How on earth has it come to be that I have a positive birth story to share? Holy shit I am so excited to share this story. I am so so so bloody proud of myself.
I officially get to be one of those annoying people with a ‘crazy’ labour and delivery story. After having a hard first birth, I am going to basque in all its glory.
To quickly recap over my first birth so that we can compare, I was 39 weeks and 2 days pregnant. I wake up at 7am to my waters breaking, by 11am I was having contractions, by 6pm I was in hospital to be told I was only 1cm dilated but could stay, by 5am the next day I was 5cm dilated and allowed an epidural (by the time I had the epidural I was 7cm), the epidural stopped labour and I had to be induced, by 7:30pm I was told I could start pushing, by 9:30pm I was told my baby was stuck and I would need an emergency c-section, by 10:21pm my baby was born – it was long and hard and exhausting. Having a caesarian mentally and physically hurt me for a long time. When I found out I was expecting baby number two I did all I could to achieve a VBAC birth.
March 3rd, 2018
So let’s pull right up to March 3rd, 2018, I have spent the last 2 days furious at my lack of labour and being 5 days overdue (which came as a real shock after my first baby was early!) I wake up at 3am to some quite intense contractions, but all very manageable. They’re lasting 40 seconds and are every 3 minutes. As it has been snowing, I decided after an hour to call my mum thinking by the time she had got up, dressed and ready she would be with us a few hours later. She arrived 15 minutes later as the snow wasn’t that bad anymore (whoops) so I sent her back! I then went downstairs and rocked about on my birthing ball and just got very chilled out and relaxed. I’d had quite a few “false starts” with this baby and thought that maybe this was just another one so decided not to get my hopes up. The contractions even tailed off at a few points as I was so chilled out.
My mum popped back at around 10am and told me to go to the hospital as the contractions were so close together but as they were really bearable I stayed at home.
I was constantly mindful of my surroundings as I had been practising hypnobirthing and although I wasn’t practising it in early labour, I knew not to let stress get to me. Every time our surroundings got stressful i.e. Rich popped to the shop at one point and I was on my own with the toddler, I would feel the contractions a lot more.
At 2:30pm I couldn’t decide if my waters had broken. I had soaked through my trousers but it was as I’d stood up after having a wee so it was hard to call. With my first baby, it had been the epic splash that you see in films. This was less glamorous (as glamorous as it can get!) – I can now confirm my waters HAD broken. I hadn’t peed myself, so that’s good.
By 3pm it was decided that Rory would go to my mums and I was told again to go to the hospital but I was still quite comfortable so decided not too. Saying goodbye to Rory knowing it was the last time I would see him as an only child was so so so hard.
Things are hotting up, quickly…
Once the toddler went I started watching Friends (always my go-to for positive vibes) I was watching the episode where Phoebe marries Mike. I asked Rich to run me a bath as the contractions were getting a little spicier.
I cannot tell you how excited I was for this bath to spend all of 40 seconds in it.
Before the bath, I predicted from the pain (going off my first labour) that I was around 4cm dilated. I decided we had about an hour before we leisurely made our way to the hospital. I got into the bath and felt the need to push. I very calmly told Rich to pack up the car.
I think we both had an unspoken moment there where we knew shit was getting real but we didn’t want to scare the other.
I cannot tell you how terrified I was for the car journey. I was majorly grappling with the idea of point-blank refusing to even go to the hospital but knew that I obviously didn’t have much choice. The pain was the most unbearable when sitting down and Rich politely informed me that going on all fours on the back seat wouldn’t be a legally safe option (that’s the first time he’s ever said that – joke, joke, sorry mum!). Luckily we only live two minutes from the hospital and I didn’t have another contraction whilst in the car.
We pulled up outside the hospital and by this point, I am flaunting full on “crazy lady having a baby” vibes. There was still about 7cm of snow on the ground and I get out of the car wearing a t-shirt dress and flip-flops as I could not bear the thought of putting on clothes (I don’t know what it is about labour but I like to be nude) as I didn’t have another contraction in the car I put myself back at about 4cm dilated and decided things were not that urgent. Rich pulled up outside the hospital and said he would walk me up and then park the car.
The babies on her way.
We bump into Lily, lovely Lily, our midwife, in the corridor and the second we got there it was like my body just knew and things hotted up. We were seen into a room and I started to have the same panics that I had with my first labour. If I’m only 4cm and it’s this painful, then I’m going to need the epidural. I made a mental note to tell Rich he needs to get me the epidural and my heart sank as I had so wanted to avoid it due to the issues it caused with baby number one but I just didn’t see another option. Lily came back in the room and Rich said he was going to go and park the car.
The things that happened next caused us both to absolutely shit ourselves. Lily said, “I’d run if I were you as your baby is coming.” Um, you what? By the time Rich got back, I was on the bed starting to push this sucker out.
I cannot tell you what happened next as it’s the most insane thing that has ever happened to me. I basically had an outer body experience.
I had decided in early labour that hypnobirthing wasn’t worth the hype as I just couldn’t get into it, but all of a sudden when the clock struck “10cm dilated” my body decided to do something that I wasn’t prepared for.
