Here’s hoping you don’t mind a little anonymity, but I refer to my partner as J and now my baby as A. I’m a firm believer in you can not be too careful online, but also in privacy of the individual and so this is how I choose to write my birth story.
It all started on the Tuesday, 6th July, when I attended a midwife appointment far away from home. I have to take two buses as a non-driver of a car, to reach the destination they deemed necessary. Since local community midwives have been stopped coming to local GP surgeries people like me are left to travel far and wide to reach them, but that’s another story. J was coming with me today, because at 40 + 3 weeks I was imminently going into labour.
Very imminently as it turned out.
That morning, 7am, I began having pains in my lower abdomen. Some women report it in their lower back and moving around to the abdomen and then lower, but for me it was all down below. It came in waves, like people described. A build up of pain and a brief peak before tailing off again on the other side of the peak – I visualised climbing a hill, staying at the top a few moments then climbing back down the other side. It was bearable.
I stayed like this all day, able to talk to J and chat through it, only getting slightly more pain every so often. It wasn’t in much pattern, and it didn’t seem like labour to me. I’d heard most people stay home at this point and as long as possible if they can bear it. I was on a bus most of the day. A strange place to be in early labour.
I slept on and off that night, waking occasionally to turn over with the pain. But I managed to sleep, so I didn’t think it was very imminent. But the pains didn’t subside at all, they kept coming. I was excited!
The next day I passed a bloody show, J and I sat excitedly wondering how long this might take before the pain got unbearable, but I spent another day with pains, gradually getting worse, feeling all kinds of emotions. By 2am we had tried to sleep, J getting an hour or so and myself pacing the room, in pain, not getting sleep at all. My first ring to the maternity assessment unit was an annoying one. The midwife encouraged me to stay at home, not much sympathy and a lot of placating to make me stay. I relented. They knew best.
I thought perhaps I was being over dramatic. This was painful definitely but it must get much worse. I can’t be very far dilated yet, and I’m just being a wuss. So I stayed.
Two hours later and I asked J to call our transport for the labour. He also called the assessment unit again, and got through to someone else (thankfully) who allowed us to say we were coming in, no questions asked. But as I sat in the car being taken to hospital I couldn’t help but doubt myself again. Had the pains subsided? Were they not close together enough? Did I wait long enough? I bet they’ll find I’m 1cm and send me home.
All these fears heightened when I remembered J wasn’t allowed into the unit, and could only join me once I was in established labour at 4cm+.We kept our driver on standby, bless her, as I got assessed. All the while I worried over my lack of pains – had they stopped? Was I being that over-dramatic?
I was a good 6-7cm when examined! I’d managed it all by myself!
As a planned epidural I was ‘rushed’ (as fast as I could waddle) picking J up on the way into labour ward, where before even settling in I met the anaesthetist, a wonderful man, who busily got my epidural in. This was all a quick blur, it happened so fast. We met Dr Raz in the corridor on the way to my room and he sorted me almost as soon as I sat down on the bed. From then on I was on a half epidural, and it felt bizarre but wonderful.
The contractions now became tense feelings instead of painful ones, and we settled into the wait for me to dilate to 10cm. I was exhausted, having not slept well the night previous and this night, at 5am, having slept zero. The worst part was the tiredness, and the hunger!
Baring in mind I ate the night before at around 7pm, I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything except water until I gave birth, just in case I needed a caesarean section.
By the 8am changeover I was 8cm, examined by the very same student midwife who booked me in at 8 weeks pregnant! She was wonderful and informed us I’d be the 20th delivery for her if I could get this baby out while she was on shift for us. She’d seen my name on the wall and requested me. I felt quite the privilege.
J was allowed toast and to wander out when he needed to, it was a boring wait. I slept a few times between checks, using a panda eye mask to get some sleep. The hunger was mounting. By midday I was sick for the first time, bringing up hardly anything but water. I feel sick when I’m hungry and this was the result.
By the third check I was 9 cm, we still had a way to go. J and I played Monopoly Go! on the wheelie table over my bed. This was how brilliant the epidural was. No pain at all, and top ups at the push of a button.
By 4pm I was 10cm, ready to push! I was allowed a meagre 45 minutes to push, because they didn’t want to stress the heart out. I didn’t manage to push her out, but she was getting lower and perfectly in position. They stopped me, which was frustrating. Then we were told the doctors and anaesthetist needed to take me into assisted delivery were currently in theatre, with an emergency caesarean. We had to wait.
So I sat there, feeling waves of contractions come and go, not pushing, waiting for several hours. It was quite horrible and even now I feel as though I could have done it, had they let me try. I threw up again due to hunger. I was exhausted.
Finally, the doctors were out of theatre. We were prepped. I signed a waiver to say I was happy to have a C-section, should it be necessary, and the anaesthetist I saw that early morning was back, he put the extra medication in to top up the epidural. I would recommend an epidural to anyone who can’t deal well with pain, it’s amazing. I had little choice, but it’s wonderful.
It too all of 6 minutes for her to be born. amid the waves of tears i couldn’t control streaming down my face, my partner took a selfie with her in the background to inform family and friends. I was handed her. Although ‘handed’ is the wrong word – she was placed on my chest as I lay there unable to move my legs, and my arms down under the cover. I kept crying.
Suddenly nauseous, I panicked and had her moved from me while I threw up a third time. This time there was nothing but stomach bile that come up.
In the haze of being sewn up, forceps deliveries usually requiring an episiotomy (cut), J went into a side room with A for skin to skin. We had 30 minutes together before J was ripped from my, saying his goodbyes in the corridor of all places, and I was trundled off, dazed, high, unable to move my bottom half, holding a newborn baby I had no clue how to care for, and without my rock, my other half. I broke down that night at the unfairness.
In the end, I realise J being with me at all was a privilege compared to what some women have endured during Covid-19. At the time though, I was devastated. He could only visit the next day between 10-11am. An hour to see his daughter and exhausted, recovering partner who couldn’t wash herself properly, or even pee, without pain. I swear to god the pain after the epidural subsided, and the pain of trying to go to the loo for a number 2 for the first time after all this, was worse than the labour pains.
After all this, I would still do it again. I definitely, definitely would.