March seems so far away! The 24th of March even more so! It was 16 weeks and 1 day ago actually. And it was the day that this little bit of heaven officially landed into the world.
Pregnancy with George was not plain sailing. I had terrible sickness and fatigue for almost half of it and my pelvis suffered a lot with the strain of carrying him leaving me limping along everyday and tossing and turning all through the nights. I was also in shock as he wasn’t planned. A happy surprise, but a surprise that left me quite overwhelmed, along with the non stop whirlwind I was also managing daily in the form of his older brother. All I could see was ‘You’ll have 2 under 2… TWO UNDER TWO! Be afraid… be very AFRAID!’.
As the pregnancy closed in on the due date, I got more and more anxious. Teddy had arrived early so I was fearful of reliving that worry. Then due date came and went, and I was begging for my body to release him and give me back my abdomen again.
We went into hospital to be induced on the 22nd of March.
I’d been induced with Ted (see his Birth Story here), and that had taken just 7 hours to kick in and he was with us by the following day. This time around, they inserted a Propess pessary that looked like a tampon for a hamster, that *gradually releases hormones to bring on labour.
*Gradually being a broad term. Try pain staking slow and arduous.
Twenty four hours later and nothing. I had felt a few tightenings but nothing major. It was hard to tell what was really happening and what I was willing to happen. I was put on the monitor a few times to monitor his movements as they were few and far between and everyone just kept telling me he was sleepy. I knew better but was trying not to panic. Instinct doesn’t lie.
Meanwhile Paul and I were passing the time as best we could. Magazines, games and social media helped, not to mention bouncing around on the gym ball in an attempt to nudge things along. Night time came and went. Paul left a full hour after visiting time ended because neither of us wanted to part. When he did leave, I tried to sleep but its hard to sleep when you know you are on the way to pushing a human out as well as being checked on by hospital staff every so often for bp checks, more monitors and painkiller rounds. I resisted the paracetamol because it felt pointless. The anti inflammatories were a no go as I am allergic. A bath was nice but not easy to relax in. So it was a case of maintaining as comfy a position as possible, whilst hooked up to a monitor with baby’s heartbeat bomping away and watching the machine spew out a load of wibbly lines on a graph sheet. I got to be quite an expert at reading the wibbles over the course of the first night. He was still ‘sleepy’. I, however, was not.
The second day and in went the second hamster tampon. It sounds so simple. In it goes! Nope. More like myself laying like a bull frog grasping Paul’s hand and bracing myself through pain whilst the poor midwife waded in with a gloved hand and talked me through hooking my cervix forward and prodding the hamster tampon into place to work more magic. It worked, by the evening I was getting regular tightenings and the monitor was back with its red and green numbers spiking.
Note: the monitors show two numbers side by side on their display. The red number shows baby’s heart rate. The green number shows the strength of your uterine contractions. A resting uterus measures around 20. Remember this in a moment.
Visiting time came and went again. Opposite my bed on the ward was a young girl, in her late teens, who had her pessary put in with the help of 3 midwives and gas and air. Her mother was there to support but just kept saying ‘I’ve had 7 with none of this crap, you can do the same!’, along with the baby’s father. He looked more nervous than anyone, bless him, and spent most of his time in his phone. When Paul had left and the other two as well, myself and the young girl smiled at one another and then closed our curtains. Neither of us were up to small talk.
The tightenings got stronger and stronger. More monitoring and more bp checks. I dozed a little but by now I was really uncomfortable by my second baby laying against my spine and homesick for my first and his cheery little smile and warm hugs. I felt silly for thinking I would be in and out in two days. Of course it would take longer! My cervix was renowned for being like a vice and needing to be kicked open like some sort of uterine police raid. Sintocin was used in Teddy’s birth and I just knew it would be on the cards again for me, it was just a question of when.
My contractions were jumping up to 80 on the monitor but were lasting around a minute and only coming every 20 minutes. Around 4am I panicked after a particularly painful one that reached 100 and messaged Paul to get him to come back to me. Little did I know he was barely sleeping and was on his way to Asda to get me snacks. Mostly as something to distract him and make him feel a little more useful. By the time he arrived at the hospital, things had gone back to being irregular and we resumed the waiting game.
Around late afternoon things started to get stronger. I was breathing through things well and could still talk to PB in between contractions. An examination determines I was 2 cm dilated and I was told to keep on keeping on. Across from me, the other girl could be heard saying she had lost her hamster tampon and that she had thrown it away. The midwives instantly started to look quite serious and asked her when she had noticed it had gone and what time she had thrown it away. Apparently you can overdose on propess and it can cause your uterus to contract too much if not monitored carefully. In came the gas and air again, around went her curtain and I could hear the poor thing bracing herself as they inserted another one.
