I’ve read loads of birth stories in the last 9-ish months since getting involved in the mum blogging community. Before I became a mum I would have shied away from reading them because of the scary realities within; post-baby I felt drawn to them. They reminded me of when that fateful day arrived for me. I’ve debated writing my own birth experience so many times but I’ve never really found the words. It didn’t go ‘to plan’ and part of me feels like I didn’t manage to do it properly because I needed help; whilst the sensible part of me knows that’s not true it’s a feeling I can’t shake. On top of that – I don’t really remember a lot of it!
I remember being overdue. It was cold and I couldn’t walk far but I’d enjoyed a relaxed afternoon sitting on my swiss ball playing on my laptop. I spoke to Sam on the phone as he was going for a quick work drink. I was preparing to make fish and chips for my dinner. I had resigned myself to another night sans bebé. I was so sure nothing would happen in fact that when my jeans were suddenly rather wet I assumed my bladder had given out! But no, it hadn’t…
My ‘birth plan’ saw me staying at home until contractions were close together; in my head I would relax on my swiss ball watching ‘Friends’ re-runs. I wish I’d been able to read The Mum Reviews post – Why birth plans are a waste of time for first-time mums – to give me a sense check. From the beginning my labour wasn’t as planned. My waters weren’t clear and I was instructed to head to the Maternity department at our nearest hospital. Yet I couldn’t get in touch with Sam!
I’d like to tell you at this point that I remained calm. But did I heck! I panicked. I rang Sam a zillion times leaving him very stressed voicemails (which we both agreed he shouldn’t ever listen to so they were just deleted after the whole event!) and waddled round the house cursing under my breath. I took all of my yoga breathing techniques and NCT teachings about oxytocin being your friend / adrenalin your enemy and chucked them our the proverbial window. Then I spent who knows how long (I think about half an hour) pacing about packing a woefully inadequate food bag (I forgot the bloody squash) and carrying hospital bags to to front door whilst convincing myself I’d clearly packed far too much (when in fact it turned out later that we barely had enough). Fun times all round. And there wasn’t a single episode of ‘Friends’ to be seen.
Eventually Sam got home, we made it to the hospital (my contractions started in the car) and I was checked into triage. I sat in a waiting room as my pain increased with Wolf Hall on the TV – it was not ideal watching. Sam tried to change the channel and the best we could do was some show about pets with David Tennent doing voiceover on a hamster mooching round it’s cage. I kid you not – it was weird. Eventually I was moved to a bed and monitored; all was good with me and the mini but we needed doctor sign-off to go to the ward / maternity led unit (MLU). The doctor was in surgery. So I was stuck labouring alongside women who were there for mid-pregnancy checks. I was so self-conscious.
Eventually a kind nurse let me use the bed at the back of the triage office. About 4 – 5 hours after we arrived I was finally OK-ed to move to the midwife led unit and I started to relax. Then time started to pass in a blur. I spent a lot of time in the birthing pool and getting a bit high on gas and air. The pain got worse and was killing my lower back (why does nobody warn you that the pain will be in your back?!) and I couldn’t stomach eating anything.
Eventually I remember being encouraged out of the pool. I remember being told to start pushing. Apparently a couple of hours past and there was no arrival. I was exhausted and my contractions were slowing so I was taking down to the consultant led unit. They needed to take me to theatre to try and ‘help’ her out. A rather militant midwife tried to get some last effort out of me but no matter how matronly she was, it didn’t work. I had to sign my name to consent to going to theatre – the scrawl is barely legible on the copy I have for my records! I remember Sam looking tired, exhausted and helpless.
I’m going to pause for breath at this point because almost 12 hours has passed from me entering MLU to being taken to CLU. 12 hours! In my head I can’t understand how that long passed. Apparently Sam had 3 sandwiches from the MLU kitchen during that window. I don’t remember that either. Not knowing bothered me. So when Little H approached her first birthday, I decided to ring the ‘Birth Afterthoughts’ number on a card in her Red Book. It’s a service offered in my area to allow mothers to find out what happened during their labour. For whatever reason, they never got back to me and I let it pass. Then ‘The Second Birthday’ loomed ever closer and I knew that I HAD to follow it up again. So I wrote to the Senior Midwife at the hospital. I irrationally feared they would tell me “No, you’re too late to find out.”. I have no idea why. Aside from the fact that I have a legal right to see my notes, the hospital also got in touch quickly and we’re incredibly friendly. They booked me in for a chat.
Turns out everything was going really well. I was fully dilated by 6:30am but it looked like the baby’s head wasn’t complete clear and she was still sat near the bottom of my spine. After 3 hours of pushing I was transferred to the Consultant Led Unit; mini’s head hadn’t moved down at all. Then another hour passed with no movement, but my contractions had slowed because I was tired. That’s when they took the decision to take me theatre. If her head had been lower they’d have used forceps in the room but there was a chance she’d need to come out by c-section. It’s possible she was in the wrong position because I had such strong back pain by the end but we’ll never know for sure. Apparently it’s not uncommon in first time mums for babies to struggle to turn because abdominal muscles are just so tight. Damn rowing for giving me such a strong core!
But I don’t remember that. What I do remember is that I never wanted to have an assisted delivery. I definitely didn’t want to have pain medication administered through my spine (I HATE things going near my spine). But yet I found myself sat bent over having a needle pushed into my spine. I found myself not caring as I wanted some relief. That relief quickly came. And then not long after (and on the doctor’s third attempt with forceps I’m told) Little H was here. She was here and everything that had taken place before didn’t matter!
But it’s still nice to know what happened.
I’m not sure if the service open to me is available throughout the country. However, if you have unanswered thoughts and questions about a birth experience, I would strongly recommend looking into speaking to a consultant midwife about it. We all legally have a right to see our notes and asking for a short meeting to be taken through them could be enlightening / help to bring some closure. It was a massively cathartic experience for me and I’m so glad that I followed through with it. All I did was write to the Senior Midwife at the hospital and ask for their help…