A bit of a long one, so grab yourself a cuppa and if you make it to the end you deserve a medal..!
My littlest is now one month old and I am finally in a position to be able to sit down for more than a minute to be able to write about something I have really, really wanted to think about and document on my blog; all about the labour and birth of Little Luca. I documented my pregnancy through weekly bump updates, and I really surprised myself at how I stuck to documenting it so religiously each week. It was such an astonishingly different experience to the birth of LO and so I also felt it might help or reassure people who have, like me, had a previous traumatic birth experience...
My Previous Birth Experience
Really, for it to make sense, my labour and birth story starts two and a half years ago with the birth of LO. I wasn't blogging back then and so never documented it, but it is still very much etched in my mind. I won't go into great detail but I went 2 weeks overdue and had to be induced. While the induction process worked immediately, it was a very long and very painful labour (33 hours or thereabouts). I ended up having a traumatic forceps delivery in theatre and an hour after he was born, LO was rushed off to intensive care while we slept as they discovered he had pneumonia and needed to be placed on oxygen and put in an incubator. I wasn't well afterwards and felt very traumatised for a long time, to the point of thinking I wouldn't be able to go through it all again.
Fast forward to 2015 when we found out we were to be blessed with another gorgeous baby and a sibling for LO, due New Year's Day 2016. Towards the middle of the 3rd trimester, we had meetings with a consultant to discuss birth options as both us and the hospital felt we needed to have a bit of a plan to avoid the terrible experience we had when LO was born. It was decided that induction was not the route for me as I didn't respond well to it last time, so the options (if I went overdue) were to have a series of stretch & sweeps, to have a Caesarian or to go for daily monitoring. I was just desperate to go into labour naturally, but would obviously do whatever it took for him to arrive in the safest way possible.
Stretch & Sweep
I had fantastic communication with my midwife and it was decided that at 39 weeks, I would have a stretch and sweep- this is earlier than offered normally, but they wanted to give me every possible chance to go into labour and avoid going overdue. I came out and felt confused as to why it hadn't even felt remotely uncomfortable, knowing how horrid it was when I had one with LO. Needless to say it had no effect at all, and on I went to reach 40 weeks on Friday 1st January (due date). I knew he wouldn't arrive then, and knew from previous experience not to get too disheartened when my due date came and went.
I was booked in for a second stretch and sweep on the Monday (4th January). I went to the doctors surgery for my 3:20 appointment, and was slightly surprised to see it was my old midwife from when I had LO. She did the sweep, and my goodness was it uncomfortable. I clung onto the bed and had tears rolling down my face- she was pretty brutal shall we say, but she was so keen to get things going. I felt pretty tearful all the way home, and said to Mr F I just wanted to be on my own and go for a walk in the rain. My mother in law was about so came along with me as Mr F didn't want me wandering about in the dark on my own in my state!
Contractions and the start of early labour
I got back and we sat down to eat dinner at 6:30pm. I started to get a few twinges in my belly, but it wasn't anything painful and I just figured it was cramps from the stretch and sweep. These mild pains seemed to come every 20 minutes or so, but we refused to believe they were amounting to anything. I had downloaded the full term contraction counter on my iPhone and the first contraction I recorded was at 20:44 which lasted 1 minute 15. I then had another at 20:56, so although not at regular intervals, I was definitely getting mild pains. So mild that I decided to tidy the house and clean the kitchen just in case I went into labour. I didn't want the house to be left in a state (clearly I was in the very very early stages!). I also remember feeling very emotional as I packed LO's nursery bag for the morning and left it on the table for him in case I wasn't there when he left in the morning.
I bounced on my ball all evening and just chilled our watching TV, and stood up and walked around when I got a feeling in my belly. I still didn't want to get my hopes up that it was labour though, so I didn't make a massive deal of it, particularly as I don't think they were painful at this point. Mr F decided it would be a good idea to call our mums to warn them to be on standby 'just in case'. He gathered all the hospital bag bits and the car seat and off we went to bed. By this point, the twinges were becoming more noticeable, much more regular and more painful and I really couldn't get to sleep. They were every 10 minutes and by around midnight I decided enough was enough and I took myself downstairs as I didn't want to wake Mr F, knowing he would need his energy for when we were at the hospital. I sat and tried to watch some YouTube videos (mostly Channel Mum videos and videos on how to have a pain free birth!) but I really couldn't concentrate.
By 1:45am I was getting contractions every 2.5- 3 minutes and decided to text Mr F upstairs. I heard him literally jump out of bed, trip over something and dash downstairs. He called the hospital and without even needing to speak to me they asked us to come down to the hospital. He then called my mum and asked her to come over to look after LO overnight. She drove over and our lovely neighbours came by to sit in the house until she arrived. The weather was so cold and rainy and I felt so horrible waiting in the mist and dark outside our house while Mr F got the car out. It really was one of those mad middle of the night dashes to the hospital that you see on films, complete with some pretty fast driving and a very uncomfortable stretch of speed humps...
At the hospital...
Mr F pretty much did a hand break turn into the hospital car park (I think he thought he was actually in a film... it's not every day you get to drive your wife to hospital in labour!) and once we'd finally found a door which was unlocked into the hospital we made our way to the lovely new birth centre at Bradford Royal Infirmary. Luckily, it was really quiet and when we arrived at 2:15am they put us in the biggest and best room in the centre- the 'Isla Grace' suite. A room split into two sections with a propped up bed and a huge water pool, bean bag and plastic baby cot in the other section. Although in a lot of pain, I immediately felt relaxed and over the moon that I was actually in the birth centre, having not been able to come to it when I had LO.
