Foreword: I wrote these updates in real time at various points during the labour and in the days afterwards. Posting them all together now following a typo check!
3am 23rd July:
Here I am in Kingston hospital! Currently lying in a bed at 3am supposedly trying to get some sleep, but there is kafuffle around me. A baby’s heart beat being monitored behind a curtain to my right, a delivered baby snuffling behind a curtain to my left, and a fellow preggo snoring the night away in front of me.
The story is my waters broke two days ago but I didn’t notice. It was such a subtle trickle and I was wearing a pad so it was disguised. It was only on a couple of occasions when I went for a wee, and I noticed it was a strange-ish colour, that I thought something might be up. I had been under the impression that once the waters break, contractions follow pretty soon afterwards. I’ve not really felt any contractions, even now. Just a dull ache like a period pain in my abdomen and some fleeting back pains earlier today. I Googled today and found lots of women saying very emphatically that if in doubt, call the hospital. If amniotic fluid leaks for more than 48 hours with no sign of labour the baby and mother can get infected.
I called the 24 hr maternity triage line, feeling silly because nothing significant had really happened to me, but I had an instinct. I explained my hunch, they told me to drive to the hospital and get it checked out. Once we’d arrived at around 12am, they performed something similar to a smear test to analyse the fluid, and low and behold – they confirmed my waters had broken. As a result I need to have my labour expedited with hormones. It also means I can’t go in the pool and have the water birth that I wanted, but I’m not too bothered about that now.
So I’m in some kind of interim ward waiting to go into the proper maternity ward and have my hormone drip put on. I’ve sent Jake home to sleep because tomorrow is the big day when labour will kick off.
This is it!!!!!
12pm 23rd July:
I’m still waiting to go onto the labour ward. Apparently it has been chocca block with women giving birth. Seems there is somewhat of a baby boom in Kingston at the moment.
I’m currently pumped with nerves and adrenaline because I’ve been told my bed is imminently ready. They tell me my blood pressure is a little high, which doesn’t surprise me at all! I’m listening to my hypnobirthing downloads in a bid to relax. It’s near 30 degrees C in the ward and there are no fans left so I’ve got no chance of sleep.
2:35am 24th July
I am sitting in a bed right now with Wilhelmina Rosalie (Willa) beside me – our healthy, beautiful baby – just over 8lbs and born at 8:23 earlier this evening.
I sailed through early labour with a TENS machine, which works brilliantly for the early contractions. I was feeling pretty smug up to 2cm dilated at 6:30pm, and thought I had the whole thing down, what with my TENS and breathing technique – I was laughing and joking with Jake and the midwives. Then they gave me a second sweep and whacked up my dose of synthesised oxytocin and things went crazy from there. The contractions came very regularly and fast – causing exquisite pain, the level of which I have never encountered before. They started as a period pain sensation and built into something that shook the very core of me, making my abdomen and torso feel as though they were being torn apart.
I just tried to focus on my breathing and the voices of those around me, encouraging me. I could feel my arms and legs thrashing out as a reflex to the pain and I tried to focus on the textures of what my hands were grabbing at – Jake’s arm, my gas and air mask and the bed sheets. At that point that the pain became almost transcendental and I withdrew into myself. The midwives I’d spent all night with changed shift and some new ones came in – I barely registered it. I had no concept of time, or how many people were in the room – just how many contractions were coming and getting through the intensity of each one.
The new midwives thought I’d been ‘over stimulated’ with the oxytocin drip and turned it down when they came on shift, saying it was battling with what my body wanted to do. I was obsessed with when I was allowed to push and just focused on reaching that point. Nature completely took over with the pushing. The contractions rose up into my upper torso and my muscles just spasmed and took control.
I pushed the baby out using the muscles in my bottom like my life depended on it. Gutteral, animal noises rose up from somewhere within me with each one. I knew pushing was the only way to stop the pain and end the situation. The ‘ring of fire’ I was warned about (crowning), was nothing. I rejoiced when I felt it because it meant it was nearly over. It’s true that once the head is out the rest is easy, the body flopped out with a moderate push and so did the placenta.
The whole thing from 2cm dilated to the baby being born happened in under two hours – very, very fast to go 8cm dilated, so I never really had time to consider anything other than gas and air. The ritual of using the gas, holding it and hearing the suction if it going in and out was a rudder for me throughout. My contractions were too close together for me to start using energy articulating and negotiating with the midwives about an epidural or any alternative pain relief. I wanted to use the little time in between contractions to build strength to get through the next one, and although I was wracked with pain I was rational. I knew having an epidural would give me pain relief but that it would also mean the whole ordeal would go on a lot longer and I would lose sensation, probably meaning ventouse, forcepts and more drawn out palava.
The feeling of seeing my grey and slimy baby plopped onto my chest and hearing her screaming was indescribable. She was puffy, hot and loud and I will never forget her smell. A kind of hot flesh, metallic smell that I still recall several times a day and which fills me with overwhelming love.
I had bad trauma to my back passage muscle because she came out with a pointy elbow up by her face and tore me, so I had to go into theatre afterwards and get stitched up. This part was deeply unpleasant because I think the shock of everything hit me and I started having a panic attack. When they anaethetised my legs the feeling of being immobile made me feel really claustrophobic and panicky and I was begging the anaesthetist to give me something for my mind – to relax me, like Valium, but she said she wouldn’t give me anything on top of the anaesthetic. I worried I would have a heart attack from anxiety and I couldn’t find a calming thought to focus on. I kept telling myself to think about Willa and Jake and that Willa was healthy and I would see them both in an hour, but I couldn’t find solace in any thought. I went to a really dark, dark place in the theatre and the midwife and anaesthetist tried to talk to me and occupy my mind. Looking back, it was just a reaction to the trauma I think.
4am 25th July
We are in a recovery ward as Willa needs to be monitored for 24 hours due to her increased risk of infection following my waters breaking two days before labour. She is not taking the boob at all, I’ve spent all day trying to coax my nipples into her mouth and had a bevy of different nurses coming in using various techniques to get her to latch, to no avail. They then try and milk me when she doesn’t latch. No milk has come in yet, which is normal, but there is not much colostrum probably because I’m anaemic and dehydrated due to blood loss. Also, the synthetic hormones I received to speed along the labour has likely meant my natural hormones haven’t caught up with milk production yet.
Emotionally, it’s very difficult to describe how I’m feeling. I feel like I’m betraying Willa and myself if I don’t state how ecstatically happy I am – but it’s not as simple as that. The weight of her arrival and how important she is and how much we love her is substantial. I wouldn’t say I’m floating around on cloud nine. I feel a sense of overwhelming gravity when I think about the future. I feel alone and terrified. I can see Jake feels that as well but we can’t seem to find comfort in each other right now, we are just operating as separate agents working together to get her what she needs.
3:40pm 28th July
We have been home for three days. Breastfeeding is very hard to crack. We have celebrated Willa’s every fart and burp and practically open the champagne when she does a poo.
Sometimes it feels like we have things together and then sometimes I catch myself and it’s 2pm, I’m still partially dressed in only knickers and trying to change Willa’s nappy at her change station while milk drips down from my boobs onto my toes.
We’re still both in shock over the arrival of Willa. We didn’t foresee how much we would love her. She is the centre of our universe and everything that matters.