Birth! A Story

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

{A positive-ish birth story, because I became obsessed with reading these things when pregnant} 

Our (birth) story begins with Hot Fuzz, and sticky toffee pudding. It was a Tuesday, early afternoon, and I had just retired my big pink birth ball for another day, convinced that for the 10th day running – beyond my due date, that is - I would not be giving birth. I had been for a sweep the previous night, and although contractions had begun during and remained consistent until bedtime, they had tapered off throughout the night, and been wildly inconsistent to non-existent the next morning – in no way dissimilar to the Braxton Hicks tightenings I’d been having since 38 weeks, therefore giving me no reason to raise the alarm

As such, my husband and I were sprawled on the sofa, just starting Hot Fuzz after finishing Superbad, and just considering putting a sticky toffee pudding in the oven after finishing beans on toast when, like a gunshot to the stomach, I had my first noticeable contraction, and leapt to my feet with a ‘WTF WAS THAT?’ Having been an alum of hypnobirthing class, I had been taught that the start of labour comes slow and steady, with time for massages, baking flapjacks, and long soaks in the bath while things ramped up at a pace that would allow my body to produce the hormones needed to eliminate all pain should I only breathe correctly. And for some women, I know this is the case. For me, it was not. With that first contraction, I skipped straight past the latent phase, and became embroiled in the world of established labour. Not yet knowing this to be the case, I sat on my birth ball as I had been instructed to do – made no difference. Tried for a soothing shower – couldn’t stand up long enough to wash. And so on. I was in pain, is what I’m saying. And my hypno practice was proving ineffectual. Replacing the slow and steady approach I'd prepared for, then, was a whirlwind of panic as, within 15 minutes of the aforementioned explosion going off in my womb, my waters had broken, my husband had found me panting on all fours on our bedroom floor, and – tens machine attached - we were on the road. The journey took 30 minutes and an undocumented amount of contractions - another of which I had as I was getting out of the car, and again halfway across the rather small car park.* Upon making it the rest of the way across said car park, my husband ‘checked us in.’ And we were directed to crowd favourite room, ‘Lavender,’ where, after several minutes on all fours riding the surge and screaming at my husband not to leave, my midwife got me on my back long enough to discover I was, shockingly, already 5 centimetres dilated. And then, after confirming there had been nothing suspicious in my waters (and making me wee/bleed into a cardboard bedpan, as my husband looked on, getting to know me in ways neither of us had known to prepare for) said midwife decided that it was time to get in the pool

With that, we were off.

Removing the tens machine and nightgown I had only just put on**, I changed into a bandeau and got into the ‘bath,’ which I'm told took a lifetime to fill through my wild keening. My memory of this period is hazy, but I suspect that, whilst waiting, I was once again on the floor, rocking like a madwoman. It was my chosen pose, after all. And it was the one I continued to adopt once in the water, where I found mild relief by doing my hypnobirthing up-breathing whilst moving backwards and forwards in time with my breaths. At one point, my husband passed me the nozzle for gas and air, but it didn’t feel like it was having an effect, so I soldiered on without pain relief, half wishing I had chosen to birth in a hospital instead, so that I could scream for an epidural. Alas, I had not, and so on I went, inwardly cursing the day in which my child was about to be born

Here is what I remember from the early stages of pool labour:

  • My regular midwife rushing in, hours early for her shift, in order to be there with us (I love her)
  • Being fed jellybeans by my husband. My husband offering my jellybeans to the room. Thinking ‘those are MINE’
  • Demanding that the clocks be taken down, because the ticking was distracting (diva)
  • Wailing that I couldn’t do it, while everyone laughed about how far out my bottom lip had come
  • Telling my husband that this was his fault, and telling my sweep-giving midwife the same thing
  • Noting that, between comforting me, my husband and midwife were having a nice chat. Thinking ‘How DARE they be having such a nice time’
  • Informing my midwife that hypnobirthing had been a lie, and I would be demanding a refund
  • Requesting Ed Sheeran, second album, when our Einaudi playlist came to an end. Very specific

