Welcome to part one of our ‘birth story’, as all the cool kids call it.
It wasn’t meant to be in parts, but so many things happened during labour, that it wasn’t until I started writing it all down and realised I was verging on book length before I’d even reached the hospital, I thought it best to spread it out. So please, settle in!
‘Have you prepared your birth plan?’
That question came up a lot.
Midwife appointments, doctor appointments, chats with friends and fam, and a couple of times with complete pregnant strangers at work.
When I answered it for the first time with ‘to have the baby’, it was a joke. But the more I thought about it, the stronger I felt about it, that’s how my answer stayed. I couldn’t be happier that it did.
For some, the idea of a birth plan is exactly what is needed for them to manage their labour and birth, and feel in control of the situation. For me, it felt like added pressure.
Of course I made myself 100% aware of every option and every possibility that could happen during labour, so to that extent I researched into a birth plan. But writing it down, made it feel too final. To me it made it seem like I was setting myself and my body up to fail.
I imagine every single birth plan is pretty much the same, or at least along the same lines of trying to keep it as easy, fast and effective as possible. So why the emphasis?
The first midwife who asked me about it, reacted like I was a naive knocked up teenager who had no idea what they were heading into, and I’m not going to lie, I left thinking maybe I should write something down just to appease them and to show them I understand. But no, of course not, what do I do when someone makes me feel like this, become more defiant.
We had already decided to shun the NCT classes, for a couple of reasons (another thing midwives/doctors questioned, how will we, as first time parents, ever look after a baby without attending a class, which may I add, you don’t get a certificate for, that may have swayed me to go.)
The decent ones you had to pay for and were all at the weekend. I worked weekends, and if I booked a weekend off, I definitely wasn’t going to spend it being told things I could have googled/asked someone I already know/just figured it out. The other reason, probably the main reason, was everybody telling me how great it was to meet new people at the same point in their life, who will become lifelong friends.
That’s a big no no for me.
- I don’t like strangers.
- I don’t like group activities.
- I don’t like classroom situations.
- I don’t like the idea of trying to look after a doll in front of said strangers, and like I said before…
- I don’t like a learning situation that doesn’t end with some kind or certificate or reward.
I’m the person who isn’t going to say the things to these strangers that would ever want to make them invite me for a coffee with all our newborns and talk about damaged hoo hoos and sleep deprivation.
The thought of being pregnant, before being pregnant, always terrified me. What happens to you, and how you grow a baby freaked me out. For some reason I could never get the image of the little aliens Woolworths and any respectable sweet shop sold in the 90’s, that came with the rumour they reproduced if you put them in the fridge or rubbed their backs together?! That, that is what I thought about.
Picture for 90s nostalgia
The way I deal with that kind of literal alien feeling, is to research and learn everything about it, so it can minimise any shock that can come my way, and reduce any irrational fears. So I approached labour and birth the same way.
Please note, the only thing this hasn’t worked for is my irrational fear of butterflies. They are and forever will be, no matter how much research, moths in drag. Leading a double life. How one person can be scared of moths, but happily walk through the humid butterfly tunnel of hell at the zoo, will forever blow my mind. You’re all lying to yourselves.
So, during all my labour and birth research, I made a strange decision, especially for me. I started to look into hypnobirthing.
That’s correct. You heard that right. Me, the most sceptical person in the world (as an example, as a small human, I genuinely do not ever remember fully believing in Father Christmas, I always knew it was some kind of scam), as a big human, looking into something that sounds like it is going to involve whale noise, burning incense and some kind of rhythmic chanting.
Luckily that is only partially correct. There is no burning allowed.
I started looking into it, more based on the idea of making it a positive experience, rather than all the horror stories you hear about labour when you are pregnant. Now, confession time, the end of my labour and birth story can easily be seen as somewhat of a horror story, but that’s not how I look at it and it isn’t how I will ever look back on it, and it is actually from hypnobirthing that I feel like that.
Hypnobirthing is surprisingly science based. It focuses a lot on understanding what happens to your body during labour, what to expect at each stage and how best to cope with it. It is mainly through controlled breathing, and different breathing at certain stages, and how you are positioned during labour. Now all of that I can deal with.
