Theo's birth story

Saturday 10 October 2015

I've sort of been in two minds about authoring this post. Birth is such a variable experience, you'll never find two the same, so each person's story is unique.

And as someone who was very squeamish and averse to hearing anything about it before having my own baby, part of me still believes ignorance really is bliss.

I used to hate it when people would try and tell me their birth war stories - I firmly believe mummies-to-be are better served by a positive, relaxed attitude than by any amount of 'honesty'.

Too many people think they're 'being real' or doing you a favour by sharing dark tales of suffering and stitches - and actually its usually about them wanting to show how brave they were than trying to prepare you for what's to come.

On the other hand, I did a lot of reading of other bloggers birth stories before I went into hospital, and for the most part I found them calming and reasurring.

Sure, there were bits that made me wince, but most of it made me think 'that's not so bad.'

So here is my own story about little Theo's arrival into the world...its your choice if you want to read on or look away now...

(Warning: this post is almost as long as my actual labour!)

So, as people who read my pregnancy updates will know, Theo was due to enter the world on the 1st September. At the time, I was very concerned about whether or not he'd come in time for my sister-in-law's wedding, which was on the 5th.

We were so focused on that date, it never occured to me that it would be two weeks later before he finally made his debut!

On the day he was due, I went in to see the midwife, who tried to perform a 'sweep'.

This is a not very pleasant procedure where they try and manually remove membranes from the cervix in order to bring on labour. I was dreading it and full of fear going into the doctors surgery as I'd spent the night before browsing the Mumsnet message boards, where numerous people said it was agonising, terrible, a waste of time, etc.
Well, all I can say is those people must have very low pain thresholds, because God knows how they coped with actual labour if a sweep was too much for them. It was certainly uncomfortable as they're quite vigourous, but it wasn't anything to make you cry.

Unfortunately, the midwife discovered that my cervix was tilted backwards, so she couldn't get the sweep to work. I went home feeling a bit battered and bruised, and booked in to be induced at the hospital on the Sunday coming.

Being induced was another thing I'd been hoping to avoid. I had a strong feeling that I didn't want to use chemicals to 'trick' my body into giving birth.

Plus, I had read that labour is generally longer and more difficult if its induced, which didn't sound like much fun. I spent the days up until Sunday just praying that things would start off naturally. But it wasn't to be, and Sunday dawned glorious and golden with no sign of a baby!

We'd been told to call the labour ward at 8am in the morning and we'd either be told to come straight in, or given a time, depending on how busy they were. I was so nervous phoning through! When we spoke, they told us that we should come in at lunchtime, or they'd call us if we could come in before.

So we found ourselves sat having coffee like any other Sunday, knowing our lives would be changing in a few hours. At 11am, the hospital called back and a very nice midwife told me I could either go in then or 'wait and have lunch first'. Of course, I was far too nervous to put it off, so we went straight in.

Driving to the hospital calmly on a sunny morning was not how I'd pictured it going! I'd always imagined I'd go into labour in the middle of the night, and we'd have a frantic dash into hospital, so it all felt a bit surreal.

Once we got there, I had a major attack of nerves in the lift on the way up to the induction ward. I burst into tears and shakes and Seb had quite a job to calm me down. I guess after all the waiting, the reality had suddenly hit me, and I got really scared. But once we got up there I was fine.

The bay was completely empty, so it was all quiet as we were shown to a bed and I was strapped up to a monitor to check the baby's heartbeat.

After a while, they came to put the pessary in, which is the first stage of induction. In some, that's enough to start labour off naturally.

We were advised to go for a walk to help get things moving, so we ended up walking to the shop to get some sandwiches and strawberries and having a picnic in the hospital grounds. It was all very calm and relaxed at this point. I'd started having very mild contractions but they were only like faint period pains, nothing dramatic.

One thing I didn't realise was how much waiting around my birth story would involve! I was periodically hooked up to the monitors again, but nothing much was happening.

My dad and step mother and my mother in law and her partner both came up to visit in the evening, so we were all sat there munching sandwiches they'd brought with them and chatting away.

That evening was hard though. Normally Seb would have been kicked out after visiting hours were over, but the first midwife told us he could stay the night seeing as there were no other women on the bay.

However, when the evening shift midwife came on, she told him it was better if he went home as the whole thing was likely to be long and exhausting and he should try and get some proper sleep.

