Baby A was born at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel at exactly 41 weeks. As this was my first pregnancy, I had no idea what to expect, although I thought I was completely prepared, I had my birth plan and had over discussed it with my husband in the months leading up to our due date. As it turns out, nothing in life goes to plan.
From the very beginning of my pregnancy I knew I wanted to have my baby at a birth centre. I’d read that the chances of having a caesarean (or c-section) are increased at the hospital, as are other interferences such as the use of forceps. I was adamant that I wanted to have my baby with as little drugs as possible. As only midwives staffed the birth centre I’d selected I was confident I’d be able to do so. Fortunately as I had no complications come my due date I was really excited about my natural birth.
At around week 38 I’d started to do all the things I could think of to encourage my baby along. I’d go for long walks daily, eat spicy food, clean the cupboards and the floor and have sex. I was actually worried about how I’d know labour had started, and all the mothers I’d ask just laughed and said “you’ll know!”
At 40 weeks and 5 days around 2am in the morning I started to feel period like cramps in my stomach that came on as waves. They won’t painful to start with and as they were quite some time apart I knew I didn’t need to contact the hospital. The next 24 hours were pretty much the same, the pain did increase, it made me stop and I’d lean against something and focus on my breathing. I called up the birth centre the following morning to let them know I’d been having contractions which were getting closer and more painful, as expected they advised me to wait until they were about 5 minutes apart and lasting around 40/50 seconds. I’d been keeping a log of my contractions on my phone and they were still about 10 minutes apart. My waters hadn’t broken either so I thought I could manage the pain at home.
At around 9am on week 40 day 6 I started to have a bit of spotting. My contractions were really painful now and also closer together, around 7 minutes. I called the hospital and they advised me to come in. I went to Royal London in Whitechapel and they strapped my up to a machine that monitors the baby’s heartbeat and checked me as well. They checked me for about 40 minutes and said the baby was fine and I still had quite a bit of time to go before active labour. I asked if it was worth going to the birth centre but they advised it was best I went home, as it could be a while yet.
The car journey home was horrible, painful contractions in London traffic bought out the worst in me and my potty mouth! I sat in the back so I could lean forward against the back of the passenger seat when each contraction came. After arriving home I had some lunch courtesy of my dad. I was starving but also scared to eat as I had heard stories of women pooping during labour however hunger won out on this occasion so I had a kebab roll. My sister, who along with my husband was my birth partner, advised me to eat, as I’d need the energy for what was to come.
My contractions just kept getting stronger and closer together and at around 3pm we headed off again, in another hideously uncomfortable car journey, towards the birth centre. When we arrived we were seen to straight away and given a room. (Most birth centres have a limited number of rooms so always call ahead to make sure there is one for you!). A midwife came along to see me and do some checks. She noticed that my babies heartbeat was a little fast so advised me to drink lots of water and said she’d be back to check on me again in about half an hour. She also offered do a sweep with that check as my water still hadn’t broken. If the baby’s heartbeat continued to be too fast she said she’d recommend I go to the hospital, as it was the safest place to have the baby. So for the next half an hour I drank and drank and drank. I was desperate to have my baby at the birth centre and really didn’t want to have to be transferred to the hospital. At the next check my baby’s heartbeat was better and she did the sweep, which many women say they find uncomfortable but I was fine. The midwife advised me to carry on drinking water and that she’d be back after half an hour to check me again.