There are elements of hypnobirthing that really do nothing for me, positive affirmation cards to pop up around your house to remind you how powerful your body is and capable you are. My positive affirmation cards would be more along the lines of ‘Just f***ing get on with it’.
Contractions aren’t referred to as contractions, they are referred to as surges. The meaning behind this is a fantastic one, as in, it’s not about having to reach peak pain to have your baby, it’s about meeting your baby once your surges have reached max power…but in the harsh reality of labour, especially when things aren’t going smoothly, a contraction is a bloody contraction, and you are not going to have the energy, or be physically able to correct every nurse/midwife/doctor that you meet along the way, not to use the medical term they have been using their whole career.
It is a lot about making the area that you are birthing in, comfortable and a safe space for you in any way you need. Music, dim lighting, essential oils to mask the hospital smell. Which again sounded great, but for me, in the middle of labour, there was more thought around ‘why are my waters still coming out of me?’…rather than skipping a song on a playlist, cramming electric tealights onto any surface in your curtained cube or spritzing the air with a lavender room fragrance.
There have been questions raised since having Cooper, about could some of the drama been prevented. Yes, I think so. Could it have gone smoother? Most definitely. Could it have gone worse? A very upsetting, for sure.
So here we go. Baby arriving story time. Now please be aware, there is going to be gross birthing words, descriptions and feelings. Proceed with caution.
Sunday 14th July, aka, sports final day. Wimbledon Men’s Final, Cricket World Cup Final, the British Grand Prix. It also was the start of labour day. So I’ve officially added it into the sports line up.
I was, in technical preggo terms, 40 weeks +5 days, so baby was well and truly cooked. The day started very regular, we had no plans other than Jamie going to football training and I was popping to a friends for tea and a catch up. Whilst getting ready, I lost a little bit of fluid. In all honesty, I couldn’t figure out if I’d wet myself or whether it was the start of baby arrival.
That’s right everyone, when you’re really pregnant, you genuinely can’t decide if you’ve wet yourself or not.
I messaged a few pals who have had babies and the advice was all the same, potential start of waters breaking/pissed myself a bit. So I carried on getting ready, and that included putting my makeup on as normal. That is indeed the make up that ended up staying on my face for three days, that the world seemed most obsessed with after Cooper had arrived. The obsession with how new mums look after birth is a whole other blog post.
Jamie stayed home from football training, just in case. But I think, we both thought it was a potential false alarm. The waiting for a baby to arrive is a very surreal feeling. You wait nine whole months, including that last month which is easily four months long, and it just doesn’t seem possible that one day it is all going to change. You can’t imagine an evening not spent bouncing on a ball, or being able to bend down again, or for me, not having the worlds most swollen ankles, feet and hands.
We were sat in our jim jams watching TV, and I started to get a constant period like pain when suddenly my world went blurry.
There are a few things during pregnancy that they always bang on at you about seeking medical advice straight away for, and one of them is any visual changes as it can be a sign of high blood pressure. Which in turn can be a sign of pre-eclampsia, which can be fatal for both mum and baby.
High blood pressure had been causing me a few issues during pregnancy, but a lot of it got put down to me being too busy/not resting enough/too angry at work. (People are stupid. It pisses pregnant people off, especially me who ended up having a zero tolerance to any bullshit).
I also get visual migraines, but hadn’t had one for the whole pregnancy. It was one of the only things that pregnancy actually made better for me. That and luscious hair growth.
I sat trying to focus on anything, and failed. I had massive blind spots and the rest of the world was a big fuzzy mess. I popped a couple of paracetamol, just in case it was the start of a migraine. (The idea of being in labour and having a migraine gave me my first mini wobble in pretty much the whole nine months).
I started to get together my hospital bags, chucked in loads of last minute things, (sure, of course I’m going to need five pairs of leggings and two mini hairbrushes), as I knew that when I phoned the hospital, like I’ve always been advised to, they would want me in to check me and baby over. Except they didn’t.
I called, and they told me to take two paracetamol (one step ahead of you guys), and wait to see if it calms down, because of my regular migraines. In hindsight…I think this was a bad call. I had signs of early labour, yes I get migraines, but I hadn’t had one the whole time, and this baby was overdue.
