Before I had Eleanor, I had no idea that a ‘traumatic birth’ even existed. I just thought that a birth was a birth no matter what happens. Yes, it will be painful and traumatic but that’s childbirth isn’t it? Even after Eleanor’s birth I didn’t think of it as a traumatic birth, I just thought it was a normal birth that didn’t go exactly to plan, but that’s what happens. Which, of course for a lot of people it does.
Pregnancy ~ The calm before the storm…
I was lucky enough to have a good pregnancy compared to a lot of people. Morning sickness stopped at around 16 weeks and even though at the time I felt horrendous, I know it’s just part of being pregnant and you do soon forget (still can’t and won’t eat leeks though!).
I went to every appointment, peed in every pot, took aallll the bump pics and had an overall breezy pregnancy. One appointment showed my bump measuring small so we got to have another look at baby at around 34 weeks. It showed baby was fine and a normal size.
40 weeks hit and still no sign of baby. I was offered a sweep at my appointment but declined because I was adamant I’d labour naturally. Ha. 41 weeks came along and despite drinking raspberry leaf tea, bouncing constantly on my birthing ball, multiple curries and having more sex than ever, there was still no sign. So I agreed to a sweep and made James come with me (I’d heard that this was ‘the worst bit’).
The sweep was quite painful and felt like the midwife was trying to reach into my lungs, never mind my cervix… but my cervix was ‘posterior’ – too far back – so she couldn’t reach it to do the sweep. I didn’t even know that was a thing! I was booked in for another sweep on the Sunday (41+5, but again my cervix was posterior so they couldn’t do it) and if nothing happened after that I was booked in for induction on Monday (41+6). Of course nothing had happened, so Sunday night we did a quick whizz round of the house, tidied up as if the Queen was coming to stay, put the Next To Me crib next to the bed and had our last meal together just the two of us.
Suddenly it all felt very real!
Monday 23 September, 12:00 pm ~ We arrived at the hospital to be induced.
At 4:00 pm, I was given the first stage of induction; the pessary. It’s like a strip of paper attached to a piece of ribbon and they push it riiiiiiight up you along with the string. Then you have to wait 24 hours to see if anything starts happening. Apart from a bit of backache on Monday night and what felt like screwing into my hips occasionally (sounds more painful than it was), I felt nothing.
That night, I sent James home as he was more use if he had had sleep rather than him trying to get some sleep on the little chair next to me. I’d downloaded multiple podcasts, Netflix episodes and box sets to keep me occupied anyway. We were on a ward with 3 other people so getting a decent sleep wasn’t happening, especially when every woman who came in after me seemed to start contracting straight away and was rushed out to the Birth Centre. I sympathised with Rachel Green!
Tuesday 24 September, 6:00 am
I went to the toilet and felt a gush of something come out. I checked in the toilet and the pessary had fallen out. Good start! The midwife replaced this for me and we carried on with our day. I had a few visitors Tuesday afternoon. James’ sister brought us some snacks (we’d eaten most of ours that we had brought out of boredom) and then I was popped on the monitor to check baby and see if anything was happening. The monitor showed me having contractions but I could barely feel them. After 24 hours of the pessary, they checked my cervix which was still posterior (you get used to various people shoving their hands up you by this point).
Same day, 4pm ~ Second stage of induction…
Next, they gave me the ‘gel’. It’s basically a big syringe that they squirt up you. You can have one every six hours (up to three times), so I wasn’t holding out much hope that anything would happen straight away. James went to McDonalds to get himself some tea. They don’t feed the partners when you’re being induced for obvious cost reasons, but we honestly must have already spent close to £100 that week on car parking, food, and other extra essentials.
I went to the loo again and the gel fell straight out of me AGAIN. At this point I was despairing, why does my body not hold on to anything and how did I even manage to get pregnant in the first place?!
I told the midwife (who didn’t seem too bothered) and she implied that surely it wasn’t the gel that had come out. James got back just in time as I burst into tears of desperation. I was so tired and I had worked myself up into thinking that I would end up with a c section, as obviously my body wasn’t made to give birth. It’s not that I was against a c section, it’s just that I didn’t want to have to go through two days of induction to then be whisked off and have her cut out of me anyway. James managed to calm me down (he had brought me a McFlurry which helped), so I sat back on my birthing ball and James went outside for a cigarette.
6:30 pm ~ I had my first proper contraction as James was outside! Phewf.
8:00 pm ~ By now the contractions were coming every five minutes so we told the midwife and she advised that she would examine me at 11:00 pm. I was petrified that when she examined me, my cervix still wouldn’t have moved and was feeling very negative about the whole thing!
