James' birth: long story, short birth(13 Posts)
We were getting ready for the homebirth of our third baby: we?d even bought the biscuits for the midwives (although I had to replace them a few times as I kept eating them). Two previous high-risk pregnancies counted against me when seeking a homebirth, but we were able to show that I?d had two fast, uncomplicated births and finally got the head midwife?s blessing.
At 36+2 I went to urgent care at about 7pm to seek advice about hip pain I was having. The doctor took my blood pressure and checked my urine for protein. Suddenly she became serious, rechecked my BP and told me that I needed to be admitted. I was spilling as much protein as the dipstick could measure and my BP was 170/100. I felt shaken and worried about how my baby was doing ? it was a relief to get upstairs and hear his steady heartbeat on the CTG. I still spent a tearful night: I missed my daughters and DH, I grieved for the homebirth I could no longer attempt, and I hoped that my baby would show good growth on the ultrasound the next morning.
I was scanned by the supervisor of midwives. Like the doctor from urgent care, she became serious as she moved the wand around. The baby had gained barely four ounces since his last growth scan four weeks previously, although he was active and passed his biophysical profile with flying colours. Induction was set for the next day. I was briefed, by a young and rather cold obstetric registrar, to expect a pharmacologically augmented, strapped-down birth with frequent cervical checks. He pushed me into accepting an internal examination then and there, which was incredibly painful and left me sobbing, curled up on a bed and ? finally ? alone. Against medical advice I left the hospital, limped home and cuddled my daughters. It took an almost herculeaneffort to leave the house the next morning, with DH in tow and my hospital bag packed. My legs were swollen to the point that I could barely walk and my face was puffy, but it?s fair to say that the heaviest part of me was my heart.
This all seems rather melodramatic, right? I mean, I knew it was the best thing for me and my baby. I knew it was the only thing I could do. Yet I can?t overstate how much I hate hospitals, especially the two awful postnatal stays I?d had previously. The feeling of panic at the lack of control I get when put in the ?patient? pigeonhole is almost indescribable. During the postnatal stay for both my daughters, the postnatal ward had felt like a place of torture. It was hot, noisy, invasive, I had no sleep for more than 96 hours, midwives forced formula on my babies, food was awful, I was lonely, hormonal, the cleaning and hygiene conditions were dire (floods of blood on the shower floor, lavatories too filthy to use ? it was hideous).
So this time, although I was terrified, I came prepared. I had a local doula?s phone number, hastily acquired, and she (S) planned to join us once labour began. I had a chiller bag of breastmilk donated by a kind friend, ready to use if anyone insisted on supplementing the baby. I had my breastpump ready. I had my birthplan written. I was ready to be a pain in the ass, and my husband and doula were briefed to be pains in the ass too.
After a reassuring CTG, my midwife E tried to break my waters to get labour started. I warned her that I had had an awful vaginal examination a day previously, and wasn?t dilated much beyond 1cm, which is what you?d expect as a baseline after two previous births. I also warned her that I would be tense. After trying for a while she told me that I was beyond tense ? she was worried that I would break her fingers if she kept going. I suppose that?s testament to the efficacy of pelvic floor exercises! Although I had stated that I didn?t intend to use any pain medication at all, E kept trying to get me to inhale gas and air to make me relax. As I like being in control, it's never been an attractive option for me at all. So I continued to refuse.
Because I kept refusing the gas and air, E decided to call for the doctor on call to break my waters, and warned me it was the male ob/gyn from the day before. Dread descended ? and lifted somewhat as a petite, laid-back female doctor wandered in instead. "You?ve got tiny hands!" I said, happily. She smiled and proceeded to break my waters with very little effort. Luckily, the waters were copious and clear, and smelt slightly like ? well, like vernix and babies! I felt her do a quick ?sweep? around the rim of the cervix. After that, she took off her gloves, and winked. "I?ve been able to stretch you to 3cm already" she confided. "The head?s right there. I don?t expect you?ll need a hormone drip, so just go for a walk and if you?re in active labour in 2 hours then there?ll be no reason to intervene further." I smiled too. Things were looking up a bit.
