**warning** birth story in post
I apologise in advance if this post comes across in any way as whiny. I realise how very lucky I am to have a happy healthy baby at the end of the whole process but labour itself was somewhat of a disappointment.
I spent a considerable period of time after giving birth very upset at the way it panned out. I cried a lot. I was offered a debriefing at the hospital I gave birth in. Time has given me some clarity and perspective but my mind took a dark turn for a while. I didn’t get postnatal depression. But a traumatic birth could so easily lead you there.
For those who are pregnant and googling every type of labour horror story going this post isn’t meant to scare. Childbirth is a truly magical process (one that hurts like hell!). Every labour is different and I am proud of my story. I write this post now not to scare but for me to let it go.
I am truly amazed at what a woman’s body goes through in pregnancy and labour and I would like to high-5 us all for it. I got my baby here safely and that is ALL that matters. But my blog is my confessional and that includes confessing to things that maybe are slightly taboo. Such as labour disappointment.
I felt shame at my body for not doing what it was supposed to do. I felt anger at people who with good intentions told me “oh well it’s over she’s here now”. I felt hurt that there were photos taken of my daughter before I even got to hold her. I felt jealous when people told me their wonderful straightforward labour stories. I felt frustration when people jokingly commented “too posh to push”.
Now 6 months on I am able to tell my birth story without crying! Phew! Labour is such an individual experience and mine was no better or worse than the next woman. But it IS mine and here it is, warts and all.
My birth story:
I love organisation and if there is a list to be written I am in my element. But I knew that you have to roll with the punches when it comes to childbirth. So my birth plan was as follows:
1) labour at home for as long as possible.
2) delayed cord clamping and cord blood donation
3) skin to skin straight away.
I wasn’t concerned about the lighting, the temperature or midwife shift changes. “What will be will be” I thought. I got none of those things.
Instead I had reduced foetal movements at 41 weeks coupled with an “unusual” heart trace. I knew that inductions statistically lead to higher chance of cascading interventions (forceps, ventouse etc). So I asked for a few more days with regular monitoring in the hope that baby would get a wriggle on herself. I tried EVERYTHING. I could not have gyrated any harder on that birthing ball. I rubbed my stomach clockwise with my right hand whilst jumping facing a full moon (no really….). Nothing. Matilda eventually arrived at 41+4.
I was induced.
Day 1 – my stomach was doing somersaults as I checked and rechecked my hospital bag. Karl and I had spent our last baby free day eating takeaway pizza in bed watching documentaries on Netflix. It was perfect. I was going into hospital to be induced at 8am. Potentially today is the day that I get to meet my baby. What will she look like? Nerves and excitement pulsed through me. Unlike spontaneous labour I knew that I was about to do this! Thinking through all the breathing exercises I had practiced and how I was gonna just ace this. They started with a 24 hour pessary called Propess coupled with a sweep. I wasn’t allowed home to kick start labour so Karl and I traipsed the corridors of the pre and post natal wards. Walking past new mums with babies and thinking “give it a few hours and I will be where you are”. I had cramps and backache that at times took my breath away and then…they went.
Day 2 – I had the most aggressive sweep by a doctor who told me he never fails to kick-start labour with his sweeps. He said if I wasnt in labour by the end of the day he would eat his hat. If you’ve never had a sweep, allow me to describe it (apologies this is crude….). It is like being frantically fingered by someone who has no idea what they are doing! Today they tried another method of induction. Prostin gel. The gel was inserted into my cervix in order to shorten it and bring it forward again hoping to kick start labour. This time I didn’t even get cramps. I was due to have a 2nd lot of Prostin gel inserted that evening but there was a doctors strike and no one was available. So some hospital food and Netflix with a side order of tantrums and tears.
