TO SUM UP: THE MOST AMAZING EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE
Well, we did it.
Our Baby Bear, Teddy Arthur Leighton Nicholls, was born on 9th of May at 14.09 weighing in at a fabulous 8lbs 5oz.
It is fabulous, because he was ‘evicted’ from his cosy nest a little early, at just a little over 35 weeks gestation due to my waters springing a leak (all past info on that can be found in last week’s post here
) but a healthy weight is helping him gain strength everyday….
Anyway, am getting ahead of myself. Settle down with a cuppa and let’s talk about his journey into the world.. I will catch you up on our progress next time.
I was brought into hospital for induction on Friday 8th of May at 9 am. I felt a mixture of excitement, nerves and anxiety… The obscure combination of not knowing how things will go but also the anticipation of meeting your child who you have dreamed about for months. It was a real emotional swing about that’s for sure!
They gave me my first pessary (a small tablet that contains hormones to soften your cervix and encourage labour) and I was relieved to find it was just a tablet rather than this huge torpedo I had envisaged for the whole previous week! Applying it was uncomfortable…. I found all the early on internal exams uncomfortable. But needs must and I just gritted my teeth and pressed on with it.
We were encouraged to take a walk so we went on a tour of the hospital together, laughing and joking about what lay ahead. The hospital we are in has a Costa, so we settled for a hot drink (although a stiff drink in a pub was more appealing!) and despite a strange lady on some high from some drug coming over and waffling on about the election results (hadn’t even registered we had an election as had bigger things on my mind!) we had a nice chill before heading back to the ward.
I bounced on a gym ball, swayed about a bit and then got hit by sleepiness and decided to nap for a while. Then came pessary 2’s insertion and things changed….
Before long I was getting mild cramps but at regular times. It wasn’t awful, if anything it was reassuring to feel something happening and I was excited! It was around 5pm by then so I had some dinner brought to my room and we invited my parents, sister and Paulibear’s mum up to see us as welcome distraction from watching the clock and my pain threshold!
The midwives suggested I have a ‘nice, warm, relaxing bath’, which made me think ‘ooooo yeah… That sounds amazing!’. What I didn’t realise was that during early stage labour, warm, relaxing baths actually increase the intensity by speeding up the process, bringing on the contractions stronger and more often so before long I was up another notch on the ouch stakes. I got out of the bath after half an hour, waddling back to my room and our family, grumbling to them and an amused Paulibear that I had been tricked!
By this time, things were coming on pretty strongly and I was pausing my conversation to breathe through each one which lasted about a minute and came on every 3. My midwife Lisa came in and spoke me through our next step, which was to step up induction to the syntocin drip (aka the fast lane on the M4 for your cervix!) and we discussed pain relief options.
I had always been against the idea of an epidural. I always thought it was a wimp way out, like you’re cheating in a way. I spoke the thought out to Lisa and insisted that I was determined to try and go pain relief free, but Lisa pointed out I had already been in labour for around 4 hours by then without any cervical progress (basically… The door wasn’t budging any time soon) on top of being in the hospital without much rest for 12 hours, and with syntocin being famous for making labour more intense and painful, I went with my instinct and consented to an epidural.
So, we moved to a labouring suite (they really should come up with a better name for the rooms… maybe they should name them after farmyard animals, because you do hear a lot of animal type sounds up on the labour ward!) and after waving off our family (myself doing so through clenched teeth so as not to concern them all with my pain), we settled in and got down to business.
First up was getting the cannula in my hand for my syntocin drip, plus IV antibiotics in case the rupturing of my waters were causing myself or Baby Bear to get an infection. All started off well, until Lisa blew the valve of the vein in my hand, sending pain shooting up my arm – right on top of a pretty nasty contraction. That was the one time in the whole labour I really yelped out and the tears fell onto my cheeks without my being able to stop them. Lisa apologised profusely (it wasn’t her fault bless her, my veins are notoriously tricky to get hold of!) but luckily, my anaesthetist arrived to do my epidural and kindly tended to a local injection in my hand to numb me up for my drips. That was my first reason for liking him.