8:50 pm ~ James dropped my favourite mug and broke it (still not over it).
11:30 pm ~ 4 centimetres dilated!! I remember bursting into tears because I was so relieved that my body was ‘finally working’! They told me I was ready to move into the birth suite so we grabbed our stuff (which had been spread out across half the ward: we are not tidy people) and made our way over.
By now I was 15 days overdue and was classed as ‘high risk’. This meant I wasn’t allowed to have the pool birth I had preferred, but at this stage I didn’t mind. We settled into our room and got set up as we chatted to the loveliest midwife. She was great company and made me feel really at ease!
Wednesday 25 September, 12:30 am
I rang my mum to tell her that things were moving along and James would ring her when we needed her to come to the hospital. The midwife said she was happy for me to use the pool since the only high risk part of my pregnancy was the fact that I was overdue. So once again we grabbed our bags and made our way to the Birth Centre instead. At this point I had to literally stop every few seconds as the contractions were really strong. I’d stupidly refused a wheelchair thinking I was fine. It took us ages just to get around the corner to our room!
At 3:45 am I got into the pool; it was literally so big I could have swum in it! I always thought the water couldn’t be too warm and was expecting it to be lukewarm, but it was absolutely perfect. It chilled me out so much and was the loveliest experience ever. We chatted to the midwife about all sorts, asking if she had kids, a husband etc. and spent a good two hours just talking. Eventually I didn’t talk much and spent most of my time breathing through the contractions. I had the gas and air and at this point, didn’t feel the need for pain relief. Although it was painful, I was totally in control and calm. In a weird way I was actually enjoying it?!
5.45 am ~ I had to get out of the pool to be checked and the midwife said I was 6, almost 7 cm dilated. I was so happy I’d done all of this so far, on my own, with no drugs (not that I was bothered about drugs, I was literally up for taking everything if I needed it!). So then I asked for codeine because I knew I was moving along and I knew the drugs wouldn’t be a waste as it was quite hard at this point.
6:00 am ~ James called my mum and I stayed on the bed. I was happy where I was and content that I had had my pool ‘experience’. I think it was actually vital in keeping me sane, looking back.
It all gets a bit blurry after this point.
At half past 8,the midwives swapped shifts so I was absolutely gutted when our midwife left (she had just been so lovely). I can’t even remember her name and since she wasn’t the midwife who delivered Eleanor, she isn’t on our notes. Otherwise, I would have sent her a thank you card/asked her to be my best friend on Facebook. Although that’s probably a bit creepy.
We were given one midwife and a student nurse. Both of them looked younger than 25 and came across as quite shy. By this point things were getting really painful and I was given pethadine (AMAZING). I was off my head on it and felt like I was 2 bottles of wine deep on the dance floor: I’d highly recommend. It seemed to help with the pain as I wasn’t sure where I was and to be honest, I didn’t care. Unfortunately, like having 2 bottles of wine, the pethadine didn’t agree with me and I ended up being violently sick during contractions, so it wore off quite quickly.
Can I just add, I had absolutely no faith in James up until this point. This is the man who nearly fainted at the antenatal class and went pale when we went on the Birth Centre tour. But now, he was holding buckets under my head as I was being sick, watching all sorts of fluids come out of there and he did not bat an eyelid. I still am amazed at how he coped. I know we joke that men have it easy, but it must be so, so hard to feel useless and watch the person you love go through unimaginable pain.
My timeline goes to shit now, but at some point I’m checked again and I’ve gone back down to 6 cm. They put the syntocinon drip in me to bring the contractions along.
Well fuck me.
I can honestly not even describe the pain. Contractions are painful enough but with the drip they were quite literally 100 times worse. I had no time in between to calm down and I started to really panic. Things start to go downhill pretty quickly after this. I must have been on some pain relief because I can’t imagine they’d have let me do that on my own but even with this, it was quite honestly the worst pain I had ever felt.
I was screaming into my gas and air tube, I was crying so hard and the control I had earlier had just gone. I dreaded each contraction and within seconds it was upon me again. I’ve never made noises like it. At one point my mum was in my face and managed to calm me down. She told me to really concentrate on breathing through it and to look at her as the pain came. Amazingly, it worked for about one contraction. I was so tired and so, so scared of the pain: I’ve never been more scared of anything.
12.00 pm ~ Get me an epidural!
