Seriously.. how did it go well this time? So I don't feel like one of those 'it was easy, I don't know what all the fuss it about' mums, I want to preface this post by saying I had an absolutely terrible time when I gave birth to Vivienne. I had strong contractions that I couldn't sleep through for five days before she was born - the joys of a back-to-back baby and all the useless pain it brings - and was completely exhausted, overwhelmed and past myself. It was scary and horrible and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.
This time, I became very preoccupied with keeping the baby 'the right way round' and also staying really active, and, although you can never know for sure, I feel like it definitely helped. I walked, swum and did spinning in the days before I went into labour to try and get things going, also to keep busy, and also to keep her in the right position - I'd read that good posture and leaning forward helps this.
I'd had Braxton Hicks since about 19 weeks, and strong BHs in the week or so leading up to this point. David had pulled out of going on a stag do, and because I was getting contractions here and there that kept stopping he didn't really go out and drink over the days between Christmas and New Year. On the 2nd January he went to the match and I sulkily said "She won't come today. I don't feel anything. Just go and have a drink and see your friends and enjoy yourself. I dropped him off whilst having BHs about 11.30am for the 12 o'clock kick off and went home to sort the house out and have a lazy day.
At about 12pm I text him saying that the pains were the strongest yet, but still didn't think it 'was it', but I told him I'd keep him updated. The picture below was taken at about 1pm. By 2pm I was having to stop and concentrate on contractions, telling poor little Vivienne that I wasn't in pain, not to touch me, and that I just had to concentrate here and there. I slowly packed the last things in my birth bag and somehow got everything downstairs by the door ready to go. I even tidied the house (it was bloody spotless, which it *never* is). Contractions were probably coming every 5/6 minutes or so, but I was struggling to walk through them. I'd forgotten what it was like to have contractions, and had to force myself to breathe through them - it's more difficult than it sounds when your whole body is trying to tense up, my instinct was to hold my breath.
I'd done a few hypnobirthing CDs and a short course at the hospital and it definitely helped. I wasn't scared by labour, and remembering to breathe and some of the visualisations really helped too. I'd definitely recommend it for pregnancy and birth - it was a game changer for me.
At 2.15pm I text David saying 'Don't have any more to drink'. And ten minutes later 'I think this might be it today or tomorrow. It's been relentless and ten times more painful'. I drove the short way to pick him up, still feeling like I could manage. We went to co-op to buy David a pizza to soak up the beer he'd had, I had a contraction in the bread aisle and another in the car park.. I rang the hospital asking when to come in, and they said to hang on until my body couldn't do it any longer at home. I ran a bath, went to sit down in it and felt a pop. My waters had gone, or at least I thought they had... My pains got stronger very quickly after that.
At about this point my Mum sent a casual text saying 'How are you Sally? Still keeping well? Can't believe how imminent this baby is! Xx' and I replied ' So funny you should text - I was going to soon as pretty sure I'm in labour. No need to be alarmed or do anything, going to get assessed in an hour or so xx'
I put some clothes on, we packed up, rang David's Mum to meet us at the hospital doors, and set off. Five minutes down the road we'd forgotten my maternity notes so that was a fun extra 10 minutes, bracing myself in the car to deal with contractions that were now coming thick and fast, maybe every 3-4 minutes.
I've never been quite so uncomfortable, every little bump seems like rally driving when your whole body is tensing up and you can't bear to be touched.. David dropped me at the entrance at about 6pm armed with a heat pack on my stomach and notes. I had another contraction leaning against the car with my eyes closed, unable to even properly say 'hello' to Mary.
Poor Vivienne was emotional by this point - I kept telling her I was concentrating and between contractions I kept saying 'Look, now! I'm fine. It's not bad pain, it's useful pain. I just need to concentrate.' but it was all getting a bit much for her. David's Mum took her away (she only lives five minutes away from the hospital) for a sleepover at their house.
