This has taken quite a bit of doing to get to. I’m almost 2 weeks postpartum now, hitting a nice rhythm in self-isolation, feeling a little more normal, part dairy cow, part chained to the steriliser, and I’m just finding time in little pieces around changes, feeds, and perhaps most importantly- epic cuddles.
My birth story is a very long one (64 hours long), and full of curveballs- so a small trigger warning for those who are pregnant or have had previous experience with birth trauma- that was NOT my experience, as it was still a hugely positive process for me, but I would totally understand some elements of this story being triggering for some.
Friday 13th March, 11.45pm- I was 40+4, and VERY fed up. I’d just gotten into bed, Robert was asleep next to me, and I felt a few tightenings. I didn’t time them, as they were very far apart, but they did feel quite strong from the get go, so sleeping through them wasn’t an option (I would later live to regret this). I noticed a little blood when I went to the toilet, and then I definitely couldn’t sleep because FINALLY IT WAS MY TURN. At about 4am, I woke Robert, just to keep him in the loop, but encouraged him to go back to sleep, as we were nowhere near yet.
Saturday 14th day- We spent the Saturday taking tiny walks, buying labour snacks, getting the final bits together, bouncing around on my birthing ball, in and out of clary sage baths (actual godsend)- anything and everything to get the contractions more regular. They were coming faster and stronger, but still irregular- anywhere between 8 and 4 minutes. Annoying, because I was no longer able to walk or talk through them, but I was totally aware I wouldn’t be far enough along to be admitted to The Birth Place (the midwife led unit at my hospital- TBP from here on)
Saturday 14th 8pm- Had a Chinese for dinner. Would recommend.
Saturday 14th 11pm- Sleep still completely off the table, as the contractions were only getting stronger. Made sure Robert slept, and I tried my hardest to breathe through them, eat as much as possible (like, 40 bowls of Nesquik and Coco Pops were consumed). But after riding them out for as long as I could, and after a conversation with a midwife at TBP, with 3 contractions in 10 minutes coming regularly, we called a taxi and headed in.
Sunday 15th, 7am- Given a check. Absolutely furious to discover that I was only 1cm dilated. She offered to give me a sweep, and told me to go home and back back when I was having 3 contractions in 10 minutes. I was even more furious when I explained to her that I was already at this stage, and so at what point should I come back in? She didn’t really have an answer for me, so we got our stuff, and left the hospital.
It’s at this point that I feel I should add that this was all in the middle of the Coronavirus outbreak. Walking through a hospital in the middle of a pandemic is weird. It’s eerily quiet, and you can sense the doom in the air. We ended up getting the train home with all our shit (each taxi was costing us £40 as we aren’t near the hospital, and neither of us drive) which was tricky. Carrying the car seat while dealing with some truly horrible contractions should be an Olympic sport.
Sunday 15th 10am- Once we got back home, we tried to sleep. Again, I had absolutely no joy with this- I was constantly having contractions that were far too strong to sleep through, I was constantly up and down to the toilet, the bath, the shower- anything and anywhere to try and make myself feel better, which was proving to be impossible now.
Sunday 15th 3pm- I sent Robert out for ice lollies, and while he was gone, I lost my plug as one massive piece. I had been hoping this would happen, so I’d have something to show Robert and gross him out with. Mine was pretty tinged with blood (I’m assuming from my sweep that morning) and was SUPER gross, so I left it out on the side for Robert to find on his return. His reaction was brilliant, and worth it. Tiny respite from pain. 10/10 would recommend.
Overall, the next few hours were less than ideal. I got into the bath at about 4.30pm, and was there for the next 5 hours. Clary sage, bit of music, low lighting, and Robert sitting on the floor with me while my contractions got stronger, stronger, and stronger. I was aware of how long I had spent on my back in the bath- this was the last thing I wanted, and had always planned for an active birth- but I couldn’t bring myself to get out of the tub. Painkillers were doing absolutely bollock all, the warm water was my only saving grace at this stage. I was trying to keep my cool, but I was just so concerned about going back in and being turned away. We had also planned for a home birth, and had the assessment and all our paper work, so I decided we should enact that course of action. We called delivery suite, and shortly after, the home birth midwife phoned. She agreed from listening to me for a little while, that she should come to ours, and as soon as she and the second midwife had mobilised, they’d be there.
She phoned back 10 minutes later- turns out, the second midwife couldn’t be located (?!) and as a result, home birth was no longer an option. This was disappointing and stressful, but she assured me that she had spoken to TBP, and even if I hadn’t progressed at all since that morning, I would absolutely be admitted.
We started to get ready, but by this point, my contractions were lasting at least 5 minutes, and with almost no time in between. I managed to get down the stairs as Robert organised the taxi, and spent what felt like an age on all fours on the sofa, literally crying. We almost, *almost* turned the taxi into an ambulance, but I mustered up every single bit of everything I had in me, put my headphones in, my eye mask on, and got into our second very expensive taxi.
