I was very anxious before the birth and among the advice given to me was the well repeated phrase, “you forget all the pain afterwards”.
I thought it was a pretty ridiculous thing to say- how could you just forget something that painful?! But here I am, less than a week after the birth and my husband and I have already ‘lost’ 12 hours of labour where we just can’t remember what happened!
Here is what I do remember: pain, pain, pain, exhaustion, pethidine (yayyyyyyyyy!!!!), 8cm, gas and air, pushing, baby heart rate dipping, baby shoulders stuck, strange positions, episiotomy, BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sewing back up, BABY!!!!!!!!!!! Lots and lots of love 😀
This is the long story:
12th Feb 15:00
My waters broke with a big gush while I was in Costa Coffee with NCT friends. I jumped up and ran to the toilet and text husband who luckily only works 5 mins away to come and meet me. Very mild and far apart contractions started immediately but they just felt like mild period pain.
I went to the maternity assessment unit at hospital where they confirmed my waters had gone and checked the foetal heart rate. I had 3 very mild contractions while I was on the monitor and was told to come back when I was in labour.
Back at home we ordered Chinese takeaway and put on the TV. We had been told the early stages before labour properly set in are not painful but after another hour or so I was having contractions every 7 minutes and not coping with watching TV.
I felt that trying to have an active labour with some walking and fresh air might ease the pain so we walked round and round our local pond with me reciting Walter De La Mere’s ‘Silver’ as it was a full moon and everything did look silver! I was having 2 contractions with every lap and leaning against my husband to help cope. We realised the contractions were coming every 5 minutes so thought it was time to head to hospital.
13th Feb 01:00
A speculum exam at the hospital confirmed my waters had gone but gave me the bad news that my cervix had not moved one incy little bit so I was sent home.
The contractions seemed to get progressively stronger. It was a painful night! I tried to watch TV but couldn’t. I got annoyed at my husband for sleeping on the sofa when I was in so much pain! We both finally got some sleep while I had a bath. I slept in the water and woke up with every contraction. I splashed water over me to help cope with the pain and it did provide quite a lot of relief. Sleeping in 10 minute spurts in the bath is not very restorative though!
The soothing effect of warm bath water wasn’t strong enough any more so we moved to the bedroom but I found being on my back through a contraction was complete agony. They were still coming every 5 minutes but were not consistent or long enough to go to hospital.
This is the day that we’ve both forgotten! I vaguely remember chomping on some Shreddies, using the TENS machine (and loving it!), trying to sing through contractions and feeling completely attached to squatting by one corner of the bed. I can’t remember why we didn’t go into hospital sooner. I can only think that we phoned and they told us not yet. I can’t remember eating lunch or dinner or anything else!
At 8pm, after over 24 hours of (in my opinion) very painful contractions, I went back to hospital. On the foetal monitor it showed that Plum was doing well but my contractions slowed to 11 minutes apart and they weren’t regular or as strong as required for this to be classified as ‘labour’.
I was told I could have no pain relief until I was actually in labour and that most people barely feel contractions in this early stage. I was given paracetomol and codeine as my only relief. After over 24hours of pain I was pretty pissed off, close to tears and absolutely exhausted!! I couldn’t believe I was being told to go home and sleep through all this pain!!
Then I was given further bad news. My waters broke over 24hours previously which meant that this birth was now ‘PRM’ (post ruptured membrane). I would now have to have anti biotics delivered by cannula during the birth, be on continuous foetal monitoring and if labour did not ‘start’ spontaneously in the next 24 hours I would be induced. In my mind labour had already started but that was irrelevant.
I was told to be a ‘tough cookie’ and sent back home.
I was distraught, exhausted to the bones and in a lot of pain. I had to give myself some tough love and put the pain that I had already experienced behind me to try and cope with the pain yet to come.
We drove to a local viewpoint and tried to distract me with the twinkling lights of London. We drove down the bumpiest roads with the car seat warmers on as with the car seat warmers and bumps I was getting some mild relief.
Feb 14th 01:00
The rest of the night is a blur. I barely remember how I survived through it. I was only comfortable in one place: sitting on a birthing ball. I sat on it next to the bed and fell asleep between contractions with my head on the bed. For every contraction I bounced on the ball whilst my husband rubbed my back. These were truly painful and I did scream often when I couldn’t cope.
I knew I had to get through the night and my husband and I eventually settled on a method that helped me cope the best. Slow breathing through contractions- sighing or humming out loud slowly with each one combined with back rubs and bouncing on the ball or clinging to my husband’s legs. We both slept between contractions but with them coming every 5 minutes it wasn’t very much.
