Monday, July 13, 2009

My birth story: read at your own peril

After reading posts here and here, I've decided to be brave, and possibly stupid, and write down what happened to me in the days leading up to the birth of my son, my birth story! Now this post isn't intended to shock or frighten, and it will not make good reading for pregnant ladies, thanks for your visit, but perhaps turn around now. If you choose to read, remember that my case is really very rare and it won't happen to you. And you'll get your baby in the end, whatever happens. I've found that as a mum, I'm ridiculously interested in people's birth stories, and I feel that sharing mine is like therapy. Plus, if I blog it, I can tell it start to finish without some other mum at a baby group interrupting with "oh, yes, that happened to me, but we did this next..." !

I was in slow, early labour for around two days before things really kicked off. I knew I was in labour (something I was worried about: how will I know?? I just knew) but I didn't tell anyone, I just got my tens machine out and asked HID if we could check how it worked "just in case". I'm glad I did this while I was still in low-level (period type) pain. On the 23rd December at 2am, I could no longer sleep through the pain of contractions (I was possibly being a bit dramatic at this point) and woke HID to help me fit the tens to my back. By 8am, contractions were 5 mins apart, I couldn't "talk" through the pain, and had been that way for an hour. All the signs that birth will happen fairly soon, and the books say to get to hospital. So I rang the maternity ward, and my mum and sister (who I'd planned to support me in labour) and took a few last minute pictures of the bump under the Christmas tree.

The 20 min journey was agony, every bump so uncomfortable. We arrived before mum & sister. The midwives greeted us while I had a contraction, they stated by the look of me, we'd have baby pretty soon! But could we just examine you. Although I didn't want any unnecessary internal exams, I was at a midwife led unit, and these exams were the only way of monitoring me. Nonetheless, I found it SHOCKING how painful I found the exam (this hasn't happened to other women I've asked) and the midwife was horrified and apologetic as I sobbed throughout the exam. The result wasn't even worth it! I was less then 1cm, and advised to go home. The midwives were baffled, as the pain I was in didn't compute with my "progress". But home I went. I knew I was in for a lot of pain at that point, and made the decision to myself that I didn't want my mum and sister to see me in so much pain, and so after then we didn't contact them until the baby was born.

I tried to sleep between contractions, they had slowed by this point. I didn't really get much rest. As the day wore on, I was finding the contractions were sparking off my SPD pain in a big way, and standing was very painful (but anything else was excruciating), and I had my tens cranked to max, and was clinging on to HID, who pushed my hips together ans swayed with me through each contraction, which seemed to help. Most of the pain was in my back. I've since heard that back labours can be more painful. At teatime, without even bothering to get dressed this time (I really didn't care) we headed back to the hospital. I though I'd done really well lasting so long alone at home with my tens! The second internal exam begged to differ, it was as painful as the first (more so, as by this time to lie on my back was very painful) and I was only 3cm. The midwives seemed a bit worried and started to fill the pool for me, and I started on gas & air.

The gas & air didn't really take away the pain, it made me a bit less aware of it though, and I found it most comforting to feel as if I was "actively" relieving my pain by sucking on the mask. I got into the pool and felt better, but still in a lot of pain. As the night continued, I used lots of gas & air (12 cannisters! Plus whatever I had from the supply that runs out of the walls later on). I felt extremely panicky each time a canister ran out and the midwife had to fetch a new one, thinking that I was just barely coping with the current pain, if the gas & air was allowed to wear off, I was beside myself worrying about how painful it would be. The midwife noticed (I had not) that I was indeed taking gas & air constantly, and asked me to just use it during a contraction. This is when I realised that my SPD pain had become so severe it had merged into my contractions, and from about midnight, I was experiencing one long contraction, with no break at all.

I do remember (I was not very with it on all that gas & air) asking HID, who gets bad headaches without proper sleep and regular drinks, how he was over and over in between puffs of the mask. The midwife found this amusing and told me to concentrate on what I was doing! After 4 hours, it was the unit's policy to get me out of the pool unless I was ready to push. I tried to buy time by asking what it would feel like (the words of a woman who is nowhere near ready to push), and it took them half an hour to coax me out of the pool. The pain increase was instant as I got out, the midwife picked up on this and gently offered more pain relief, even though I'd said I wanted a drug-free labour. I said no, and she said she would examine me to see how long I might have yet to go, as I may reconsider. It took her another 30 mins to convince me to lie on the bed (it was agony to lay on my back) and she confirmed I had a long way to go. I tearfully accepted the pethidine, and asked how long it would take to work. "About 15 minutes". Fifteen minutes later, I was howling at said midwife that it wasn't working.....and it never did. 40 minutes later, she sat me down and gently said: "here at our unit, we don't recommend epidurals. However, I recommend you get an epidural. The ambulance to the hospital is on the way." I could have wept with relief.

