“See you on Wednesday…possibly!” I said to my Dad as we left my parents’ house on Sunday 18th September. He was free on Wednesday morning to come and swap our old leaking radiator to a new one we’d bought to replace it.
Wednesday morning came round and I still hadn’t gone into labour…or had I? I’d been having strange pains for weeks and could never get comfortable anymore. The night before, I’d got an absolute maximum of 2 hours sleep as I’d had intense pain in my thighs which was worse when I was laying down. The sleep I eventually got was when I propped myself up with some pillows.
As my Dad swapped the radiator over, I was still in pain, but every so often I kept having an increase in pain. When it happened, I found it hard to stay sitting and kept bouncing on my gym ball or doing lunges, stretching my legs. I heard my Dad and husband in the nursery talking about where I wanted the mobile to go. I waddled very slowly up the stairs to make sure that if they were putting it where I wanted it. My Dad started to talk to me and I could barely listen or respond, another wave of pain hit me again and I did lunges until it went away.
This continued and despite trying to have a nap, I couldn’t sleep through the pain in my legs. In the late afternoon I decided that I’d put off having a bath to soothe the pain in my legs long enough. Upstairs I went and ran a nice warm bath and got a book. I laid back in the water and started to relax and read my book. I felt so much better for being in there. A couple of hours later Dave came upstairs and said I’d been in the bath for ages. I said that I knew, but I was feeling so much better than when I wasn’t in the bath that I was staying in there for as long as possible.
An hour or so later, Dave told me that it was getting late and we really should have some dinner. “I don’t really feel like eating”, I said, “I feel like I just want to stay in the bath”. We didn’t really have any food in the house and he had to go and buy some. “Just get some cream crackers, some cheese and some grapes”, I told him. “You can’t just have cheese, crackers and grapes for dinner!” he said. I was stubborn and told him that was the only thing I felt like having and that was what I wanted.
Playing Pokemon Go in the bath while I waited for my husband to come back from the supermarket, I caught a Mr. Mime. “Hmmm, this pain is getting worse again”, I thought. When my husband came home he said “You’ve been in the bath for hours! You’ve got to get out sometime!” I agreed and got out and dried myself. When I got downstairs he’d made my cheese and crackers with some grapes on the side. I used my laptop and started to eat them, but I was in a lot of discomfort. I felt like I couldn’t sit still.
As I tried to watch the TV, I was becoming more uncomfortable. I had a hot water bottle for the pain in my lower back and kept bouncing on the gym ball, but none of it was helping anymore. “I don’t know if I’m in labour”, I said to my husband, “I’ve had lots of false alarms so I’m not sure, but it is only two days until my due date”. We let it go on for a little longer before phoning the hospital to see what they said. I seemed to be having contractions for between 3 and 7 minutes, with varying times of 2 to 5 minutes between them.
“It does sound like you might be in the early stages”, a midwife at the other end of the phone said, “it’s up to you – you can come into hospital now and we can examine you, or you can stay at home for a bit”. I decided to stay at home. “I still don’t know if I’m actually in labour”, I said to Dave, but contacted our excited parents on Facebook messenger telling them that I might be in labour. Things escalated very quickly, almost from the moment I phoned the hospital. They got more painful, but I tried to use my hypnobirthing techniques to breathe through them and do visualisations. I told myself that I was strong and that my body knew what it was doing.
Eventually I got to the point where I wanted to get back in the bath again, it got to the point where I needed the pain relief of the warm water. As it was running I was still saying that I wasn’t sure I really was in labour. Then I had a really strong ‘surge’ as it’s called in hypnobirth (the ‘c’ in the word contraction means the word sounds negative, so calmer sounding words are used). Gritted teeth, I managed to crawl onto the bed and held a couple of wooden slats on the headboard really tightly and tried to do breathing through it. “Erm, ok, I think I’m definitely in labour”, I said to Dave, once I was able to speak again. “You don’t say!” he replied sarcastically.
When I got in the bath, I got Dave to read some of the positive mantras and visualisations form the hypnobirth book, which I found helpful. The surges were coming in thick and fast, lasting 5 to 6 minutes, with a gap of about 2 minutes in between (although it didn’t feel that long!) As it progressed, I found it harder to do the breathing and visualisations. I got to the point where it was really painful and I didn’t feel able to do anything to help it anymore. I took a paracetamol and Dave gave me the phone to ring the hospital while I was between contractions. I told them my name and started confidently, “I spoke to one of the midwives earlier, I think I’m in the early stages of labour and…” At that point the next surge started and I couldn’t talk, I think I was probably making groaning noises though as Dave took over the phone and the midwife could tell from my noises that I was ready to go into the hospital.