Sunday 15th 11pm- Poor driver didn’t speak a word for the entire journey, and absolutely whizzed us there. Good egg.
Sunday 15th, 11.30pm- Examined. 3cm, almost 4, and I was admitted to Daisy room, or as they call it at TBP, the ‘party room’. It is ENORMOUS. The pool was filled while I sat on the toilet having contractions. Once the pool was filled, I didn’t even spend the time to get undressed- I pretty much canonballed in fully clothed, and got undressed once I was in the water. The water was instant relief, but it was short lived. I rode it out for a while, but in the end, I got out and got a dose of pethidine.
This was always an option on my plan, as I had heard you could potentially grab some sleep, and by this point I had been awake for over 48 hours. Upon administering the injection, the midwife informed me that baby was back to back- I remember distinctly yelling ‘THAT FUCKING 5 HOUR BATH’. This made sense as to why my labour was lasting so long, and why the contractions were so hideous. Robert could see baby’s head literally sitting at the base of my spine, which he assured me, was absolutely fucking bonkers.
Monday 16th March, 1am-3am- Pethidine was an absolute let down. Minimal relief, and still no sleep. Bit of eyes rolling about in my head, but I didn’t feel any better. Spent my 2 hours out of the pool, trying to funnel as much poo out of me as possible, and get comfortable in any position. Let me tell you, with a back to back labour, there is no comfortable position. You can try, but you will not find it.
*TRIGGER WARNING- PAIN DESCRIPTION*
Monday 16th 3.30am- I got back in the pool. What followed was potentially the worst 3 hours of my life (and Robert’s life for that matter). If someone asked me to describe how my contractions felt, I could not put it into words. I remember saying that it felt like someone hated you with all their might, and you didn’t have any idea why. Like, someone who you loved and admired just thought you were the biggest piece of shit they had ever met, and truly wanted you to suffer for it- and all you had ever tried to do was love them. The feeling was everywhere, my abdomen, my back, my thighs, my calves even. Robert said he has never heard anything like it, nor has he ever felt so helpless in his life. He told me after the fact, that he almost left at around 4.30am, because it was so horrendous to witness me being in so much pain, literally crying tears like a toddler, and him not being able to do anything to ease it. I was literally shouting the word ow, or ouch. He was gobsmacked that I didn’t swear- my theory is that because the pain was so constant, that a swear wouldn’t cut it. You stub your toe, you yell fuck, it throbs, you recover. My contractions were now a minimum of 10 minutes long, with maybe 2 minutes rest, and then another massive wave. I tried to visualise them as surges so hard, but at the length they were, it became impossible. I tried to feel for my uterus muscles drawing up, as I had learned that they would, but truthfully, I couldn’t feel this at all. Just pure hate.
Midwife said she’d be back in 5 minutes with some codeine. Now, codeine doesn’t even help me get rid of a migraine, so I didn’t have much faith in this. A delivery in another room got in the way of this as well, so this 5 minute window turned into almost 2 hours, and never materialised anyway.
Monday 16th, 6.30am- Midwife returned with the codeine, and I quite assertively demanded gas and air. Massive, MASSIVE help. Did not actually put it down for the next 11 hours. The instruction is that you use the gas during the contraction and then breathe normally in between. I flipped it on its head, and ended up screaming and using down breathing through my contractions, and then using the gas in between for quicker relief, rather than easing the pain. This worked better for me. She also examined me, and said I was at around 7cm now. I had been mulling over a transfer, and told her- I think I’d like an epidural.
She had clearly been waiting for me to make this call, but of course in a midwife led unit, they don’t want to force any opinions, and want to leave you to it a bit- but I have never seen people mobilise so quickly. I was applauded for this decision by pretty much everyone I came into contact with as well, and even though it was the last thing I had wanted, it was the best thing I’ve ever done. Bloods were done, wheelchair came, midwife changed shift (hello Franki) and off I went to the delivery suite.
Monday 16th 8.30am- The anaesthetist was waiting for me, made me read a thing with Robert, and I was hooked up. It’s quite an event- you get a strap to monitor baby (my active little so and so meant this had to be moved constantly, and ended up being a little spring attached directly to his head under the skin) and another for your contractions. An IV line for fluids, blood pressure strap, and then the epidural line into a space in your spine. The relief, even from the local anaesthetic was epic- but when the epidural took effect, Robert said he could literally see it on my face. Peace. I then had a catheter put in (don’t worry, did not feel this), some sexy compression stockings put on, and was left to my own devices for a while, to progress for a few hours, as I was still at 7cm. I used the gas and air while all of this happened, as well as my down breathing- everyone was very impressed with my breathing throughout, and while it didn’t give me relief, it did help me to focus slightly.
