I don’t really know where to start with this one. There are all kinds of things I could say, but turns out giving birth to a baby is a pretty big emotional THING to do. So I guess I’ll just dive in. It’ll be a long un and it could get quite graphic, so you have been warned.
My birth story starts on Father’s Day 2018, when I was exactly 35 weeks pregnant.
Sunday 17 June
I woke up in the morning and the husbear had already taken himself off to A&E due to a snooker related hand injury sustained in a battle with my Dad. I went to the toilet and there was a bit of blood. I’d not had any bleeding through the rest of my pregnancy, so this was unusual. I called the pregnancy assessment unit (PAU) at the hospital and after a bit of a chat, they asked me to come in. Luckily the husbear had left the car behind, so I chucked on some trackies and a hoodie, grabbed my pregnancy notes and drove the five minutes to the hospital, calling Andrew when I arrived.
It was quiet in PAU because it was a Sunday morning, so I was seen straight away. I did a urine sample and had my blood pressure taken. I also mentioned I’d been feeling quite itchy, so the midwife decided on a blood test too. The doctor came in and examined me and said the bleeding was likely a few cells from my cervix dislodging and not to worry. I did a second urine sample and we were just killing time in a room for a while, slowly starving as I hadn’t eaten anything yet. We were waiting for the blood test results so I was told I could go to A&E with Andrew to keep waiting for him to be seen about his hand. I was about to walk out of the door when the midwife stopped me and said actually I couldn’t leave. Back into the assessment room it was.
The doctor came in and told us I had protein in my urine that had increased in the time I was there and that my blood test results showed a raised liver enzyme. I was to be admitted with suspected pre-eclampsia and obstetric cholestasis (I’ve put links to NHS descriptions of what those conditions are).
At this point, I was told I’d have to wait for a bed to come available on the ward so Andrew popped to the onsite Costa (boy was I to build some points up there in the coming days) for a muffin and a drink.
That night I settled in to the antenatal room in the ward, with a few bits and bobs Andrew had brought me from home, not really knowing how long I would be in – I hadn’t even started my maternity leave yet.
Monday 18 June
Monday rolled around and so did the ward rounds. The consultant told me that the plan was to monitor me and see how my body was coping with the pre-eclampsia, with a view to delivering the baby when I reached 37 weeks (which is classed as full-term). My induction was booked for two weeks’ time (another link to the NHS description of induction, so you know what’s involved).
I spent the day lolling around in bed, watching TV (which costs an absolute fortune, but I wasn’t going to let a little thing like a hospital admission disrupt my Love Island viewing thank you very much) and making endless lists of questions we had for the doctors and things we had to sort out before the baby arrived. At this point, we didn’t have our hospital bags packed, the nursery furniture was still in boxes and we had nowhere for the baby to sleep once we got it home. Oops.
I also rang work and told them I didn’t really know what was going on, but that even if I made it out of hospital, I didn’t have any plans to come back any time soon. Good job that a) my maternity cover had already started and b) they are lovely people and were very understanding.
I was regularly poked and prodded by nurses – blood pressure taken every couple of hours, tablets given three times a day to manage my blood pressure, obs chole and itching and sadly plenty of blood tests to check up on my liver function. It was a true test of my needle phobia, but the fact it was about 1,000ºC in the hospital helped. They were also regularly hooking me up to the monitor to listen to baby’s movements and heartbeat.
Tuesday 19 June
Another day of endless tests and not really having a scooby doo what was happening. The consultant this day told me I might not make it to 37 weeks but couldn’t tell me when they’d want to induce me – “could be tomorrow, could be next week” were his exact words if I remember.
The doctors decided they wanted to ultrasound my liver to check everything was a-ok and they also decided they wanted me to have steroid injections to stimulate the baby’s lungs into maturing. Very unsettling and I had no idea what to tell people who were asking what I was up to. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep very well that night.