I dripped everywhere for a while, not daring to leave the room yet. I walked around, did lunges and bounced around on the birth ball. As the leaking subsided a little, after about 20 minutes, I began to feel some concern. I had hoped to go directly into established labour but I was feeling mild tightening every 8 minutes and little else. So, kitted out with an industrial-sized maternity pad and flip-flops (the only shoes which could be squeezed onto my poor, enormous feet) we began a route march around the hospital. First we walked up and down stairs, then we walked to the cafeteria at the top of the building, then we wandered outside as it was sunny and warm. I remember my first really painful tightening coming as I scaled a flight of stone steps, near the emergency room entrance. I stopped, put my arms around DH?s neck, and swayed through it, careful to relax my face and focus on breathing through the waves of pain. It felt bittersweet and familiar: it reminded me suddenly, viscerally of my previous births. Excitement and nerves stirred in my stomach. "Okay, it?s started" I whispered to DH. Cheek to cheek with him, I felt him grin. We were really going to meet our baby boy soon.
We didn?t call S, our doula, yet: we still expected birth to be a while away and she lived nearby. In addition, selfishly, I was enjoying having this time just me and DH together, sharing the secret that I was in labour for a little longer. Tightenings began to come every 4 minutes, then 3, then back to 5. They were severe, but in no way unmanageable. In between each one, we walked fast and I took the widest strides I could. DH urged me to eat but I couldn?t contemplate it; I drank water instead. As the tightenings got stronger, I imagined I could feel my pelvic bones moving and visualized the baby?s head descending. Sometimes this imagery was almost overwhelming, and I had to quickly switch my thoughts back to the feeling of DH?s shoulder, his arms around me and the rhythm of our breaths together. As we approached the birthing room again I remember thinking "thank goodness!". All that water had made me pretty happy to see the bathroom. As I tried to stand up from the toilet, another tightening started and my legs wobbled. I sat down and an incredibly intense pain flooded through my pelvis and down my thighs. All I could do was gesture to DH that he absolutely, immediately had to lift me to standing. Sitting down made everything feel 100 times less manageable. I decided not to try bouncing through the next tightening on the ball although DH was keen ? I think paying £20 for a birth ball motivated him to get some use out of it ? but a few rather terse words from me put paid to that idea. We resumed our upright swaying position for a few more minutes.
E popped in to see how we were doing. She entered just as another tightening started and felt my abdomen throughout. By this point, I was feeling the need to vocalize through each tightening. Although I mostly kept my voice low, at the apex of each contraction I confess to yelping or saying ? rather plaintively ? "it hurts!!!". She told us that she thought I was "definitely entering established labour". I remember thinking "if this is ?entering? established labour then I?m a teapot. This really, really HURTS". The most overwhelming part of each tightening was the feeling of deep, grinding pressure in my pelvic floor that extended backwards into my coccyx. I now know, as I suspected then, that this was the feeling of my baby making a rather rapid journey through all the final parts of first stage labour, that usually take a few hours, in the space of about 10 minutes. During this time I definitely had moments of wondering whether I could do it without any medication for hours on end. Since it didn?t last hours, I don?t have an answer to that question. However, my prevailing emotions were relief that this was happening without further intervention, determination to see this through and perhaps something approaching an endorphin high, in which I smiled beatifically at DH between tightenings. We both waited excitedly for S, our doula, to arrive. Not too long until we would meet our son ? how magical!