We decided she was right, but it was still a horrible wrench when he did go, about 9pm. Both of us were in tears. I felt so alone and it took all I had not to cling around his ankles. He was almost crying as well ( I could tell because he left very quickly, not wanting to upset us both).

He later said it was the hardest thing he'd ever had to do leaving me there, but in hindsight knowing how exhausting the next couple of days would be, it was definitely the right decision.

Of course, trying to sleep on a hospital ward is near impossible, even if you have an entire ward bay to yourself. Its very light and you get woken up every few hours anyway for observation, so I can't say that I got much sleep!

The next day dawned and I couldn't believe I was still in there. I'd imagined the whole thing would be over in a day, so it was odd to still be no futher on in the morning.

Things changed very rapidly that Monday. From near-empty, the ward suddenly got full to bursting, with every bay filled. Apparently, a lot of women had gone into labour that day, and the hospital got so full, they closed the maternity ward to new entrants, meaning if we'd have come along any later, they would have sent us to another hospital.

Normally, after the pessary has started your contractions off, they take you down to the labour suite, put you on a chemical drip and break your waters. But because they were so full, there were no longer any beds on the labour ward for me to be moved to. As my baby was fine and not in distress, I kept getting bumped down the list to be taken onto the labour ward.

So I was just left there with worsening contractions and not so much as a paracetamol!

Sadly, some of the other people that had come onto the ward were extremely inconsiderate and loud -  arguing, fussing, making lots of noise and just generally annoying. I was getting more and more upset as the day went on. I was starting to be in a fair bit of pain, I was scared, fed up and very tired.

I spent most of the second day crying my eyes out on my bed with the sheets pulled over my head.

I remember going for a walk at one point, sitting in our car and begging Seb to kidnap me and take me home. I was utterly miserable and at my wits end.

Thank God then, for my mother in law. When she came in that afternoon and saw how upset I was, she sprang into action on my behalf. Before I knew it, she'd arranged for me to be moved into my own room so I could get some rest away from the noisy ward, and  also got them to bring some dinner to the room (usually you eat in a communal dining room on the ward).

After this I was able to get some rest, and Seb decided that he would stay with me that night as there was a fold out chair in the room he could sleep in, which made me feel much better.

It was just as well he did, because finally around 11pm, things started happening. First of all - and sorry this bit is going to be graphic, but if there's one thing childbirth does, its strip you of all coyness about bodily happenings - I had my 'show' (Google it if you dare!).

This was nothing like I expected as mine was very, very bloody. I thought something terrible was happening and went running for the midwife station.

My contractions also started getting quite intense. They gave me a heat pack for my back and a codeine tablet, but it wasn't cutting the mustard. The midwife on duty asked me if I'd like to try an aromatherapy bath. I had nothing to lose, so I said yes. So there we were, with me sat in a candle-lit, lavendar scented bath going into labour!

The bath was surprisingly relaxing and I was almost falling asleep between contractions. But when they came, they were getting seriously painful, and after I got out the bath, they got much worse.

Although I must say that, overall, my experience of giving birth was not as bad as I feared, there were certainly moments that were awful.

Some of the contractions I was getting were excruciating, mainly because I hadn't had any proper pain relief at this stage. They don't keep the hard stuff on the induction ward, and they couldn't move me down to the labour ward as it was still full.

If there was a negative side to my experience, it was now. I can't fault the care I was given, but if I could have been moved down sooner, and my pain allieviated more at this stage, I think the overall experience would have been a lot more positive.

As it was, the contractions were taking my breath away. Normally with great pain, you can somehow internalise it, tuck it away in you and get through it. I don't know how to describe this bit other than to say that the pain felt bigger than my body. It was overwhelming - I didn't know what to do with myself. I was literally clawing at the air, howling!

The funny thing is that between contractions you feel normal, so its two minutes of agony and then normality. I remember shouting that the gas and air they'd finally brought me wasn't working (although I certainly wouldn't let them take it away!).

I remember seeing Seb look terrified by how much pain I was in. I remember yelling 'Not again!' like something out of a pantomime when another contraction was coming. It all begins to be a bit of a blur at this point as the pain was almost making me delirious.

Suddenly, the midwife appeared and told me there was a space available on the birth sanctuary, and that they were going to take me down there.

At this point, I really panicked. I knew from my antenatal classes that the birth sanctuary is the less medical area. The whole thing is designed for people who want a holistic, natural birth, so there are birthing pools, soft lighting, music, no doctors (just midwives) and a less medical environment.

However, I'd always planned on having an epidural, and the pain I was in convinced me even more that this was what I wanted.