Things progressed fast, and it wasn’t long before this less intense, albeit quite agonising, phase was replaced with an undeniable urge to push. I was told that this baby was well on his way, and told to listen to my body, but also to my midwife, and to be prepared to catch my son on exit. So I pushed. And I howled in a bloodcurdling fashion I had no idea I was even capable of, as I was (nonsensically, to my mind at the time) warned not to 'breathe my baby in'. And I pushed. And I howled. And the cycle continued. It soon became clear that baby had no intention of joining us within the timeframe he’d been allocated, and I was moved from all fours, onto my back, to be examined. There was concern that he was pushing against a closed cervix, hence the delay. He was descending, however, and my body was fully prepared for his exit. He just wasn’t coming

Panic stations.

Coaxing me onto my feet, I was talked into leaving my safe haven to visit the bathroom, to try for a wee, in case a full bladder was getting in the way. I took the trip to the toilet as instructed, bitching to my husband the entire time that I didn’t ‘know how they expected me to hold onto anything in there, why do they keep telling me not to hold in my pee.’ I sat on the loo regardless, trying to remain reasonable, and failed to pass urine, but did have a contraction, which was wholly unpleasant. I was told to try a squat whilst holding onto the side of the pool – contraction, no baby. And then I was told to ‘go against everything I know’ by my superstar midwife, and instructed to get on my back. Another exam commenced, and I was promised that all of that pushing was making a difference. I was tired, though. And although I listened to instructions and ‘pushed into my bum’ whenever it was time to ride the wave, I apparently stopped talking all together, and would just lie back exhausted in the few seconds of relief between each push. I was lying on my side, leg held up by my husband, with my midwife informing me that the head was descending so far she could see hair (‘he’s ginger,’ she said, to which I came alive enough to make the joke ‘you’re supposed to be giving me reasons to keep going’) but that he was then being sucked back in. The amount he went back was decreasing each time, right until she was convinced he was arriving in the next five minutes. Despite mass confusion amongst various midwifes about where his fontanelle was, this conviction that his arrival was imminent meant there was no real worry conveyed for a good long time, even through the prolonged pushing that had left everyone baffled. But then his heart began to slow. Hushed voices started whispering about mum ‘being too tired to continue.’ And the emergency paramedics were called

In the moments that followed, there was chaos. My midwife tried to coax baby out a few minutes more before being instructed by another midwife to pack up her belongings, as she was coming with us. My husband held me up - allowing me, not for the first time that evening, to put all of my substantial weight on his neck - as I had another strong contraction whilst trying to stand, before running around trying to get our stuff together (my nightdress, specifically, had gone AWOL, leaving me with nothing to cover my ‘modesty,’ which left him in a blind panic.) Before I knew it, there was a gurney next to me, I was being strapped in by an indeterminate amount of people, and I was being offered ‘the good stuff’ by a kind voiced man whose face I couldn’t pick out of a line up. I took a pull on the gas and air offered, and this time it had an effect. I immediately felt high as a kite, and it was such a relief. I was strapped down, covered up, and rushed into an ambulance. Originally, my husband had been told he would have to follow in his car. But for a reason I later discovered to be that absolutely everyone involved was convinced I was about to give birth in the back of an emergency services vehicle, my midwife was able to smuggle him on board with us. That journey took only 9 minutes door to door, I’m told. But it’s the biggest part of the labour in my mind, simply because it was such an insane experience. Strapped in, I lay breathing in my lovely, lovely drugs, being told by faceless people to ‘stop myself from pushing.’ Which I couldn’t do. I had read before birth that some women experience labour in such a way that they don’t need to push, because their body just ejects the baby for them. This is what started to happen. As my midwife checked under my blanket for a crowning head, my husband stared at me in wide eyed horror whilst trying desperately to look calm (and to sooth me when I asked ‘are we going to die?’ because I was high and eerily calm in thinking that my life was in danger – I later found out he thought baby and I actually were at death’s door, which must have been terrifying) and the paramedic that had given the gas and air cranked up the heat in case the baby arrived (another thing I learned of much later) my body began to push my baby out against my will. I have never felt anything like it, and will never forget the sensation, though it is impossible to describe. It was amazing, in a way, but also inconvenient, being strapped to a bed in the back of a moving ambulance and all

You have to laugh.