The third time she checked unfortunately the baby’s heartbeat was back to being erratic and the midwife broke the news that it was probably best and safest that I go to the hospital and have my baby there. I was devastated. I half-heartedly attempted to negotiate staying at the birth centre, but deep down I knew it was probably best to get transferred. At around 8pm my hubby drove us back to the hospital. By this time I was seriously uncomfortable and in so much pain. When we arrived at the hospital (the birth centre had called in advance to let them know to expect us) there was some confusion about where we were supposed to be but about an hour later I was in a room and on a bed. As much as I wanted to get on the birthing ball and in the birthing pool, I was in such agony that any movement and effort on my part was through gritted teeth. I did manage to use the ball for a short while but I was most comfortable standing and leaning against something when the pain came. Then a little after midnight a nurse came into my room and said I needed to be moved as there was a women in the corridor who was in active labour!! I could actually hear her screaming through the door. We were quickly bundled up and put into a shared room with another woman who was also in her early labour. I think at this stage ordinarily they would have sent me home however due to my baby’s erratic heartbeat they had to keep me in. My memories of this room are the worst. I was in agonising pain on what can only be described as primary school exercise mats and incredibly uncomfortable. We were promised that we’d be checked up on regularly and my husband popped out a few times to speak to the nurses but that resulted in nothing. About 3 hours later he found a Dr and asked him in no uncertain terms to come and check me.
Around 4am we were moved into another room. Since being checked in I was hooked up to a machine monitoring the baby’s heartbeat but now I even had my own midwife! She was sat in the room the whole time monitoring me and ensuring I was comfortable. My contractions were coming on hard and fast now and I was in crazy amounts of pain, I remember screaming out to God to help me and begging my husband to make it stop. The midwife must have asked me at some point if I wanted any pain relief and I remembering begging for anything/everything I could get. Around 8am I remember trying gas and air, which was basically nonsense, maybe it wasn’t working but it was essentially just taking a deep breath! I could still feel the intense pain of each contraction. Soon after I was offered pethidine, which is injected into the thigh and in all truth I’m not sure how well it worked either. I was just begging for the epidural. My midwife informed me that the Drs were due for a swap of shift at some point and that someone would come after that to administer it. That was the longest hour of my life. Around 10.30am a Dr came and very skilfully inserted the epidural. I can’t even begin to describe the happiness/joy that came over me after the drugs kicked in. In truth after this point my memory becomes hazy, I just remember not being in pain and quite happy for them to do anything they wanted to me.
After the epidural another Dr came to examine me and offered me another sweep. My baby’s heartbeat was still erratic and at this point they were quite worried as I’d been in labour for some time. They did a test where they pricked the top of the baby’s head to get some blood to see if the baby was getting enough oxygen during labour (Fetal-scalp blood sampling) I think they did this test twice and both times it was ok. However as the heartbeat was still erratic they decided it was best to break my waters and hopefully that would speed up my dilation. (After the second sweep I jumped from being 2cm dilated to about 9cm in an hour). As the epidural makes you completely numb I didn’t feel any discomfort in getting my waters broken but unfortunately when they did this they discovered that the baby had passed maconium (baby’s first poo) and suddenly everything went from calm to crazy. The Dr who was checking me said she needed to press a button and that a lot of people would come into the room and that I shouldn’t worry. I was so high I didn’t, but my husband looked petrified. In a matter of seconds the room was flooded with Drs and nurses, and I was being asked to push. I think I did this a couple of times before they decided it was best they take me away and prep for surgery (cesarean) as I really needed to get the baby out. As they wheeled me out of the room I had to sign a consent form, and I honestly don’t remember what it was for. Even at this point I could se my husbands panic but I was chatting away to another Dr about the recent junior Dr strikes (which I supported wholeheartedly).
When we arrived in the theatre it was like something out of the movies, an incredibly bright, white room with lots of Drs doing their thing. My husband was in scrubs and after giving me another dose of epidural, stronger than the last as this time I felt very cold and had the shivers, they all introduced themselves to us before telling me I had 3 chances to push to get the baby out otherwise they’d have to go in for a cesarean. Obviously I couldn’t feel the contractions any longer (the epidural took care of that) so they would tell me when to push and I had to push with everything I had. Apparently I did some every good pushing but after the second one the Dr said she’d need to cut me (episiotomy) a little to help the baby along. On the third push, and with the help of Forceps, my beautiful little baby girl was welcomed into the world.