I love reading birth stories but they’re not for everyone. I’ve shared everything I remember so please don’t read on if you’re squeamish, sensitive and especially if you can’t watch ‘One Born Every Minute’ without feeling dizzy.
It was eleven days past my due date and I was exhausted, full of hotdogs and really couldn’t be bothered to give birth. Every night for weeks, I’d gone to bed dreaming of waking up in labour, popping on one of my pre-selected birthing costumes (with button down front for discreet breastfeeding in my post-birth hippy glow), blow drying my hair into a sporty (but casual) pony tail and putting on a few strokes of BB cream (and bronzer, blusher and mascara). Unfortunately that is not how events unravelled.
Me and my partner, Jed, had been on a five mile walk, had dinner (hotdogs, remember?) and at 8pm I was just getting ready for bed when I noticed that I was bleeding a little. I didn’t feel too worried as I’d been bleeding on and off for a few weeks (I’d had two membrane sweeps which caused this) but Jed suggested I call the hospital. The midwife said to come in for a check up so we did just that. By midnight, the midwife had done a few tests but didn’t seem to really know what was going on. Baby was fine and there were (apparently) no signs that I was in labour so we were sent home. As we were leaving, we wished the midwife a happy new year and the midwife said “oh, I’ll still be here in the morning”. I suspect she knew exactly what was bloody going on.
As we were approaching home in the taxi, I felt a period-like cramp. I got into bed and by 1am the cramps were becoming stronger. By 2am the cramps were becoming much more regular and each one lasted about a minute — during the cramps I would curl up in a ball on the bed and couldn’t speak. I started to realise that this may well be the beginnings of labour and the last thing I was going to do was blow dry my fucking hair. I sat in the bath (with Jed sitting on the toilet seat, looking terrified) and we started to record the contractions, they went from being every 7 minutes and by 8am they were every 3 or 4. I’d had no sleep and hoped they would fizzle out.
At 8.30am I was sat on my birthing ball, in suspiciously good spirits watching ITV’s Lorraine. I popped to the toilet and was shocked to see, the blood was really pouring. I screamed out to Jed and he called the midwife whilst I sat on the toilet crying/screaming (I really wasn’t worried about the BB cream but for some reason was worried that I hadn’t hoovered). I was convinced I needed an ambulance and was dying (I’ve always been a drama queen) but the midwives seemed a bit unphased and said we’d be fine to get a taxi to the hospital. We went down in the lift (I will never forget the shocked face of the woman waiting for the lift as I came out) and got into a cab. The sun was shining and I was starting to feel much more calm.
We arrived at Homerton hospital and at 9.45 were taken to the birthing centre where I had chosen to attempt a natural-as-possible birth. A lovely midwife introduced herself and showed us the birthing room, it was much better than expected. There was a comfy double bed, a birthing pool and some hippy looking pieces of equipment. The midwife said she was going to check to see if I was dilated which would decide whether I could go home or not. If I was under 4cm dilated I could go home and relax (or as I was planning, to hoover) and over 4cm I could stay in. I was really, REALLY, shocked when the midwife said I was 7cm and asked me if I’d considered pain relief. I said I’d heard about Oramorph (toot toot, I thought, time for a morphine party) but the midwife advised me it was too late for that and that I might like some gas and air. I didn’t want gas and air quite yet — I felt really nervous about feeling out of control or sick. The midwife said that she could only check for dilation every 4 hours unless there was a reason to check me before.
The midwife asked if a student could join us and I was happy to agree. The midwives came in every 15minutes to check baby’s heartbeat and I sat bouncing on a birthing ball eating Snickers bars and guzzling Lucozade Sport. At around midday, Jed popped to the hospital shop and returned with a copy of Cosmopolitan (?) and six packs of tissues (?). Things were much more relaxed than at home, I even managed to eat an omelette, chips and peas! By about 1pm the fun levels had rapidly gone down and I was blasting on the gas and air. At 1.45 it was time for my next dilation check. The contractions were getting so bad that I was convinced that I’d be 10cm by now and ready to push cutie-babe out, have a shower (I’d packed about all my pampering products) and pose for photos. The midwives informed me that I was still 7–8cm and things weren’t progressing as they should be. The midwives broke my waters with a giant pin thing (it didn’t hurt but felt very weird) and the water really came gushing out. The midwives advised me that baby had done a poo in the water so things would need to be monitored a bit more during and after labour. I was also given a catheter as hadn’t done a wee for quite a while even though I was busting. This is when the contractions really got spicy and I felt really out of it. I remember the room becoming dark as the day progressed, asking Jed to do my hair and then moaning for not styling it correctly (apparently the style wasn’t sporty enough) and asking the midwives to take a break as they ‘deserved a quick break and a sandwich’. Time went really quickly as I clutched onto a tie-dye birthing rope (omm, hippy chick), I’d really had way too much gas of air and air and had no idea what was going on.
At around 5.30pm, the midwives felt things had progressed (probably me shouting “I need to push”) and checked to see if I had dilated any further. We were relieved to hear that I was 10cm and ready to push with the next contraction. After one hour, lots of encouragement from Jed and the midwives, and various gymnastic positions, things weren’t really happening even though I was pushing for Britain. I kept feeling baby’s head coming out but it would pop back in again just as I thought I was almost there. The midwives informed me that I could have 30 minutes more trying to push but if things did not progress I would need to transfer to labour ward for intervention. I asked the midwives if this could happen (I’d really lost hope, energy… and my mind) and when they explained that it would mean forceps or ventous, I suddenly felt an overwhelming strength to push. I was given an episiotomy and within a couple of pushes baby came whizzing out. It turned out that wee cutie-babe had her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck three times, which is why she wasn’t coming out so easily.
We were then given our beautiful baby girl and I have never felt so proud and happy.
Unfortunately things became increasingly blurry at this stage and the midwife said that I was losing a lot of blood and they would keep an eye on this for the next few minutes before calling doctors. I was given an injection to quickly release the placenta as the midwife needed to see where the blood was coming from — the placenta came whizzing out very quickly and I was advised that there were clots on it, but they weren’t sure if this was the cause of the bleeding. I heard words about an emergency and before I knew it a large team of doctors rushed into the room. I was very frightened and Jed looked terrified. I passed Effie to Jed and I was given a drip of Syntocinin to help control bleeding (by shrinking the uterus) and my episiotomy was quickly repaired incase this was causing the bleeding. It turns out I’d lost a litre of blood, no wonder things were so blurry. As quickly as the medical team arrived, they had gone. Before I knew it, it was just me, Jed and the most gorgeous baby in the whole world — Effie Violet.