It was a Thursday and I was thirty-eight weeks and three days into my pregnancy. I was attending an antenatal yoga class with one other woman, Annabel, whose baby was due one week after mine. Our teacher suggested focusing on movements to help our babies move into position and to practise our breathing for labour. I was hoping for a ‘natural’, drug-free, water birth so these yoga classes were particularly important to me for working towards that. However, it is worth noting that my birth plan simply stated that I wanted a successful birth.
Only the week before, Annabel had revealed that she had lost her mucus plug.
I marched home feeling disgruntled and indignant and told my husband it just wasn’t fair. Why hadn’t I lost my mucus plug? Luke didn’t take my feelings of injustice all that seriously. I was, therefore, secretly pleased to see her in class again, with nothing new to report, which was very naughty of me.
It was during some gentle standing spiralling movements that I felt a twinge in my belly, enough for me to call out in slight alarm. Sam, our teacher, asked if everything was okay and I assured her I was fine, it was just another Braxton Hicks contraction. The class concluded without incident and Annabel and I walked to our cars. We joked about her mucus plug and waved goodbye with a “See you Sunday”, as we had decided to increase our classes to twice a week in a bid to encourage our babies to get moving.
The rest of the day passed without incident, despite the Braxton Hicks contractions becoming more uncomfortable.
The next day, Friday, Luke and I took a walk in the forest behind our house. Luke decided today was a good day to explore a new, steep, muddy path. It was a good idea, because we saw a beautiful family of deer. On the way home, I mentioned I was feeling more cramping in my tummy, but again blamed it on the Braxton Hicks. My body had, I thought, taken its practice to the next level.
That evening I decided on an early night. At 6am, I got up to go to the loo. When I stood up from the toilet, I was still weeing! Argh! Nooooooo! I pulled up my pelvic floor and still the wee came out! And that’s when it hit me – this was my waters breaking!
Oh golly! Oh wow!
I woke Luke up.
He suggested it might just have been wee and I should lie down and try to get more sleep. I searched for advice on Google, and was advised to do much as Luke had said, so I went back to sleep.
An hour later, I got up and felt a rush of liquid. It wasn’t quite the rush the Internet had led me to expect, but there was a definite leak. I called the birthing unit at the hospital and explained that I wasn’t feeling any contractions, just the odd bit of discomfort. My midwife had assured me that I would know when my contractions started, but what I was feeling was so mild, I didn’t consider it to be anything more than Braxton Hicks! The midwife at the birthing unit advised me to call back at 9am to let her know how I was getting on. I don’t think she was convinced that my waters had broken either.
By 9am the slight cramping had turned into definite contractions. They didn’t cause me pain, but I was aware of discomfort. I called the hospital again and was advised to come in. If it was my waters, they were concerned about potential infection, but given how I described everything, they said there was no rush. So, I had a lovely chat with my mum. The phrase “I have no idea why people make such a fuss – this is easy” would later come back to haunt me! I sent a text to my yoga teacher and some other friends and I steam-cleaned the kitchen.
By 11am I was bored, so I went to wake Luke up. I did a load of laundry and made Luke sit there while I alternated between cat-cow stretches and bouncing on the birthing ball to saying, “Ooh, this discomfort is actually getting a bit sore!”
By 2pm Luke had had enough of my nonsense.
He packed the car and bundled me into it, despite my concerns that the washing cycle hadn’t finished and would he not like some super fresh socks? (“No, dear. The ones you washed yesterday will do just fine. Now get in the bloody car!”)
By the time we reached the end of the forty-minute drive to the hospital, my contractions were pretty high on the discomfort scale, lasting about thirty seconds and coming roughly every five to ten minutes. I was taken into a lovely room at the birthing unit.
I noticed that it was nearly 3pm. Excellent, I thought to myself, I’ll have the baby by 4pm and we can be heading home by six!
The midwife came in and we agreed an examination was in order. My cervix was dilated by two centimetres. Only two bloody centimetres! She did kindly tell me I was very convincing for someone who was closer to five centimetres, because of the timing and intensity, but there we go. More ball bouncing and cat-cows for me!
From this point, time became a blur.
I had multiple baths, I took pain relief, I refused food, but was constantly thirsty. Over twelve hours later, at around 4am, the new midwife, Kayleigh, suggested another exam. By now, I had had quite a few examinations. I had made it to three centimetres but hadn’t progressed beyond that. I was desperate to get into the birthing pool and get some pain relief from gas and air, but my cervix needed to be four centimetres dilated for that. I willed the four centimetres, saying, “Kayleigh, don’t you dare say three centimetres. Say anything but three centimetres.” She, a little unconvincingly, said I was close enough to four for her to allow me in the pool and to take gas and air.
I enjoyed my time in the pool – I’d known I would! The contractions were uncomfortable and didn’t add to the enjoyment, but I was glad to have a go. I loved the gas and air and even though I remember some of what I said, and Luke has since kindly reminded me of things I had forgotten, none of it is appropriate to share here (and that’s saying something!).
I didn’t like not being able to wee and having a catheter inserted, but it gave me great relief that I didn’t even know I was in need of!
At 7am, my cervix was still only four centimetres dilated, and the third midwife on duty consulted with the obstetrician. The general consensus was that I should move downstairs to the delivery suite and consider an epidural and induction. My husband and I discussed it and agreed to follow the advice of the medical staff. I’m told I got some sleep after this.
At 5pm (yes, pm!) on Sunday (thirty-eight weeks plus six days), I was examined by the obstetrician and I was still no further along. He told me my baby was pushing through, but my cervix was thickening, and he recommended a Caesarean section. I was still only four centimetres dilated. We asked him about alternatives, and he said there was a possibility the baby would be born naturally without complications, but that might take another twelve to twenty-four hours. There was also the possibility of complications for me or for the baby. My husband joked that, given that I had tried all the drugs and been in most of the rooms in the maternity unit, I might as well complete the birthing bingo and visit the operating theatre as well!
It is important to note here that we were given a choice. We discussed it and chose a C-section. I did not have to make this choice.
Before going down to theatre, I spoke to my parents who had been anxiously, and patiently, awaiting news for over twenty-four hours. I brushed my teeth and admired Luke in his scrubs, and at 7pm I was ready. When staff asked how I was feeling, I told them how excited I felt.
Excitement and fear feel the same in the body and I was not succumbing to fear – I was on my way to meet my baby.
At 7:31pm the doctor lifted my baby up and called out “Happy Birthday”. Respecting our wishes, Luke told me the sex (“It is a boy!”), and I burst into tears of relief, joy, exhaustion and love.
Moments later, Luke brought our darling boy over to me. He was beautifully swaddled and I double-checked that Luke had counted his fingers and toes (10/10). I cuddled and kissed my baby for the first time. I was now a mum.
The only other part of this story I feel I should include is what happened shortly after in the recovery ward. I am sharing because I wish someone had warned me!
I was lying with Oak in my arms and Luke standing next to me, when the obstetrician came in to see how I was getting on. As he talked about recovery expectations, I heard a slow gush of wind, like someone slowly letting out a balloon. Who was that? What was that? “I’m sorry, doctor,” I said, “but what is that? Is someone farting?” “Erm…darling,” Luke whispered in my ear, “that’s you!” I was mortified, but Dr Mike didn’t seem to care.
· I planned for a successful birth and that is what I got.
· Every birth experience is different. I would encourage learning about your options, possibilities and choices.
· You have a choice at every step.
· Fear and excitement feel the same in the body; you can choose to birth without fear.
· You have got this!