My contractions continued to be steady for another hour or so, getting gradually closer together. I was starting to find it hard to talk and just went into myself to cope with the pains. And to ignore the horrible wailing that was occurring opposite my bed from the younger girl. At one point her green number on her monitor was at 128 for a full 10 minutes. I felt so sorry for her. PB looked at me over his phone and mouthed ‘Whats wrong with her??’ And I whispered ‘Well, apart from having a baby, her womb is contracting like an accordion right now… ouch!’. The midwives came in and pulled out her hamster tampon and gave her pethidine to ease her pain. And just as she went quiet, I started to wail a bit myself.
Things were getting stronger and, after another examination my midwife told me I was reaching 3cm and that she wanted to manually break my waters for me. Sounds so simple doesn’t it? Almost biblical. Like parting the red sea. Well, it isn’t. The midwife offered me Gas and Air stating ‘It is really quite painful to have done…’ But I refused because the idea of feeling sick on top of everything else did not appeal. So. Once again I adopted the stance of a Bull Frog. Once again I was talked through her pulling my cervix forward and then using a glorified crochet hook to burst the waters, all whilst contractions shook me to the very core. I screamed. I clutched PB’s hand so tightly that he had to prise it off and transfer it to his wrist so his fingers didn’t break. I became aware that the only thing between my suffering and the rest of the expectant mothers in the beds around me was a flimsy blue curtain and remember feeling sorry that I was probably scaring the shit out of them. But I couldn’t help it. I have never felt such pain in my life. But it was a success, the waters were broken and the midwife was enthusing how amazing I was. I didn’t feel amazing. I felt giddy and sore. She walked away to get clean sheets for me and as she closed the curtain my legs turned to jelly and I started to shake uncontrollably. PB looked worried and checked my pulse. I had gone into shock so he bundled me up with blankets and got me something to eat and drink. But then the real fun began.
It was just like in the movies. The expectant mother’s waters break and BOOM, she is in real agony. That’s what happened to me. Pulling the plug on my waters just seemed to catapult me and my uterus into hyperdrive and all of a sudden, the contractions were coming thick and fast, every 2 or 3 minutes and lasting a minute and a half each.
And I lost it.
I always thought I would be a bad ass at birthing. I had managed well with contractions at Ted’s birth but they had given me an epidural early on so I hadn’t experienced the fully whammy of contractions like I was now. Even so, I thought I would be a quiet one. That I would be quite serene, maybe moan a bit but ultimately keep my shit together. I’ve always been a ‘put on a brave front’ type. Well, labour exposes you and has absolutely no time for putting up fronts.
I made sounds I can’t even recreate now. Gutteral, primal, wildlife on one type sounds. I mooed! I grasped and clutched and even bit down on pillows. I got hot then cold then hot again and poor PB was up and down and here and there trying to help in any way he could. I was so aware of what my body was doing and I wished I wasn’t so clued up. The pressure began to build up in my bum and I just knew baby was trying to descend before my body was ready. Plus I wanted an epidural and was petrified that I would miss my chance. My midwives kept saying ‘Oooo, you’re managing so well on your own though’ and ‘Oooo, there’s plenty of time for that’. When I looked at one of them like I wanted to kill her, she suggested I have a warm bath to help with the pain. I accepted, in tears. And when she was gone, I turned to PB and had a meltdown to him.
‘I’m not making this up! I can’t do this in this way! I can’t! I know everyone thinks I am having an epidural as a cop out but it isn’t! Please! I only have a very tiny window of opportunity to bloody well get one and if I miss it, I swear there will be HELL TO PAY!!! ARRRRGGGHHHHHSSHSSSSMMMMOOOOOoooooooo!’.
Lots of sssshhhing and ‘It’s ok, calm downs’ later and even PB looked deep in thought about what to do for the best. It had been 20 minutes by then and still no midwife or bath. So I sent him off with a ‘Will you find out what the hell is going on with that poxy bath?!’ and off he went for what felt like forever. All the while leaving me to moo away in one of those high backed uncomfortable arm chairs wearing just my pants!
Suddenly, the curtain was whipped round and PB was back, telling me that the midwives from labour ward were on their way round to collect me and take me round to the delivery suite. Apparently, they heard my mooing and ranting, which apparently are the sounds they were waiting for me to make to show I was at the right stage and before long, two midwives stood before me introducing themselves and asking if I was up to walking?? No was my answer. I think I actually growled it at them before resuming my mooing. Along came a wheelchair and again, just like in the movies, I was the screaming mother to be getting whisked along the corridor with a worried PB hobbling along behind (he hadn’t been feeling well, and due to complications from his heart condition meds, had contracted gout in his leg. Or so we thought, more on that in part 2 of this story….).
Before I knew it, I was in a birthing suite, sitting on a bed and being examined for progress (more bull frog time!). By now I was 5cm, and begging for an epidural whilst being assured that the anaesthetist was on her way. Gas and air was passed to me and, as ever, I resisted out of fear of feeling sick. PB reasoned that if I never tried it then I would never know how it makes me feel so I went for it and sucked in a lungful of the stuff. It was good, I didn’t get sick I just felt a little dizzy but it took the edge off the pain. Well, it spun me out so that I felt a bit separated from the pain really. Bit like being stoned whilst someone walks across your back with stilettos on sort of thing.
