On the evening of Wednesday 20th January, I gave birth to a beautiful little girl. It’s true what people say, that no other feeling will beat your baby being placed in your arms. It’s honestly almost indescribable, but it’s just the most amazing moment.
Having her placed in my arms, made me completely forget about where I was, and everything almost blurred away- it felt like it was just me, Henry and our daughter in the room, when in reality we were in the operating theatre with bright lights, about 10 other people all doing different things to ensure we were safe and lots of beeping from all the monitors.
As you probably have just gotten the gist of – labour didn’t exactly go as I planned or imagined – I felt a little bit overwhelmed and shocked after I gave birth, and it’s taken me a little while to come to terms with, but I do feel a bit more positive about my experience now.
Before I gave birth, I didn’t intend to write up my birth / labour story , as I thought ‘ well who’d want to read that?’ But afterwards, I decided I wanted to write mine up : to 1. Help me process it 2. I wanted to write about how not every labour is some instagramable ‘I breathed my baby out with only the help of positive vibes and fairy dust.’ Though no offence to anyone who had a birth like that! But I just personally struggled after giving birth, that things hadn’t gone to plan and I think that’s because I had such a high expectation of what birth should be.
I still had a pretty positive birth experience but it just wasn’t what I planned (and I don’t want to scare anyone or seem like I’m being a negative Nancy but I’d rather be honest about my experience because since giving birth, reading other people’s stories has really helped me feel a bit better about things!)
So- I had a relatively easy pregnancy, I was really lucky to not suffer too badly with symptoms, don’t get me wrong, I was very uncomfortable towards the end, I would get heartburn by just looking at certain foods, and felt like I had to visit the toilet about 27 times during the night- but you know, I always felt very lucky to have an easy going pregnancy.
However at 36 weeks, things went from very chilled to a bit stressy, a couple of days after Christmas I headed to my routine midwife appointment, I shouted to Henry as I went out the door :
‘ I won’t be long, I’m always in and out at these appointments’
Which I usually was, however at this appointment, I had glucose show up in my urine, and my bump was measuring big. Because it was Christmas and my appointment was at the hospital, I was sent for a growth scan there and then, which showed baby was on the bigger side, and their tummy was on the 95th centile. These signs pointed to gestational diabetes. Although my midwife was sure it was just a coincidence and the glucose was probably due to my breakfast of crunchy nut cornflakes, she still referred me for diabetes screening.
All of a sudden along with the referral: words such as high risk, consultant lead unit and early induction were being thrown at me.
I cried the whole way home (dramatic) because it was all such a shock. Like I said above, I was having such an easy going pregnancy, I was low risk, but all of a sudden everything turned on it’s head and I found it really overwhelming.
A week later after blood tests and doing blood glucose readings 4x a day – I was officially diagnosed with gestational diabetes at 37 weeks pregnant. This completely threw me, and after I had the phone call, I went onto google and came across a few heartbreaking stories about GD babies and births and I spent about a good while after this sobbing.
Although the diabetes team told me till they were blue in the face that there was nothing I could have done to have prevented this, and it’s just my hormones and my body having to work really hard – I still felt like it was my fault and I’d put my baby at risk.
I sobbed to Henry ‘it’s because I ate so much bloody chocolate orange!’ And although I knew deep down this was not the case, I felt so anxious and guilty about it all. I couldn’t bare talk about it online, because I was so worried that some smart arse Karen would comment that my chocolate orange craving had caused this, and I couldn’t bare it.
Because I was so late on in my pregnancy, my diabetes was to be controlled by diet, it was hard but I managed to get my blood sugar levels down to normal pretty much straight away.
At 38 weeks, I had another growth scan, the baby was still measuring big for my dates so a call with a consultant was set up. By this point, the birth I had been planning for the past few months had already gone down the drain: a water birth on a midwife led unit was not going to be a possibility.
The consultant advised I was induced from 39 weeks onwards and my induction appointment was booked for 39+3 days.
