Around 9:00pm on the 17th of January 2015, my waters finally went. Whilst bouncing like a mad woman on the ball, watching Doris Day make bad choices and chatting to a “Fox-y” friend on Twitter, there was a pop and a gush. It felt a little eerie as there were no contractions. Nothing whatsoever. I kept chatting to this lovely lady, who may have been the first to know (even before P!) that things were starting. The mixture of her excitement and the feeling that something might be about to happen started to rub off on me. My skin felt electric. After a quick call to my maternity unit, they asked me to come in and have a check to make sure that my waters had definitely gone.
The hospital is about a twenty-minute walk from us, but we hopped on the bus, down the road, and were seen pretty quickly. After a quick check, they announced that I was 1.5 cm dilated—less than I had been during Thursday’s sweep! They did a check on Blob’s heartbeat and found all was fine, and when I mentioned that I wasn’t having any contractions, they told me not to worry but that I needed to come back into hospital within 24 hours just in case an infection set in. As I gathered my belongings, I had my first contraction and the midwife dealing with me said, ‘Get ready to meet your baby! She’s coming!’
Fear surged through me. I didn’t want to do this. A caesarean section seemed a far better option. Any baby that I’d ever had never ended up in my arms.
We watched the end of Young at Heart and my contractions slowly built up. More like period pain than anything to write home about. By the time I laid down in bed, they were starting to build, but I could sort of doze between them. As true sleep wasn’t really within my reach, I decided to run myself a warm bath to soak my aching muscles in at around 2:00am. I kept flipping the taps on to top up the warm water and I rolled from side to side, letting the water run over me and work its magic. I lay there until about half past eight in the morning, when Paul awoke to find me twisting and swishing around like a demented fish in the water. Despite all the Twitter ladies advising me to go into hospital, as my contractions were regular and brutal, I didn’t want to move. My position was working for me and I had a great sway going! We caught a taxi down the road to the hospital over those damn speed bumps, only to arrive, be checked, and find that I hadn’t dilated a single centimetre more. On hearing the midwife say that P should only bring me in when I sound like I was mooing, it was lucky I was mid-contraction as I may have ripped her throat from her fucking neck!
So, after another taxi ride home, P ordered me to bed so that I could rest—bearing in mind I had barely had any sleep since about Thursday and this was now Sunday! My dad then rang. I don’t think I’ve ever reached out to my dad in the way I did that day, but I broke down and sobbed at him. Every fear was blathered out between sniffs and sobs and, being the surgeon he is, he rang friends at the hospital who then told him that I could come in when I was ready. I didn’t for a good couple of hours until I was truly “mooing.” I can remember my step dad coming to pick Max up, as he was weirded out by what was happening to his fur-less mum. The cats were a bit more understanding—they didn’t want to leave me alone and snuggled close to me.
The final taxi journey as a twosome was horrendous, as each speed bump felt like my stomach would split in two! The taxi driver wished us luck and then we slowly hobbled up to triage, where I was finally told that I was five centimetres dilated. I waddled and paused through the contractions to one of best suites in the hospital (the hospital has since opened a midwife-led birthing centre and was trying out two “suites” where there was a fixed pool, swing, ball, etc). Even despite the pain, I loved the room—so many choices and, throughout the course of the labour, I was able to try a lot of them!
I started off in the bath, back where I felt most comfortable, but this time it was midwife-controlled—no self control over the hot tap this time and I had a time limit put on me (due to my waters breaking so early, I couldn’t be in the water after 9:00pm). I spent about three hours in the tub before they had a check. No further dilation. I didn’t want to get back in the tub, as I knew I couldn’t stay there, so I tried the hoist—an utterly brilliant invention that was a piece of superstrong material that I wrapped my arms in and swung with the waves. The contractions were thick and fast now so I had gas and air (Entonox—a pain relief that is inhaled and does not stay in the body—as soon as you exhale, it is released). The midwives couldn’t get the wall supply to work, so I had a canister.
