I wasn’t sure about whether to share my birth story as it was a very personal experience but over the past few weeks I’ve spoken to other mums who have had really interesting births, each one different but nonetheless amazing. In the final weeks of pregnancy, I was really anxious about birth (even though I had prepared as much as I could) because it was so much of an unknown but reading other birth stories really helped give me confidence so here’s hoping that sharing this will be of help but also act as a little memory that I can look back at in a few years.
For anyone taking the time to read this, who are currently expecting or considering having children…the main advice I can give is that everyone’s experience is different, no matter how much detail you put into your birth plan, it only lasts until you go into labour when it very quickly can go out the window.
Playing the long game…false labour is not cool
At 35 weeks pregnant, I started a new job (I know right?)…as my pregnancy had progressed I found it tougher and tougher to get through a busy 9-5 working week but I pushed through the fatigue even though in my head I was thinking … ‘I am too pregnant for this’.
I started my maternity leave at 38 weeks and had hoped to at least get a few days to myself before I went into labour as I had a real gut feeling that I would go into labour early but little did I know that I would get longer than expected.
Over the following few weeks I had a lot of false labour experiences, so many I actually lost count. They all seemed to happen at 3am or when I had something nice planned which was particularly cruel. Psychologically I prepared myself each time, did my breathing exercises, ‘rotated to dilate’ on that dang birthing ball and then *poof* the contractions would stop shortly after. The fact that I was convinced that I would go into labour early meant that every time I experience false labour contractions, I got excited that baby was on the way…only to be disappointed when they stopped.
Towards the end of my pregnancy, baby started measuring a bit small based on the midwife’s size chart. As a result I was switched to shared care between a consultant and my midwife and I had to go for a growth scan every few weeks. One of the growth scans was scheduled for my due date and I had hoped that I’d be told that I was a few centimetres dilated. No such luck though, that was just wishful thinking. I was quite upset after this appointment…I’d been having continual cramping, combined with all of the false labour experiences so I was convinced that something would at least be going on down there. I sheepishly consented to a sweep which I hoped would help get things moving…this was a fairly unpleasant experience which left me feeling a little violated, my body just wasn’t ready yet. I was given an induction date about 11 days away which upset me a bit too as I really wanted to go into spontaneous labour and not it felt like there was a deadline that was fast approaching where that would no longer be an option for me like I had hoped and planned. After my appointment my hubby drove home as I sat in silence and stared out the passenger window. So much fuss is made about your due date…you make so many plans based on it such as your maternity leave but it’s really just a best guess. I should have contained my expectations but after carrying baby for 9 months…you really start to get quite impatient.
When I had a chance to reflect a bit following the appointment, I found myself seriously motivated to try and prepare my body and my mind to go into spontaneous labour. In the coming days I tried all sorts of things to try and bring on labour, some based on recommended medical advice, others based on stories from friends to old wives tales. Some, but not all of the things I tried were;
- Pregnancy Massage
- Long Walks
- A very spicy Indian curry (which didn’t even take a fizz out of me but nearly sent Mr. S into labour!)
- Acupressure points on hands and feet
- Clary Sage and Lavender oil baths
- Bouncing on that bloody birthing ball performing rotations
- Ate pineapple, dates, garlic etc.
- Drank Raspberry tea, green tea etc
- Looked up moon cycles (that was a real low point but fun fact, Rory was born during a full moon incase you’re into that!)
When things started to get going…
The day before I went into ‘actual’ labour, I had decided that I was going to have a me day. I threw on a nice dress, took a cute picture of my bump and headed into town for some retail therapy and a coffee. I bumped into a girl I used to work with and her newborn and had a good chat which gave me a little boost.
Later that day I had a midwife appointment for another sweep, even thought I found the last sweep very uncomfortable I decided I’d give it another go. At the appointment, the midwife informed me that I was 4-5cm dilated..this was a massive moment for me as it was evidence that things were in motion. The midwife then gave me a sweep, which i didn’t find anywhere near as bad as the first one, I think this was mainly because I was more prepared for it, as was my body and that I was absolutely delighted by the news the midwife had just given me.
The following day, I felt I needed a rest after a busy previous day. Around tea time I started having mild cramps and had my ‘show’ so I knew things were most definitely underway. I hopped into the bath with some lavender and clary sage oil to relax and try to ease the pain from the cramps. I had a feeling that this might be it but I wasn’t 100% sure because I had so many false starts but after discussing it with Simon, we decided to ring the hospital to ask for advice. I was delighted when a friend of mine who is a midwife answered. I talked through how I was feeling and that my surges were 4-5 minutes apart and she told me to pop in and see how things were progressing. We put our bags in the car and drove up to the hospital. On arrival I was triaged by a midwife and a student midwife who told me I was about 5cm dilated but that my contractions were still far apart enough that I could probably go home for a few hours rather than hang around the hospital. It was about 9pm by this point so I wasn’t too sure I wanted to go home as we live about a 30-minute drive from the hospital so we decided to go get some ice-cream nearby and then we’d go back and see if things were progressing. By the time I’d walked back down to the car park, my contractions had got quite intense, so much so that I had to kneel down during them and implement my breathing exercises to handle the pain…plus, they were starting to get a lot closer together so we decided to make our way back to the maternity ward even though Simon was sure we still had time for ice cream lol, men.
