearance! She was a midwife (a million years ago) and was so concerned she took me immediately to her doctor. I never made it to the Spa Hotel, just to the local hospital via her GP and an ambulance ride.
At the hospital they did the same checks as the GP (you are supposed to produce urine on request as a pregnant woman – a fact not in any of the books) and a consultant appeared within seconds telling me that my baby may well be born that night and he was going to give me a steroid injection to help develop the baby’s lungs to give it the best chance of survival. I was officially scared. I had no concept of the severity and the implications of my condition. I didn’t even know I had ‘a condition’. Only then did they tell me why. I had something called pre-eclampsia. I’d never heard of it, but my blood pressure was high (89/129), oedema was presenting on my legs and face I had protein in my urine (finally realized what those dipsticks were testing for) and I had a headache. I was completely overwhelmed and disorientated. My husband was 100 miles away, I was 100 miles from home I was in an unfamiliar hospital and until then, I’d been in the fortunate position of seeing the same consultant throughout my (until that moment) textbook pregnancy. In fact I’d seen him 6 days previously and everything was fine.
I called my husband and my mother called my consultant who fortunately was in the county at a party. He arrived within an hour, consulted with the consultant and I was prescribed medication for my blood pressure, given the steroid injection just in case and admitted for at least 2 nights. I ended up staying in hospital for 4 nights by which time my blood pressure had reduced significantly so I could go back home. I then had to visit the hospital I’d chosen to have my baby in every 2 days for monitoring and when I made it to the all important 37 week mark they induced my baby. I was given an epidural which reduces blood pressure – pain relief for medicinal purposes – what’s not to love?! I did ultimately have an emergency caesarean section due to my blood pressure increasing unexpectedly and the baby’s heart rate disappeared but she arrived safe and sound and in perfect condition with no special care required.
I went on to have two more babies, two more incidences of pre-eclampsia and two more caesareans. My second pregnancy didn’t develop pre-eclampsia until very late on and a late scan showed the baby had the cord wrapped around its neck three times so a plans for natural delivery were quashed and I had a c-section at 38 weeks.
I was expecting pre-eclampsia by the time I was pregnant for the third time but not so soon. It developed in week 30 and was on bed-rest with several hospital admissions and one minor incident when my kidneys began to take the strain but our son was eventually delivered at 39 weeks on July 4th – un-independence day!
I wished I’d been made aware of the symptoms of pre-eclampsia so that I would have known to contact my doctor as soon as the headaches and swelling started. It so important to look out for these symptoms because pre-eclampsia can have fatal results for mother and baby. It can occur out of the blue, and in between appointments as in my case, if it wasn’t for my midwife of a mother I’d have assumed all the symptoms were just side effects of being pregnant but the culmination of the symptoms is the key to diagnosis in pre-eclampsia cases.
As far as advice goes I’m of the school where you should ignore all advice and do what you believe is best for you and your baby. However! I’d say, that the point is to enjoy the birth experience and not to try and be a hero/martyr. Stay open-minded and don’t have a fixed birth plan, just preferences! If drugs and monitors and intervention is what’s safest for you and your baby then embrace it. It’s not a sign of weakness or failure.
Elective Caesarean for no medical reason
About 3 months into my pregnancy, my husband and I decided that a C section was the option for us. I had always assumed that whichever way you gave birth, pain was unavoidable and whilst I would have been happy to have given birth normally with an epidural, my husband’s phobia of blood and my utter hatred of being sick meant that a C section seemed to be a sensible option. We wanted our baby’s arrival to be as calm and relaxed as possible and this is exactly what happened!
As I had elected to have a C section privately, I met with my consultant, every month to discuss the baby’s progress. This was lovely because by the time my due date approached, I felt we had a good rapport and I was utterly confident that we were in the best hands.
On the day of my C section, my husband I arrived at the hospital at 6am, checked in and then I got into my hospital gown. They then began to monitor the baby’s heartbeat and the anaesthetist explained exactly what would happen during the epidural. After about an hour of checks and monitoring, my husband and I walked down to the operating theatre. All the staff were lovely wishing us well and I couldn’t have been more excited and relaxed. Once in the operating theatre I was asked to sit on the operating table and hug a pillow in a certain way, leaning forward whilst they prepared me for the epidural. My husband and I held hands and giggled at how surreal it all was, whilst at least 10 nurses, paediatricians and surgeons whizzed around us. Once the epidural was completed, I was asked to lie down and the screen went up. The screen is very close to your face so you can see nothing except a blue sheet; something my husband was very relieved about! My Obstetrician and another surgeon began to prep me whilst the anaesthetist and a nurse carried out tests on my tummy with cold water to see how much feeling I had. All the way through the anaesthetist had told me what I would be experiencing 2 minutes before it actually happened so this meant I felt in complete control and relaxed.