My second reason for liking him was because he looked a lot like Harry Hill (his name was Tony though so can vouch it definitely wasn’t him!) and he was very reassuring as he got me to sit on the edge of the bed, hunched over a pillow and nuzzled into Paul’s chest for comfort, whilst he gave me two shots of local anaesthetic in my back before inserting the epidural line. I had always thought that epidurals would hurt and be hideous to have put in but it really was bearable. The shots made me wince a bit… they felt like the most mahooosive wasp had stung me in the back. But apart from that, it was all good and the pain started to subside immediately. That was my third and final reason for liking him, and I vowed to put him on my Christmas card list this year.
They brought a mattress in and put it on the floor alongside me for Paulibear to bed down on. I closed my eyes and dozed as best I could, but epidurals tend to dull pain not pressure. Trying to sleep whilst you feel like a boa constrictor is circling your abdomen and a baby descending down intp your pelvis is pretty difficult to do… not to mention I had several internal exams, one with a very tall blonde midwife called Katherine who burst into the room announcing that she was there to break the remainder of my waters and not to worry as she had very long fingers… and seemingly a very determined mindset as she managed it very swiftly. The rest of the exams were to assess my progress of dilation (how wide the door was for Baby Bear to enter through basically, which incidentally is 10 cms), plus I had a catheter fitted too as I couldn’t have gotten up to pee with dead legs and more wires and leads attached to me than a British Telecom Exchange.
However, twice my epidural failed over the course of the night.
This is quite common, and is referred to as being ‘patchy’. There is a very fine line between pain and pressure when managing an epidural (which is why it is not actually a wimping out option as I initially thought). The epidural comes with a booster button, which works on a 20 minute cycle, meaning you can press it once every 20 minutes to boost your pain relief. I had been warned against pressing it too often, as if you get too numb, you can’t feel much when it comes to pushing and as a result, can end up having less control and oomph in your push. So I rationed myself, asking the midwives to help me keep an eye on the time so that I only pressed the button every 40 – 50 minutes. But on the two occasions over the night and early morning that things went ‘patchy,’ I was pressing the booster button bang on 20 minutes and voiced that I could feel everything to Lisa and, later on in the labour when it happened on the second occasion, I also flagged it up to my other midwives Chloe and Becky.
Both times, I was examined, and it was found that my legs were numb but my lower abdomen wasn’t (eeeek!), meaning at these points I was feeling every contraction and movement. And wow was I?! Baby Bear was facing head down but back to back, which is renowned for being extremely painful, and it felt like there weren’t any breaks in the pains at all. I always thought I would be pretty vocal during labour, but to my surprise I wasn’t. I just breathed through and at the very most moaned softly on the odd occasion. No swear words, no screaming. Just heavy breathing…. which also helped with the pain and powerful pressure. So did the constant hand holding, hair stroking and softly spoken but firm support that a protective Paulibear was giving at my side.
A second anaesthetist called Geoffrey finally fixed my epidural once and for all on the Saturday morning, by pulling the tube out of my spine by a cm and securing it in place with tape – apparently it had developed a kink in it which was why so little pain relief was getting through! Once he did that, I was back to my booster button rations again.
It was a long morning. An examination early on found I was just 2cm and at this point I wanted to hug and thank Lisa profusely for advising me on the epidural, which I managed to do as she handed me over to Chloe and Becky at the end of her shift. Chloe was a lovely midwife with pink rimmed glasses and a gentle manner of voice, and Becky was a trainee midwife who was tagging along for the ride in order to help her training. The beauty of the epidural was that I was able to speak to them, between booster button checks, dozing for energy and rehydration through copious amounts of water and Capri Suns!
Incidentally, that was the downside to the syntocin as well, and possibly the epidural. I had been made nil by mouth from midnight onwards as you can’t eat whilst on said methods. I’d managed a quick sandwich before commencing with the drips and epidural, but by 11am the following day, after labouring, dozing, chatting to midwives, having examinations, injections, cannulas and wires blah blah blah… well, I felt a bit weak. Blood sugars started to dip and I could feel it happening. I chose to stop talking to people then, and focus on reserving my energy.