Suddenly, I felt nervous. I didn’t want to leave my home, my comfort! I’d decided to have a hospital birth though, as if anything did go wrong I wanted to be in hospital. Dave persuaded me to get out of the bath and helped me to dry myself. I only managed to get knickers on before the next surge started. “Get the gym ball!” I half screamed at him, poor man. I put it in the corner of the landing, got on all fours and started rocking forwards with the help of it (labour is so glamorous – if you’re reading this and you’re pregnant though, I definitely recommend that position!) When it got too painful like that, I swapped to leaning forwards on a chair and slightly rocking. Then when that got too bad, I swapped back to the gym ball. In one moment of clarity between contractions I thought “Wow, I barely slept last night and I have had no sleep tonight. This is going to be a long night. I’m so exhausted already and this has barely started – I’ve got to get this baby round the bendy bit and out first. I wonder how long that’s going to take!”
Eventually, it got to the point where my breathing and rocking wasn’t helping me enough, so I asked Dave to put the TENS machine on me. I must have gone between the chair and the gym ball for another hour and a half – my contractions getting more and more intense and I maxed out the TENS machine. I’d got Dave to put more TENS pads on me at some point and I was almost maxing out on all of them.
“You’ve got to put something on, we’ve got to go to the hospital!” Dave said. “I will when I’m ready!” I said. Dave looked desperate, I think he was convinced I was going to end up having the baby there because he couldn’t get me to get dressed or move away from my gym ball or the chair! In between contractions I eventually managed to tell him to get my stretchy red dress. “What about a bra?” he asked. “DO YOU REALLY THINK I CARE ABOUT A BRA RIGHT NOW?” I half shouted, “You’re such an idiot! How is that even helpful? You’re stressing me out!” (Oops, I feel bad in hindsight – he was a brilliant birth partner! However, in my defence I was in a lot of pain and what seemed like a huge lack of sense from him was annoying me!) “Okay, okay”, he said, helping me into the dress.
“Right, go downstairs”, he told me. I ignored him and carried on going between my gym ball and chair. If someone had taken that ball away from me, I would probably have caused them serious harm! It was like my comfort blanket, I needed it. Eventually, it got to the point where I managed to have a tiny moment of clarity and asked Dave to help me downstairs. “Bring the ball”, I said to him. “But…you can’t bring the ball in the car with you, you won’t be able to use it!” he replied. Just then I managed to get the word ‘ball’ out, gesturing in its general direction, just before going into another huge contraction. He brought it down and I rocked on it by the front door. I managed to point up the stairs towards the chair at the top of them. “What? Stairs?” he said. “No”, I managed to grunt and pointed again. “I don’t know what you want!” he said. I rocked on the gym ball in pain and desperation; I wanted to lean forwards on the chair through this one!
After the contraction had finished I said “I was pointing at the chair, you idiot! How did you not know that? Why would I just be pointing randomly at the stairs?!” (Wow, note to self: I’m such a cow when I’m in pain). Dave brought the chair down after I pleaded with him and I spent a few minutes going between the chair by the front door and rocking on my gym ball. I then managed to move my gym ball into the living room and asked Dave to put my trainers on for me while I rocked on it. I was almost maxed out on the TENS machine now. I got a tiny break between contractions and said to Dave “Quick, let’s go!”, knowing that if we didn’t go right then we were never going to! “Bring the ball!” I said. He tried to object again, but I insisted that I wanted it. I would have rocked on that gym ball on the side of the motorway if I felt I needed to! I didn’t care.
I put the heated seat on when I got into the car and continued doing my breathing. I vaguely remember looking at the street lights on the motorway and the lorries we passed, everything felt so surreal. My contractions had eased off a little while we were in the car, but as soon as we got out of the car another one hit me and I held onto the car while Dave got my bags out. Although it was about 4am and he’d parked in the nearest available space to the entrance to the hospital, it looked such a long walk for me! Dave helped me into the entrance of the hospital, where I found the wheelchairs. I vaguely remember Dave pushing me along and a couple of people staring at me. Goodness’ knows what people thought. I must have looked a mess – no makeup, no bra and sunglasses! In hypnobirth classes they said some women find it helpful wearing sunglasses when they arrive at the hospital as it gives them anonymity.
I remember Dave pushing me into a lift and vaguely thinking “I hope this thing doesn’t get stuck!” I was now on the absolute maximum level of the TENS machine. When I got to the maternity triage, a nurse looked at me and told me to go and do a urine sample. Dave pushed me over to the door. I didn’t want to be left – and I was in pain, how was I meant to stay standing and manage to have the coordination to try and get my arm and a pot under my bump and in the right place? Somehow I managed it and waddled into the room Dave had been told to wait in. “Sit there”, Dave said, pointing to the bed. “No, I can’t, I can’t get up there” I said. I felt like I needed to sit on the chair and lean forwards like I had at home. The first chair was too soft (haha I sound like Goldilocks) and the second was a bit better, I sat on it and leaned forwards through a contraction. A passing nurse asked if I could sit on the edge of the bed, so I did. “I can’t sit up here”, I said to Dave in a brief break. “I need to be on all fours, rocking on a gym ball or something”.
