When you’re pregnant, you often find yourself thinking about the end and going into labour. When I found out I was pregnant, my first thoughts were of being terrified of giving birth and going through labour. You always seem to read horror stories about it and it really puts the fear of God into you. Eventually, I became less afraid as I realised the baby needs to come out one way or the other. What was the point in letting those thoughts and fears consume me the entire 40 or so weeks? As a first time mum, I had no idea what services would be available to me or that I could even have a choice between a home birth, birth at a midwife led unit or in the delivery suite. As time went on, we discovered all of these snippets of information and formed a birthing plan.
Tom and I did a hypnobirthing course with Kerry from Babies in Waiting. This really changed my approach to birth and thoughts about labour. I absolutely loved hypnobirthing and it was definitely money well spent. Autumn was born 8 days ago and I just wanted to share my birth story and in later blog posts, I am hoping to discuss my recovery and life after pregnancy.
As I sit writing this, it should be the day before Autumn was due. After we had our first scan back in September, I thought we were having a little girl, but we never found out the gender and I am so so glad we didn’t. It gave me that little bit of extra momentum while I was in labour. The past few days, I have been very reflective over what my body has endured the past 10months. Women are simply amazing. Our bodies are so strong and powerful, it blows my mind!
I had a very long labour in the end. At 3am on the 28th March my waters broke while I was asleep. I was momentarily stunned before I realised ‘I’m going to meet my baby soon’. I woke Tom up and we were both exhilarated and a bit emotional at the thought of meeting our already loved baby. I had a shower and washed my hair and got back into bed to watch Parks and Rec. One thing I didn’t realise was how long your waters go for! Mine went for a good hour, ruining a sheet, towels and 3 pairs of knickers as the pads just didn’t do anything! I genuinely had no idea I was carrying so much fluid! An hour after my waters broke, I started having my first lot of contractions. For the first 45 minutes, I was having 1 every 14 minutes. They were mild and more than manageable. Suddenly, they ramped up and became one in 4.30 minutes and were lasting around 1 minute each time. At this point, I moved downstairs to go on my birthing ball and Tom made the lounge dim, lit my lavender candles and I played my hypnobirthing playlists. I felt in control at this point. Tom took Hendricks to our friends on Mersea and I obviously got upset saying bye to him, knowing that his little life was about to change too. Even thinking about it now makes me want to cry!
When Tom returned, we went to Triage so they could assess me and check that the baby was ok. At this point, I was very excited, I was so desperate to meet our baby and was trying my best to remain in the ‘zone’. After being monitored, the midwife sent me home as per my request and advised me on when to come back in. This was now around 10am. I got into a hot bath when I got home and carried on hypnobirthing. My contractions were irregular now but we put it down to the fact that I had moved from home, to the hospital, then back home again.
This second part of the day was one of the hardest. Once I’d had a bath, I struggled hugely. I couldn’t get comfortable and the contractions ramped up again. But this time, they were lasting around 2 minutes each time. Later on, the midwife said I was experiencing two in a row so my body just didn’t get a break. I tried to eat some toast but due to the intensity of the contractions, food just made me feel sick. I just kept myself extremely hydrated. Tom was bloody amazing. I can’t imagine what it must be like watching the person you love the most go through that and not know how to help them. He gave me massages, held my hand, let me squeeze him and gave me cuddles when I needed it. Exhaustion was creeping in and I let the anxiety overwhelm me. I got really upset, thinking I was failing. I was no longer in my relaxed state and at the time, I felt ashamed to say I was struggling. I had my bloody show about 4pm and due to the length of my contractions, we decided to go back to the hospital to be checked. I was dreading this bit as it meant I would have to go in the car and deal with the contractions in a confined space on my own while Tom concentrated on getting us there. Luckily, it was about 4.45pm on a Sunday so the roads were empty. The midwife checked me and I was 3.5cm at this point. I was bloody gutted. I didn’t want to go back home. I wanted to get settled in one place. I was desperate to go to the Juno suite. The midwife suggested either going home and coming back in a couple of hours, or going for a walk/ drive. I couldn’t face coming back home to then have to go out again. So we did something slightly bizarre.
We drove to McDonalds and got something to eat. I only had some plain chips and a full fat coke to try and get some energy. Tom literally had to feed me. We stayed in the McDonalds car park for over two hours and I really got back into my hypnobirthing. I had the playlist on repeat in the car, reclined my seat and had my pillow. I felt so much calmer and under much more control. I don’t think I uttered more than 10 words to Tom during this time and he was just amazing.
It got to 8.30pm and we headed back to the hospital, knowing we would be going to the Juno suite. The midwife didn’t examine me this time as I was in a good place and she didn’t want to disturb me. A lovely midwife took me to the Juno suite where I was allowed to stay until I either had the baby or until 5am. I did tell them a little white lie, my waters broke at 3am but I told them 5am to give myself an extra 2 hours leeway. Tom got all my room spray out, put our music on, the lights were dim, I had a pool, and we carried on with our hypnobirthing. Having access to the birthing pool was incredible. I felt so chilled out in there. Even thought the contractions were still really intense, I just felt more at ease than I had all day. The environment in the Juno suite was bloody lovely. The midwives left us alone and Tom and I had that time together. We were both exhausted by this point but obviously knew we needed to push through. Around 3am I asked for gas and air. I was laying on the bed and due to the tiredness, I was struggling with the length and intensity of the contractions. I needed some pain relief to help me remain calm.