Wednesday 20 June
It’s not easy to get a lie in when you’re staying on a hospital ward – I kept getting woken up for blood pressure checks and the medication round comes earlier than you’d think. Well that morning, I was up pretty early and it was a good job because at 7am an anaesthetist stuck his head round my curtain. He said he wanted to introduce himself given I was being induced today and he wanted to talk to me about my pain relief options and whether I thought I’d want an epidural. I told him he must have the wrong person – the woman in the bed next to me was having a cesarean, so I thought he was there for her (although I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have any choice over her pain relief options!) – he checked my name and turns out he was there for me. Panic stations.
I rang Andrew in a flap, but he wasn’t allowed to come in until visiting hours at 10am. I was really upset and felt alone, with no real idea of what was going on. The consultant came round, but not until 10:30am. She apologised for the anaesthetist’s bombshell but said that he was right, they did want to induce me because my liver function had deteriorated beyond a level they were happy with.
We were pretty shocked and upset, but asked plenty of questions and decided we were happy with the advice to go ahead with the induction. Yes, it meant we would have a premature baby, but the doctors were confident that it was best to deliver within seven days of having the steroid injections and they said it could take a few days to be induced, so I could reach 36 weeks before the baby came.
The rest of that day was a haze. Up until this point, I’d felt fine, but by Wednesday morning, I started to feel poorly. We started to panic buy nappies, maternity pads, snacks and anything else we could think of. We were not at all ready for a baby in our house yet.
Thursday 21 June
1am on Thursday I got woken up and taken off to the delivery room for my first pessary – a small tablet that gets inserted next to your cervix to encourage it to soften and dilate ready for labour. Fun times. I was told to go back to sleep and I would be re-examined in 6 hours. I managed to nod off and was again woken at 7am for a check. Off back to the delivery room I went, where I was hooked up to the monitor. The baby was happy and the monitor was picking up small contractions (so small I couldn’t actually feel them). The midwife said she didn’t think I needed another pessary so just to hang tight. So I waited… and waited.
My things were brought from the antenatal ward and Andrew brought in the hospital bags he’d packed. I spent the day pacing around, bouncing on the ball and generally panicking that I couldn’t feel the baby move very much and that I still felt I had no real idea what was going on.
That afternoon, nothing more had happened – my waters were still intact and my contractions hadn’t increased in frequency or strength. I was examined (with my first gulp of gas and air) and my cervix hadn’t softened or changed at all. Yippee.
We were shunted off to an induction room (which thankfully had a TV in it) for more waiting around. We also went for a few walks around the hospital grounds, stomping up and down stairs to try and get things moving. To cut what is turning into a very long story a little bit shorter, the decision was finally made to give me another set of pessaries. To be honest my memory of the timeline at this point is pretty hazy too.
Friday 22 June
We didn’t get a lot of sleep. There was only one single bed in our room, so poor Andrew was on the chair. Baby was moving around into all sorts of odd positions, but I still couldn’t really feel any contractions. It was another day if waiting around. Thankfully, Friday evening was when it all really got going. A midwife came in and said let’s get this show on the road. I was examined again and told I was 2-3cm dilated and my waters were broken. Man that was an experience – my belly had a LOT of liquid in it, it was everywhere – all over the bed up to my shoulders, soaking through the pads, dripping on the floor and when I stood up, even more gushed out. I was given a couple of huge maternity pads to wear and taken back off to the delivery room.
We were allowed to have dinner – there’s no eating allowed once the drip is fitted – which felt a bit like the last supper. Then our lovely midwife Helen came to fit my cannula, which was just as bad as I’d expected. In fact, I went into shock and couldn’t stop my legs from shaking. I had to get Andrew to hold them down and hold me.
By this time it was getting on to late evening and the shifts changed, so sadly we lost our lovely midwife and were given another not quite so friendly team. I was hooked up to the drip, which would start my contractions. I put the calming music on, dimmed the lights and sat on the bed. The TENS machine went on and the gas and air mouthpiece was in my hand, ready for the first contraction.
Now apparently contractions brought on by a drip are more painful than normal. Clearly, I have nothing to compare them to, but I can tell you that it really hurts. It really fucking hurts. And every half an hour to an hour or so, the midwife came in to turn up the drip and increase my contractions. Even with the gas and air and the TENS machine (which was on full boost after not too long), I only lasted for about 3 – 4 hours before it became too much.