Against the odds, we made it to the hospital without incident, and were rushed through the corridors to a big, blindlingly bright room, with my midwife speaking of failure to progress as we went. I hate those words, but for some reason it was a relief to hear them – they put a name to what was happening, and although no-one had yet worked out why this baby wasn’t coming out despite everything else going to plan, I now had a label for why I was strapped down and being run through the halls of a highly medical facility, rather than calmly birthing to the strains of piano music, in the dark, in a purple painted room that had brought me nothing but calm for the past 7 months. It was not to be, however, and in that moment I truly could not have cared less. I just wanted it to be over which, thankfully, it soon would be.

Upon reaching my new room, I was transferred to a bed. A lot of new people arrived and, my long term midwife positioned between my legs, I was instructed to push. I was exhausted, and had long since reached the ‘JUST CUT HIM OUT OF ME I DON’T CARE CUT HIM OUT’ phase, to which I was now dramatically told that the only way this baby was coming was if I PUSHED, CHARLOTTE, YOU NEED TO PUSH. So I pushed. And he didn’t come. The midwife said something about a numbing agent, which was injected into me as preparation for an episiotomy. I was the told that the doctors were waiting outside with their forceps at the ready, and that if the baby didn’t come soon they would be taking over. The word ‘push’ became louder, and finally, finally, I managed to get him to crown. And then with one last giant go, just before the episiotomy was performed and the doctors called in, he flew out all at once, was wiped down, and placed on my chest at lightning speed. We were done, and we had our answer as to why he had taken his sweet time in entering this world – he had been back to back - facing 2'o'clock. more specifically - ramming his little head into my spine instead of down my birth canal

We shall have words about that when he is older, I think

And so it was that, at 21:08 on September 10th 2019, after a horrifically speedy 6 and a half hour labour, we became parents! And the rest, as they say, is history. A history of freaking out over the shape of my child’s head as my first reaction to meeting him (it looks normal now), extensive stitches, laughing that I sounded like Darth Vader when the gas and air took me once more during said stitches, horrified awe at my placenta, a wheelchair to a shared ward, a night with my husband sleeping in a chair as I stared at our baby, and an absolutely lifechanging experience that left us with a little lovebug that I couldn’t be more obsessed with, but history nonetheless. This brand new child is the light of my life, and I can’t get enough

As a final note before I sign off, I have to say that hypnobirthing didn’t quite work out as I had hoped, and nor did everything I read in the Positive Birth Book. However, I look back on this experience with nothing but love, pride, and positivity. Did I get the birth I wanted? Not entirely, no, but in a lot of ways, I kinda did. Was it painless? LOL no, but I survived it without drugs or intervention until the very last moment, which makes me feel rather powerful. Did I feel loved, respected and listened to every step of the way? Hell yes I did, and in the end, that’s what mattered the most to me. And I have an amazing team of midwives (especially my long term one, who I sobbed for hours about no longer seeing fortnightly during the dreaded day three hormone onslaught) and husband to thank for that

I believe said husband took a different feeling away from the experience, mind you, since he has stated on multiple occasions that he ‘isn’t ready to talk about it yet’ as it was ‘too traumatic’, but hey, I guess that’s what these lovely post birth hormones will do for you

They’re so powerful I’m already thinking about having another… 😉😂


Additional notes
*Apparently the school opposite our birth centre had just finished for the day, so as I was stood contracting, women were walking past with their children, giving us the thumbs up. Thanks guys! We did it! 

**Devastated the nightgown had such a short run, especially as it had taken me three contractions to remove my skinny jeans in order to change into it...


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