This is a guest post from a friend of mine, Jackie, who (very) recently had a new baby girl. Towards the end of her pregnancy, Jackie found it helpful to read birth stories to help her prepare for the challenge ahead. In order to help other mums looking for birth stories to read, Jackie has agreed to put it on Mama Geek for all the world to see…
For weeks before it all kicked off for real I’d been having strong period like cramps in my lower back on and off and wondering if they could possibly be contractions. Well, when I felt my first contraction lying in bed after I’d had an urge to do a #2 pronto, at 5am on Tuesday morning there was no mistaking it. For a couple of hours they were like clockwork; 10 minutes apart lasting 45 seconds and then they got a bit more irregular; anywhere from 3 to 20 minutes apart lasting just over a minute. At lunchtime I decided it would be a good idea to tell Andy I was in labour. I had heard early labour can often last for days, so I was reluctant to mention it whilst he was busy working, however something told me this baby was coming and fairly soon. I laboured the rest of the day at home, watching movies and trying to remain comfortable through contractions which even though were becoming more intense were still not hitting the magic 5 minutes apart for a minute in duration over the course of an hour I thought I needed before making the call to L&D. I lost what I thought was my mucus plug, 2 brown pound coin size blobs, in the shower in the afternoon. By the evening I could no longer talk through the contractions and had to sit very still until each passed. I Googled if it’s possible for contractions to never reach 5-1-1, decided that might be true for me and decided to go into L&D to be assessed at 11pm. The midwife who was to assess me looked at me and said she wasn’t sure if I was dialated much as I just looked so calm. She explained that if I was 3cm or greater, I’d be off upstairs to the delivery suite and if not, I’d be sent home. I was convinced I’d be sent home. The cervical exam was probably just as painful as the contractions, but I was pretty shocked to hear I was already over 4cm. I was in active labour. It was going to happen tonight. Whilst I waited to be taken upstairs, I threw up what looked like everything I’d eaten all day and kept apologising because I couldn’t find anything to throw up into in time and did it all over the bed.
I headed on upstairs and was shown to my room. I was surprised how nice it was. I had a huge window, stereo, TV and an ensuite shared with the adjacent room. My midwife arrived and introduced herself. I don’t think she believed I was 4cm either. My labour was all in my back so the most comfortable position was sitting on the edge of the bed with my legs hanging over the side. We chatted for a while about what Andy and I did and how I ended up moving to the area, just general chit chat. I remember she took one look at me and guessed my baby would weigh 6lbs 11oz. I kind of laughed it off because I was a huge baby and assumed I would birth a baby of similar size. She asked me to let her know when I was contracting to gauge how far apart they were. I was like, “um.. now?” and she put her hand to my belly to confirm it. We talked about pain relief and I said I felt like I could try gas and air to take the edge off. I tried breathing it in through the next 5 or so contractions, but found it had no effect whatsoever. I didn’t even get the light headed experience people talk about. She said she would do my next cervical check at 3am in a few hours and I agreed to wait until then to see how I was doing to make any further decisions about pain relief.
By 3am I was dialated to 7cm. We talked about the options, Pethedine or an epidural. I don’t know anyone who has taken Pethedine, so that put me off, as did the idea of it crossing the placenta and making my baby drowsy. I knew I wasn’t going to take that risk. The thought of an epi has always terrified me and I knew I may have a tough decision to make as I started to feel I wouldn’t be able to cope for much longer, through transition and pushing without any pain relief at all. I knew I had to take my fears out of the equation and make the right decision for my baby and the situation. I knew if I wasn’t so scared I would get the epi in an instant and that’s what I needed to do. Many people I know talk about the epi being the best thing ever and that gave me confidence. I also wanted to be able to if not enjoy, at least have some good memories of birth and I knew it made sense. The midwife made me read a card outlining the risks and explained I would need to be monitored for 20mins, have a canula and saline drip inserted and then the anesthetist would be along to give the injection. So the anesthetist arrived and started to prepare my back. I started to shake with fear and didn’t know how I was going to be able to hold still. After the local anesthetic, it took 3 attempts to get the epi in because I couldn’t relax enough. After it kicked in, I was able to sit on the bed in a semi reclined position and relax a little and watch a bit of the news on tv. This was exactly how I wanted my labour to be and I started feeling really positive again.