Perhaps 5 minutes after messaging S, I realized that the only way I could now manage the tightenings was to bear down through them. I told DH "I?m pushing. I?m definitely pushing. Get the midwife!". He popped his head out into the corridor, spoke to her, and then wandered back. "She?ll be about 10 minutes", he said. "She says she knew you?d want pain relief!" "Never mind that", I groaned, "could you please have a look and see if you can see the head? I?m afraid I can?t move. There?s a head in my pelvis". He laughed but gamely knelt down and tried to peer upwards (he?s a doctor so I wasn?t being entirely unrealistic in asking this). At this moment ? and this is not my proudest moment of the entire labour ? I bore down hard as another tightening began. I peed on DH?s head. He started to laugh and a couple of moments later I joined in. "Did I just pee on you?" I asked, "or was it amniotic fluid?". "Pee", he responded. "But don?t worry. You have a good excuse. Shall I get E?" "Unless you want to deliver your son on your own, YES."
When E came back, I could see skepticism on her face. "He says you feel pressure" she began "so shall we talk again about pain relief?" "Could you please check me?" I asked. She sighed. "Your birth plan says to limit the number of vaginal exams. But, okay, if you like. Can you get on the bed please?" I eyed the bed as if it was an insurmountable mountain. I felt like something was splitting me in half and could no more get onto that bed than dance a jig. DH gave me a gentle boost from behind and I sort of sprawled, dignity now completely abandoned, onto the foot of the bed. I distinctly recall the pressure receding slightly ? because, of course, gravity was no longer pulling the baby?s head down. I wallowed, happily, as E checked me. "Okay, you?re at a ten. There?s the head coming out now" she squeaked, and I heard her barking orders at poor DH to get the birth kit set up, warming table ready and press the call button for a second midwife. Then I focused on the feeling of the head?s descent and slight ascent as I flexed my pelvic floor muscles. "I don?t know if I can do this" I told E. "Perhaps another day?" She laughed, looking rather flustered, and said "go for it. It?ll be over soon, you know that! And then there?ll be a baby to cuddle".
So with these wise words echoing in my ears, I felt the gradual burn as the head moved down and out, and then the intense, all encompassing ?whoosh!? of the chin being born. Then there was a lull of about 2 minutes: this happened with my two previous births also. During this time I hastily scanned DH?s face for signs of concern, and he gave me thumbs up. He later told me that our son was pulling grimacing faces, even though the rest of his body hadn?t been born yet, so that reassured him and E. With the next two tightenings, I pushed with all my might and felt that sudden and unmistakable sensation of a warm, wet baby against the insides of my legs as all of him emerged. James ? our third child; our son; our biggest surprise ? was here.
As soon as he was out, he was on my chest. Despite the rush, E remembered that I wanted immediate skin to skin, and delayed cord clamping. When I saw him, I knew the growth scan the previous day was wrong. He had been estimated at 4lb and 13oz, but he was visibly larger than Charlotte, who was 5lb 8oz when she arrived at 35 weeks. When the scales showed 6lb 6oz, I wasn?t surprised (but I was a little angry at how much the midwife the day before had needlessly scared me!). He latched on immediately and as I was still feeding Charlotte most days and had never really stopped producing milk, I wasn?t surprised to see him gulping down colostrum. I have always found the first time a baby latches on to the breast far more moving than the moment of birth, and this third time was no exception. Seeing his tiny face moving instinctively and rhythmically, marveling at the soft curve of his cheek and his crop of dark hair and feeling his hand squeezing my finger tightly was one of the best moments of my life. Although I had planned for a physiological third stage, I was losing so much blood that I concluded that the oxytocin injection was needed. I ended up with very low iron levels despite the injection, so I?m glad I accepted it. I got a good look at the placenta as well.
S rushed in just as James was having his first feed, and she was amazing ? she organized all our stuff, which had been strewn all over the place in the hurry, and she took some truly beautiful pictures that I will treasure forever. She talked DH into taking off his shirt to have skin to skin with James whilst I had a wash. She made the special first hour after James? birth extra-special by helping us talk about and celebrate what had just happened. The second midwife never did arrive and I don?t think anyone noticed.