The journey was slow and very uncomfortable: a belt was fastened around my middle and I hated it. I remember thinking: "I'll probably not get to go in an ambulance again, and I'm not in danger right now, just labour, I should enjoy the ride!" What was I thinking of?? HID later told me that for some reason, they stopped at every traffic light on the 3.30 in the morning. Why?

In hindsight, I think I started pushing in the ambulance. When I arrived at the hospital, the midwife examined me and told me it was too late for an epidural (the journey must have speeded things up) and did I feel like pushing. Well, you could not have paid me a million pounds to stop myself from pushing! Something completely primal and animalistic came over me, and I finally felt in control of my labour again, I could see the end, and I was running full pelt towards it. The midwife, strangely, after all they go on about in "parentcraft" classes, attempted to lay me on my back. In a state no longer fit for communication, I would have complied (and endured agony in my back), but HID stepped in and insisted I give birth on all fours, like I'd planned if I wasn't in the pool. He had listened! All that time I spent preparing him had really paid off, and saved the day. I sucked more gas & air from the mask and looked at HID with eyes that said "help me, I need you". Tears silently poured down his face. I was glad I hadn't put my mum through this.

Somewhere in the fug of too much gas & air, I heard the midwife say: "the harder you work, the quicker the baby will be born!" So I (stupidly) thought, right, sod waiting for contractions, I'll just push! So from then on, I pushed with all my might pausing only to breathe. I could feel, and HID told me, that the head was slipping back each time a contraction ended. This was devastating, undoing all my hard work. So I worked harder, and stopped noticing the pain so much. I can honestly say I almost enjoyed the pushing stage. At least I was "doing" something to end it all! At some point, my waters broke, and the midwives said there had been meconium, and the baby will need to be taken away, possibly to be resuscitated, straight away. I was thankful they had told me in advance, so I didn't panic. A clip was put on his head.

The baby was born after less than an hour's pushing, at 4.20am. The midwife tried to get me to sit back on my heels to see him, but all I could think about was the mess!! I'm not sitting in all that mess!! Baby was fine, and they laid me down, and he latched straight on to my breast to feed, perfect. He had lots of black hair, we'd expected red, like HID's! And I think we were a bit shocked he was a boy too, although we'd never said out loud we had thought it was a girl. But it was like, who are you?? The placenta was born, I felt a sensation of relief and there it was.

They seemed to think I had torn (I had no real sensation or brain functioning at this point), so my legs were put in stirrups and HID took the baby while I was examined. I remember telling him to take off his t-shirt, so the baby could have more skin to skin contact! The doctor started to examine me. I screamed! It was the worst pain I'd EVER felt, and I'd just delivered a baby. I was told to use gas & air. I breathed in and SCREAMED out and breathed in and SCREAMED out.....they decided they couldn't examine me without anesthetic, so I was prepared for theatre,and had an epidural. (Bit late for that!). HID was left with the baby, while I chatted easily with the staff, I'm not sure it had hit me that I'd just become a mother.

I was awake for the procedure, but I asked if they minded that I sleep, as I couldn't feel a thing, so I slept while they repaired my 3rd degree tear for four hours. (Third degree tear means, don't read if you don't wish to know, that I was left with just one hole, instead of a vagina and anus, just a big gaping hole). In the recovery room, the nurse let me use the phone to call my mum. She was also on her mobile talking to HID! She was ecstatic.

I was wheeled onto the ward. I don't remember being re-united with the baby and HID, but I must have been! I was the only one in the ward (which was for c-section patients), and I had to wear special electronic boots to keep my circulation going. Family came to see me (the midwives didn't bother too much that they were too early, of that there were loads of them, as it was Christmas eve). We had two names for a boy, one decided on a whim a few days before. My mum asked me his name. HID and I hadn't discussed it, but we looked at one another and said his name in unison, the one we'd liked all along. Mum cried, she loved it, everyone did.

My post - partum story in a post to follow....



At 9:13 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have read, even though I hesitated after the first paragraph and glad I did. Although your story sounds horrific, and that third degree tear made me clench, I think your story also shows strength and that no matter how hard things are, you survived. It fills me with hope as I am shitting myself! Thanks for sharing xx

At 10:08 pm , Blogger SandyCalico said...

