I’ve recently been thinking about Jacob’s birth more and more. I’m not traumatised or anything. Just slightly disappointed that things didn’t go quite to plan—which makes me feel a bit ridiculous because in the grand scheme of things I had a pretty easy time of it.
My waters broke in the morning at 39+5 (on the sofa!), which for some reason I really wasn’t expecting. I’d assumed I would have contractions first. I dutifully called the labour line and was told to pop in to the birth centre within an hour or two so they could check it was my waters. I was pretty certain I hadn’t peed myself!
The midwife confirmed I was indeed still continent. I was told to go home and relax, and that I’d need to come in for monitoring if contractions hadn’t started within 24 hours. So far, I’d had a dull period pain type feeling but nothing I’d describe as contractions.
At home I tried to have a little nap (too buzzing to sleep), eat a little to try to keep my energy up (too nervous to really eat much) and then we went for a little walk to try to get things going.
The latent phase
Later that evening contractions started up. I sent the husband off to bed to get some sleep and tried to remember all my advice from NCT classes. I breathed through contractions and sat on my birth ball. I put my tens machine on. I tried to watch something funny to relax me. I watched Usain Bolt in the 200m final (I highly recommend being heavily pregnant during the Olympics). At about 3am I felt like I should call back in. The midwife advised me to take a paracetamol, keep doing what I was doing and to call back if I felt like I couldn’t manage at home.
At 6am I really felt like things were ramping up and contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes or so and lasting 30ish seconds. I called and was told to head in. I was seen by a lovely midwife who clearly realised I was nowhere near giving birth. My contractions had really slowed down on the journey to every 6 or 7 minutes again, but as I needed monitoring at 10am they let me stay in the birth centre to relax and try and get things going again. I was getting pretty tired by this point (HA! Little did I know). They got me some breakfast, which the husband pretty much force-fed me and I promptly threw back up.
10am came and the midwife said they’d like me to go over to the labour ward because the medical team would want to give me intravenous antibiotics as my waters had broken 24 hours ago and there was a risk of infection. I asked if I had to and she said no, I didn’t HAVE to, I could ask for more time. I was keen to avoid intervention, so asked for 12 more hours, which the medical team agreed to. I was sent home with instructions to ring back at 10pm.
So we went home again. I tried to sleep again but failed. The husband made me go for a walk round the block. This whole time I was having irregular contractions. By early afternoon contractions were ramping up again. It got to 10pm and we called up again. The husband said things were really getting started so could we come in a bit later? He was keen to avoid another slowing down of contractions. The midwife on the labour ward said absolutely not, so we headed off to hospital again.
When we arrived on the labour ward I was in serious discomfort, but managing. We had to wait about half an hour to be shown into the monitoring ward. I was strapped up to the machine to check baby’s heartbeat. I found this really uncomfortable, by this point I felt most comfortable standing so being strapped down was hell. The midwife soon offered me two paracetamol. I managed to avoid telling her where she could stick them.
A doctor eventually came and started saying I needed IV antibiotics then a drip to start labour. I pointed out that I was in labour. He decided to examine me and was surprised to see I was 3cm dilated. Until that point I don’t think he believed me at all. He said I would be admitted. We asked if I could still give birth in the midwife-led birth centre but he said no. That was a bit of a blow for me. For some reason I hadn’t considered giving birth on the labour ward.
He strongly advised that I needed antibiotics but I was still reluctant after we discussed the risk. I agreed to a blood test to check for markers of infection, which came back suggesting I might have one. That changed things for me. I wasn’t willing to have them for a tiny theoretical risk, but I would now the stakes were higher.
I was admitted to the induction ward (despite my refusal of induction) for my antibiotics. It was 1am by this time and the 3 other ladies in my bay were sleeping. My cannula was fitted and the antibiotics were given. I had to have them 6 hourly now until I’d given birth.
I found being in labour in a room with strangers really awkward. I felt I was disturbing them. So, we went to the corridor, which was deserted, and I walked up and down stopping in an alcove to breathe through my increasingly strong contractions. At 5am the midwife in charge of my bay spotted me and decided to examine me again because she thought I looked like I was progressing. I was 5-6cm and allowed my own delivery suite! And gas and air!
My delight at being told I could go to delivery was soon dashed by the fact that I was strapped up to the monitor again. At first I thought this was just for now, but soon realised they wanted me on it until I gave birth! I’m annoyed at myself that I didn’t challenge this. Luckily I had a lovely midwife who helped me stay mobile. For the first two hours anyway.
At shift change we were introduced to the new midwife. She was a no-nonsense type who kept telling me off for moving because it was messing up her trace and taking my blood pressure every 15 minutes. At my next examination I was found to be 8cm. The relief! Surely baby would be here soon. Ha ha ha.
At about lunchtime I hadn’t progressed any further. In came the consultant, who strongly advised I had my labour augmented by the drip. I really didn’t want this but I had no more energy to stand my ground so reluctantly agreed. I figured maybe it would speed things up and I’d have baby within an hour or two. I mean, I was 8cm!
The consultant also strongly advised an epidural. The midwife agreed. Apparently “no one has the drip without one.”. And “rather you than me”. On this I did stand my ground. The midwife told me the drip would make the contractions 10 times worse. Not exactly reassuring. But I let them start it.
I’m not going to lie, it was painful. But I managed with just gas and air. At my next examination 4 hours later I was 9cm. A few hours later after screaming to be checked again (“I can’t check you now, my boss will be angry. It’s not been 4 hours”) I was at 9.5cm. The consultant was getting really twitchy at this point and decided she would try to flip the last part of the cervix across. This was as unpleasant as it sounds. She then wanted to check in another hour that it had stayed flipped over. I didn’t last another hour. I started to feel the need to push and despite the midwife telling me I had to wait, I couldn’t.
At 7pm, halfway through pushing, it was time to for shift change again. My midwife was disappointed in me “I thought I was going to deliver a baby today” she huffed. Her replacement was my saviour, the midwife sent from heaven. She was encouraging, cheering me on when I thought I couldn’t do it—31 minutes into her shift, Jacob was born. Naturally, with just gas and air. Two small grazes and no stitches. I have never been so relieved in my life.
A small hiccup
There was one small hitch. As Jacob was passed to me through my legs, I remarked “that’s a lot of blood”. Cue the panic button being hit. The room filled with people, probably about 7 or 8. Jacob and the husband where whisked into a corner and I laid back, exhausted while they injected me to speed up delivery of the placenta. They then proceeded to pull it out. Someone literally had their hand in my womb. I couldn’t have cared less. This stopped the bleeding and I finally got to look at my son properly.
Despite the length of my labour (my discharge notes say labour was 18 hours and the pushing stage was 1 hour 10 mins, but my waters broke 57 hours before he was born), I felt pretty lucky. I’d avoided the epidural I didn’t want and gave birth naturally and safely.
In hindsight, I feel like I really had to fight to get the natural birth I wanted. My care didn’t feel very ‘woman-centred’—the apparent buzz word in maternity care. I was made to feel like I was causing problems by questioning the care they wanted to give me. I strongly believe that if I’d been allowed in the birth centre where I’d be more relaxed I would have had the baby a lot quicker. I think being strapped to the monitor was my downfall. Movement really helped me and being pinned down felt unnatural.
Next time I would really like a home birth.