Ok, so it all started at 3am on the morning of Thursday 9th October, 2009. I got up for yet another trip to the toilet, and thought I had felt a tiny trickle of water. Surely this couldn’t be my waters breaking? In my sleepy state I thought I must have imagined it, so I just climbed back in to bed.
About 15 minutes later I started getting mild contractions. They weren’t painful, but were like very strong period pains and were quite regular. I started timing them while my Lovely Man slept, and realised that they were between 5-10 minutes apart. Maybe this was something after all, so I came to the conclusion that it might be a good idea to wake him. We decided to get up and see how things progressed once we got downstairs. After a couple of hours waiting and timing contractions, they eventually seemed to trail off, so we went back to bed at around 6am. I didn’t get any sleep that night as the contractions were still coming, although no longer so regular. How frustrating. Still, this was obviously the start of something, and I couldn’t help but feel excited about our daughter’s imminent arrival in to the world.
8am came and My Lovely Man decided to go in to work, since nothing really seemed to be happening. We called my midwife first, to let her know what was going on. She came out to see me a bit later that day and didn’t examine me, but said that it definitely seemed like the early stages of labour and that it was basically a waiting game. Early stages? What on earth does that mean? How long could this possibly go on for? I had been picturing a perfect, four-hour labour, just like a friend of mine had experienced earlier that same year. How naive I was.
Throughout the day I was still getting contractions. Just as the night before, they were sometimes really regular, then just seemed to trail off again. We went to bed as usual that night, thinking that maybe nothing was really happening after all. But by the early hours of Friday morning, the contractions had started to get stronger and more regular again. We got up, and decided it was time to call the hospital for advice. My contractions were between 4-5 minutes apart and lasting for around a minute each, at this stage. That seemed like a good time to call, to me. The hospital staff said that they would send a midwife out to me as soon as possible. An hour later, at around 4am, she finally arrived. The midwife, that is – not our baby. I was excited by the thought of being told that I was now dilated enough to get in to my lovely birth pool, all blown up and waiting for me in the middle of our living room. The midwife checked me over, examined me, and told me that I was only 1-2cm dilated, and that my best option was to take some paracetamol and go back to bed. Are you frigging kidding me?! Paracetamol?! Sleep?! I was absolutely gutted. I took her advice, but felt so uncomfortable and totally deflated. If this was still only “early labour”, how on earth was I going to cope when full-blown labour eventually set in? I was starting to panic.
My Lovely Man suggested trying out the TENS machine that a friend had leant me. So I did, thinking that it might at least provide a distraction. I’m not sure that I have ever felt anything so uncomfortable in my life. Until that point, anyway. It certainly didn’t ease the pain and definitely was not the kind of distraction I had in mind. Rubbing my back would have to do. Needless to say, neither of us got much sleep again that night.
The next day dawned, and I insisted that my Lovely Man should go in to work again. Things were pretty much the same as they been, except that the contractions were slightly more regular now. He came home early in the end, and we just tried to get on with things, as normal. I’m not sure how “norma”l I must have looked, though – sat on my birth ball, with the laptop next to me on the coffee table, pressing the space bar every few minutes to time my contractions on an online counter we had found, while playing Mario Kart on the Wii against our next door neighbours. I’m proud to say that I beat them too. I actually wish that Dan had filmed the event, although if he had so much as dared to mention it at the time, I am fairly certain he would have lost a limb.