I also felt so self conscious having contractions. I must have looked an awkward sight rushing through to hide behind a door in the maternity assessment unit as my next one was starting. I went in and just said 'I rang and this is it I'm sure'. They pointed me to go in one of the assessment rooms and when someone came to see me I was 'stuck' to the wall, leaning against it with my forehead against the cold surface whilst having contractions. They confirmed my waters had gone (pretty obvious by now) and that I'd reached 6cm. I was so past it by this point that I didn't even feel that pleased, just glad that they couldn't send me home. With Vivienne it took me four days of contractions to reach 4cm.. my labours were already poles apart..
They took me into the delivery suite and I immediately asked for the gas and air - it's free in hospital after all (joke..) and it took the edge off straight away. I also asked to get straight in the bath, and they brought portable gas and air for me there too. I made sure I was leaning forward the entire time - not easy when you're 5ft 9" in a corner bath, and the warm water really helped soothe my aching bump.
The pain in my lower back was getting too much by about 7.30pm, and I was worried I was having another 'back' labour. The midwives suggested something called 'Water Blisters', which is sterile water injected into pressure points in your back to help relieve pain in this area. It stung like hell but immediately I felt like my back was no longer breaking. I got back in the bath and started clock watching, feeling completely past myself and saying to David 'No time is passing. They're coming every thirty seconds.' only for us to realise that the clock had stopped (!)
After an hour or so I started saying 'I can't do this any more, I need more pain relief. Is it too late for an epidural?', and the midwives would ask 'Do you want one?' and then I'd decline. Afterwards I realised that this was probably the transitioning moment. My contractions went from virtually no breaks between them to getting a little rest between. The difference was that my whole body started seizing up and pushing without me trying - it was the strangest thing. I told them I could push more and they said 'Let's try that then', and a few contractions later I was getting somewhere.
I was on my back in the bath at this point, her head had been born and I worried, in my state, that she didn't have a face because all I could see was the back of her head. A push later she was out and I had the 'OHMYGOD' moment you can see below..
I asked for delayed cord clamping, and wanted to feel the cord for myself this time too - such a funny, thick, rubbery thing. The cord was then clamped and they moved me out of the bath to deliver the placenta on the bed, with the baby in my arms. I also asked to see the placenta as I thought it would be fascinating, and it really was. If you can stomach it it's 100% worth asking the midwife to show you - it comes attached to the sack and obviously the other end of the cord, which she held up and showed me where the baby had lived. Its miraculous, really. David rang his Mum, I rang my Mum, text siblings, close friends.. for everyone other than our Mums it was a 'Look who's here!' text and I think people were surprised it had all happened so fast - my labour technically lasted about 6 hours, she was born at 8.50pm so I'd been in hospital 2.5 hours.
Baby No Name was cleaned up and Vivienne arrived - slightly shy and overwhelmed but so happy. She had her first cuddle and kept staring at her. We waited for the room to be sorted out a bit and I put some clean clothes on so she wasn't too alarmed by the situation. Mary was obviously there too, and my Mum and Dad arrived as she and Vivienne left. I felt absolutely fine, slightly high, I couldn't obviously be up on my feet too long and was sore, but I was fine. I couldn't believe it.
I don't know how we managed it but we were given a low dependency suite for the night, which meant David could stay and we had our own bathroom - it felt like a hotel. We were up twice with her, feeding her the Aptamil sterilised bottles, and it was honestly lovely. I've pined to do that night in hospital again together, I'd had a good time in labour and it even felt quite special. They checked me over a little more and we were left to sleep. In the morning I had a lovely Badedas bath and got sorted before a few more visitors arrived and Vivienne was left with us so we could go home as a family. Which, I think, is where the real story begins..
I still feel grateful and can't quite believe that I have a positive birth experience under my belt but it does feel empowering. I know I was lucky this time, but I do feel that reading up on active labour, water birthing, having an active pregnancy and hypnobirthing definitely helped.. and gas and air took the edge off the rest of it. I'd never have believed it after my first birth but it seems that good labours DO exist. Maybe I should stop now while I'm ahead..