The Birth Story

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

In my usual way, I'm going to find it hard to condense this, and also hard not to whitter on about my feelings and emotions whilst doing so. I will also be making a lot of comparisons with my first labour with Ollie, as much of what happened then influenced my decisions and feelings second time round.

I've talked about it a LOT, but if you don't know, my first labour with Ollie was not what I wanted. 

(If you do know all this, skip a couple of paragraphs!)

Meconium in my waters and a hospital policy that I had to lie flat on my back strapped to monitors, was a bad start. I felt very unprepared emotionally and physically. My midwife was useless and didn't speak to me. I wanted a natural birth and at no stage felt any thing natural at all was going on. I felt completely out of control. My coping mechanism was to stay very quiet. I didn't breathe through contractions, more like held my breath and wished it wasn't happening. Ollies heart rate was constantly unstable. At 7cm they gave me the drip to speed up labour as he was distressed. The pain was significantly stronger but I was managing on gas and air, although they kept pushing me for an epidural. 

Me: "I really feel I can cope with this, it's important to me to have a natural birth"

Anaesthetist: "Do you really think you'll cope for another few hours?"

Yes, really. Great vote of confidence. 

When I had the epidural I felt a failure because it wasn't what I wanted, what I chose, and I knew I could have kept going. What saddened me was it felt like no one believed in me. This quiet girl who was staunchly trying to crack on with it. The decision to use forceps after 5 minutes of pushing was another blow to my confidence. I felt like I did nothing at all, had nothing to be proud of, and was quite shocked and stunned when they handed me my beautiful Ollie. It felt like I hadn't even given birth, it had all been done for me.

I was convinced this time round that all the fault lay in the fact that I wasn't prepared, so I spent a lot of time thinking about what might happen. I was also convinced that the epidural ruined it all. My husband was prepped that under no circumstances was I to have pain relief. 

Well that went out the window...

My waters broke at 7.30am on my due date when I got up to do my morning wee. I was completely elated that something was happening and that the waters weren't green like last time. I was literally buzzing with excitement. We went to the hospital and they said I was 2cm and gave me a sweep. Within minutes of getting home again I was having regular mild contractions. Within a couple of hours they were 4 minutes apart and I was using breathing techniques, my husband counting through them for me. I felt really in control.

Suddenly I had a flurry of contractions 2 minutes apart that I had to moan my way through. We decided to go back to the hospital but on the way the contractions just stopped and when I got to triage they were mild and 4 minutes apart again. They said I was 3cm and should walk around the hospital for a bit as it would probably heat up again quickly. The last thing I wanted to do was walk around and suddenly I had a whopping big contraction, followed by another and another. A lovely midwife excitedly trilled "change of plan!" and guided me across the corridor into the birthing suite complete with dim lights, bubble machines and a large birthing pool. I remember feeling really elated that everything was going the way I had hoped.

She told me I was now in established active labour and things were progressing quickly based on the timings and the way I was reacting. I sat on the birthing ball and started on some gas and air which was brilliant. The contractions were coming quickly and were strong, but I still had this sense of control and power. I wasn't frightened and I didn't want to escape, I was embracing what was happening.

As she started running the pool suddenly the pain shifted and I felt this incredibly forceful surge downwards through my tummy. It felt like something was diving through me and trying to split me open between my legs. Gasping I explained what I was feeling and she told me baby was coming and to follow my instinct to push. It was a bizarre thing though because I couldn't work out if it was an urge to push or something different. It felt like the baby was doing something I couldnt work out. It was pushing down but in the wrong way. I did not, at this stage, have the time to think through what could be happening, that weeks and weeks of worrying that my baby was back to back and in an awkward position was actually having an effect on my labour. I had been repeatedly told by midwives that baby would turn in early labour, but baby had definitely not turned...

As I got into the pool I didn't feel the instant relief I expected. The water wasn't soothing to me and I felt awkward, like one of those enormous inflatable toys you get in holiday swimming pools. Half floating, half sinking, knees slipping on the bottom of the pool, I tried to stay calm and focus on breathing. The midwife and my husband were chanting at me to push and I tried to follow this but when I did push it felt wrong and it felt very very painful. At the same time, the surges downwards were almost an automatic push in themselves, so I felt sort of trapped and unsure. Suddenly I didn't feel like things were going the way they should be. My midwife, on the other hand, was getting gloves on and had a table ready for the baby. She put a finger inside me and said she could feel the head and baby was about to be born. At the stage suddenly the surges took on a new level of intensity and I have to say I was screaming blue murder. I remember not recognising this noise coming out of me. I sounded like an elephant, this sort of manic guttural fog horn noise. I was shouting that I couldn't do it, and I really felt like I was about to die! as the midwife said that I could I could, baby was coming!!