I flew. I was back in primary school, carrying my violin case, speaking made up languages with my friends from then. Next I was convinced that everyone was talking about me and couldn’t stop laughing at P’s face! The midwives kept trying to remind me that it was important to take breaths between the gas and air—even helpfully pointing out that perhaps I wasn’t having a contraction! I wasn’t having it, though—I clung to that mouthpiece like it was my first cup of tea of the day. They explained that they needed to do another check, as it was 24 hours since my waters had gone, and that they’d do it in 15 minutes… My response? ‘It’s a quarter past nine and I’m feeling fine!’ I think in some part of my brain I was hoping the midwife would find me massively dilated and ready to push.
I wasn’t. I was now about 5.5 cm. I had barely progressed. Clinging to the gas and air, I hoped and prayed that something would kickstart soon. P had to wrestle the Entonox from my grip and I ended up breaking the mouthpiece as I clamped down with my teeth, so he pulled the tubing away, leaving me gasping and saying how I thought the gas and air had run out! Bloody contractions! Bloody cervix! Bloody husband! Bloody midwives! All conspiring against me!
At around midnight, my hind waters went. It was like a waterfall across the floor. I’m sure I wasn’t, but I honestly felt like I was standing in two inches of water. They had a look and I was around 7 cm dilated. Progress! At this point, I begged for an epidural. The midwife said they would see what my progress was in an hour and swiftly left the room to put at least one door between them and my wrath. I’ve asked P several times and he’s either incredibly diplomatic or has blocked my behaviour from memory—apparently I was quite calm in labour, not screaming or swearing or being rude to anyone. When the midwives came back in to check on me, I growled at her as she entered the room and asked, ‘Where’s my epidural?’ On seeing that I had barely made another centimetre, she put the call out for the anaesthetist.
The anaesthetist was quite short with me, as I was mid-contraction when I started to touch my back—the area that he had just cleaned and sterilised—and warned me that if I did it again, he wouldn’t be able to give me an epidural! I sat as still as I could and then bliss! Instant relief! I knew I was still having contractions but they were only pulses rather than pains. The top-up button was rather fabulous, too! P sat in the chair beside me, watching the Seahawks game whilst I managed a couple of hours sleep from around 3:30-4:00am, until 6:00am when they woke me up to push.
I pushed for about twenty minutes before they realised that I was too exhausted to do this without help. Suddenly the room was filled. What went from a large room with P, the midwife, and the student, was a room filled with a paediatrician, his student, two more midwives, an obstetrician, and her medical student. As P says, it was the moment shit got real. Both Blob and I were exhausted by such a slow labour. I had no energy to push and her heart rate had dropped dangerously low. I know now that they were pretty much waiting to rush me into surgery to get her out ASAP and they weren’t banking on a breathing baby, but push I did. After having an episiotomy and Blob being yanked out by a Ventouse, she arrived at 6:52am on Monday the 19th of January 2015, weighing 7lbs 2oz (3.125 kg) and measuring 23 in (58 cm). She was absolutely fine. A little angry and sore from being brought into the world by her head and a suction cap, but a healthy girl with a perfect Apgar score despite the scare!
I had my little girl. We had our little girl.
I didn’t cry, just whispered, ‘Hello little one. I’ve waited so long to meet you.’
I remember Paul panicking that he suddenly felt torn in two directions—he needed to look after R, who was being checked over, but he also wanted to be by my side whilst I was being stitched and delivering the placenta. I didn’t realise at the time but when they asked me to do a small push, I was a bit fed up and did a big one instead, shooting the placenta over the obstetrician’s shoulder which then landed by the feet of the medical student. I was a little confused as to why the doctor needed to change her clothes when she checked on me later until P explained why she had such bloody clothes!
After what was almost 34 hours of labour, 500ml of blood loss, and the dodgy bit at the end, we finally held our rainbow in our arms. Our little girl, who will be a year soon and has developed a fabulously intricate personality and set of tastes. The fear around her birth still distresses me now, but I am thankful for her everyday.