The tiredness and pain hit me and I started losing lucidity and rambling utter nonsense. My husband was tired and getting irritable. His hand was red raw with rubbing my back but he stayed supportive by talking me through every pain, reminding me to breathe slowly and telling me it was almost over.
I phoned the hospital and instead of asking them if I was ready to come in I just told them I was. We were both delirious with exhaustion so the drive probably wasn’t the safest but we got there!
At hospital I was told I was still not in labour. I cried and told them that I had now been suffering painful contractions every 5 to 10 minutes for over 38 hours!!! How could they say I was still not in established labour?!?!
The midwife was amazing and could see how exhausted I was so got doctor’s consent for me to have pethidine. The ante natal ward was full so I was allowed to stay in a delivery room and my husband was allowed to stay with me.
This was the one drug I had wanted to avoid as I don’t like losing control and I was scared I’d have a bad time on it. I asked for a small dose and it was perfect! It felt like being exactly at that stage of drunkeness where you feel like you are about to pass out to sleep and you can vaguely remember that you’re on the street and not at home but it doesn’t matter because……….aaaaaaaahhhh ………sleeeeep….. Blissful sleep!
With the pethidine I could still feel the contractions and the pain but I just felt like I just couldn’t get up or scream or do anything about it. I just got my husband to rub my legs on the peaks of the bad ones and I slept through the rest. I was being forced to relax and my husband said it worked like resetting me.
The pethidine wore off but I continued to try and sleep and relax as much as possible. The midwives had just left me to it through all of this, but they did bring us sandwiches and tea 🙂
It was time for a vaginal examination and our midwife was preparing me for disappointment saying that I may have to be induced. Then she was shocked by realising I was 8cm dilated!
Finally, it could be agreed by everyone that I WAS IN LABOUR!
I was also now finally given some pain relief in the form of gas and air.
For 4 more hours I continued through contractions (although in my head it was only half an hour or so).
My husband and Plum worked as a little team to get me through the contractions. Plum would start kicking before the contraction started. My husband would see his heart rate go up on the foetal heart rate monitor. He would then tell me to start taking gas and air. This would take about 10 seconds to kick in, by which point the contraction will have started. So I ended up being able to time the peak of each gas and air ‘high’ with the peak of each contraction.
We had the lights down low and relaxing music playing and with slowly breathing and keeping my muscles relaxed and the gas and air it was all quite…ok! We had developed a great method to cope with the contractions and I felt a lot better than I had done for the rest of the labour.
I was also so exhausted that I was only really half awake and kind of dreaming through most of this!
At some point I was encouraged to go to the toilet and getting up out of that bed completely broke the spell. The contractions felt 10 times worse, I was a lot more aware of them and I couldn’t reach the gas and air. I gave active labour a go, kneeling on mats, but again this broke me out of my ‘trance’ and so I went back to sitting in bed.
I’m not sure on the time but at some point I was asked to start pushing. This was the strangest feeling! It definitely felt like I was doing a poo! Also like I was being asked to do hundreds of sit ups in a row! At some point a doctor was called in because Plum’s heart rate was dropping with each contraction. The cord was around his neck. She decided to use a ventouse to help get him out.
Shortly later there were loads of people in the room. The birth had suddenly got a lot more complicated and this happened to coincide with staff changeover time so every person was briefing another. There were 4 midwives, 2 neonatal staff, 2 doctors and 2 other people (junior doctors?) all rushing around. Lights were all flashed on and I was being manoeuvred into all kinds of different positions.
It was at this point that I realised how valuable all my ‘research’ watching One Born Every Minute had been! I heard them say ‘lithotomy’ and ‘McRoberts’ and knew that these were different positions to help get Plum out. He had shoulder dystocia. I just stayed calm and did what I was told and then SCREAMED for the episiotomy!! Or maybe that was when they enlarged the cut? Either way I heard myself scream just like they do in films. I don’t actually remember the pain but I remember me screaming!
A bit of pushing and then…
Neonatal had been on standby but he came out with an Apgar score of 9/10 so they put him directly on my chest.
Poor Plum was screaming so I said, “it’s ok plum, it’s ok, don’t worry”. He immediately went quiet and just stared into my eyes. Then his dad looked over my shoulder at him and Plum’s eyes flitted between looking at the two of us. He seemed immediately reassured and comforted by the sound of my voice.
It was such a special moment, the first time together as a family.
Yes, it’s true! The pain is immediately forgotten! I am in love and I would do it all again 😀
I was taken to be stitched up while my husband was left in recovery with Plum. I thought they were having a lovely bonding time. I’ve since found out that they were left alone and my husband’s shirt got covered in saliva while Plum rooted!
So that’s it! It was a long, painful, difficult labour but the pain is already forgotten and look what I have now!