The anaesthetist arrived and through my gas and air stupor I professed my undying love to her and asked her to marry me! She was quick, efficient and patient. I love her. I don’t know her name, where she is now or what she is doing but I love her to bits. It’s hard not to love someone who takes away the pain of having your hips prised apart by the head of a baby.
Five contractions later and I was numb from the waist down and asking for some toast as my mooing had not only prevented me from eating my dinner earlier that evening but it had also left me starving! I sat munching on toast and jam, slurping on cartons of juice and joking with PB and the midwives.
I was on monitors left, right and centre. I had bp checks every 20 mins. A little button to click if I needed a top up of relief to the pain. At the touch of the button I would get and icy tingle into my body and the numbness would override the faint glimpse of pain. But there was one monitor reading that the midwives were really pouring over and it was the heart rate of the baby again.
As they started to utter the word ‘sleepy’ again, I heard c section mentioned as a possibility if things didn’t move along and then I stopped them and addressed the fact that I thought the cord was around his neck. They didn’t say yes and they didn’t say no. They just did their signature down play the scary possibility of tragic circumstances thing and after another examination (6cm), I was hooked up to the sintocin drip and given 0.3mls.
After an hour, I was put up to 0.6mls. At this point, I started to struggle. You see, my body doesn’t like sintocin. At all. With Teddy’s birth, I crashed afterwards and lost consciousness for a couple of hours due to shock and the syntocin. It makes me hot, nauseous, dizzy and lethargic. I feel sick and as if I am slipping away from consciousness if I have too much. And thats how I was feeling now.
I managed to say so to the midwives and they stepped in and brought the drip back down to 0.3mls. They told me to relax anr close my eyes, maybe even have a snooze. But no sooner had I done that than they started to examine me again and found that I was fully dilated. It was time to push, not nap. I was quite gutted actually. A nap sounded lovely!
The feet went into the stirrup foot rests. The back of the bed went up for support. I reached for the hand grips on the side of the bed and looked at Paul and smiled as he stroked my head and nodded in encouragement. The midwives were coaching me on how to push and I heard PB say ‘Oh, don’t worry, she’s a great pusher. She pushed our eldest out in like 5 go’s’. May have to put that on my CV…
I could feel the tightenings of a contraction without the pain and got the go ahead from the midwife, who was now stationed down at the business end of things. I took a deep breath and gave a push and all of a sudden, the midwives and PB all jumped backwards a little and let out a ‘woah! Woah woah WOAH!!’. I think PB even exclaimed ‘Bloody hell!’.
Now, this is not the reaction you want to have when you are pushing a baby out. If a camera had been trained on me at that moment, you would have seen me glancing from one face to another, wide eyes and gawping before exclaiming ‘What? What what WHAT?! WHAT IS IT?!’.
Apparently, I gave such a big push that I almost had him come out in one go! I looked at PB and he said ‘You just nearly had him fly out of you and across the room! Go slow! Bloody hell… I told you she was a good pusher!’.
The nodding midwife then told me to reign my pushes in a little and listen to her as she guided me through everything. Three pushes and his head was out. I reached down and felt his head just as I had done when Teddy had crowned almost 2 yrs before. Some would recoil at the idea but, for me, the memory of doing this at both births are like little magic grains of sand in the timer of life. I shall always treasure them.
A few more little pushes and one big push and he was here and being plonked on my chest. There was a moment of concern as he did indeed have the cord wrapped around his neck as I had suspected. Mother’s intuition knows no bounds! His pallor went from purple and blue to pink in no time though and he was soon crying with gusto. The first cries of your baby are they most happiest sounds you will ever encounter. Granted they do it countless times beyond that moment but right then and there, nothing beats it. You know they are striving and your heart nearly bursts with relief.
I watched PB cut the cord and the placenta came out without a fuss. I was officially unplugged from my pregnancy and I was ecstatic to be able to have skin to skin time. Not that George was having any of it! He was alert and straining to be up and looking around. Nosey. Just like his poppabear. Not only in temperament but in looks too. Jet black curls, olive skin and big brown eyes like chocolate buttons. I was in love.
We were left to soak up the magic and more toast was shipped in. George latched straight away and I nursed him whilst PB went to sleep in the chair. He looked awful. Worse than I did. He’d managed to cuddle George briefly and change him into his sleep suit but now he was off in dreamland. I asked the midwives to help me into a shower and insisted that they let him rest.
“Please let him sleep …. he’s not neglecting me… he has a heart condition and is worn out”.
After my shower, I cuddled George and reflected on all that had happened. I sat back and basked in the glory of making it through. Of having my baby in my arms and of not having any huge dramas.
‘Hi five!!’ I said to myself, ‘You did it. We’ll be home by this evening, Teddy will be waiting for us and we can start to be a family of four!’.
I looked at PB asleep in the chair, all curled up like a foetus, and my smile disappeared…
‘Well….. At least I hope so.’
To be continued in Part 2: PB Collapses…