Apparently, I had very politely asked for the gas & air, got onto the bed on all fours (exactly as you’re advised to per Katharine Graves hypnobirthing) and every time I needed to push I would squat and push. I remember feeling like an animal, just completely listening to my body, even to the point that it would move around and I would hear that these involuntary movements had done more to ease the baby down. It was crazy. My body totally knew what it was doing. For the in-between parts I was gathering myself with Gas & Air, basically just using the nozzle to bite down on and using it to regulate my breathing to remain calm but I wasn’t really taking it in (I know this as during stitches I fully went to town on it, but more on that later) then for the pushes I didn’t use pain relief and I genuinely don’t remember anything being too painful, I even said that during labour so it’s not that I’ve forgotten the pain! I cannot express how much hypnobirthing helped my labour.
For hypnobirthing, you’re told to create a “safe place” in your head which is usually a beach or something, but mine was Phoebe & Mike’s wedding! I was literally playing out the whole Friends episode in my head during labour. Again, completely involuntary. Every time things got a little bit scary, it would just flick on in my head.
Something isn’t right.
I pushed for two hours and once again, I knew something wasn’t right. Just like my first labour, after a certain amount of time pushing and getting nowhere, you just know. There is a shift in the room. People start to panic but no one really wants to tell you. I started to panic and kept asking for a caesarian. In my head, that’s where things were going and I just wanted to have the control for it to be on my terms rather than a doctor.
I was told that a doctor would need to come in and assess the situation. I had the gas and air taken from me so that any pushes would be “my all” and the midwives were trying new tactics. I was put on the toilet to see if that would help. Rich was told to get the babies clothes out and put them in the crib to see if that would spur me on. The midwives at this point were amazing as I had lost my shit a little bit and given up.
The doctor came in who happened to be one of my consultants, I was glad to see a familiar face. It was decided that the baby was pretty low down and the best option would be an episiotomy and forceps delivery. I was told I would not be allowed the gas and air and to wait another ten minutes to ensure it had left my system.
Everything from this point was scary and traumatic and I will tell it as honestly as I can without scaremongering.
Rich said he knew things had got serious as I had gone from making “braying like a donkey” for contractions to literally screaming “ouch”. To this day I feel guilty and embarrassed for screaming so loudly as it’s so unlike me but I genuinely think the fear took over. I heard afterwards that you’re numbed for an episiotomy but I’m pretty sure I felt it, however with my caesarian I was adamant I could feel things there too so maybe your mind just plays tricks on you?
The scary thing about forceps is you’re all too aware of what’s coming. The cut, the first forcep and then the second. You can see and hear what’s happening. I don’t ever fear pain and I found it pretty hardcore!
I got even more scared when the doctor very seriously said to me “we have three chances, three pushes to get this baby out and if we don’t it will be a caesarian.” and with that, I was given things to grab onto and had people around me to spur me on.
I am pretty sure I didn’t give those three pushes my all, I am pretty sure I had given up and that the doctor had done the work for me really! On the last push I shouted “I WANT A CAESARIAN” and then I heard Rich say “George, look down, she’s here!”
And so she was.
All 8lbs 9oz of her with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, the reason she was having trouble coming out. It was like a bungee holding her back. I knew my placenta wouldn’t go down without a fight. After months of being low lying and jeopardising my chances of a VBAC, it decided it would move out the way but it would hold onto her.
I remember a good friend of mine who also had a VBAC saying when the baby was born she went into shock. I did the same. I think you deal with the adrenaline mixed with the fact that you can’t believe you actually did it. You achieved the dream.
I turned to Rich and said “that was the stuff of horror films”, in that moment, that’s exactly how I felt. Shocked and traumatised.
“The last thing I wanted was my sensitive bits poked with a needle and thread”
One of the main reasons I feared the forceps so much is because of the stitches. I’ve heard so many times that it can be worse than labour and it kind of was. After labour, you just want to be left alone for a bit, not have a doctor poke your sensitive bits with a needle and thread. Luckily I was given back the gas and air and I fully went to town on it! I sucked in so much, I genuinely had a bit of a high. In my head, I was circling the room and kept on looping around and replaying the same moment like I was on a rollercoaster. It was bizarre!
During the initial shock and stitches, I felt a bit miffed about labour. I felt like I’d had another bad experience but the second the stitches were over and I was given back Elin to feed, the newborn high hit me so hard! I was elated and so so proud. I just had the biggest smile on my face.
Holy shit, I did it.
On paper, my labour should have been traumatic, but in my heart, it was absolutely perfect. There I was clutching my new little alien-like newborn, sat in a room covered in blood, placenta and meconium, eating Haibo with the biggest smile on my face.
No two labours are the same.
My labours just couldn’t be more different. I feel so proud that I managed to stay at home and get fully dilated all by myself, I didn’t even take paracetamol! I am so proud that I managed it on gas & air and then no pain relief when shit really hit the fan. I am so proud that I managed my VBAC and it was so so worth it.
I hugely put the success of it down to hypnobirthing and will do a blog post on all of that later.
If you’re reading this because you’re hoping to achieve a VBAC or if you’ve had a traumatic labour and are hoping for a more positive experience next time around, please know that no two births are the same. I know everyone says it, but I am absolutely proof of that. I cannot express enough how you cannot expect the same thing to happen again.