Later that night – midnight I think, although time was a foreign concept by now – we called the hospital again. The contractions were intensifying and were fairly regular again by now. Another midwife was sent out to me, I was examined again, and informed that I was still only 2cm dilated and that, again, I should try to get some sleep. Devastated is not the word, but I did as I was told. I kept wondering whether, perhaps if I kept myself busy and moving, things would progress faster. It had always been in my birth plan that I wanted to have an active labour. But, exhaustion got the better of me and I was continuously told that if I was tired now, there is no way I would have the energy to push when the time eventually came. I can’t help but wonder…
So, after yet another sleepless, uncomfortable, pain ridden night, Saturday morning came. My midwife had already said she would come out to see me again if nothing had happened by then, so she did. She examined me again, and said that I was now about 3cm, much to my frustration. I think this was the point that I finally broke down and the tears came. I was in pain. A lot of pain. Particularly in my lower back. I just could not believe that things had been going on for so long, yet my baby was nowhere near making an appearance. The birth pool looked so inviting, and I could have kissed my midwife when she said that although I hadn’t reached the recommended 5cm, I might as well get in anyway, as it was unlikely to have much effect, but might make me feel more comfortable. She said to call again as soon as things intensified, then she left. I jumped – ok, slight exaggeration – maneuvered myself in to the pool. Oh, it felt so good! And oh, was the midwife wrong when she said it was unlikely to have any affect. My contractions suddenly got A LOT stronger and more frequent, so not long after she had left, we were calling the midwife back again. She sat just observing me for a while, then eventually examined me. I was unfortunately still no further along. I decided to stay in the pool for the rest of the day, as it was warm and cosy and I didn’t really know what else to do with myself. I was in a lot of pain by this point, not to mention totally exhausted.
My midwife had bought some canisters of Entinox with her, and after some hesitation, I decided to give it a try. I had been convinced that it would make me sick, but thankfully, it didn’t. I can’t say that it actually did anything for the pain, but it did provide a wonderful distraction. I would bite on the tube during contractions, which really seemed to help. I think it was also around this time, that I developed a rather bizarre obsession with an old towel. I really old towel, that had been my Mother-in-law’s. For some reason I absolutely loved the smell of it, and found it a huge comfort. From this moment on, it didn’t leave my hand for a second, throughout the entire labour. I NEEDED to have it by my mouth, taking in its wonderful scent, and even the tube for the Entinox wasn’t going to stop me. I simply wrapped it around the tube and experience the best of both worlds. I didn’t think there was anything odd about this at all, at the time. Looking back now I must have looked like an absolute loony.
Later that evening, another midwife, came out to take over. I think it was about 8pm by now. I was actually really pleased to see her, as she had taken our antenatal class and was really lovely. She was absolutely fantastic, and did everything she could to make sure that I was happy and as comfortable as I could be. She also had loads more Entinox with her, so naturally she was my new best friend. How it had been missed before this point I still do not know, but she noticed that I appeared to be struggling with the pain far more than I should be at this stage of labour, and was concerned about my complaints of the pain being in my back. It was so bad, that I literally could not communicate at all during a contraction, except to squeal “help” at My Lovely Man, which meant that I needed him to rub my back immediately. The poor guy spent almost an entire day following me as I drifted around the pool, often having to strain to reach me. He truly is a saint! I remember him disappearing at one point, and the midwife having to take over his back rubbing duty. I screeched for him, only to be told that he had been sent outside to get some fresh air. “How dare he!”, I thought. He wasn’t the one suffering here! Surely rubbing my back wasn’t that much of a strain, given what I was going through?! I later learnt that he had almost passed out, as he had followed me around the pool and got wedged in to a tiny gap between the pool, our sofa, and the fireplace. It was very hot in the room by then, and he had become very claustrophobic. Bless him!
Anyway, back to the point. The midwife had another feel of my belly and discovered that our little madam had moved, and was actually now back to back. For those who are not aware of this, it basically means that the baby’s back is against yours, and the pressure of a contraction forces all their weight straight down on to your spinal cord. The pain this was causing me was excruciating. FAR, FAR worse than the contractions themselves. In fact I don’t remember feeling anything in my belly at all, which is obviously where the pain is supposed to be. It was getting more and more intense, to the point where I was screaming and crying in pain. I was also completely dizzy and high on the Entinox.