I agreed to an epidural and at some point must have signed my life away (agreeing that if it went wrong then I wouldn’t sue or something). I would have signed anything at this point though. Between me agreeing to an epidural and actually having the drug put in me, felt like a lifetime. I was praying for the pain to go away but still had to wait a good half hour for them to get everything ready.
A super attractive anesthetist came in to administer the epidural. For a fraction of a second this made it about 0.0001% better. And then I remember telling him I would marry him if he got the epidural in quickly (sorry James). Fit Anesthetist Man told me very seriously that if I moved at all during the epidural being put in that it could be very dangerous – just what you need to know when your body is tearing you apart every 20 seconds. Somehow I managed to stay still as they put it in. I felt a crack and something cool shooting down my spine and instantly felt slightly relieved. I could still feel the pain but each second it got a little bit better.
3:00 pm ~ After the epidural, I was told that I was 10 cm and that I could start pushing soon. I thought that meant right away but I had to be tilted upright so that the baby can start to move down using gravity.
4:00 pm ~ Ready to push.
I couldn’t feel a thing (fucking great) so the midwives told me when to push as each contraction came, weird sensation. I think I knew at this point nothing was happening. The chart was showing each contraction, but no change in baby’s heartbeat which meant she wasn’t phased by my body trying to force her out of me!
I was pushing for 2 hours but the half hearted, fake words of encouragement from the midwives (and the fact more doctors kept coming in to look at my charts); I knew something wasn’t right. At this point the epidural had started to wear off so I could feel the contractions, although they weren’t anywhere near as painful as before. I think with each push I was holding back slightly because I was so scared of the pain of her coming out. I was getting hysterical at this point and was crying about the fact that nothing was happening and that I couldn’t do it.
Next thing I know, about five more people were in the room and someone told me they were going to have to take me to theatre for a c section. I don’t know why, but I completely freaked out and was absolutely sobbing, so scared of what would happen next. As someone who has never been ill or in hospital, I think the prospect of suddenly being in such a medical situation was terrifying.
James was shoved into some scrubs, his face white as a ghost and tears streaming down. I’ve never seen him cry so much. And with that, I was being lifted onto a bed. It’s funny to look back on now, but it felt like I was in an episode of Casualty as I was lifted onto one bed and wheeled through corridors; in a flood of tears, not really sure what was going on.
We got into theatre and my mum gave me a huge hug before we went in. There must have been about 20 people in the room and they were all so supportive and tried to talk to me about anything as they got me ready. I was given a spinal and my legs were put into stirrups. Suddenly, a female doctor shouted from between my legs “THE BABY’S MOVED, SHE’S COMING BUT SHE’S GOING TO NEED SOME HELP FROM YOU”, and told me to push when she said to.
Again, it all goes a bit blurry here, but I gave one big push (as much as I could when I couldn’t feel anything) and next thing I knew, a huge bloody baby was plonked on my chest. She had been delivered using forceps so I hadn’t needed the c section after all. I don’t really remember what I felt, but I was crying and didn’t really touch the baby. She was taken away to be checked and James kissed my forehead then went with the doctors to see her.
The whole ‘you’ll fall in love with your baby as soon as you meet her’ was not true at all for me. Looking back, I don’t feel guilty for the way I felt as I know it’s not the case for a lot of women, but at the time I was petrified that I wasn’t going to love her!
I don’t remember the exact timeline but the lady who delivered her shouted from between my legs, “that was one big baby but you did it! She was giving you hell in there. We barely had to do anything, you got her out all on your own!”. I’ll always remember that even if she was lying, she made me feel so proud! James came back to me shortly after and said “10 lb 4!”. Fucking helllllll.
What I heard next was, “she’s lost too much blood for my liking” and I started to feel really cold. All I could see were scissors dripping in blood, held above the blue sheets. I didn’t care about the baby, or James or my mum. All I cared about was that I was just so cold and kept telling anyone who would listen that I was really cold. No one seemed to listen to me and I was getting frustrated. I tried to get up (obviously not able to move) and then wanted to move my arms all of a sudden. No one seemed to be listening to me that I needed to move my arms and that I was cold!
Again, I don’t know what happened next, but I found myself in a dark room and they’d put me in a bubble wrap blanket thing that blows hot air on you. Looking back, obviously my body had gone into shock and I was eventually told I had lost 2 litres of blood, so it’s not really surpising.
I don’t remember holding Eleanor, but my mum has pictures of me holding her and looking absolutely off my head. It’s not quite the beautiful moment you expect but still.
We stayed in hospital for two days afterwards and finally went home Friday night at 8:30 pm!