Around 7am I was checked again. The midwife was sure I’d be getting close to 10cm by this point based on progress so far. I wasn’t, I was only an 8 and it looked as though things were starting to slow down. About an hour later, I said that I wasn’t sure if the epi was starting to wear off or something else, but that I was beginning to get a feeling of pressure and the need to push. Another check confirmed I’d quickly hit 10cm. The pressure was real, it was going to happen soon. I felt relieved that given I’d had the epi, I still knew when my contractions were happening and where to direct the pushing. I’d taken 2ltrs of saline and I needed to have my bladder emptied. The thought of the catheter freaked me out and I said I would like to try and go on my own. I could almost hear the midwife laughing in her head, but she obliged, placed a bed pan underneath me and left the room. 5 minutes later I conceeded defeat, I felt the urge to go but couldn’t find the right muscles to let go!
It was at this point my midwife ended her shift and a new midwife took over. I felt a bit scared, but hey, what choice did I have? New midwife explained that if an epi is given, upon reaching 10cm they usually advise to wait for up to an hour to give everything time to stretch and the baby to get into position. She still needed to rotate slightly to be in the optimum position for delivery so I agreed to wait. Half an hour later the urge to push became hard to fight. The midwife was in and out of the room getting things together to deliver and I became quite panicked that I would need to push and Andy would end up catching the baby!!
Somewhere around this point my baby’s heart-rate started dropping, maybe dropping isn’t the right word, but it wasn’t accelerating like it should have been? The midwife told me to lie on my side for a while to see if that would help, and fortunately it did, quickly and then I was able to move on my back again.
The feeling to push became stronger still and the midwife told me it was time. My baby had turned at the last minute. She explained how to push effectively; upon the start of each contraction tuck my chin down and push down for as long as I could, take a quick breath, push, breathe and push again. My contractions were spacing out a bit so she said I really needed to make the most of each one to get my baby out as quickly as possible. For me, pushing was the hardest part of labour, harder than the contractions in active labour with no pain relief. I had been in labour for over 24hrs and my body was exhausted. The first 2 pushes I gave it my all but by the 3rd I was struggling. My baby kept slipping back up, the weirdest sensation ever (!). The midwife asked me why I was having so much trouble with the 3rd push and I wanted to punch her! I had pushed through maybe 5 contractions, with some progress, though I was starting to feel like I wouldn’t be able to make it without intervention. All of a sudden the midwife said the head was right there and she had hair! Andy took a look but I was too scared to have a feel. Slowly but surely I pushed and was told more and more head was becoming visible and not slipping back. I got a surge of energy, my baby was almost here and I could do this! The midwife explained that when she told me it was time, I was to stop pushing and pant and then push again. I grabbed Andy, pulled him towards me as I buried my head in his chest and pushed with everything I had (he later told me my face had pretty much turned blue!). I felt the head crown and the ring of fire I had heard about. Once the head was out, the next contraction, she worked the shoulders out and moments later I felt the rest of her body slipping out of me. My daughter came into the World at 9.32am crying instantly. A huge wave of relief flooded over me as I knew she was ok. As she was lifted up and placed on my chest my first thought was that she was so clean and my second thought, she really was tiny! All 6lbs 12oz of her. The midwife was so close in her estimate! I pulled her close and kissed her head, I remember thinking she smelt so good.
I vaguely remember being given the injection to speed up the final stage. I was told to push again as she tugged slightly on the cord and after a few pushes the placenta slid out of me. I watched as it happened and thought it looked exactly as I imagined.
She then assessed the damage down there and I really feared the worst given how tough pushing seemed. Huge huge relief to hear I had barely a tear and it was decided not to even give it a stitch.
We did skin to skin for around an hour as we called close family to share the news. I then put her to the breast for the first time, fed for a short while before passing her to Andy to take over skin to skin, whilst I had a bath and got cleaned up.
Everything from that point went by in a bit of a blur. I was wheeled downstairs to post natal, where I stayed overnight as they wanted to monitor my pulse which shot up after I got the epi and then start antibiotics for a suspected infection.
Jackie & Andy are now settled at home with their gorgeous baby girl Sophie & are doing well. A big thank you goes to Jackie for allowing me to share her story, and many many congratulations on her new arrival!
If you are interested in reading birth stories, you can read my experiences with our two girls here: