So my daughter is 3 months old and I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone since she arrived! Especially considering how long my labour was leading up to her arrival. This is my birth story, grab a cuppa because it’s a long one :).
Signs of Labour
I was originally due on Friday 20th July and got excited on Tuesday 17th July when I began having contractions. My midwife visited me at home on the Wednesday to do a stretch and sweep, she confirmed that my cervix was 1cm dilated and fully effaced, and advised that I go on walks to speed things up. I proceeded to do just that over the following days and contracted on and off during this time.
In the early hours of Saturday morning (July 21st) my contractions became really intense and I called the labour ward. They told me to go in so I arrived around 7:30am, they were short-staffed and didn’t have an examination room available so had me wait in reception for 2 hours. I was then sent to triage for an examination to be told I was still only 1cm dilated! I needed to be 4cm dilated which is considered as active labour to be kept in hospital. I was in agony and wondered how bad the pain would feel when I got to that stage as it seemed unbearable so early on. They also said my blood pressure was really high which was unusual for me (they checked at every midwife appointment), but I just assumed it was the stress of being in the waiting room for so long. I got sent home and managed to sleep between the contractions, I then had a bath as advised and went on another walk. I managed to sleep on the Saturday night and had stop-start contractions on Sunday.
I attempted to sleep on the Sunday night but was woken up by more intense and frequent contractions. I called the labour ward and went in again for an examination. They said I was still 1cm dilated! But my baby had turned back to back which made my contractions excruciating! The pain of contractions are so difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced them, especially in your back. I felt like my whole body was being consumed by the pain, I tensed up and found it so hard to breathe through the pain! And knew from there I couldn’t get through labour using hypnobirthing breathing techniques.
I was sent home from the hospital and called my partner’s aunty J, who is a midwife for advice. She advised that I lean over a gym ball in order to get my baby to turn. Aunty J decided to come over to check on me on her way home, and was concerned that I wasn’t feeling my baby move between contractions. She then drove to her house to get her midwifery equipment so she could check my baby’s heart rate, as she was concerned but didn’t disclose that. She also offered to give me an internal examination, before I would have been embarrassed and said no! Because who wants their partner’s aunty to see their bits? However, labour really does make you leave your modesty at the door, and I wanted to avoid another trip to the hospital to not have dilated at all! So Aunty J gave me an internal and did a cheeky sweep at the same time. She said she felt my cervix go from 3 – 4cm dilated and I also lost my mucus plug (possibly the grossest part of labour in my opinion). She then called the hospital and said she was bringing me in as my contractions were coming on thick and fast at that point (although my partner still found time to have a shower like we weren’t in a hurry, men!).
When we arrived at the hospital I was allocated this room (above photo), and despite the agony I was in, was happy that I would be getting my water birth (or posh birth as my granddad called it). I was given 4 hours to let things progress, but my partner and I both fell asleep between contractions because we were so exhausted. The midwife came in after this time and said she was going to leave me a further 2 hours to see if things would progress now that I was awake. I walked up and down the room listening to Jhene Aiko trying my best to get my contractions to be more consistent (not that it was down to me), but unfortunately they weren’t. The midwife came back again and said I could either go to triage for an assessment, or go home. I opted for the latter as I didn’t want to be induced.
I got home around 8am and went to bed frustrated and exhausted. I slept for a few hours until I woke up to the smell of burning breadfruit lol! It was disgusting and enough to get me out of bed to see what was going on. I spent the rest of the day doing laundry and chilling with my mom. I decided to have an early night around 11pm as I was watching Ackley Bridge and just couldn’t concentrate on it. As soon as I got into bed and turned off my lamp my contractions started again! I then called my mom and told her I needed to go back to the hospital. My contractions were coming every minute, horrifically painful and lasting around a minute and a half. I was writhing around on my bed in pain and heard my dad say to my mom on the landing “again? She’s been every night this week!” I was PISSED! That is not something a woman in labour wants to hear! It’s not like I was crying wolf – I was in agony, exhausted and couldn’t understand why my labour wasn’t progressing. I struggled to get ready and the journey back to hospital seemed to take a lifetime despite only being 20 minutes away.
When we finally arrived at the hospital around 12pm I was examined again to be told my cervix hadn’t dilated any further, and I was still at 3cm! The midwives sent me to for an assessment at triage as this was now my fourth time going in! I was put on a monitor in triage and offered paracetamol. I took it but it had no effect at all, after a few hours of writhing around in pain I was taken down to the maternity ward as I was being kept in. My mom left around 3am as she wasn’t allowed to stay with me. I had been told I could have a pethidine injection which I was expecting as soon as I got on the ward. Silly me! The ward was so busy I watched midwives walk past me repeatedly attending to other people. A lovely midwife finally attended to me, gave me the injection and I was able to sleep.
I woke up on the Wednesday morning no longer having contractions but now experiencing a constant pain in the left side of my stomach. This continued all day but when I mentioned it to the midwives and asked for an ultrasound they weren’t too concerned. I was however, given paracetamol and codeine to help with the pain and told that it was likely they would break my waters at some point. I was visited by my mom, sister and partner and spent the rest of the day in and out of sleep. When I was awake I watched a few programmes on my iPad and avoided social media. I was a member of a few “due in July” Facebook groups and was sick of logging on to see all these women having babies when mine wasn’t here yet. In the evening I was given a further dose of paracetamol and immediately threw up on myself! Labour is so far from glamourous lol. I had a shower, got into bed and continued to have contractions.
Around 11:30 I heard a pregnant lady arrive on the ward, my curtain was closed around my bed but I heard her on the phone saying her waters had broken but she was only 1cm dilated. A few minutes after, she started to have loud contractions and I swear this made mine happen more consistently! I remember thinking the other ladies on the ward must be so pissed, because the lights were off, everyone was trying to sleep and we were both having loud contractions. I then heard her say she needed to push, and gave birth right there and then! Once her baby had been born my contractions continued every few minutes and I pressed my buzzer for a midwife. I was then told they were going to take me up to the delivery room to break my waters (YAY!). I called my partner who arrived around 12:30 and waited for the procedure.
I anticipated the pain of having my waters broken as it was being done with what looked like a needle attached to a glove. It honestly didn’t hurt at all though! I was then left to progress for 2 hours, and when I could no longer breathe through the contractions, I asked for gas and air. I didn’t like the gas and air at all! It made me feel like I was hallucinating and I spent most of the time cussing my partner because he was hogging the hose lol! At some point the midwife attached me to a monitor because my daughter’s heart-rate kept dipping between contractions. Because I was in so much pain I kept moving on the bed and the wires would fall off. She kept telling me off and I was getting so frustrated with her because I felt like she didn’t understand how much pain I was in. She was absolutely lovely and so patient but I was so snappy because of the pain.
My daughter was still back to back in the womb so I decided to have an epidural. For months I made my partner promise me that he wouldn’t allow me to get an epidural if I changed my mind because I had this ideal birth plan in place! I wanted a water birth with just gas and air and absolutely no epidural. I was so scared while having it inserted into my spine because you have to keep really still or risk paralysis. The epidural is administered via a tube which you control by pressing a button, I tried to limit how much I was pressing as I wanted to feel myself push and not give birth lying on my back! I had the epidural inserted at 6am and it started to work in minutes, it was so effective that I kept falling asleep and would slap my self to stay awake.
A team of doctors kept coming into the room to empty my bladder using a catheter. Among them was a male doctor and I remember saying to the midwife that I didn’t want him to deliver my care because it was embarrassing enough lying there with my legs open, bits on show to the world. Labour doesn’t half take away your modesty! At 10am I was told that my baby was really distressed, I was fully dilated and was given half an hour to deliver her. My legs were put in stirrups and I tried my best to push her out but it was taking too long. After half an hour the male doctor returned and said they needed to deliver my baby ASAP. He said they could use a needle to draw blood from her head while in the womb to assess it, have a ventouse delivery which may end in forceps or have a forceps delivery. I opted for the latter as it seemed inevitable any way and I just wanted my daughter delivered safely.
I didn’t realise that having a forceps delivery meant I would have to have an episiotomy! My partner made the mistake of looking while they were hacking away at my vagina and was horrified. Luckily I couldn’t feel it at the time because of the epidural. I was then told to push when I had another contraction and the male doctor assisted my daughter’s head out with the forceps — the rocking motion reminded me of having a tooth out which was a bit weird!
Once her head was out we were told that her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck – THIS was the reason why my labour was so slow and my cervix wasn’t dilating, because she hadn’t been able to move down! I then pushed her out with my next contraction and my daughter was shown to me, then put onto the resuscitation table as she was having breathing difficulties. It was the longest 26 minutes of my life! Once they had stabilised her breathing I was told they were taking her down to the neonatal unit. I was shown my daughter once again and then she was taken away. My partner went with her and I had to stay in the delivery room to deliver the placenta (it basically just slipped out my vagina). My episiotomy wound was then stitched up, and I was left alone with the midwife. As my placenta was about to be disposed of, I asked the midwife if she could show it to me. It was amazing! I could see where my daughter was and which side attached to me, and now understand why they call it the tree of life.
I was so worried about my daughter and couldn’t wait to meet her properly, but because of the epidural I had no feeling in my legs so couldn’t walk downstairs. I was then taken to have a shower where I nearly fell over because my legs were so numb then had to be taken down in a wheelchair to meet my daughter.
As I wobbly walked into the neonatal unit I was worried I wouldn’t recognise my daughter even though my partner had been sending me photos, bless him. As soon as I laid eyes on her I was overwhelmed with emotion, she looked so tiny and was attached to all these wires. I was able to take her out of the incubator and hold her, I couldn’t believe she was mine. I was so in love! My mom, mother in law and sister came to visit but unfortunately my sister wasn’t allowed into neonatal as they limit visitors to avoid infection. Aunty J also visited and offered to help me breastfeed. I was anticipating this as I didn’t have the opportunity to do it before as I wanted in my birth plan. I tried to get my daughter to latch onto my right breast but it wasn’t possible. Aunty J then suggested I try my left which meant I had to take my nipple bar out *cry*, my daughter wasn’t able to latch that side either. Aunty J then looked in my daughter’s mouth and diagnosed her with a tonguetie so I had to express some milk.
My daughter was put on antibiotics as a precaution and had to stay in the neonatal unit overnight. I was given a bed on the maternity ward but went down to neonatal to express some milk and spend time with her for most of the night. My daughter was brought up to me on the ward the next morning and we had to stay in hospital for a further 2 days to ensure she didn’t have an infection. I was also on regular pain relief because my episiotomy wound hurt so much I could barely walk! I was also going mad having been in hospital for five days but was finally told we were going to be discharged on the Saturday evening.
My daughter was born at 11:03 on Thursday 26th July 2018, weighed a dinky 6lb 6oz and we called her Aniyah May. Aniyah is derived from Anna which means “God favours”, I’m more spiritual than religious but once I told my granddad her name and birth story he decided that her name meaning is the reason “the devil tried to strangle her!” Me and my partner laughed soo much!
I didn’t get the “posh” water birth that I dreamed of but I am so grateful for the maternity team that delivered Aniyah as they honestly saved her life. My labour and delivery was painful and traumatic but I would definitely do it again!