But all of a sudden she stopped, I opened my eyes and saw a lot of blood in the pool.

What happened next was a bit blurry, but involved a lot of people coming in to the room, the midwife telling me that baby was not coming and that I was only 6 cm! She had never examined me and just assumed I was fully dilated because of the pressure I was feeling. She said it was all wrong, and that I MUST stop pushing. Having literally been hanging on for dear life and under the illusion that I was seconds away from delivery, I felt like someone had punctured the inflatable elephant. I have never felt so deflated and exhausted and confused in my life. The pain and the surges and the sort-of-sort-of-not pushing was still ongoing as the team tried to get me out of the pool. I looked down and there was just blood pouring down my legs. They took the gas and air away from me as they put me on a bed and wheeled me to the delivery unit and I felt so completely and utterly terrified and in so much agony I couldn't think straight. My insides were splitting open, the pressure was so intense.

And that's when I had the light bulb moment. Epidural epidural epidural. I grabbed my husband. I had to have an epidural right now. My choice, my decision. No more of this nonsense trying to make up for last time, trying to prove something to myself or whoever. I was frightened and this was unbearable and something was wrong and there was blood everywhere and I literally needed to check out. Needed to escape. There was no way I could face this pain. 

I don't know whether I'm just not brave enough, or whether the pain I was feeling in that moment was worse that the pain many other woman feel. I will always wonder how on earth women give birth without pain relief, and of course that is what they've had to do for all time before modern medicine gave us more options. Even now I know so many women who have given birth without even gas and air. Of course that is what is natural-  we are designed to do it. We should be able to do it...

What would I have done 100 years ago? Would I have just had to cope? Would I have died?! I literally can't imagine coping with that pain. Maybe the circumstances and the blood made it all worse. Maybe the knowledge that there was the option of the epidural. But I just couldn't do it. I had to have the epidural. As I lay on the bed the doctor were desperately telling me not to push and I had no control over myself. With every surge blood gushed out and I kept pooing myself. It was literally chaos. 

After the epidural they were able to properly examine me. Baby appeared to be back to back, twisted at an angle, with his head lodged chin-up rather than chin-down in my pelvis. Rather than feeling the crown of his head through my cervix they could feel the front of his forehead. My contractions were extremely forceful, as strong as they can get, in a bid to turn baby. Every contraction was forcing the wrong part of his head down- not onto my cervix to help it dilate properly, but onto my back passage and spine. Hence the horrendous pressure and the blood and the pooing. 

Now all we could do was wait for me to dilate and the contractions to naturally, hopefully, turn the baby. After a few hours they put me on the drip to increase the intensity. It took hours and hours. Consultants visited and the only thing that kept me from a c section was that Harry's heart rate was miraculously steady and calm. I didn't feel pain or the unstoppable pushing urge, but I felt tightening and pressure, so I still felt part of it all. I kept repeatedly being sick and got a temperature, so wasn't feeling particularly well, and I just wanted to get it over with.

At 11pm, 16 hours after my waters broke and about 13 hours after I started having contractions, I was finally 10cm. The baby hadn't moved. They left me another hour, and then at midnight I started pushing. Pushing with an epidural is bizarre because you can't really feel where you are pushing into. But I pushed as hard as I possibly could, every single time. I think this was the point that I suddenly realised I could do something. That I could be a part of this. Id opted for the epidural and the dream of a relaxed water birth was long gone, but now I had the chance to make myself proud. 

My pushing was successful in that I managed to turn the baby. The midwife, unless she was just being nice, seemed quite astonished that I was able to do it. The doctors came in and kept congratulating me. I felt like less of a failure, less of a wimp. Suddenly it was 1am, id been pushing for an hour, he was turned, but not with us. The consultant came in and said that if he wasn't out in 10 minutes it would be forceps. 

I wasn't having forceps again. I had to do it. We put my legs up in a different position on stirrups and I used the angle to push as hard as I could. The midwife gave me a look and I asked her whether I was going to deliver this baby and she sighed and shook her head. Again, more motivation. I needed to prove her wrong. 

I gave it everything I had and suddenly everything changed. Baby was coming. The midwife looked really surprised and delighted. Harry's head was born at 1.34am. It was an amazing moment. I felt myself opening up, felt all the pressure and force, but no pain at all. When his head delivered it was twisted towards my right inner thigh, with his arm up wrapped around his face and then the cord wrapped twice around his neck, binding his arm to his face. No wonder pushing had been hard! Not to mention his 99th percentile enormous head!

At 1.35 I delivered his body and they put him straight on my chest. I have never ever felt more alive than I did in that moment. It was the most beautiful and amazing experience. I felt so fulfilled, so empowered, all those emotions which I had so hoped to feel. And yes I had done it without the pain, so cheating slightly (!), but I had birthed my baby naturally. I had given it everything I had. And he was here.

Welcome to the world my darling Harry.

Thanks for reading xx

Our First Week

My darling Harry is one week and one day old today. Im automatically inclined to say I can't believe how quickly its gone, but then actually, it feels like he has been here for so long with all of us, like he has always been here.

I am absolutely deliriously, and probably quite sickeningly, happy. 

We all are it seems.

This week has not gone quite as expected though. During my labour (birth story coming up...) I bled a lot and had a temperature which are indicators of infection. After the birth, I was put on antibiotics and Harry was tested for infection. His blood work came back showing raised "infection indicators". They put a cannula in his tiny hand and started IV antibiotics. We were admitted to the post natal ward for 48 hours. Then a repeat test 12 hours later which we expected to be normal showed that the infection indicators had increased again, so we were in for a 5 day stay. 

It was very difficult being stuck at the hospital for so long. Obviously we wanted Harry to be safe and well, but he showed no signs of illness whatsoever. One midwife even said that technically it was just a number- he wasn't a poorly baby. I was also feeling amazing. Unlike after Ollies birth, I felt empowered, energised and healthy. I wasn't too sore, Harry was latching and feeding brilliantly and I just wanted to get home to my big baby who was turning 2. 

But for 5 days we waited in a horribly cramped and hot stuffy ward. It was quite incredible witnessing the cross section of society who came and went. The Romanian family who all but moved in and had smelly McDonalds for every meal, the mother who snored so loudly that she didn't wake to her own baby's screams, the woman who's partner and father cheered when the midwife put an electronic security tag on the baby's ankle and shouted "first tag of many son!"

I could definitely write a tv drama about it all. Harry was unsettled at night by the other baby's cries, and after an amazing start, got very angry when my milk came in and he had to re learn how to latch. I spent a lot of time crying because I was by myself- my mum decided to go home to London, meaning my husband had no childcare help so couldn't spend the days with me. Ollie came to visit of course, and introducing him to Harry was one of the best moments of my life. But it was hard for him to spend much time at the hospital, with so many buttons to press and so little space to play.

We were discharged on Sunday afternoon and as I stepped out into the beautiful sunshine, having gone in to hospital the previous Monday and having had no fresh air since, I felt pretty amazing. Harry has just slotted into our routine and our home as if he has always been there. We have almost cracked feeding, Tuesday was a brilliant day and today he is being a bit fussy again. I have a furious let down that drowns him and so much milk he can't keep up, but I am persevering, and keep having to remind myself that he is latching, he is feeding, even if a half hour feed is started with 5 minutes of struggle to get him calm enough to cope with it. I know we will get there.

Ollie doesn't seem at all fazed by his little brother. All he wants to do is "give baby kisses" and other than that just happily plays nearby. We have Harry in his carrycot downstairs and I can play with Olllie and carry on as normal whilst he sleeps. And sleep he does- feeding every 3 hours in the day and 4 at night, sleeping in between. We are lucky we have it so easy. I don't even really feel tired. 

Harry's first bath went really well too. We had Ollie in the shower (he loves showers which is great for saving water) so the bathroom was warm and steamy, and we put Harry in his bath and he absolutely loved it. I was expecting a screaming mess and he lay there calmly as I washed him. 

I know of course that this contentment might not last forever, and that we have growth spurts and teething ahead of us, but for now, I am trying not to be too smug about how brilliantly it is going. I feel such a huge sense of relief he is here, pride in myself and Ollie, and happiness that my family now has two darling sons. On Tuesday I took ollie to his usual baby song class and took Harry with us. On my own!! And it was fine. As soon as we have totally cracked breastfeeding (don't fancy feeding in public yet as it's a bit of a palava with boobs flapping around) I feel like we can do anything together. 

My little team.

Thanks for reading xxx

He has arrived!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

I wanted to let you know that my little boy was born on Tuesday 7th after my waters broke on my due date! 

The story of how we welcomed him into the world is a long one and one I no doubt will write imminently as I want to remember and document it. Needless to say it wasn't my perfect delivery but it was a natural birth and I successfully pushed out a 9lb baby! So I am proud and happy.

Above all, his health is the most important, and we are in hospital for 5 days as he is having precautionary antibiotics due to slightly raised levels on a routine blood test. There may be a small infection. He is breast feeding beautifully (YESSSSS!!!!) and seems happy and healthy so I am trying to stay optimistic, although it is hard when I am feeling well and he seems well to be stuck on a postnatal ward. I won't be home for Ollie's birthday on Friday and we won't be having a party for him this weekend now. 

Ollie seems very settled and extremely interested and excited about baby. He wants to pick him up which is obviously a bit of a no go and we are spending a lot of time reminding him to be gentle. I am so proud of him.

And by the way, we are calling our new arrival Harry.

