We’ve all got them, and every one is different, so here’s mine…just make a cup of tea before you start because it’s pretty long! I want to tell Millie this story one day so I needed to get every detail down.
I was due on July 14, 2015, and for weeks had been convinced I would give birth early, but the day came and went with no action. I walked every day, ate pineapple and spicy foods, bounced on the yoga ball, tried all the things people tell you will bring on your baby, but she was far too comfy in there. Eventually Dave and I found ourselves in the induction ward at 7.30am on July 26.
I was given my pessary and waited six hours. I was then two centimetres dilates which was positive, so the midwife broke my waters with the scary knitting needle thing. A very uncomfortable experience that led to no liquid leaving my body, immediately or in the hours that followed. Go figure.
Eventually, at 4pm I was moved into a room on labour ward and hooked up to two drips to begin receiving the hormones that would begin contractions. Here are two things they did not tell me; that once the drip began I could not eat or drink anything except water (I hadn’t eaten for 5 hours before this, thank goodness for the jaffa cakes we had packed in our hospital bag!), and that the hormone drip is designed to bring on your contractions hard and fast to encourage your body to get involved. I wasn’t really prepared for this.
I started off bouncing on a birthing ball but very quickly I was unable to concentrate on staying steady during contractions and had to move to the bed. Within an hour or so I felt like they were coming every minute and I couldn’t manage to speak to Dave at all. I was given gas and air because I didn’t feel I was coping well with the pain and that really helped to focus my breathing but very quickly I felt panicked because they were too much for me. The midwife said I was having four contractions in ten minutes and that I needed to maintain that for a number of hours. I simply replied ‘No’.
At this point I’d had enough and asked for more pain relief. I must have looked pretty pissed off because they went straight for an epidural – despite the nine months of insisting I didn’t want one I almost called the anaesthetist myself I was so desperate! The lady putting the giant needle in my back was so lovely, she was gentle and calming and stopped working as promised during the many contractions that came while she got the line in.
Within a short time the effect kicked in and I was ecstatic. I think must have said about a hundred timed ‘this is bloody wonderful’. It meant a catheter, plus they attached a heart rate monitor to the baby’s head, and I had an odd side effect in that I was shivering badly from head to toe, but to be honest I really didn’t give a monkeys, I was just so happy not to feel the pain anymore.
It was around this time that the staff began to notice the baby’s heart rate dropping during some of my contractions, to worrying low levels. She wasn’t consistent and would pick it back up again for ten or twenty minutes, but it still kept happening periodically. This is when we began to worry, because although the midwives were very reassuring and offered various ‘normal’ reasons for it happening, there were more people coming in to check us, including senior doctors.
So this carried on for a while as baby seemed to pick back up and then her heartrate would drop again on and off, and eventually someone suggested I may have to be prepared for a caesarean. Now we never really had a birth plan, but a caesarean was something I had genuinely, and somewhat naively, never considered, and it scared me. I said ‘ok’ a lot to the surgeon when he came in to speak to me briefly, but in my head I was saying ‘no thank you’.
So this all carried on for some time longer until a doctor came and asked to examine me. I told her she could do what she liked because I couldn’t feel it anyway. We all had a little polite laugh. While she was down there, and I had my leg in the air on a stirrup, I noticed my pants in the corner of the room and I was horrified. I whispered to Dave to remove my pants to save my embarrassment – I’m not sure my drug addled brain really grasped my current situation.
One other side effect of the epidural was that I became desperately thirsty, and my lovely husband had been continually providing me water, which never seemed to hydrate me at all. I decided I needed to clean my teeth instead to try and stop the horrid feeling in my mouth and sent Dave out to get me a cup to spit my water into. All this still while the doctor was doing whatever she needed to inside me. Apparently they’d never seen anyone clean their teeth during labour so at least I was memorable!
This was where our journey took a turn. The doctor announced I was 8cm dilated and could be in a position to push soon, which we were delighted about. She wanted to take a small sample of blood from the baby’s head to test her oxygen levels and see how she was coping with the dropping heart rates, which was very quick, and within minutes someone looked round the door to give the result, which was a number I can’t remember, but we immediately realised it wasn’t good.
Still very calm, the doctor pressed a button somewhere and said we were getting the baby out now. I then felt a bit like I was in an episode of casualty – within seconds there were about eight people in the room and I was swiftly unhooked from the two monitors on my tummy, the one in the baby’s head, the two drips in one arm and the pulse monitor on the other hand, and the epidural line in my back, before being wheeled out of the room.
Dave was given a set of scrubs so I expected him to follow me down the corridor but he was quickly told he couldn’t join me – if I was unconscious there was no reason to have him sat in for support, so he simply got left behind, and was very alone after so much activity.
I was then in a theatre with so many people, and I was asked by a man to move myself onto the operating table. I told him I couldn’t feel my legs, much less move them, so he asked me again and I told him again. This all felt very weird considering we were in such a rush.
My lovely epidural anaesthetist lady was back and explained the two people in the corner of the room were baby doctors and would look after my daughter, and she then put a mask on my face and asked me to count to ten. The mask was very small and I felt suffocated, but I knew I had to keep it on, and my last thoughts were these; ‘if a teeny tiny baby needs two doctors things aren’t good’, ‘I might not wake up, and I never said goodbye to David’, and ‘what if that big light up there is the last thing I ever see?’.
My daughter was born at 1.20am on July 27. By the time she finally came out she had no heartbeat and did not breathe by herself so those two baby doctors had to help her get started, but apparently she very quickly took over from them. By the time I woke up at around 3am she was settled in a little plastic box in the neonatal unit, and David was at my bedside with my mum. I tried to ask a few questions, established she was ok and drank some liquid morphine before drifting off again for a bit.
David got to visit our little daughter while I was still out for the count, and give her a tiny feed of milk from a cup. We have a video of that, it’s lovely.
I was able to finally meet her myself around 7am after I’d woken up properly. I was still numb from the waist down so my entire bed was wheeled into the neonatal unit so I could meet this tiny, squeaky little being. I’ve read about these huge rushes of love when meeting your baby for the first time but I was a bit stunned by it all and kind of in awe really, and we just held hands and looked at each other, both not really sure what was going on, I think.
I had a day then away from my baby back in my labour room, with compressors on my legs to stop any clots. It was bizarre really, knowing I had a baby but not being with her, and didn’t feel real. I was the most thirsty I’ve ever been in my life. I was told it was still too early to drink for a while so Dave was sneaking me small glasses of water against his will until I was allowed to drink properly. It felt like every mouthful of water just evaporated immediately and my whole mouth was just sticking together. I ate nothing all day and just had litres of water instead, filling three or four catheter bags as the anaesthetic wore off.
We decide to call our absent baby Millie, and after we were eventually reunited later that day, the pair of us spent another five days in hospital, enjoying the support of medical professionals and getting to know each other. If you’ve read this far, good work for sticking with me. It’s a fairly long story, but a very personal and emotional one. Thank goodness for the NHS!