Just recently Melanie at The Not So Hoity Toity Life got in touch and asked me to share my birth story for a new feature she had planned for her blog – during November she is recounting birth stories from mothers around the globe. These women’s stories are powerful, emotive ad inspiring, and I’m proud to have taken part.
I’m lucky that my story of giving birth to Henry is a positive one, although worlds away from what I had planned and hoped for. It was bittersweet recounting the memories of that strange and special time over three years ago (how did that happen?!), and I have butterflies in my tummy (although that could be the baby) thinking that I’ll have another story in just less than six months time.
I wanted to share my story here, but please take a look at Melanie’s blog to hear other stories from some amazing women.
I’d hoped to have Henry naturally, in the birthing unit at my local hospital, and had planned to labour, and possibly give birth, in a birthing pool. I’d listened to hypnobirthing CDs, written my birth plan, read Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth, and had been seeing a pre-natal yoga instructor in the months leading up to my due date.
My midwife warned me in the weeks before Henry was due that he wasn’t ‘going to be a 6 pounder’, and after a couple of stretch and sweeps (how I hate that phrase) around the time he was due she told me that he wasn’t ready, and that I’d possibly need to be induced. I remember feeling devastated (although now I’m not really sure why) and tried not to cry on the way home from the doctors, before bursting into tears as soon as I saw my partner.
As my due date came and went I tried curries, pineapple, raspberry leaf tea and acupuncture, but it seemed Henry was just too comfortable where he was, and so 14 days after he was due I went to hospital to be induced. I was given a Prostaglandin pessary and we waited. I remember walking the hospital grounds that afternoon feelinlg odd twinges, but dismissing them. Later that evening, I was experiencing period pain-like cramps, but didn’t really think anything of it. I ran a bath with lavender oil (I’ve since heard lavender oil can actually start labour or contractions) as I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep, and as I stepped into the bath my waters broke.
I called the midwife and the next part felt unreal. I was hooked up to a belt that monitored Henry’s heartbeat and my contractions (it turned out the mild cramps I’d been experiencing all day were contractions!), and a student nurse sat and chatted to me, but I couldn’t concentrate on what she was saying or my replies because of the contractions. She led me to the delivery suite, which was slow progress as I had to keep stopping, and I called my partner to come back in to the hospital.
I laboured through the night. Two midwives stayed with us throughout, and I remember the room being dim and everything feeling very calm. Everything feels a little muddled now I’m thinking back, but at some point I was given a pessary as labour wasn’t progressing quickly enough, followed by a hormone drip. I’d read that you should try to go to the toilet every hour whilst in labour as a full bladder or bowels could slow things down, and I remember the midwife and my partner having to help me to the toilet, along with the drip stand. Every time I was checked I wasn’t really progressing, so just before dawn the midwife turned the drip off to allow us both some sleep.
The following day I was hooked up to the drip again, and the rate of the drip was adjusted again and again throughout the day, and eventually a doctor was called in to increase the rate of the drip above the midwife’s authorised limit. Induced contractions have a reputation for being more intense, and relentless, than natural contractions, and although we didn’t know at the time Henry was back to back, so each time a midwife advised that my cervix wasn’t dilating it was really upsetting. By late afternoon I knew it was likely I would need a caesarean section, as it had been almost 24 hours since my waters had broken and there’s an increased risk of infection. Henry was doing brilliantly, but his heart rate was dipping a little with each contraction, and he’d been working so hard. I was upset as I was so tired and had been through 20 hours of labour, for nothing. The thought of a major operation was distressing for my partner too.
We were taken into the theatre and the team were brilliant, there was lots of laughing and joking, which really lightened the mood. I was given a spinal block (until that point I had just used a TENS machine for pain relief, which I would really recommend for a natural birth) which made me feel sick, but the feeling in my legs went quickly. I was so tired I could barely stay awake during the operation, so my partner made me go through our chosen baby names (we’d decided not to find out the sex beforehand) to keep me awake. I’d heard that a caesarean felt like someone doing the washing up, or rummaging around in a handbag on your stomach, but we were surprised by how physical the operation was. I couldn’t feel anything and healed really well, but the operating table was literally rocking from side to side as they pulled him out. We later found out that he had been partly wedged under my ribs and weighed 9lb 6oz (I’m tiny), which is why I’d needed to be induced followed by a caesarean section – I wouldn’t have been able to birth him naturally.
The surgeon told us we’d had a boy, and he was passed to the midwife to be checked over before being passed to me. He had a full head of hair, was very calm (and still is) and was utterly, completely perfect. We were taken to the recovery suite and one of the lovely midwives helped me to feed him for the first time.
If I’d known in advance what would happen I would’ve been terrified – it was so far removed from what I had hoped for, but ultimately it was such a positive experience. I felt so supported by the hospital staff and in particular two midwives – I’ll never forget them. And the weird thing is, although the contractions were intense and I was sore after the operation, I didn’t feel any real pain. I’m due our second baby in April and I’d like a planned caesarean. I really hope the experience will be as positive as it was with Henry.
I’m hoping for a planned caesarean with this babe, for medical reasons, and I’m interested to see how it will compare to the experience of birthing Henry. Do you have a birth story you’d like to tell? I’d love to hear!