Thursday, 14 May 2020

My labour story



One of the best pieces of advice I got during pregnancy was from one of my friends who said ‘They’re going to tell you you’re a bit fat and a bit old, but don’t worry about it.’ Not in a mean way - they'd said it to her. And it’s true, they said it to me, too. I mean, they didn’t put it quite so bluntly, but instead showed me a tick list of risk factors and which ones I ticked. Over 35. A higher BMI than they’d like. And a first pregnancy that had gone very, very wrong.

Having a high risk pregnancy wasn’t actually a terrible thing, but that’s because the risks were concerns that didn’t seem to impact anything in the long run, thankfully. It meant extra scans - every 4 weeks towards the end - and a scheduled induction at 39 weeks.

There’s a lot of negativity out there about inductions, but I felt reassured by having a guaranteed date to work to and plan around. I had a week of annual leave and then about 1.5 weeks of maternity leave before the induction date, which meant plenty of time to sort things out before the baby got here.



At our NCT classes, we talked through different types of births and I started to feel a bit doubtful about inductions. I then watched the hypnobirthing videos from the Positive Birth Company, which didn’t help (positive about many things, but not inductions). But I kept my appointment in, even though I could have opted out if I’d wanted. Who knows, maybe the baby would come early.

So. I get to my 36 week scan on my last day at work, and all’s well. ‘The baby’s head is quite far down,’ they say, and I’m pleased that it’s in position. When I see my midwife 4 days later, I mention it as she examines me. ‘It’s actually REALLY far down,’ she tells me, suddenly serious. ‘Your hospital bag is all packed, right?’
‘Um... mostly?’

I text Matt and we have a little panic. We only ordered the car seat, cot and buggy that weekend and it hasn’t all arrived! Then I spend the rest of the week like a woman on a mission, watching hypnobirthing videos on my iPad or phone as I wash and sort the baby’s clothes and pack for the hospital and load the freezer with portions of bolognese and curry.

A few days pass and the weekend comes, I pass 37 weeks and I haven’t spontaneously given birth so we relax a little. We hit up Ikea and b&q on Saturday and Matt’s dad comes round on Sunday to help us put up shelves in the baby’s room and tick a few things off our DIY list. I’m starting to feel pretty sure that I’ll make it to 39 weeks, or at the very least, 38.

I feel a bit off on Sunday but I put it down to low blood sugar and tiredness. At this stage every organ inside me is squashed so it’s not that odd to feel a bit sick, and have to lie down immediately after eating lunch. Unusual - I haven’t been a massively sicky preggo - but not that odd.




On Monday I’m 37 weeks and 4 days pregnant, and for my first official day of maternity leave (I've had a week of annual leave already), I have some nice things planned. I’m getting my Christmas gel nails removed, a much needed hair cut and colour, and in between I’m going to have a lovely potter around overpriced baby shops in St Albans, get something tasty for lunch and maybe get my eyebrows done.

Nails and eyebrows done, posh bags from the White Company and JoJo Maman Bébé in hand, I head to a cafe for brunch before my hair appointment. But when I’m walking to the car after my sweetcorn fritters and bacon, I start to feel sick again. Really sick. Picture me now, waddling along in my dungarees, gagging violently as I walk past Topshop and River Island in the Maltings.

Anyway, after I puke into the base of a tree and again by the side of a bench I’m sitting on - and precisely no one asks the vomiting pregnant lady if she’s okay - I’m a little concerned so I text my husband and decide I just need to get home. Then I stand up, and to add insult to injury, I realise I’ve wet myself. Pregnancy is lots of things but it ain’t glamorous, and when there’s a head resting on your bladder 24/7, sometimes this happens. Except... not this much. And it keeps happening. Even after I go to the loo, I can feel it trickling out and it occurs to me that... this ain’t pee.

So despite the fact that I’m alone, 30 mins from home and 45 mins from the hospital and my waters have just broken, I feel strangely calm. Slightly regretful that I’m now wearing really quite damp denim - the worst of all the damp materials - but calm. Matt tells me to call the hospital - my first instinct was just to get home, change and call from there because I’m possibly in denial - and they tell me to come straight in, so I drive straight there while Matt heads home to get our hospital bag and we arrange to meet in triage.

At this point I’m expecting to be turn up at hospital and immediately get sent home. Every kick from my still very active baby has me wondering if it’s a contraction (it isn’t) and as I drive down the A41 in my new family-friendly car, I’m not actually sure if this counts as driving while in labour or not. It’s surreal. When the midwife calls me back, she suggests I might want to pull over and I’m like ‘I’m fine!’ (I then do concede that pulling over might not be a bad idea, and do so)

When I chat to the midwife in triage, I realise that their first assumption is that I have, in fact, just wet myself. Despite what TV leads us to believe, your waters breaking isn’t usually the first sign of labour. But when I explain that it’s still trickling out, she declares me ‘convincing’ and I’m given a bed so I can be checked over.

Matt arrives and we wait. A lot. They check baby’s heartbeat and various other things, and we eventually break out the iPad and put on the ultimate comforting film, Paddington 2. The hope is that my contractions will start and I’ll enter natural labour without any help. Time just kind of disappears, and eventually we’re told that we COULD go home but they’d rather we didn’t, and I agree to stay in overnight.

We’re moved to a bed in the ward upstairs, and at around 11pm I’m given the first stage of induction. I thought it was a pessary, Matt thought it was a gel - no one knows. Well, I assume the medical professionals do. I’m also given a drip to rehydrate me after throwing up my lunch, and told to rest.