Another hour or so went by and I was starting to give up, saying I couldn’t do it anymore. My midwife had a chat with us about our options – which were either, going in to hospital for help now, or waiting it out at home a bit longer. I was ready to give up on my home birth dream, and just go in and get it over and done with at this point. But she persuaded me that I had nothing to lose by sticking it out at home for another couple of hours. So I did – but it was absolute hell. At around midnight, a second midwife arrived and I was examined again, to find that I was only 5cm. This was just far too much for me and I sobbed that I simply couldn’t continue in this pain, if it wasn’t getting me anywhere. This was a huge deal for me. I had been absolutely adamant that I wanted a home water birth, to the point that the thought of giving birth any other way absolutely terrified me. I felt I had no choice. I was completely exhausted and resigned myself to the fact that our baby simply wasn’t going to arrive the way I had hoped. I needed help. Although I don’t think I actually gave much thought to what that would actually involve. I was far too exhausted and spaced out to even think about it.
The ambulance was called and the rest of the night is all a total blur. I was totally, completely, high on Entinox – apparently I’d had at least 5 full cylinders of it by this point. The midwives helped me to get dressed, while My Lovely Man ran around throwing things in to a bag. I had been so sure that my home water birth would be a success, that I hadn’t even bothered to pack one. So, off we went in the ambulance. Myself and the midwife anyway – My Lovely Man actually followed in the car, as he gets bad travel sickness and knew he would be ill in the ambulance. Good thing he did, as the journey was truly awful. My midwife said it was the worst journey she had ever had, so it must have been bad. But it obviously did the trick – by the time we arrived at the hospital, which is under 10 minutes away, I was 9 1/2 cm dilated.
I really don’t remember much from this point. I didn’t even see the hospital room, or the midwives, until the time came to push. I was totally zombified and simply could not open my eyes. I was aware of what was going on around me – I could hear all the conversations – but I couldn’t communicate with anyone, or answer any of the questions they were firing at me, which was very frustrating. I hadn’t wanted any drugs at all – which was in my birth plan – but without my knowledge or permission, I was given a shot of morphine. It didn’t do anything at all to relieve the pain. I’m sure it only made my zombie state worse, and it also made me feel incredibly sick. My Lovely Man has since told me that he was trying to get me to open my eyes and look at him, but was petrified when I did as the morphine had made my pupils really tiny, so I looked really scary, and to make matters worse I gave him a very angry growl. Poor man. Apparently I was like something from the Exorcist.
I remember “mooing” down the tube for the Entinox, and I could hear everyone telling me that I had to breathe it in for it to work, and felt so angry and frustrated that I couldn’t respond and tell them that actually, it was too bloody painful to breathe in, and this way was working just fine for me, thank you very much! Apparently the tube wasn’t even connected at one point.
This must have gone on for around three hours, although in all honesty it didn’t feel like that long. Before I knew it, the midwife was saying that if I got the urge to push I should just go for it – so I did. I’m not sure how long the pushing stage took – I think it was around an hour. I remember being much more awake and less like a zombie by this point. I even got my first proper look at the midwives assisting me.
The actual pushing wasn’t painful at all. In fact, it was quite a relief. I did get very frustrated at one point though, as I got cramp in my left hip, so kept having to straighten my leg out, meaning that the baby’s head kept going back in. Eventually I managed to push her down, and just as I was getting concerned about the burning sensation of her head crowning, out she slid, all in one go. Our beautiful daughter, Evie Mae, had finally arrived at 05.29 on her due date – Sunday 12th October 2008.
It was an absolutely indescribable moment – just so incredibly overwhelming to see and hold her for the first time. She was just so perfect. I kept looking between her and her Daddy in absolute shock, repeating ‘she’s so beautiful!’ My Lovely Man was crying, and beaming with pride. He kept kissing my head and telling me how proud he was of me. It was all just magical. It really is true what they say about all the pain and frustration being instantly forgotten. Nothing else matters in that moment.
We were home by lunchtime that same day, and were greeted by my Mum, Dad, brother and our neighbours who were all waiting outside with balloons and flowers. I was totally exhausted but just so, so thrilled to be home with our Little Lady. I had done it! She was here!
So that is my very long birth story. It totally went against everything I had wanted in the end. The morphine. The fact that I was in hospital, rather than all cosy at home in my pool. I had wanted an active birth, in any position other than on my back – but I gave birth lying on my back, with a midwife holding one leg and My Lovely Man holding the other. Nothing like I hoped for at all. But do you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing.