So if you are interested, click to below to read the rest, be warned it's quite long!
As you may know from reading my pregnancy updates, I was, oh so, eager to have a natural birth. I really wanted to birth at home, when that option was removed from me, I hoped I could at least give birth in our local midwife led unit, but that too was suggested too dangerous after problems I had in my previous pregnancy (ruptured placenta). I was holding out for at least the option of the midwife led unit in the main hospital over in Gloucester, just one floor away is the main delivery suite with all the doctors I may need in an emergency. At 38 weeks I went to see the consultant, who after much negotiation agreed to wait until my due date to induce me, giving me what I thought was plenty of time to go into labour of my own accord.
Of course that didn't happen and induction meant delivery suite only, no chance of a water birth and as far as I could tell no chance of the natural birth I had longed for. So on Thursday the 18th September, we sent Milo off to school, got our bags ready and headed to the hospital for what we expected to be a long wait for the baby.
On arrival we were put in our own room on the maternity ward. It was so nice to be in a room of our own and gave me confidence that Johnny would be able to stay with me rather than being sent home if things progressed slowly.
As it was I was only 1cm and the midwife decided, though they probably could if they needed to, breaking my waters at this point would be a bit tricky, so instead I had the first pessary to try and get things going. On admittance I had a slight temperature, which the midwife was a little concerned about and wanted to get a doctor's opinion on. I wasn't very worried, it was such a humid day, I was in hospital about to have a baby and as hospitals generally are, it was unbearably hot inside, plus I was feeling fine in myself.
So with 6 hours to kill before my next examination, Johnny and I went for a stroll around the hospital, had a dreadful coffee, purchased overpriced snacks and attempted to cool down outside, where it was just as stuffy as inside. On returning to our room, I knit, read magazines and ate my hospital dinner, whilst Johnny mostly read and dozed. As far as I could tell, nothing was happening in terms of labour symptoms.
At 6.30pm the midwife returned to put me on the monitor for 30 minutes before my next examination. Almost immediately I started to feel and see (via the monitor) contractions, they were sporadic, but there were lots of them, however by 7pm I was still 1cm and I had the second pessary.
Not long after coming off my second round of monitoring my contractions started to get quite painful. I moved on to the birthing ball which I found really useful and knit knit knit! I had cast on a sock that morning especially for labour, thinking the simple knitting would be mediative. It worked really well, through each contraction I closed my eyes and concentrated on the knitting in my hands.
About 8/9pm the doctor finally showed up to investigate what to do about my temperature. I'd been given a couple of paracetemol which had brought it down a little but it was still highish. It was one of the doctors I had seem before and liked, which was nice. She decided she would move me up to the delivery suite and have my waters broken to speed things up, even though I was still 1cm. She also prescribed intravenous antibiotics and fluids. Initially she tried putting the cannula for the drips in my left hand, but something went wrong so had to put one in my right hand instead, both my hands immediately swelled up like balloons so that was the end of knitting as a distraction.
It took a while once we transferred upstairs to actually get my waters broken, as I required half an hour of monitoring again before this happened and due to some faulty monitors we had to move rooms. Fortunately the monitors upstairs were wireless, which meant I could stay bouncing on the ball as the contractions were getting quite intense by this point. Once the midwife was able to break my waters it was midnight, I was still only 1cm and it took her quite a few attempts to rupture them. However when she did they really went, I had been warned this would happen as I had quite high water levels, but, oh my, am I glad they didn't go at home!
The contractions just got more and more intense from this point on, at times they seemed to roll together without any break at all, at other points I would have a good minute or two of complete normality which really helped me get through. By now I had abandoned the ball for contractions and was only using it to rest on in between, the rest of the time I spent on my feet rotating my hips, using my drip stand for support, which simply seemed to be the most comfortable place to be.
The midwife kept insisting that I tell her as soon as I felt the need to push, this seemed ludicrous to me being as I was just at 1cm and had been having contractions for hours already. I used all I had learned through reading the natural birthing books to try and keep on top of everything. If I started to feel like I couldn't do it I simply chanted 'you can do this, you can do this' and I imagined my little baby here in my arms and us all being back home, the four of us together. This helped me so much. I hummed quite a lot too actually, I probably sounded ridiculous, but I guess it's better than screaming.
I think it was about 2am when the midwife examined me again and I was 7cm. This seemed promising but I was struggling. She suggested gas and air, I hadn't liked it with Milo but I figured I'd give it another go. I still didn't like it! It was the gas and air that had caused me to lose control of things during my labour with Milo. I had one successful go on it and once I realised that it really had eased the pain, I decided I would try giving it another go, but one breath in I decided no it really wasn't for me. So I asked for an epidural, figuring it would probably be too late for one. As it turned out the anaesthetist was just outside and I could have an epidural no problem.
However by the time she arrived (5 minutes max) the midwife had decided it was too late. I don't have a lot of recollection of what was going on in the room around me at this point, I was so involved in my own body.
I was still standing up and the midwife was increasingly concerned about me 1. using the drip stand as a support 2. the baby falling out on to the floor. At some point the monitor stopped picking up the baby's heartbeat and was picking up mine instead, making it seem as though her heart rate was dropping. I had to lie down on the bed to have a clip attached to her head so they could successful monitor her heart rate, this was by far the worst part of my whole labour, not being upright just seemed so awful in that moment. After that they kept me on the bed, but raised the head end right up so I could kneel on the bed and lean over the top. I would rather have been standing but this seemed like a happy compromise at the time. Johnny spent the whole time fetching me water and cold flannels, I drank so much.
The midwife told me to tell her when I felt the urge to push, I asked her if I would know, she assured me I would. As it was my body just started pushing, without me really realising what was happening. Once I did realise, every time I stopped between contractions I just kept looking at Johnny and saying 'I can't believe I'm doing this'.
It was amazing! I've often heard people say the pushing is the best part and that was certainly true for me. It hurt don't get me wrong, but it was so different to the contractions, maybe because you feel like you're actually getting somewhere, you are in charge of what is happening and it will all be over soon. And then at 3am there she was, the doctors (maybe midwives I'm not sure, people had arrived during that last hour that I was completely unaware of) whisked her on to the heated crib and cut the cord. Maybe there were concerns about her that was also unaware of, but as it was she was absolutely fine. The midwife helped me deliver the placenta, something I was dreading but actually turned out to be easy and painless. Johnny cooed over our tiny (8lb 9oz - so not quite so tiny!) newborn daughter and I continued to declare 'I can't believe I did that!' in total shock and awe of myself and my almost drug free birth. I required no stitches and though I was a little sore and achy, generally I felt OK, certainly no where near as beaten up as I felt after the effects of the epidural wore off from my syntocin induced, forceps delivery, birth I had with Milo.
Johnny was sent home at 6am and I had to spend the day on the ward, with a particularly noisy neighbour, but eventually I was able to go home at about 9pm.
And here we are 3 weeks later, I cannot believe how easy this little girl is compared to her big brother! He became super easy and laid back but to begin with things were so tough. Everyone says second babies are easy but I really didn't believe it. Don't get me wrong we've had a few sleepless nights, there are days when I don't think she'll ever stop feeding and I'll never be able to leave the sofa again, but overall she's a breeze and gloriously delicious. Also (this probably sounds ridiculous) but I swear she's already started smiling, actual smiles not just wind.