We made our way back up to the maternity ward at an extremely slow pace as I had to hang onto hand rails, benches and Simon’s arm as I had each contraction, plus the were getting stronger and stronger. I think the midwife was quite surprised at how fast I had progressed in such a short space of time. It was a very quiet evening on the maternity ward and the birthing pool was free so I opted to labour in the pool as per my birth plan.
Let’s get this show on the road…
While the birthing pool was being prepared, I spent a bit of time in a warm bath to help with pain relief. The pressure was so intense I couldn’t sit down, Simon kept me calm and helped me focus on my breathing but I was starting to panic a bit as I thought “holy crap, labour has only started..how am I going to get through the next few hours?!?”. It’s a real shock to the system, especially for a first time mum…the relentlessness and intensity of the pain is easily underestimated despite the number of books you read or stories you hear from others.
My birth plan roughly was this;
- Labour and give birth in the pool
- Hypnobirthing / breathing as a distraction of the pain
- No analgesia / epidural (personal preference)
- Gas and air to help with contractions
- No medical intervention unless Rory’s or my health was at risk
- Delayed cord clamping
After an hour in the bath (mostly spent half standing trying to deal with the contractions) the midwife helped me down to the labour suite. I was greeted by a lovely clean room with dim lighting, a calm atmosphere and the birthing pool where I was going to be spending the next few hours thrashing about like a beached whale. I knew at that point I was going to be okay and told myself I could do this.
The second I got into the water, I started applying my hypnobirthing techniques and after a few minutes I was in a world of my own. I went into a part of my mind where I had spent months nurturing, studying for, preparing for and storing everything I had learned from Hypnobirthing and attending Daisy Birthing Classes. It was fantastic. I don’t remember any of the pain associated with labour and as each surge came I let it wash over me and focused on my breathing using the gas and air (which makes you feel like you’ve had a few glasses of wine, which I rather enjoyed). I kept saying internally to myself ‘my surges cannot overcome me as they are me’.
Let’s be clear though…I’m not for a second suggesting that it was easy…because it wasn’t it was extremely painful, so much so that I actually bent the mouthpiece for the gas and air like it was a plastic straw because I bit down on it so hard. I had to ask Simon why my jaw was so sore the day after and he filled me in on this little detail! The Hypnobirthing techniques and breathing distracted me from it and helped me pass the hours that I spent in the pool.
Simon told me that every so often I would open my eyes and drink some water and ask the time…to be surprised that hours had passed when I thought it would only be minutes. For poor Simon though, time didn’t move quite so fast…he experienced every moment of it in visceral detail…every time I yelped from the pain, gripping his hand like a vice; he on watched helplessly as I dealt with the pain but he tells me he was a good cheerleader. I really must get him to recount his thoughts and feelings from a Dad’s perspective of the labour process.
After 4 hours (at approx. 3am) everything seemed to stop (including the pain) and I found myself in a rare moment of calm…I got out of the pool and the midwife gave me an examination to check my progress…I was fully dilated and everything was in position. Shortly after I had a very sudden urge to push. The midwife told me to listen to my body and push when I felt the urge. This part of labour was different from the earlier hours and I had to concentrate on pushing during each contraction … it was very tiring as I was already exhausted having been in labour since 10pm.
After pushing for what felt like forever (even though it was more like 2 hours) I began to show signs of exhaustion and my heart rate and blood pressure began to fall and so did Rory’s. The midwives assisted me out of the pool and into a bed, I was a little reluctant as I really wanted a water birth and had a bit of anxiety of giving birth on my back. Looking back, they gave me the best possible chance they could for an unassisted birth and still adhered to my birth plan until the very end which I am so thankful for.
Everyone Safe and Sound
The next part is a bit fuzzy as I was exhausted but after a few minutes pushing some more on the bed, the midwife called for a doctor who offered to assist me with the last stage. Rory needed just a little encouragement and was delivered using the vacuum suction cup and one big push from me.
My little squish of a boy was placed on my chest and I cried, he was finally here. Little Rory born at 5.18am weighing 7lb 5oz. Life hasn’t been the same since, I can’t remember him not being part of my life.
Everyone’s idea of a positive birth is different, you may have read this and thought, nope! I cannot stress enough that you have got to roll with the punches if your birth doesn’t go to plan. Preparing as much as you can beforehand gave me a good foundation and I felt that I was able to make informed decisions when the ending just wasn’t how I wanted. Involving your partner or husband is also important and having a conversation about what to do if things take a turn from the original ‘plan’.
I hope this empowers you for your journey ahead or if you were just were here for a read, I hope you enjoyed mine and Rory’s story!