When we did our birthing plan, we were quite specific about some of the things we did/ didn’t want. And the midwives were extremely respectful of this. All questions were directed to Tom as requested and they all spoke in low voices and didn’t disturb me unless they needed an answer that Tom couldn’t give. In between contractions, I managed to rest – not sleep, but I did close my eyes and visualised meeting our baby for the first time.
At 5am, I was taken to the delivery suite. I was still only 7cm at this point and knew I had a way to go. Before labour, I was so frightened of things not going to plan. I was so desperate to have a water birth and to deliver the baby in the midwife led suite. However, in that moment, I was more than happy with how things were progressing as it meant that the baby could be monitored and I was almost there. I believe hypnobirthing, and the calming presence of Tom made that possible. The delivery suite room was also set up exactly the same as the Juno suite. They had turned the star projector on, I could still play my music and Tom was still able to be constantly at my side.
One thing I was desperate for, was a natural birth. I wanted to feel everything. As I was hooked up to the machine, we could see the baby was more than happy and not in distress which was a huge relief. She was actually too chilled!! My contractions slowed right down to only 2 in 10 minutes, they were however really long, lasting between 2-3 minutes each time which made it really difficult. I cleaned myself up a little, brushed my teeth put some deodorant on etc, to try and feel more refreshed. When I look back, it’s mad to think how I did it on no sleep and no food! The thought of eating made me anxious and feel so sick. I was drinking a lot of water so the midwives were happy with that.
The morning went by in a complete blur. When I look back, I can barely remember anything between 7am-Midday. I remember the exhaustion, and the fact that the midwives had to drain my bladder twice because the baby’s head was in the way. We had the loveliest midwives taking care of us – Cheryl and Sam. Sam is actually a student midwife, but they made the experience a good one. They chatted to Tom and I about normal stuff and gave us that distraction we needed. The exhaustion started kicking in again and once more, I was struggling with the length of the contractions and just having no energy. I stuck at it with the gas and air but by 2pm I was really struggling. I had been fully dilated since 12.15. Due to the slow nature of the labour, the midwives were getting slightly concerned as it had been so long. I agreed to be given a hormonal drip to ramp up the contractions and help me deliver the baby naturally, without intervention. Cheryl warned me how much more intense the contractions would become and asked if I would like any other pain relief. I almost asked for some, but my stubbornness came out and I decided with Tom that I could do it on gas and air. It wasn’t to be heroic, or that I look down on anyone who chooses to have more. I just knew this would be my only birth and I wanted to be aware of everything.
At 3pm the doctor examined me and put me on a deadline. If the baby wasn’t born by 4pm, they would have to assist me with the delivery. Cheryl knew I desperately didn’t want this and her and Sam gave me that final bit of momentum I needed. I was put on the drip, and boy, were those contractions different! In no time at all I was finally feeling the urge to bear down and push. I could feel Autumn making her way down the birth canal and I knew I was almost there. I tried to remain calm, but I went into primal mode! I was getting my baby out naturally if it killed me! When I was ready for delivery, Tom could see the head crowning which I’m sure is something he’ll never forget. It’s amazing how instinct takes over. I could feel she was coming and put my everything into delivering her. In the end, Autumn came out very quickly and was born dead on 4pm – the deadline the doctor had given us!
When Autumn was placed in my arms, I felt euphoric. I don’t think anything will ever come close to that feeling again. I was so overwhelmed with love and all of my pain went away instantly. As we hadn’t found out the sex, Tom told me we had a little girl and those few minutes after Autumn was born were the best, and most cherished of my life. Even writing this now is making me sob. Tom cut Autumn’s cord and I delivered the placenta at 4.15 whilst holding Autumn and I felt on top of the world. Unfortunately, I had second and third degree tearing but I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I also wouldn’t do anything differently. Even though I had moments of doubting myself and panic, I pushed through it and on the whole, Tom and I delivered our baby safely.
Labour and birth for me has been both traumatic and euphoric. The length of the labour and intensity of the contractions were exhausting and quite traumatic at times. But this isn’t to put my birth story in a negative light. Tom and I have spoken about it at length and neither of us were prepared for it, or for the post partum recovery. I’m going to be writing about that in another post. I feel like writing it out is cathartic.
I had to stay in hospital overnight because I was taken to theatre and obviously couldn’t move for hours! But the care Autumn and I received was outstanding. The NHS are simply amazing and in particular, Sam and Cheryl were incredible. They helped me have the birth I wanted and nothing was too much trouble. All I can say about the recovery right now is to look after yourself and accept help when you need it. I’ve been totally honest about everything with Tom and it has helped him understand what I’m going through, even though it is hard for him to see certain things and not be able to help.
Thanks for reading my birth story! I really wanted to write it down and share it. It’s something I’m so proud of. I carried and delivered our baby safely into this world and it’s an experience I’ll never forget.