(The face of someone who has not slept in almost 3 whole days)
Monday 16th 11am- Franki, and student midwife Teresa came back to break my waters as I was still at 7cm. It was at this point that we discovered little one had done all manner of shits in utero. This is more common in babies that go past their due date- and my waters were literally FULL of meconium, a very significant amount. Baby was in no distress though, so we decided that we’d let it go for a little while, and see if I got to 10cm on my own, and if not, get the synthetic oxytocin drip going. At 12.30pm, I reached 10cm. We all decided that we’d get some food in us (us and midwives!) and then at 2pm we’d start pushing. Robert went to get me a KFC, alongside the hospital meal. The ice cream was a VERY welcome treat, because at this point I realised just how sore my throat was from all the screaming.
Monday 16th 2pm- The time had come. I got VERY nervous at this point. Shit was real, there was going to be a baby, and I was going to be responsible for keeping it alive. ‘Are you ready to start pushing now, Melissa?’ was such a loaded question. I could sort of feel the urges to push, but mentally, I’d have loved another 30 minutes, just to get my head around it all. We would push for 2 hours, before calling for a doctor to come and assist with an instrumental delivery, so the countdown was on. I wasn’t pushing the epidural button anymore, but had the gas and air on the go throughout. Thank god, because the next 2 hours were very relaxed, until the final 10 minutes. Ring of fire is very real. I definitely told everyone I couldn’t do it. They all told me I could. Turns out I was wrong (for the first and last time in my life) because at 15.57pm, out came a very green, very calm, and very alert baby boy. Just in the nick of time.
Monday 16th 4pm- After a very calm 30 seconds (including me announcing that River had pissed down my arm, which actually turned out to be shit, as if he hadn’t done enough of those by that point) he was whisked off to the little stand next to me to have all manner of poo siphoned off of him and out of his nose, ears, mouth, and eyes. He barely made a peep throughout all of this. We didn’t get the delayed cord clamping that we so desperately wanted, and Robert didn’t get to cut the cord, but the big cleanup was way more important than that was. River was brought back over to me, to try and initiate skin to skin and breastfeeding, but this turned out to be a massive stress. With a back opening gown, and loads of wires, and River being bundled in about 12,000 towels, I couldn’t really get to him. I sort of yelled, can someone give him to Robert please.
So off came his top, and Robert did the main bulk of the skin to skin, and a finger feed with the syringes of colostrum that I had antenatally harvested (thank god), while I watched on, and stayed hooked up to my gas and air while I got stitches for a second degree tear.
This. Was. Not. Great.
I didn’t feel the tear, but I definitely felt the stitches! Even with the last bits of the epidural (god I wish they had let me press the button one last time) and some local anaesthetic, this was pretty terrible. Luckily, it was over quickly. Again, thank god for gas and air.
We stayed in delivery suite for another 6 hours, as my heart rate was very high. I felt a bit spangly all day. Blood pressure all over the place, and wobbly legs- bear in mind, I STILL have not slept since 3pm on Friday 13th! Over 72 hours ago! Got some more fluids to try and even me out- lovely Franki had secured us the big beautiful Jasmine room back at TBP. A private room with a double bed, and an en suite bathroom- but they wouldn’t take me until my heart rate calmed down! I had my tea and my toast, and stared at my beautiful boy being held by his dad. I didn’t feel confident in holding him for very long while I was still feeling the effects of the birth so strongly, but watching him with Robert was amazing. For a man who had never in his life even held a baby, he took to fatherhood like a duck to water. I’m so glad he did the skin to skin instead of me, I think it made a huge difference, and their bond was and is so strong as a result. I think the dads can feel a bit left out with all the time mum
spends with baby at the hospital and over the next few weeks, but as a result of this, our bonds are pretty much as strong as each other’s.
At 10pm, we were able to transfer, initiated feeding properly, and had a lovely first night together, totally calm, and just the best feeling ever. Being a three was the most natural thing in the world, and exactly where we were supposed to be.
Tuesday 17th 8am- We were woken up with breakfast (*heart eyes emoji) and the paediatric doctor came around to check him over- River of course passed with flying colours. Everyone was commenting on how beautiful he was, how much he looked like me, and also how alert he was. They were right on all three counts, even if I do say so myself. We just had to wait for a wee, as he hadn’t done one yet and he needed to within 24 hours ideally. Robert went out for some presents for the midwives, and some food for us. River and I spent some time together, just staring at each other, taking it all in, feeding- a brilliant way to spend 2 hours if you ask me.
Robert returned with Sgt Pepper on vinyl as a gift for me for pushing a whole ass baby out of me, because good egg.
Tuesday 17th 3.30pm- Still no wee. I sent Robert out to inform midwives, and almost immediately after he left the room BIGGEST WEE OF ALL TIME ALL OVER MUM AND THE BED. We were officially discharged, called our third and final expensive taxi, and off we went (past the coronavirus tent, which was a sobering sight) to start our life as a three.
All in all, every curveball we could have had thrown at us, was lobbed at us full force- but the experience was still so positive. I have kept an eye on myself in this week, as I’m aware a few elements of it could have been traumatic, but even with all the drama, I can’t see it as anything but a brilliant outcome.
River Jefferson Carter-Robinson