I knew you couldn't have one of these on the birth sanctuary, so I went into a blind panic at this point, convinced I was going to be forced into a natural birth when I wanted the pain relief! I started yelling that I wanted an epidural.

The funny thing is, you spend time filling in a birth plan before you go to hospital, and then precisely no one looks at it. No one had asked me what I was planning, what pain relief I wanted or any of that.

You have to be a lot more assertive than I thought about insisting on what you want, because they just kind of leave you to it otherwise. The policy seems to be not to offer stuff until its asked for. And you wouldn't think the labour ward would be a place you'd worry about being polite, but I had to overcome a natural resere about asking for what I wanted.

After they promised me they would move me onto the labour ward for an epidural as soon as they could, they wheeled me down to the sanctuary. I barely remember being taken down there. I was really worried because the pain was getting unmanageable and I knew that if you're too far dilated, they can't give an epidural, so I was still convinced I wasn't going to get one.

Hats off to anyone who gives birth without any pain relief, but I'd definitely decided that wasn't for me at this point!

They kept trying to get me to go in the birthing pool, but again, I was scared they would use it as an excuse to get out of giving me my spinal block, as you can't have one in the water.

Then, they decided to give me some diamorphine, which is a painful injection in the thigh. I didn't want this, but I was in too much pain and too out of it to argue.

The funny thing is, it didn't seem to do much for my contractions, which were still agony, but it did make me go to sleep in between them. So I'd be asleep for five minutes and then wake up screaming my head off, then go back to sleep!

My dad appeared in the room, which freaked me out a bit. We hadn't discussed him coming onto the labour ward, so it was a bit odd to suddenly wake up to him holding my hand. I wasn't in much of a place to argue though, and I think he was just worried about me. I was a bit surprised no one asked me if it was okay for him to be there -  again, the birth plan is not worth the paper you write it on!

The diamorphine made me feel sick and out of control - I didn't know what I was saying or doing, which I hated. I definitely wouldn't want it again.

After quite a few hours - this was coming up to lunchtime the next day, and I'd been in labour since midnight - they finally got a space on the labour suite, so I was wheeled off there, which I really can't remember.

I was so anxious and kept asking about the anesthetist, as I knew there's generally only one on duty and I didn't know where I was in the queue.

Eventually, he appeared and I honestly could have hugged him. Finally, I was being prepared for my spinal block. Naturally, being so scared of needles, I was terrified. I'd seen the process in my antenatal classes and I knew it was the size of a knitting needle, but the pain was outweighing my needle phobia at this point.

First of all, they put a numbing agent on, and I could feel a weird kind of cold spreading across my lower back. You have to sit rolled forward for them to insert it and be extremely still while they find the right space in the spinal column, which is fine in theory, but its hard to be still when you're having a contraction!

At this point, my Dad decided to try and distract me by telling me something about parking, and was rewarded with me yelling at him to eff off, couldn't he see they were putting a giant needle in my spine!? I've literally never sworn in front of my Dad so he must have been quite shocked!

Although I couldn't feel the pain of the epidural going in, I could feel the force they have to shove it in with, which was uncomfortable. It felt like someone booting me in the back! I had an epic bruise on my back for a couple of weeks afterwards. I just thank goodness I couldn't see what was going on.

After this, I actually asked my Dad to leave us to it. Much as I love him, the birth was something for Seb and I to share together as husband and wife.

Once the epidural was in, the game changed. Labour was a totally different experience from then on.

I felt in control, I wasn't in pain. I was able to have normal converations, have a drink and things. I actually felt quite pleasantly calm. You can top the epidural up yourself as needed, and I still had my gas and air, which helped with the nerves.

I could still move my feet the whole way through, and sort of feel when I was having a contraction, although it didn't hurt anymore. So I didn't feel like I was paralysed or anything scary.

This was the part where I actually started to look forward to meeting my little son. I was a little nervous about the pushing part, but I felt comfortable. If my whole labour had been more like this, it would have been a much nicer experience.

Eventually, they told me it was time to start pushing. This is the bit that always looks really dramatic in films and on TV but it wasn't like that for me.

The sensation was very odd because although I was no longer in pain, I could still feel a huge pressure down below. Normally, the pressure would be part of the pain so to feel them separately is quite odd and hard to describe.

Unfortunately, just as I was pushing my contractions had started to slow down and stop, which can often be the case with long labours or with epidurals.