Oliver and Harry. My babies.

Thanks for reading xx


Wednesday, 1 October 2014

I have tried to write an update every day for the last 3 and every time just irritate myself with my impatience and inability to do anything but obsess over when the baby is coming.

This is all very new to me as with Ollie I felt this bizarre sense of calm and a very clear, very strong sense that he would be early. Which he was.

Now, I feel like a slightly crazy woman who has no idea what's going on or what to expect. All I know is that I am REALLY enormous and uncomfortable, feel constantly on edge, jittery with nerves and giddy with excitement. It feels like the baby's head is actually IN my vagina and when he moves like an elephant is rolling inside me.

I am trying to ignore the niggling worries of late pregnancy. The fact that my bump seems to be so large. I keep having dreams of 10lb back to back babies getting stuck and causing havoc.

Today I discovered that my friend Sian who blogs at Quite Frankly She Said had a beautiful little boy yesterday. I am SO excited for her, really truly genuinely so, and also this has put my impatience into overdrive! There is nothing like seeing a newborn for getting your hopes up. Sian looks beautiful and happy and after a much more traumatic (but in some ways similar) first birth, I am thrilled for her that this time was, in her words "quick and amazing". I am really hopeful of course that I will have a similar experience.

For now, I am drinking raspberry leaf tea, bouncing on a ball and doing pregnancy yoga. I had some aromatherapy and reflexology on Monday and am using the oils provided to keep myself calm throughout the day. I am also making sure I embrace and enjoy every second with my Ollie who is being particularly gorgeous at the moment. I can't imagine how it will all change but I am so proud of him and so sure that he was born to be an amazing big brother.

Thanks for reading xxx


Friday, 26 September 2014

I have now officially been pregnant for longer with this baby than I was with Ollie.

My waters broke at 3pm when I was 38+4. It was a big shock and I thought I'd wet myself for ages. When I realised that not only had my waters gone but they were green with meconium, I tried to shout for my husband, but he couldn't hear me. He then nearly had a heart attack when I phoned his mobile (he was in the garage and I was upstairs) and yelled at him to get upstairs. He had never moved so quickly.

I keep thinking back to those moments. To what happened next. So many small details etched into my mind. The faces we saw at the hospital. What everyone said and did. I can't believe it was all nearly two years ago. I can't believe how it all made me feel. So overwhelmed and scared and calm and spaced out and nervous and excited all at once. I didn't know when I went into hospital that I was going to come home with a baby. I hadn't started having contractions. I wasn't really in labour. When the midwife said "you're having this baby today" I was really stunned.

This time everything is so different. Knowledge makes the world a lot more scary and a lot more real and everything a lot more important. I feel much more anxious about what is to come, much more aware. Sometimes when I let myself think about the pain I feel so scared and I want to run away from it all. But then sometimes I am able to really centre myself and look forward to this and remember that for two years, since Ollie's birth, I have hoped and then have known that I will have a second baby and I will have the opportunity to prove to myself that I can do this. That I can survive the pain. That I can bring a baby into the world in a way that is empowering and not brutal and managed by everyone but me.

Of course I don't know what is going to happen. It still might not go the way I want. But I am very hopeful and optimistic. Rightly or wrongly.

Now that I have been pregnant for longer, I feel as though this baby is overdue, when of course he isn't yet. I think he will come next week. I don't think I will reach my due date but who knows. I had hoped, for no important reason at all, that I might have a late September baby. That we might squeeze the date in before October. So that September could be his birthday month, my husband's August, and October Oliver's, (and we just forget I'm an October birthday too! It's the 31st so I can have November...)

If he comes in September that means we have 4 days left. Then only 6 days of October before my due date. What if he is then late? What if he arrives on the 10th and shares Ollie's birthday?! What are the chances?! And why am I so consumed with thinking about birthdays all of a sudden?

I just want him to come now. I don't want to be pregnant, I want to be a mummy of two beautiful healthy boys and I pray that I will be blessed with that wish soon. I thought that I would feel very odd about the prospect of another baby joining our family but I don't at all. It feels right. I thought I would be worrying about Ollies reaction but I'm not. He suddenly seems to be getting it. Today he patted my tummy and said "baby there, my baby, baby brother. Baby pop soon" (because I told him the baby would pop out).

Of course I don't know what his reaction will actually be. How we will all cope. What Ollie will think or do when the baby cries or when I am feeding him or when I am exhausted. I don't want Ollie to feel he is replaced. But then I can't really imagine him feeling that because out of all little boys in the whole world, not one could feel more loved than I believe Ollie feels. Sometimes we tell him we love him and kiss and hold him so much I feel like the sentiment must be suffocating.

This baby will be loved so much too.

My boys. My family.

I wonder when it will all be real....

Thanks for reading xx
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