At about 2am, I’m woken up by what feel like period pains and I realise that’s my contractions started. They get steadily more intense and painful as the night goes on, and I’m only able to grab a few minutes of sleep in between each contraction. I’m so tired, and it starts to worry me that I won’t have much energy stored up for labour.

The next few hours are a blur. I’m checked over in between contractions, and they talk to me about how dilated I am and what’s going to happen next. Basically, I’m not in active labour quite yet, and until I get to that point, I need to stay put, even though I’m super uncomfortable. I try different positions to ease the discomfort of the contractions and alternate between wanting to hold onto Matt and wanting him to get the hell away from me. Fun!


At around 10am I’m declared in active labour, so I start readying myself to go down to a delivery room. But before I can get anyone’s attention, I throw up all over the floor. Turns out puking is just how my body responds to having a baby!

Anyway, I clean myself up and am taken downstairs while Matt follows with the crazy amount of stuff we have. We meet our midwife, Stacey (although my sleep deprived brain thinks she’s called Carly for half the day) and shit gets real. A doctor comes in to check me over, has a feel of my stomach and - you guessed it - I throw up. Last time, I promise. They give me some anti sickness meds but aren’t keen on me eating anything so I’m pretty much running on empty now.

Turns out active labour is just a more intense version of what I’ve been doing already (ha - "just"), and we start talking pain relief because gas and air isn’t touching the sides. At NCT, we’d talked through the options and I’d decided the only one I wasn’t keen on was pethidine because it can make the baby drowsy and sluggish. However, our midwife explained that it was early enough that it shouldn’t affect her, and when she explained that it would possibly help me sleep a little and get my energy up, I was sold.

One of our jobs for week 38 was writing a birth plan, and we never got to it. In a way, I don’t think it was a bad thing. We were open to all options and I wasn’t fixated on things happening a certain way. The only thing I really wanted was for Matt to tell me the gender as we hadn't found out beforehand.

Anyway, turns out in the moment that I’m a big pethidine fan. It totally spaces me out and means I’m dozing in between contractions, which makes the rest of the day even more of a blur, but that’s ok. I remember the bits that count. And contractions hurt. They still hurt, even with pain relief. I really feel like I made the right choice.

Anyway, the contractions get more intense and frequent and painful and I start to feel unbearable pressure in my bum. You guys know that giving birth feels kinda like pooping, right? Well, I was convinced that all my pushing was just birthing an enormous poo - I even said that to one of the midwives who said ‘Or maybe a baby?’ And she was right. As far as I know, I didn’t poop. But also, every woman I know doesn’t think she pooped and apparently most women do, so... who knows.

Pushing wasn’t what I expected. TV leads you to believe that it's mostly pushing, but no. They only like you to push for an hour or so at the end, so most of labour is just managing contractions. I remember asking how on earth I was going to cope with things getting more painful, and the midwives explained that actually, pushing would feel more like a relief. It’s true. It hurt, but in a totally different way to the contractions. Plus, I knew the end - and my baby - was in sight. Literally, actually. I needed some coaxing to push past the pain, and ‘She’s got lots of hair!’ was definitely one of the tactics that worked.

I couldn’t tell you now exactly what contractions feel like, but I remember pushing vividly. We kept trying different positions - I had this bed with lots of moving parts that the midwives basically converted into a chair so I could hold onto the back at one point. I even ended up in stirrups, but I don’t think I was ever lying down.


Anyway. Pushing. Turns out they don’t actually recommend screaming your brains out like on TV - because it directs your energy up, instead of down. So mostly I was making ‘nnngh’ noises. And I found out there’s your limit, and then there’s the point a few miles past that limit, and that’s where you need to get to. In the moment, it felt impossible. I remember just wanting someone to burst in with forceps and finish the job for me. I definitely asked about an epidural at this point - far too late!

An hour had passed by this point and a new midwife had appeared, who told me the doctors wanted to intervene but she’d asked them to hold off. Then, as I got closer, she told me she’d sent them away, because I didn’t need them. In the moment, Matt and I were like ‘Okay okay!’ and then a few days after, couldn’t help but wonder if this was a persuasive tactic to get me to the finish line, and the doctors weren’t at the door at all. Entirely possible!

I push and push and now I can feel that this definitely isn’t just a poop. One big push and the head is almost out, and suddenly we hear a cry. All of us freeze for a second. That’s all the incentive I need to finish the job and a couple more big pushes finally give us the rest of the head and the body. I’m tensed, eyes closed, still in push mode when Stacey says ‘Open your eyes!’ and there, purple and bawling and covered in goo... is my baby.

‘It’s a girl!’ Matt says (and shared that with limbs flailing and the umbilical cord in the way, he had to double check that with Stacey because it was kind of hard to tell). And they give her to me and I hold her and I sob without any tears, just an outpouring of exhaustion and pride and love. All those months of wondering who this little person was and if they were a boy or a girl and here she is. Of course this is her. Who else could she be?

And a little later, the midwives ask us if we have a name yet.

“We think she’s a Briony,” I reply.

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1 comment

  1. Oh I love a good birth story! You did a wonderful job; as someone who's terrified of driving at the best of times I'm mightily impressed that you managed to drive while in labour. I agree that the pushing felt like kind of a relief, it was good to actually be able to do something at that point!

    Congratulations xx

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