I then however became a woman on a mission trying to induce natural birth- I tried pretty much everything, I was even doing this weird thing called kerb walking where you had one foot on the kerb and one on the road, as this apparently helped the baby get lower 😂 what people must have thought as I walked past their houses god knows 😂
But natural labour did not happen, and off we went to be induced on the 19th January.
I was induced using the balloon catheter method, I was quite pleased about this, I mean I wasn’t thrilled about having a water balloon put up my vagina, but at least it was the most ‘natural’ way of induction and I’d heard it usually worked quite fast too.
At 6:30 that evening, I was officially induced, the actual balloon insertion was fine, the cervix exam I had before this was way more uncomfortable! They used a speculum so it kind of just felt a bit like a smear test, it was so weird as you’d kind of expect to feel a balloon up there but all it felt like was like a big tampon. The most annoying bit was the three wires hanging down which is how they added the water to the balloon.
Within about an hour and a half, I started to get cramps and mini contractions, by about two and half hours, I was feeling contractions in my back.
I took some painkillers and Henry had to go home due to the visiting restrictions. I tried to get comfy although I did feel quite uncomfortable by this point.
The lovely midwife on shift, asked if I’d like her to run me a bath which I gratefully accepted. It felt so nice getting into a warm bath, I lay there and tried to relax listening to a birth relaxation track and it honestly made such a difference. After my bath, the painkillers had set in, I was able to get into bed (after making the poor midwife help me put on my compression stockings 😂) and I managed to find a position on my side to get comfy and I spent the rest of the night either watching episodes of below deck or dozing.
As the night went on, I couldn’t wait for the balloon to be taken out, I could definitely feel more pressure as the hours went on. At 6:30am a midwife from delivery suite came and got me and we made our way up to the delivery suite-
Henry had luckily had the good idea to come nice and early so was already parked up, so he was able to come up straight away. The balloon catheter had done its job and my cervix was 2/3cm dilated and my waters could be broken – which I was so relieved about.
Having my waters broken was weird, I didn’t really feel anything, which surprised me when I saw what they were breaking my waters with (looked like a pointy knitting needle – and you just think ‘you’re not going near my vagina with that!’) but the next thing I felt was this gush of warm water 😂
It was like a tap- the water didn’t stop for a few hours after that and getting up off the bed after having my waters broken was an experience, I literally just dropped a load of water on the floor and narrowly avoided Henry’s feet 😂
I realised from about that moment that my dignity had just gushed away from me too.
I had about two hours for things to happen naturally as sometimes having your waters broken does bring on contractions. I tried to be as active as I could in those two hours, I was on a birthing ball, walking about, but nothing happened, so at about 10:30am – the oxytocin drip was inserted.
I couldn’t eat from this point and could only drink water – it was a calm before the storm situation, and for the next hour, things gradually built up. I had to be monitored as well as the baby’s heartbeat, but my midwife was great as she knew i wanted to try and stay active, so we put the exercise ball close to the drip/monitor and I bounced away and breathed my way through those first contractions.
By about 12pm, they started to ramp up a little and I found the breathing techniques weren’t cutting it as much anymore, I need something stronger- so I asked for gas and air.
I didn’t really like the gas and air, it really is bizarre, it gave me something to focus on but I found it made me feel quite nauseous – just go with it my midwife said, embrace that feeling of you’ve had too many tequilas 😂
The next two and half hours were hard. Really, really hard.
Contractions started to ramp up, I was having 6 in 10 minutes, and I felt like I could barely recover from one before the next one started. I felt them all in my back, they are the weirdest sensation- I’ll be honest- I’ve never felt pain like it. I shocked myself at how I struggled with the pain, I thought I had a strong pain threshold but I really, really struggled.
I didn’t know what to do with myself, I just felt awful. I went through every emotion, a rage stage as Henry called it where I shouted at him to stop talking and don’t touch me 😂 I managed to just about gasp through contractions ‘I’m sorry – this is not personal – I’m just in so much pain’
At 2:30pm I couldn’t take it anymore- I wanted more pain relief. The midwife gave me an examination and said I was 3/4 cm dilated. I asked for an epidural and my heart sank when my midwife told me that there were two other ladies having one so I had to wait for them to have theirs first! I could have cried (tbh I probably did cry!)