After speaking to the midwife, I decided to have the diamorphine injection (could also be pethidine), which I was told would “take the edge off”. Well it knocked me out. I was completely and utterly smacked off my tits. I slept between every contraction. I couldn’t even hold the gas and air to my mouth. Andrew had to sit there and watch while I was monged out, helping me breathe on the Entonox when the contractions came. Not fun at all.
Saturday 23 June
Some time throughout this stage, it ticked over into Saturday morning. In fact at 3am, I was re-examined and told I was fully dilated. I can barely remember getting there.
We were given an hour to rest and recover before it was time to push. Somehow, I ended up on my back with my legs in stirrups – not at all where I wanted to be. It’s all so hazy at this point – I can’t explain how much the diamorphine knocked me for six – but I remember being told to push with each contraction and just not feeling the urge. A monitor was attached to baby’s head and the midwife told us s/he had hair. This went on for an hour, with me trying to push but not feeling like anything was happening. Not only that, but my cannula fell out and they had to put another one in. I started to panic, crying, saying I can’t do this and I needed help. More people came in the room and it was decided forceps were the best option. I was marked as “failure to progress”.
I was injected with pain relief and given an episiotomy, which is a cut down my perineum that would allow the forceps to fit in. One side of the forceps was put in, then the other around the baby’s head and with one yank he was out. He was put on my chest, all bloody, and Andrew told me he was a boy. Within seconds, the cord was cut and he was taken off to the side where more people had appeared to care for him. I swear there must have been about 8 people in the room by now.
I was given an injection to deliver the placenta – they were keen to get this out as it’s the placenta that causes the pre-eclampsia. I didn’t know what was happening to our little boy, but he was wheeled off in a cot and Andrew went with him to special care. At some point I was stitched up, feeling faint and not really with it.
All was calming down, everyone had left the room apart from a couple of nurses who were changing my bed sheets. As they were rolling me to get the sheets from under me, I crashed out. They pulled the emergency cord and everyone came running back in (according to Andrew). I vaguely remember two midwives standing over me trying to get me to respond, but I just couldn’t. They jabbed another cannula in my arm (number 3 FFS). The next thing I remember is waking up, flat on my back with an oxygen mask on and just Andrew and another nurse in the room.
I couldn’t stand, so Andrew and the nurse wheeled me into the bathroom where she had to pull down my pants for me, sit me on the toilet so I could wee and change my blood soaked maternity pads. She sponged me down with a damp cloth, wiping the dried blood that had dribbled all down my legs. I just felt like I couldn’t move. I was wheeled back over to the bed where I went back to sleep. Next time I was woken I ate a sandwich and was told I could head back to the ward. On the way, I was wheeled in to see my little boy, who was in an incubator hooked up to drips and monitors.
The rest of that day I was out of it, separated from my babba and not really able to talk to Andrew. At some point he came and showed me some pictures and videos of our little boy. He was wheezing like the little penguin from Toy Story.
Sunday 24 June
That night I was wheeled down to the special care baby unit (SCBU) to see our, as yet unnamed, baby. I couldn’t even cuddle him, just put my hand through the little holes and rest it on him. The day was another blur. I started expressing colostrum, to get my milk to come in. My parents and my brother and sister-in-law came to visit. I sat out in the sunshine in my wheelchair and drank a Costa with them. It all felt strange and I was a bit detached.
I had two cannulas left in but asked for them to take one of them out as I hated them so much. I had a few more blood tests and it was decided I’d need a blood transfusion. As it turns out, that couldn’t happen until Tuesday and I had to have my fourth cannula fitted as the one left in had dried out. Couldn’t believe it.
I was discharged on Wednesday 27 June, after 11 days in hospital. We decided to call our little boy Sebastian Fox and we spent the next two weeks by his side as he stayed in SCBU.
You know, reading this back, I still feel quite detached from the whole thing. I still can’t really believe all of that happened to me and to Andrew. It was traumatic and it was messy and not at all what we had hoped for. But we got our beautiful boy at the end of it and that is just so magical.
Not all births are beautiful, not all births are horrendous. Each one is different. This is mine.