I went to bed on the evening of 20th June 2016 feeling deflated that another day had gone by without any sign of my baby. I was 42 weeks plus 2 days pregnant and I had resigned myself to the fact that I may be edging towards the longest pregnancy ever known to woman – see my previous post for a full run down of how I felt as a 10 month mama. I’d also eaten almost an entire crispy duck and pancakes earlier in the evening so was feeling less than box fresh and starting to look more and more like a heavily pregnant hippo with each passing day.
I woke up in the early hours of the morning feeling uncomfortable. I didn’t want to get my hopes up that things were starting to happen, so heaved myself out of bed and to the bathroom. I looked down and there it was, the ‘show’ that I had been checking for religiously every day for 2 weeks. Far less fabulous than the fancy name it is given, there were no jazz hands and the ‘show’ didn’t come out singing an amateur dramatic rendition of ‘Any Dream Will Do’ either. But, there it was and it was a sure sign that the show was quite literally, on the road.
I didn’t wake Chris up as he is hard to rouse from sleep at the best of times and I figured he needed to conserve energy to deal with me as the hours went on. I kept going back and forth to the loo, with slight cramping and at around 7.30am, felt a slight ‘pop’, which I know now was my waters breaking.
We were planning a home birth and the living room was all set up for this very day; it had been since week 38. We had the birthing pool, lights, aromatherapy oils, play lists, hypnobirthing affirmations all ready and a fridge full of snacks for the midwives. I was obsessed with the snacks for the midwives since my midwife had laboured the point of needing them at my last home visit. I’d already eaten through every snack thrice over whilst playing the waiting game for 2 weeks. I knew it was far too early to even go downstairs so busied myself upstairs for a while and woke Chris up. Something wasn’t sitting comfortably with me. My waters weren’t the ‘straw like’ colour we had been expecting to see.
Chris called the on call midwife when more fluid was coming out as I was concerned it was a browny/green colour. She asked to speak to me and when I told her how far along we were in the pregnancy, she told me she wasn’t at all comfortable coming out for a home birth as I was ‘so overdue’ and gave me 20 mins to have a long think about what I wanted to do. I was gutted. I could see the birth we had planned fall away from us. At that point my surges were really strong and relentlessly close together and I had been vomiting quite badly. I was starting to work myself into a frenzy when Chris brought me my earphones and my phone with my relaxation MP3 playing. Immediately, I felt calmer. As soon as I heard the affirmation ‘I follow my instincts and make informed decisions that are right for me and my baby’ I knew what I had to do. I told Chris to grab our hospital bags that I had packed about 40 times over, and we made our way to Pembury hospital. I just knew in my gut that I couldn’t stay at home and I was in agony.
We got to Pembury Hospital at around 11.30am and I showed the triage midwife what had been coming out of me. In one second flat she identified it as meconium and bang went any hopes of me having a water birth as I was hooked up to monitors and examined, showing I was 3-4cm dilated. My baby had done her first poo and this wasn’t a good sign for either of us. I could tell by the looks on the midwives faces that this wasn’t going to be an easy ride. They explained that we needed to get this baby delivered as quickly as possible, mentioned foetal distress and the potential need for a hormone drip. Even though I had wanted as natural a birth as possible I took a deep breath and asked for an epidural. I had never planned to ask for one, it wasn’t in my birth preferences that I had typed out and provided the midwife with 3 x laminated copies of, but right then I knew I needed one. My surges were so strong that Maggie had developed a kaput (swollen head) from her little head constantly banging against my cervix. From our hypnobirthing classes and my reading of quite possibly every single birth story on the internet whilst waiting to go into labour, I could see where this was heading. I needed to be as calm and pain-free as possible to mentally and physically deal with the cascade of interventions that were inevitably about to ensue.