The postnatal stay was better than I?d feared, and we didn?t need to use the donor breastmilk we?d brought. Charlotte drank it, so it wasn?t wasted. My swelling took a long time to go down, but my BP was more stable by 2 weeks after birth and I stopped medication soon after that. James is a delight ? he smiles, feeds and loves cuddles. I am enjoying him just as I did with my two daughters. I say ?I? because DH left for Afganistan shortly after. He hasn?t seen James for more than 3 months, and won?t do for another couple of months. It?s hard to be without him, but I?m so blessed by my little family (3 children under 4) and proud of his service. I suppose that explains why I?m only writing this story now he is about 15 weeks old ? that and the fact that I submitted my PhD thesis 5 weeks after he arrived. That thesis was at least ten times harder than James' birth - and I am fully aware that I am lucky, and not remarkably heroic for doing it without pain relief. The induction worked out as well as I could have dreamed it would, and you can't ask for more than that.
I'm so sorry for the messed up punctuation. I hope it's intelligible. If you read all of that rambling well done.
You made me cry! Congratulations!
The complications you had were what they were concerned about with my first but thankfully my bp stayed relatively low & there were only small amounts of protein in my urine. They were putting pressure on us to be induced as I was already just over 40 weeks. Instead we opted for regular monitoring &, after a sweep, my waters broke naturally & I got the homebirth I was desperate for! The midwife was seriously unimpressed about us staying put when I was being less than cooperative about an internal I didn't want in the first place & then she got worried about a slow heartbeat - ignoring the fact that I couldn't tell them when the contractions were starting/ending & that it did come back up nicely at one point. The ambulance men were on the landing when I decided DS had to come out! DS was fine but, like you, I had a bleed afterwards & had to have an injection to get it under control so we were transferred to hosp after all & I got to experience some of that marvelous postnatal care & discharged myself as soon as I was sure that I'd recover better at home where I could actually rest!
I'm now pg with #2 & would do it all again exactly the same way!
I'm very impressed you managed to finish your thesis while caring for 3 little ones. No way could I have done that with just one! Enjoy your time with them & I hope your DH gets to come home & cuddle his children really soon.
Wow! Sounds like a beautiful experience and I think you are amazing! Finishing a phd thesis during the first five weeks after giving birth! With two other under four as well, just... Awe inspiring xx
Just beautiful- I hope you gave printed it out and put it in a keepsake box. As I lie here awake with a snuffly 6mo next to me, it makes me want to slow the clock down and rather than be grumpy that I'm awake at
bloody 4.40am, thanks to your post, I will just enjoy the cuddle!
I want to say how lovely your messages are - I have returned to this thread so many times to read them and the story again, and I never properly thought to say THANK YOU. I have printed out the story and your replies, so your kind words are in James' baby book for him to read when he is older. Hugely non-mumsnetty hugs to you xx
Just read this its so lovely I am now frightened to death at 13 weeks and having to do it again
I love coming back to read this story through. I cannot believe that James is almost a year old now! Thinking of his birth makes me smile and get teary - I am so lucky that we had such a good experience, but I'm also proud of myself as well, if that makes sense.
I'm looking down at him now and marvelling at his fat little knees and long eyelashes. We made him!
I should add, DH came back from Afganistan in mid-February and we are completely overjoyed to have him back. On reflection, the experience of James' birth really brought us closer together, and I think some of that intimacy was very helpful during the months that he was away.
Your discription of the gradual burn, and then the wish before feeling the hot wet baby on your legs is so accurate, my fourth boy was born 6 months ago and I was (as I have been with all the others) totally out of it on gas and air, I only have blurred recollections but your words bought back precious memories - thank you!
Completely just cried uncontrollably at this...lovely story.
Hormonal sobbing here too - how amazing to have captured it all like that.
Aww lovely story and my baby names are James and Charlotte, so great minds and all that!
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