What do you do in this situation, panic? Call lots of people? Nope…we had lunch. I couldn’t concentrate on sports day, potentially because I wasn’t overly interested, but I could feel something happening. I hadn’t started any contractions, but my head was telling me to go to bed and try to rest for a few hours as I knew what was coming. Your body does, very strangely give you hints at what to do. You spend a lot of time at the end of pregnancy googling labour signs, with the worry that when the time comes, you’re not actually going to realise you’re in early labour and you’ll suddenly find yourself pushing out a baby on the hard shoulder of the M25 on your own. But something does switch and tells you.
So I got into bed, Netflix on. Women Behind Bars felt like a nice relaxing thing to fall to sleep to, and with that I drifted off into a lovely deep restful sleep in preparation.
About twenty minutes later, at around 2pm, I was woken up by my first contraction. It was an exaggerated feeling of the period type pain I had. Except it built up in a wave…some would say, you can feel your insides contracting. Because that is what’s happening. Totally get the contraction name now.
I stayed in bed for another hour, I didn’t even tell Jamie. I just laid there, curtains drawn, TV still on, getting my head into the right place for what was about to happen. I had also only really known and heard the stories of first babies and the early stages of labour go on for hours, days for many, they speed up, then slow down, so there was no big rush. I only had another three contractions in that hour.
Suddenly it jumped to one about five minutes later and I now felt the need to leave my comfy protective cocoon and go and confess that I was officially in labour, before I ended up birthing in the bath, and as far as Jamie knew at this point, I was just napping.
I took up position on the birthing ball, Jamie set up his contraction timer, and I started breathing my way through them. In through your nose for four, and out of your mouth for eight. Do that four times and you’re through the contraction.
Sounds easy right? Well to be honest, I managed it…and not to toot my own horn. I managed it very bloody well.
They were every seven minutes for about an hour, and in between each one I had to walk upstairs to go to the bloody toilet. One thing this pregnancy and labour taught me was that we need a downstairs toilet, and looking back that I should have just stayed upstairs.
You’re told to go to hospital when it’s your first baby when your contractions hit every five minutes and last sixty seconds each. That sounds easy right?! I imagined a nice gradual reduction in the gap between them, but turns out, that’s not what happened. I jumped from seven minutes to every three minutes in the space of one contraction, with a sudden increase in intensity of the pain.
With that we called the birthing unit. It is a strange thing calling the hospital at that point. They obviously have people call all day everyday, but how do you start that sentence without sounding slightly manic and desperate for someone more adult to take control of the situation?! Jamie called (I was obviously in the toilet), and they wanted to speak to me. They wanted to listen to a contraction, and they timed in between, they suggested to head on in due to the sudden jump in times.
A last minute grab of all the bags, (some more random things thrown in for good luck. Nail scissors in labour anyone?) and we headed to the door, well almost.
Just as we were stepping out of the door, I got the most intense pressure that felt like it was the whole bottom half of me about to fall out, I looked at Jamie, very intensely guessing by his face, saying that my waters were going to break. Instinct told me to go back inside. (Who wants the neighbours, and random Sunday afternoon dog walkers, to see your waters break out on the drive?!)
I headed back to my safe place, that is apparently the bathroom, and climbed into the shower, whilst the most amount of hot water and general ick flew the hell out of me. (First pair of leggings straight for the bin). Nobody can prepare you for that feeling, everybody always says it’s not like how it is in the movies, but yeah, it kind of was for me. But the water didn’t stop. Another thing that I hadn’t been warned about. Oh no, it carried on for near enough the entirety of my labour. Potentially my least favourite part of labour, being followed round with an incontinence sheet so you don’t leave gross wet patches everywhere you go.
Walking from the car into the birthing unit, leaving, I imagine a disgusting trail of my insides, we found the calmest part of a hospital I think I’d ever seen. I thought I was still pretty relaxed, but the first thing the midwife said to me was to relax, I can only guess my expression was giving off a very different vibe to what my words were.
She then straight away wanted a urine sample, and with that began the end of my dignity.