But then luckily my midwife who was a star, managed to hunt down another anesthetist and was like ‘he’s on his way I promise!!’ But then I had this sudden rush of emotion that I’d failed because I was having an epidural and I felt really disappointed in myself.
I felt like I’d let myself down and Henry which is mad- because why was I acting like needing pain relief was a bad thing?
There’s no one giving out Blue Peter badges at the end if you get through it on minimal pain relief, Konnie Huq doesn’t do rounds of the ward and walks past anyone who has an epidural shouting ‘NOT FOR YOU LADY, YOU WIMP.’
And after all it’s child birth not bottomless brunch- Jesus Christ.
I have never felt relief like I have when the anaesthetic walked in the room to do the epidural. I remember him talking me through the epidural, what was about to happen, the risks, etc… but I was absolutely high off my tits on the gas and air- by this point contractions were coming in fast and intense, so I was sucking on that gas and air like there was no tomorrow and I was woozy to say the least.
I remember swaying and seeing double of him, I was also thinking ‘my god, I’ve not felt like this since that time a couple of years ago when I drunk so much wine at pre drinks I didn’t actually make it out and then had to spend the whole night on the bathroom floor’ I must have looked a right state 😂
I then had to bend over on the bed, whilst they did the epidural, now pre labour, the thought of an epidural terrified me, but I barely felt a thing. I didn’t see the needle, the worst bit was trying to stay completely still whilst having contractions. I remember just thinking ‘you need to stay still, you need to stay still’ whilst biting down on the gas and air.
But it was all sorted very quickly and then within about 15 minutes, I started to feel the effect and my god was it wonderful.
I was able to breathe, recover and feel like a normal human being again, I was able to nap and even have a normal conversation. I remember apologising to everyone for being ‘such a baby’ 😂 and then I think I slept for about 2 hours whilst my body did it’s thing.
I remember thinking how boring it must have been for Henry and the midwives but then it was probably better than having to deal with me and my rage stage again 😂
At about 5pm, my midwife did another examination and much to everyone’s delight, I was fully dilated, hoorah!
I had about half an hour before the pushing could begin, I felt so excited, we were SO close to meeting our baby now!
It was then time to start pushing, I never really got that urge to push like people tell you get, I don’t know if it was my body or the epidural but I never got that, I was pushing but it felt like I wasn’t pushing anything.
We tried all sorts of positions and I was doing all the breathing exercises I learnt, but although my midwives and Henry were great and supportive, I just felt so hopeless.
But I kept trying, and the midwives kept saying to me ‘we can see a head!! and hair!’
But after two hours, little progress was being made.
Suddenly things got a bit scary, the baby’s heart rate got really fast, and I developed a temperature, then before we knew it, the room was full with what seemed like loads of people, we were going to have to go to theatre.
The consultant walked in and examined me, I’m there legs akimbo and thinking in between this all ‘oh god maybe I should have attempted to do my bikini line 😂’
He said ‘we want to get your baby out now’ and before we knew it, Henry was being handed scrubs to get changed into, I was having a cannula put in my other hand, and I was having a consent form put in my face to sign. It was a lot, but I tried to stay calm and this was when hypnobirthing was useful, as I just tried to take deep breaths, and it really helped.
I got wheeled off to theatre and I remember thinking how lovely and cool it felt in there, I had my epidural topped up again and it seemed like there was about 100 people in that room when I’m sure there wasn’t, but everyone was buzzing about, I met the consultants who explained they would be trying to get the baby out with forceps and then it would be a c section if this didn’t work.
Everyone was so lovely, I remember them taking off my jewellery, and putting a mask on me, and Henry said he laughed that amongst the chaos, I asked the midwife next to me ‘ can I still have toast after this?’
Henry was finally allowed next to me and he was told to sit on a stool, he told the midwife, I’ll stand and she said ‘no you’ll sit’ and afterwards she apologised but said she had to be stern because so many husbands had said they’ll stand but then fainted 😂 so now she makes them sit on a stool.