And just as well because by 1pm they examined me again and found I was 8cm! The funny part was that Chloe had asked trainee Becky to check how far dilated I was as a way of testing her knowledge and, upon realising she looked nervous about getting it wrong, I gave her a pep talk on how she could only do her best and not be afraid of giving the wrong answer. Only I could support the trainee midwife’s confidence whilst in labour, offering up my cervix as if it were a text book to study?!! It worked though, she guessed correctly and we all cheered! Me the loudest as they had been threatening a c – section if I didn’t get a move on and NOONE wishes to have major abdominal surgery ahead of motherhood…
By 1.37pm I was ready to start pushing. I know the exact time as Paul was messaging our family with updates at regular intervals to keep them informed of goings on and he messaged ‘PUSHING!’ at that exact time. I braced myself against the stirrups and hand grips and then pushed with all my might. The management of the booster button was successful as I could feel each contraction tightening my tummy, indicating to me to push and I could feel Baby Bear moving through the birth canal.
Incidentally, the common perception that you feel like you are doing the biggest bowel movement of your life, including the same muscular urges and surges, is 100% accurate. I tucked in my chin and pushed so hard I could feel my face turning red and my eyeballs bulging against my clamped shut eyelids. In my ear was the encouraging and urgent cheering on coming from Paulibear and the midwives. It was just like sports day at school! I could sense a note of surprise in Chloe’s voice as she cheered me on and on a break between contractions, as I was sipping water from a bottle offered by Paulibear, she insisted that if I kept pushing like that, our Baby Bear would be with us in minutes.
That was all I needed. Set me a challenge and I shall rise to it. I’m a Leo and pride is in our nature. I was determined. I kept going, sometimes managing 4 pushes in a contraction. And as a result, Baby Bear was crowning within half an hr. This point was both amazing… and hilarious. Amazing because they told me he was crowning and I reached down to feel a wet, soft fontanelle (the top of Baby Bear’s head) complete with a small covering of hair. I’d pushed hard to get to this point and knew the next push was all about delivering his head fully. So, the contraction came on, I started pushing as before and Baby Bear’s head was soon born. However, I was suddenly aware that a certain Paulibear, who had been cheering me on and stroking my head in support, was taken over by sheer excitement and had actually started whacking me on the head instead. As soon as my contraction was over I managed to sputter ‘PAUL! That is my SKULL!!’ to which he apologised emphatically and kissed my cheek, before resuming soft stroking in earnest.
Luckily, concussion was avoided and I was able to deliver his body on the next push, which felt a lot like a very big eel slithering out of my nethers (apologies if any of you hate the TMI by the way, but this is a birth story…. Hollywood really doesn’t do the miracle of birthing a baby true justice!) and he was suddenly here with us, landing on my chest spluttering out fluid and covered in goop and vernix. I fell in love instantly, and said ‘Hello, darling I’m your Mummy’, rubbing him with a towel as they clamped the cord and gave the scissors to Paulibear to cut through it. Everyone was cooing and congratulating me on a wonderful job of pushing, but I wasn’t really taking it in. Unfortunately I could see my baby laying stunned on my chest and I have seen enough episodes of ‘One Born Every Minute’ to know that he should have been belting out massive, walloping cries by that point.
Due to him being 5 weeks premature, I was aware that we could face obstacles after his birth. They had wheeled in the support trolley as I was pushing and a specialist was waiting in the corner. I picked him up and practically flung him at Chloe saying ‘He’s stunned and struggling, please help him’ and he was soon on the trolley being checked over. Paul stood somewhere in between us, me on the bed, legs akimbo with all sorts of mess everywhere, and our newborn son on a trolley struggling to breathe and cry with an oxygen mask being pushed over his face, alternating with a tube being suctioned down his throat. Alarms were going off, everything was happening fast yet slow… and we could do nothing except watch.
They gave me another shot in my leg and delivered my placenta (which incidentally felt like I was being unplugged from my pregnancy) and it filled up a tray that little trainee Becky practically had to heave over to the scales to weigh to be recorded on my notes. And all the while my eyes were on the little person struggling on the trolley. Paulibear and I made eye contact a few times, trying to support each other and reassure that all would be ok. By then, there were quite a few people around Baby Bear, and the leading person turned to me and reassured me he was ok but that he was just having a bit of difficulty breathing so they were going to take him ‘upstairs to the baby unit’ to be helped and made comfortable. They wheeled him over to me and I gave him my little finger which he gripped onto tightly and the one memory I will never lose was that he didn’t let go of it until he was forced to by them wheeling him out of the room.