Day 3- I cried to Karl. I was frustrated. I just wanted to wait at home. I couldn’t bear watching people come in after me only to be leaving with their babies and I hadn’t even started. I was exhausted emotionally. They inserted the 2nd lot of Prostin gel early in the morning. I was still only 2cm dilated. I walked up and down some stairs that I found. Huffing and puffing and dragging my pregnant ass around. I was examined internally and I had bulging membranes meaning my waters could easily be broken.
*NB This is the cascading interventions I mentioned earlier. Artificially forcing each stage of labour.
I was told to “wait my turn” to go upstairs to the delivery suite. About 7pm contractions started. By 10pm I needed the TENS machine. I enjoyed them. I breathed through them. Start. Middle. End. This is happening. Oh my gosh. What if I am not ready? I don’t think I am ready.
At 11pm I was taken to delivery suite. My contractions were really ramping up now but cervical dilation was slow. The midwife was confident that she could break my waters as my contractions were good and I was coping well she thought I would be fine without the syntocin drip (a hormonal drip that essentially takes contractions from 0-100 to speed it all up). I had gas and air when they broke my waters. This was more to relax me as it was fairly pain free. I laughed a lot at the gushing water. There was a lot of meconium (read – baby poop) in my waters. Cue much more maniacal laughing (gas and air) when they referred to it as pea soup. Cervix 4cm.
Day 4- At this point they were concerned with her foetal heart trace and I did end up with the syntocin drip and later an epidural (boy that drip really does ramp things up!). My CTG (they were monitoring my contractions and babies heart rate) was abnormal and I spiked a temperature. The call was made for an emergency C section. I vaguely remember the talks of “if it goes wrong we can remove your uterus blah blah blah”. They put the pen in my hand and I signed my life away.
I kept apologising to Karl. I felt like such a failure that my body let me down. It had one job and it sucked at it. All I had wanted was him to be proud of me. And I was failing.
The caesarean was scary but not painful. When someone described it as feeling as though someone is washing up inside you that is fairly accurate. A planned c section could truly be a lovely experience however and I would happily have one again.
She came out grumpy and covered head to toe in meconium. I vomited straight away (from the spinal). I began to shake and I could not hold her. I tried to get a peek as Karl held her out to me but I couldn’t really see her.
Then the pain started. I could feel every tug and pull a lot more and I could hear them saying “bleep the consultant. I can’t stop the bleeding”. I asked what was wrong and they said “nothing – we are just stitching you up”.
I remember nothing else for about 24 hours. I am told my uterus was taken out of my body as I was haemoraghing. I lost 3 litres of blood. They stopped the bleed, popped the uterus back in, started to sew me back up and I bled again. Lots of talk of putting me under a general anaesthetic and I apparently begged them not to. The surgeon said “better put it in her notes that she’s refusing this”. Eventually she gave me no option. She put me under. Karl was ushered out, Matilda in his arms and he didn’t even get to say goodbye. Whilst this post is selfishly about how shitty I felt, this must have truly been terrifying for Karl and marred his experience of labour and childbirth also.
Afterwards I was taken to recovery for several hours as I was struggling to maintain my oxygen levels. All I kept saying is “I want my baby”. I was on oxygen for 24 hours total.
Transferred to high dependency unit where I was on continuous observations with a midwife sat at the end of my bed. I was finally able to have some skin to skin. Matilda lay on my chest for 4 hours. I don’t remember this and I struggled to look at the photos. In fact I feel jealous that there are photos of my daughter before I even got to meet her. It just doesn’t feel fair.
It transpired I had sepsis and was picked up and treated by an amazing team of doctors and nurses. Although having blood drawn from my groin as all my other veins had collapsed is not something I wish to ever repeat.
What follows is a standard c section recovery.
I feel like I missed out on so much of her first day but I would do it all again to meet her. I can’t get back that missing first day but I am so grateful to Karl for taking these photos as hideous as they are. It’s proof that it’s not all bad.
I did what I had to do to get my baby safely into this world. And I am so proud of myself for that. I no longer feel disappointed that it didn’t go my way. Yet again, distance, clarity and perspective helped.