The midwife also told everyone in the room how Henry was to announce the gender so to not spoil anything 😂
I couldn’t feel a thing by this point, my whole lower half of my body was numb, and it was time to get our baby out. I had Henry on my left, the midwife to my right, and because I couldn’t feel a thing, she had to tell me when I was contracting and to push.
It was the WEIRDEST sensation, I was pushing but couldn’t feel a thing, it was so bizarre. But with three pushes and the forceps, our baby was born.
We heard the cry and Henry was able to look and say ‘it’s a girl!’
She was placed on my chest for skin to skin and I remember thinking ‘ we had a girl!’
I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing that moment was, I remember looking at our baby and then Henry like ‘we made this!’
All the past hours of pain, and stress just melted away, she was here and it was like she’d always been here.
She had a full head of dark hair and this puffy little face bless her. We had skin to skin for a few minutes before her and Henry went to the other side of the room for her to have a cannula inserted (they were worried about my temperature and that we’d both got an infection, so both of us had to have antibiotics for 48 hours) Henry also at this point cut the cord and they weighed her she was 7lb 8oz.
I was being stitched up at this point- I had to have an episiotomy due to the forceps and also had a second degree tear. I also had a bit of blood loss (I think it was 750ml) but the consultants never stressed and I hadn’t even realised- it was then time to get to the recovery ward.
I was finally able to have my toast 😂 which was pretty wonderful!
One of the midwives helped me to do my first feed, and we were amazed at how easily our baby girl latched on and started feeding, she was a total natural! It was all so surreal looking at her thinking ‘you were inside me!!’
Henry contacted all our families and had a particularly cute phone call with his Grandma which all the midwives cooed over, and we were in a little bubble for the next couple of hours.
It was then time for me and our baby to go to the postnatal ward, and Henry had to go home, it was so surreal and I didn’t want Henry to go home, but also was glad he could finally get some rest, I kept thinking how tired he must be 😂
The midwives on the postnatal ward were lovely and once I was all settled in, I remember just lying looking at my baby and thinking how are you even real?
I didn’t sleep a wink that night, I spent the whole night with her in my arms.
The next couple of days were quite tough, I was really sore and found it quite hard being on my own recovering whilst looking after a newborn, we were discharged two days later and I was so pleased for us to get home and start life as a new little family.
I remember hobbling out the hospital seeing Henry carry our baby girl in her car seat and thinking ‘this is just everything.’
My birth / labour didn’t go how I planned, and over the last few weeks, I struggled to come to terms with it. I felt a bit of a failure and a bit shocked at how I struggled with the pain, I think I had such an high expectation of what labour should be and how I should have coped.
It took a lot of talking with Henry and my Mum to come to terms with things and four weeks on, I still feel a bit shell shocked about it all, but I find talking about it has helped and I’ve realised I’m not a failure, I haven’t been a wimp and didn’t fail our baby.
I’m proud of myself for going through a tough thing, labour is not easy, no matter what birth you have. I’m being kinder to myself and although I’m not sure I’ll want to go through it again (it’s still early days though I guess) I do feel a bit better about things.
All in all, I do feel relatively positive about my labour, I can’t credit the staff enough, from my induction to postnatal recovery, every member of staff was wonderful. My midwives who were with me for the majority of my labour were incredible, and of course I’ll always be grateful to the consultants who delivered our baby girl safely and that anaesthetist who gave me the epidural!
I also wouldn’t of got through it without my husband Henry by my side. He was amazing, he put up with my gushing of waters that almost soaked his suede trainers when I got off the bed when I had my waters broken (maybe not the best footwear to wear though Hen 😂) to my rage stage when I shouted at him, to being calm by my side when shit hit the fan so I wouldn’t get stressed.
He’s been amazing for my whole pregnancy journey and my recovery too, I wouldn’t have gotten through any of it without him by my side and he’s already the most wonderful Dad to our little girl.
Labour was 100x harder than I ever imagined, you will never be prepared for what will happen, but it’s SO worth it. Our little girl is just amazing and I would do it any day again for her. She is worth every second of pain and stitch 😂
We finally decided on a name once we got home : Penelope. She’s absolutely perfect and we couldn’t be more in love.