After what felt like far too long of me struggling to sit still and having contractions, a midwife came in and examined me. 7cm dilated!!!! “Are you a hypnobirther?” she asked. I told her I was. “I thought so”, she said. Apparently hypnobirthers get a lot further before coming into the hospital than non-hypnobirthers. She took my blood pressure and said it was a bit high. “We need to get you into the delivery ward”, she said. “But our birth plan is for the birth centre”, Dave replied. “Hmm, I don’t know”, the midwife said. “I have anxiety”, I said, “and I’ve just had a contraction. If I get myself a bit calmer, it might not be so high”. She took it again and it was much better. “I’ll go and speak to the birth centre and see if it’s ok and see if they have any room”, she said, “would you like some gas and air?” I jumped at the chance.
Wow, the gas and air was amazing, I really needed it. Dave laughed at me as I started on it and began to feel light-headed. He filmed me in anticipation of me saying random things, which I did – I told him he had a nice bum! Eventually the midwife who would be looking after me came to get me. The birthing pool had just been vacated, so they needed to clean it and then I could go in there but I had to wait in another room first. I remember saying to the midwife “Oh, I’m glad it’s you! I remember you from when I was here in August and you were really nice!” Then I said to the other midwife who had given me the gas and air “Not that you’re not nice, you’re really nice too! Thank you for helping me!” I also remember apologising to the midwife that was going to be assisting me that in advance, I was really sorry if I swore! (After asking Dave about it, it turns out that I only swore once, at one point saying “Fuck this, this is shit!” I have no recollection of this!)
In the room waiting, things seemed to intensify ten-fold. I was rocking on the gym ball on the floor with the gas and air when the midwife noticed my lips were dry from it and put my strawberry lip balm on me. I had no idea my lips were dry and I didn’t care! The smell of strawberry lip balm takes me back to that moment though. I flopped over the chair in the room, just writhing around on it for ages, not knowing what to do with myself. I flopped one way, then another. I vaguely heard Dave saying “What are you doing?” and laughing, but it was like I was in a different place. I eventually got a small break and saw the sunrise through a window. “Is it sunrise?” I said. “Yes, it is” the midwife replied. “That’s nice, it’s pretty!” I said. After what seemed like an age, the room with the birthing pool was finally ready. I couldn’t wait to get there! Dave and the midwife helped me hobble along the corridor to the room.
I was having another contraction by the time I got to the pool. “I think you’re really going to like this”, the midwife said to me. I was marching on the spot as Dave and the midwife helped to get my clothes and TENS machine off of me. I couldn’t wait to get in. I can’t remember a lot of my time in the birthing pool, I was having such strong contractions. I was flailing around at some points, occasionally doing little screams and Dave was having to keep my head above the water. I remember thinking I didn’t care if I drowned, at least it’d end the pain! It was only when the midwife said that I’d have to get out if I didn’t get a grip of myself that something inside me clicked and I managed to keep control of myself better. The pool noodle she gave me slightly helped too.
After about an hour and a half of being in the pool, I felt like I needed to push. “No!” said Dave when I told him, “Don’t push!” “But I need to!” I said angrily. When you get that urge, you need to and nobody is stopping you! The midwife wasn’t in the room, but when she came back less than a minute later she said it was fine. I continued to push and apparently my waters broke (I wasn’t aware of it at all). The midwives swapped over at 8am and I remember being introduced to the midwife who was now going to be assisting me. I managed to squeak out a short “Hi” before gritting my teeth and pushing again – the look on her face was quite comical!
“This baby had better almost be out, this hurts so much”, I thought, the midwife examining me a while later. “The baby is just coming round the bend”, she said, “just one or two more pushes and it’ll be round the trickiest bit”. After four or five pushes, (I felt cross thinking that she’d lied to me on purpose), the baby was around the bend. “Not long until you meet your baby”, the midwife said to me, “just a few more pushes!” I was on a mission, now that I knew it was so close to meeting the baby and so close to this pain being over, I kept having sips of juice then putting all my energy into pushing. Eventually, the head crowned. Ouch, that stang! I knew I didn’t have to push much more before the rest of the baby came out. “One more push!” the midwife said. I pushed. “One more!” she said. I pushed again. After four or five pushes, the rest of the baby came out.
I was in shock that it was finally over. “It’s a girl!” my husband said to me, passing her to me through my legs. Now I was even more shocked, the whole pregnancy I was convinced that she was a boy! I looked at her covered in vernix, her big wide eyes and her tongue poking out at me. I was in love, she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Everyone was right. All the discomfort of pregnancy and all the pain of labour was worth it.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my birth story – I was lucky that my birth mostly followed my birth plan. I didn’t manage to focus on the hypnobirth as much as I’d have liked to have done, (it was one of my husband’s jobs to try and get me to keep doing it but I think it just slipped to the wayside). However, I’d still say it was a very positive birth and my husband was a fantastic birthing partner. Autumn’s heartbeat was great throughout – she was very calm and at one point her heartbeat suggested she was excited! That made me smile, I was excited to meet her too. When she came out, she was still calm – she didn’t even cry.
Oh, and here’s a photo of Autumn fresh out of the oven!
Did you have a waterbirth or use a TENS machine? I’d love to hear your birth stories below!