Paulibear asked me what he should update our family and friends about and I said ‘nothing for now… We don’t want them to worry when we don’t know for sure what is going on’. He then asked the paediatrician who he should go with and she told him to go with Baby Bear, much to my agreement, and he was out of the room in a flash. Almost straight away I was hit with nausea and a headache so big I couldn’t open my eyes for the pain. Chloe was busying herself with my downstairs area, informing me I had two small tears (oh joy!) one able to heal by itself, the other in need of 2 stitches. I told her I felt unwell and she told me to just lay back and not speak which is exactly what I did. Although, I didn’t just lay back…. I passed out.
The next thing I remember is hearing Paulibear asking someone what was wrong with me, and then the someone saying I wasn’t doing so well and that she would be right back. Apparently the someone was a nurse who was brought in to clear the room of its abattoir contents and help me get cleaned up but upon doing my observations, they had found I was shallow breathing, had developed a fever and was hard to rouse from sleep. I came to at the sound of Paulibear’s voice, but it was hard to focus and I could tell he was worried from the tone of his voice and the fact that the first thing he said to me was ‘You look grey!’. I shook my head and asked about Baby Bear and he told me that they had stabilised him, and that although I was feeling really poorly, his Mum and my Dad were in the car and on their way to the hospital because they hadn’t heard anything and had panicked. I shook my head and said ‘Noooo, I can’t see anyone like this!’ and I started to get panicked myself. Paulibear calmed me down and said that I probably should have someone with me because I felt unwell and that he had to be up on on the unit with Baby Bear, so I requested that just my Mum come up to the ward and realised he was right, I needed someone as I was actually frightened by how ill I felt. Funny to think I still needed my Mum just after becoming one myself!
Soon enough my Mum was with me, just in time to see me have a bed bath by the nurses as I was too weak to stand. I felt so poorly and yet insanely hungry. Then it hit me that hunger was the problem… I was in shock from everything and hungry. The brought me in an ice pole to start with, as I said anything more wouldn’t have stayed down for long. Then I stepped up to a hot chocolate. Then toast. And finally I wolfed down a banana and some biscuits. Sure enough I started to feel better and stronger and as the epidural wore off, I was able to move my legs about. They had removed my catheter… which was great, but when the urge to pee hit me and I was suddenly aware of being paralysed from the waist down, so I had to use a bed pan to help the situation. They produced this egg box type cardboard ‘tray’ which I had to sit on in bed and pee into. It was like a very pants version (excuse the pun) of when you need to pee desperately during a festival or something, and the only option is a small prickly bush. Only for me, it was a small, flimsy egg box.
All the while I was rabbiting to my Mum as a distraction from what was going on upstairs. Every time I thought of Baby Bear letting go of my finger it hurt my insides, so I just focused on feeling better. Paul came to give me updates and from the sound of it, I was saved a whole load of stress by passing out as the stabilising methods they used on Baby Bear would have had me bawling. Paulibear is made of steel, I swear. He never faltered once, instead relying on his coping mechanism of humour to help take the pressure off the reality in front of him, and all the nurses on the Baby Unit later told me he had them all in stitches with his great personality and that he was so lovely and thinks the world of me…. I have a wonderful and strong Bear right there, I really do. I couldn’t have made it through without him.
Finally, after 3 hours of constantly checking my temperature and blood pressure and being satisfied with my stats, Chloe consented to me being wheeled up to the Baby unit on my bed so I could actually meet my son properly. She and Becky even stayed over their shift to take me themselves, which I was so grateful for. I was scared of what I may find and see, and having them and my Mum escort me up there helped with my nerves.
I needn’t have worried… It was the most magical moment of my life. I didn’t see the tubes, monitors or even the incubator… I just saw our little person laying on his tummy, facing me with his eyes closed, with a beautiful pair of chubby cheeks and a cute little button nose and a perfectly formed heart shaped mouth.. all relaxed and peaceful – a miracle considering all the drama he had been through! I reached in through the incubator’s arm holes, stroked his naked back and said ‘It’s alright darling. Mummy’s here’. He opened his eyes instantly, and we looked right at each other for the first and longest time. And all the love in the world rushed through me and I realised that I had found my completeness, my true place in it.
I am a Mummy. A Mummy to a gorgeous little boy…. our ‘little’ Teddy Bear.
|Our first picture 🙂
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