The midwife Helen and student midwife Amy examined me on arrival and although they said I wasn't in active labour, because I was having strong contractions they would give me paracetamol and see how I progressed over the next couple of hours. I bounced on the ball, but every time I got a contraction I felt the need to stand and lean on the bed. It was such horrible pain and I was getting to the point of shouting in agony.
To my disappointment, when they checked me again at about 4am, they said I still wasn't yet 'in active labour', just having strong contractions. I wasn't really sure what this meant, but felt utterly disappointed when they said I wasn't dilating and that they might have to send me home. I think they felt sorry for me and knew of my previous experience, but as they weren't busy, they said I could keep the room and suggested I take a bath in the normal bath tub across the corridor. Although not the birth pool, it was lovely and clean and modern, with purple lights in the ceiling. The water was soothing but the contractions were bloody painful by this point- I just remember clinging to the side of the pool- my hands looking like I was on a white knuckle ride. I remember saying to Mr F that I definitely wouldn't be having any more children, saying 'I don't think I can go through this again'.
I got out of the bath tub and they examined me on the bed at around 6am. I was so ecstatic when they said I was now in active labour as I had dilated to 5cm. They said I could finally have gas and air and it was the best feeling ever. I'd never been offered it with LO so it was a total novelty and I think I had a bit too much at first. I felt so so drunk, my vision went blurry and I sort of fell asleep. I literally felt like I'd been out drinking shots all night, but without the sick feeling.
The gas and air became my absolute favourite thing, my best friend. It really really helped me cope with these awful contractions and I felt like I was finally in control. I can only describe it as feeling like I was riding on a wave with each contraction. I was even able to have a few moments of giggling with Mr F, and I was a much more pleasant person to be around. Although I hadn't had it in my birth plan, the midwives filled the birth pool and suggested I might like to try it (even though I was technically classed as 'high risk' due to having a haemorrhage with LO, they said I could go in, and as long as I agreed to get straight out afterwards due to my rhesus negative blood type). I was so over the moon as it's what I'd always truly wanted. It was lovely and surprisingly warm, very comforting and also quite private as you're under the water.
I was very tired and weak with low levels of insulin and ketones were building up in my body so I sat in the water sipping on Lucozade and eating chocolate chip Nutri Grain bars which was amazing and it was just the energy boost I needed. I sat in the pool in this way for 4 hours, managing my contractions on just gas and air and I felt pretty comfortable- a total difference from how I was just a few hours previously. Between 8 and 8:30am the shift changed over and we got a new midwife (another Helen) and a new student midwife called Kelly. They were both so lovely and Kelly stayed with us the entire time (If you're due to give birth I'd highly recommend requesting to have a student midwife as they really are amazing- they're supernumerary and so you get an extra member of staff with you the whole time). She also told me this was the first water birth she was to experience so was very excited about it.
At 9am Mr F had to go and move the car and was outside running about panicking as he couldn't find a parking space. By the time he got back the midwife had decided that if I wasn't dilated enough they would break my waters artificially. I was only 6cm because there was a big bag of waters in the way of baby's head so I wasn't progressing. So at 10:05am they broke my waters and it felt pretty weird and there was a hell of a lot of water! I got back in the pool and the next part becomes a bit of a blur to me. I think around 10:30 it all started to kick off. I remember having a total panic where I kept saying 'I can't do it, I can't do it'. With LO, I had to have an epidural and pushed for 2 hours before having forceps, but of course couldn't feel anything. I was panicking about how painful it might be to push the baby out, and that I wouldn't know what to do, but the midwife reassured me that my body would take over. And of course it did...
I think I was pushing for about 45 minutes to an hour. I just kept topped up on gas and air and let my body take over.. I was amazed at how the midwives let me do it myself without intervention. I finally he was born in the water at 11:24am weighing 7lbs 9oz/ It was the most amazing feeling to scoop him up out of the water myself.
The final hurdle
I literally gave birth and stood up and climbed out, walked to the bed and was really lucky in that I didn't need any stitches. The final, and most traumatic hurdle was the placenta bit. I had the injection but after over an hour of pushing, I couldn't deliver it. The umbilical cord had broken off and I ended up with a retained placenta. My heart sank when they said I might need to go to theatre, but thankfully, with a lot of help from a midwife I delivered it naturally.
After that little bit of drama, the next few hours were so plain sailing and relaxed. Once we were by ourselves Mr F and I named him, and spent all afternoon just staring at our beautiful new son in his little hospital crib. They said we could have a 6 hour discharge, so just before we left, grandparents came for a quick visit, we signed paperwork and we left by 7pm. I felt quite strange leaving the same day, it was almost as if nothing had happened, and so different to my experience with LO when we were in fir two weeks.
The whole experience made me understand a few birth misconceptions too- if you're induced once it doesn't necessarily mean you'll be induced again, and it is possible to have a pleasant experience and be able to move on after having a previous traumatic birth. Although very painful, I actually really enjoyed the whole experience. It was truly amazing, the staff were wonderful and even now as I write this, I feel so emotional. I am so pleased I have written about my experience as it really is a moment in time I never want to forget. The day met our beautiful second child and gave LO a baby brother.
Here are a few iPhone photos...