On each contraction, I was pushing like my life depended on it - just holding my breath and straining for all I was worth. The doctors told me that it wasn't moving the baby enough even though I was pushing hard because my body wasn't helping with strong contractions.They couldn't put me on a drip to get my contractions going again as it was too late in the process.

I began to get seriously worried that they would have to give me an emergency Ceasarian, which I really didn't want, so I was still pushing like a maniac when I could ( you aren't allowed to push outside of a contraction as it can damage your body).

In the end, the doctor decided that they would try to assist the delivery with a Ventouse. I was so anxious for this to work, because I knew it would get surgical if it didn't. They also said that because of this they would have to give me an episiotomy (basically cut my lady parts to allow more room!).

Although this had been one of my big fears about birth, in the event I didn't care as I was so determined to avoid a Ceasarian and get my boy out. At this point I'd been in labour for around 15 hours, I was utterly exhausted. But somehow I found energy and courage I didn't know I had to keep pushing while they did the procedure.

The next thing I knew, I felt an almighty pressure - literally like a cork coming out of a bottle - and they told me the head was out! Then I felt the shoulders come out as well, and the next moment Theo had entered the world.

An indescribable moment. One that happens every single hour, every single day to someone, and yet is utterly life changing to each person I just felt such surprise that there was finally a baby there- like it hadn't seemed real until that moment.

Seb and I were both in floods of tears of shock and emotion. Seb cut the cord but I didn't see it and couldn't remember it happening. I guess I was too busy staring at this new little being. Our son!

The paediatrician came in to check him over and they were stitching me up, but I was just craning over trying to look at him and make sure he was okay.

In antenatal class, they told us you have to deliver the placenta afterwards,  and that can take time and you can opt for an injection to speed it up, so I asked about it and they told me I'd already done it. Didn't notice that at all!

Then we had the baby in our arms and it was just incredible. I was staring at him just feeling a bit strange, because I'd expected almost to 'recognise' him or to think that he looked like Seb or even me straight away and I didn't. He was wonderful but nothing like I expected, even though I'm not sure I even expected anything.

I also thought I would look at him and instantly know what he should be called, as we had a shortlist but hadn't actually chosen his name, but I didn't. He didn't immediately look like one or the other to me, so we spent a good hour trying to choose. It was between Monty and Theodore,  and neither of us could quite decide.

Eventually,  I decided I preferred Theo and he was named! Seb then went out to tell our families waiting anxiously outside that he'd finally arrived.

The midwife then brought in a pot of tea and some toast with marmalade,  and let me tell you,  it was literally the best thing I'd ever tasted!

She tested my legs and reflexes to see if I could stand up okay and I could, so they let me go and have a shower.  I was shocked when I stood up because there was just blood everywhere in the room, it was like a Quentin Tarantino movie! Quite a shock.

I was quite shaky with adrenaline and tiredness in the shower, but it made me feel better. After I got back in bed, my Dad and Seb's mum came in to meet their new grandson and that was super emotional.

A while later, Seb's older sister came in as well. I went in to see her just after our niece was born which was very special, so it was good to have her there. I was pretty much solidly crying all throughout that part.

After the visitors, I got moved back upstairs into my previous room on the ward. At 10pm,  Seb had to go home,  which was a bit weird. They don't let the daddy stay if you're not in labour anymore!

That first night was rather horrid and lonely. You go from being surrounded by people, medical staff and visitors, to being utterly on your own with this little creature that no one has really told you how to look after. You're exhausted, sore, groggy and all alone. I was also trying to breastfeed without much of a clue what I was doing.

Theo cried every time I tried to put him in the cot, and each cry felt like a knife to my heart in my pained, hormonal state. So I ended up spending all night propped up in bed holding him rather than sleeping.

In the morning, there's a whole load of different checks to pass, from the baby's hearing and bodily checks, to your own blood tests.

I was so desperate to go home, I kept telling them I was fine even though I actually felt quite shaky and feverish. I'd been in hospital three days at this point and I was so fed up and desperate not to spend another night It was a bit delayed because they managed to lose my notes somehow, but eventually they were found and I was given the all clear to take Theo home. Relief isn't the word!

In all, my birth experience was quite mixed. Some of it was better than I'd imagined, and some worse, but none of it was anything like I expected. Its quite an incredible, traumatic, amazing thing to go through, and I'm still reeling three weeks later!

Now our new life really begins after the epic wait. I'll be documenting it honestly on here, from the joys to the struggles. Here's to new beginnings and motherhood.