I was transferred to the labour ward and given a mobile epidural at 2pm. I have never been so relieved to see someone as much as that anaesthetist, despite him brandishing a foot long needle to be administered into my spine. I was finally able to concentrate on staying calm and switching off from the fact I was now at entirely the other end of the spectrum to what I had planned for our birth. Chris set up the room and put some lavender oil in our oil diffuser and I continued to listen to my MP3s, breathing through the surges and down to my baby to keep her calm. I was determined to conserve as much energy as possible. The mobile epidural became less so as I kept topping myself up every half an hour to the point I could no longer feel anything below my waist so required a catheter. I was also incredibly high on gas and air and far too many Jelly Babies.
Hours went by in a heartbeat but Maggie’s heart rate was slowing and causing concern. Outside the room (I wanted all conversations to go through Chris before speaking to me), there was talk of instrumental delivery or more likely a c -section. Chris was amazing and shielded me from all of this, only telling me what I needed to know, when I needed to know it in a calm, informed and positive way. My Mum arrived after speeding from Essex to offer support and set to work rubbing my feet with aromatherapy oils. My sister arrived shortly after, leaving my 4 month old nephew with her husband. I needed my nearest and dearest around me and had the best birthing squad I could have wished for on hand to tend to my every need.
By 8pm I wasn’t progressing so they hooked me up to a hormone drip. I had also developed a temperature so need IV antibiotics. I had thrown up undigested grapes and Ribena all over Chris, and was only 5-6cm dilated – time was running out. The consultant gave me a cut off time of 11pm to see how much further I would dilate. I was in my own world, doing my best to breathe calmness and love down to my baby. At 11pm when they came and checked me I wasn’t fully dilated so they prepared me for theatre. I just remember how hot Chris looked in his scrubs!
The consultant looking after me was amazing. I could tell he was gunning for me to try and deliver without a c-section. I visualised my baby being birthed and told her that I really didn’t want us both going through a c-section. In the short time it took to transfer me to theatre I had fully dilated and my consultant told me that I was going to have to muster all my strength to push. She had heard me!!! He needed to help with ventouse, but at that point I didn’t care as I was adamant I was going to have a vaginal delivery. I felt like I had an entire cheerleading team surrounding me as they coached me to push down into my bottom and within a couple of minutes I was told the head was out, then the shoulders and before I knew it, Maggie was on my chest and I had done it! Under a full moon and during the Summer Solstice I became a mother. Maggie Eliza Baker was born at 11.34pm, weighing a healthy 8lbs 5oz, 17 days past her ‘due date’.
The next hours went by in a trance. I had to have an episiotomy because of the ventouse and was transferred back to the labour ward. I had constant skin to skin with Maggie from the moment she was born until the next day. I just wanted to be close to my baby and hear her breathing against me. I wanted her to know my breast was right there next to her when she wanted it. I knew how important those first few hours were. Meanwhile, Chris was getting some much deserved shut eye by contorting himself into a sleep position on a bean bag in the corner of the room.
We were transferred to the postnatal ward in the morning – all of the rooms at Pembury hospital are new and private, which was a relief. The midwives could see I wasn’t going to let Maggie off my chest so they brought me a kanga care wrap so I could at least be hands-free for a while. I didn’t sleep for 48 hours and they were fearful of me falling asleep and her falling off me. We needed to stay in the hospital because of my temperature during labour but I really didn’t mind. Chris was allowed to stay with me and we made the room as homely as possible. The midwives kept commenting on what a lovely atmosphere we had made! I didn’t want Maggie to be left alone at any point and remember looking over when I finally managed to get some sleep at Chris downing a bottle of Lucozade and performing random yoga poses in an effort to keep himself awake and keep watch over our little angel.
Almost 9 months on and I am looking back at that day with fondness and almost miss being in the zone of birthing my baby! I owned my birthing experience and I am immensely proud of it. But I can honestly say I couldn’t have done it without hypnobirthing. The course we took really helped us throughout pregnancy to connect with our baby and be as informed as possible on what lay ahead. It also taught us that plans can change but that didn’t mean that our mind-set had to. The techniques we learnt teamed with the amazing support of my husband meant that although my birth path changed drastically, I have nothing but positive thoughts of my whole experience and would do it all over again 100 times over. One day I hope that I will get my home-birth, but for now I am happy in the knowledge that I followed my instincts and did what was right for me and my firstborn. I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.