Dante was born quite quickly as his head had never engaged so he was easy to pop out and was born at 7.52am on 12th September. They call out the time and then there was a little wait before the crying started. At that point I asked my husband to go and check he was ok and take photos for me as you can’t see what’s happening because of the screen. Since Dante’s head had never engaged, when he was lifted out this had caused my diaphragm to drop very quickly which caused a sharp pain in my shoulders. I was given a little dose of morphine and the discomfort went immediately. I had Dante brought to me within minutes of him being born and it was amazing to finally see him.
Once the operation was completed, I was transferred to another bed, Dante placed in my arms and I was wheeled through to recovery. My mother was able to come in at this point and after about an hour I was back in my room. The whole day was a very happy one, and although I was given painkillers regularly I never felt any pain at all (and I certainly don’t have a high pain threshold!). The one downside to a C section is that you need a catheter for 24 hours which means you’re bed bound for this time but apart from that the whole experience was amazing. I left hospital 48 hours later after Dante was born and was more than able to climb up and down the stairs, lift him, breastfeed, sleep and was absolutely fine to start running again after 5.5 weeks.
Despite the criticism and negative comments I received about our decision to have an elective C section, I am so pleased we ignored the scare mongers and stuck to our choice. Dante’s arrival into the world was exactly what we hoped it would be – calm, relaxed and so very exciting.
I did a lot of research before including watching a lot of Youtube videos of C sections, much to my husband’s horror! I felt really prepared by my Obstetrician as well so nothing was a surprise. The fact that Dante wanted to breast feed all night for the first week was a bit of a shock and perhaps I should have also researched what to do after he was born a little more! I wouldn’t have done anything differently. Although this might sound horribly arrogant, I had such a fantastic time, there is nothing I would have changed. I would advise other women to go with your instincts. Every birth is different and if the thought of giving birth normally feels you with fear, then think about a C section. Personally I think the calmer you are the better and the most important thing is that the baby is delivered safely Every one will have an opinion but the tales of not being able to bond with your baby just because you didn’t push are, in my opinion, completely unfounded. My only other tip would be to exercise as much as you can manage. I swam every day for six weeks preceding Dante’s due date, walked everywhere and did pilates and I think this really helped my recovery.
Natal Hypnotherapy Birth Story
I decided to do a Natal Hypnotherapy course during my first pregnancy just because I really wanted a natural birth but wasn’t sure I’d be able to cope with the pain. I’m a bit of a swot, so I did my research and discovered a natural birth needn’t be just for ‘the lucky ones’. There are techniques and tools out there that really help.
So when I went into labour at 10 o’clock at night, I knew i should just relax into it and try to get some sleep. I didn’t have the best night but it wasn’t the worst either and I managed a good five or so hours of shut-eye. When I woke properly at about 7am, things seemed to be moving along quite quickly, but I still told my boyfriend to go to work and that it was probably a false alarm. He said he’d stay just in case – the right call as it turned out!
I spent the next few hours either having a nice bath or being on the loo. It really did feel like i needed to poo all the time, with a lot of downward pressure. At 8am, my boyfriend thought he could see the head and started to panic! In fact, it was just the amniotic sack, bulging. I thought it was too soft to be the head, but still, it was a bit of a shock. The midwife and my doula arrived at about 9am. They were great. The midwife examined me (which was when my waters broke) and said I was fully dilated – something she found hard to believe because I was so calm and a first time mum. My doula gave me lovely massage on my lower back and reassured me that all was going well.
I got into the birth pool at about 10.30am and listened to the Natal Hypnotherapy music. I knew all I had to do was relax, stay calm and breathe – and it really worked. The second midwife arrived, my boyfriend lit some candles and they all had a cup of tea! They were quite hands off, but that was OK with me because I was in my zone and didn’t want to be disturbed too much. At 11.15am the head came out and, at the next contraction, the body. My little boy, Joseph, was in the world! I was stunned, my boyfriend cried and the midwives shook their heads in disbelief. Once I’d delivered the placenta (on dry land), we climbed into bed and our doula bought us tea and toast. It really was lovely.
It’s so rare to hear about positive birth experiences. I hope people don’t think I’m bragging, but i do believe accounts like this need to be heard to counter all the horror stories. I felt like superwoman and I just want to say ‘it CAN be done!’