Oh you poor thing. I've got tears streaming down my face. I hope writing it down has helped you to come to terms with what happened.
I think this would help me too, but I'm not ready yet.
My first birth was similar in some ways to yours. It was traumatic and I went straight to surgery afterwards too, different reason though. My baby went to special care.
But and this is a BIG BUT my second labour (362 days later) was great. It was still painful but a much better experience and quicker too.
Sending you (((HUGS))) x

At 2:04 am , Blogger smallworldmum said...

That is just harrowing - poor you and well done! I was TERRIFIED of tearing and was completely fixated on it throughout my labour but was lucky that I didn't. I could not bear the thought to letting the midwives examine me and so it was quick a surprise when they saw the baby crowning after telling me there was hours yet ;)

At 4:47 am , Blogger geekymummy said...

Oh wow, what an ordeal, but how well you write about it. My very good friend had back labour, and described it exactly as you did, not a break between contractions. It sounds horrendous. It seems odd that a birth center would have to send you across town for an epidural, they may not "believe in it", but it must be the best option in some cases, like yours.

They do say that riding in a bumpy car can help labour progress!

At 12:55 pm , Blogger Cave Mother said...

It sounds like you coped SO WELL with a really hard labour. You went through all that and didn't get an epidural! You mut be a very strong person and I'm sure your next labour will be a breeze ini comparison.

At 6:21 pm , Blogger amy said...

you coped so well with that birth well done you!!! i had a slow labour with my 4th baby but i kept going just like you and i got there in the end xxx

At 7:51 am , Blogger allgrownup said...

Thank you all so much for your comments. I'm glad you "enjoyed" reading it, I think I needed to write it! I told HID I may for get in years to come, so I wanted to write it down, he just looked at me and said: not bloody likely"! His memories of the even are much worse than mine, as he wasn't high on gas&air & pethadine! I almost hired a doula: I wish I had now, I think she would have been better than HID at keeping me focused. I recommend writing your story down ladies: look at all this lovely sympathy you get! Ha ha.

At 8:56 pm , Blogger clareybabble said...

WOW I feel like I had the best labours in the world now! Thank you for sharing your story. I agree with Mrs OMG that you are so strong to have coped with that birth xx

At 12:52 pm , Blogger Coding Mamma (Tasha) said...

Thank you for sharing that. Definitely a very traumatic and difficult birth for you. I do hope birth Number 2 is much better!

I think it does help to go through it, whether in writing or talking about it. I was shocked to find myself in tears when I was discussing Rosemary's birth with my midwife at my booking-in. I thought I'd come to terms with all the issues - the end result was most important. Because she ended up in SCBU, too, I think that overshadowed (understandably) the problems with the birth itself. Am plannig to write mine down, soon, too, as I think it will be useful in the run-up to Eleanor's birth.

At 10:25 am , Anonymous ella said...

I had three 'difficult' births but the fourth was almost perfect so there is always hope!

I really enjoyed reading this and glad you were both safe and well in the end.

At 7:52 am , Blogger Laura C said...

I just stumbled across this post and have to say you were so brave! Well done you! You obviously had fantastic support from your OH too. Hopefully you'll have an easier labour this time round!

At 10:54 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have read your birth story and your postpartum story. I had some simularities with my first birth in that I too ended up with a third degree tear after a forceps delivery. I was lucky and recovered well. The reason for my comment is that I wanted to tell you that I went on to have 2 more children, both by c-section and from reading your blog I know you have been worried about it. Don't be. I was only in hospital 48 hours afterwards both times and was able to breastfeed both of them sucessfully. ( I wasn't able to after my first birth as like you sitting down was agony and my baby was very sleepy- probably from all the drugs I had in labour)
In my second pregnancy I also had SPD, so my heart goes out to you. Good luck with baby no2, you deserve it :)

At 7:58 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow - that was like reading my own experiences. I had back to back labour, was sent back home like you, finally allowed gas and air and a birth pool. Pulled out when no baby appeared in time (I kept faking contractions to get off the steps out of the pool back into the water cos I was so scared of getting out lol!).

I was then on continuous fetal monitoring as his heart beat was too fast (or slow - I forget), I pushed and he kept going back and forth like yours, but the little blighter got stuck after I delivered his head. The panic button was pushed and it was like ER - everyone and the cleaner shot in to grab my legs and wrap them bheind my ears to ease the shoulders out!

After I gave birth they tried to examine me, and like you I hit the roof and was taken to theatre, given an epidural after giving birth and had my third degree tear stitched up. I vowed never to have another child - and had one less than two years later!


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