I wanted to write this for a while, but it wasn’t something I could write immediately, and it wasn’t something I was sure about sharing, but here goes. I apologise, it’s a bit of a long one!
Dougie’s due date was September 8th, a date that stuck out whenever I looked at a calendar, or if any plans were mentioned, I’d think of the dates only in relation to my due date. I knew the statistics, only 5% of babies are actually born on their due date, and typically first babies are late. I’d been a late baby, and so was Sam, and apparently that means Dougie was also likely to be late.
The day before I gave birth. I was not loving life.
I went for my 40-week check and the midwife said she would be astounded if I didn’t give birth within a couple of days. At 41 weeks there was still no sign, I tried all the labour-inducing tricks, but nothing seemed to work. I was told I’d be induced on Monday 19th Sept if he hadn’t arrived by then. On Friday 16th Sept, we went for a ridiculously long walk with our dog, and Sam made me a yummy dinner. We went to bed and then I woke up just after midnight feeling very odd. I realised I was bleeding, so I panicked and called the hospital. I wasn’t having contractions but I hadn’t felt Dougie move, and usually he was pretty energetic, so they told me to come in to be on the safe side. I remember really apologetically waking Sam up and saying something like: “Sorry to wake you up, I don’t want to worry you but I think I need to go to the hospital…”
When we arrived I was checked over, they said I wasn’t in labour yet but my blood pressure was a bit high so they were going to keep me in to make sure everything was okay. We were given a bed and we tried to get some sleep. Within a couple of hours though, my contractions started, they weren’t too bad at first, but got noticeably stronger very quickly. I was so tired; I was literally dozing off for a couple of minutes in between each contraction.
I had really wanted a waterbirth, originally I had been told that I may not be able to as I was classed as high-risk, but around midday, I was allowed to go to one of the birthing suites. I was seriously impressed by the room I was given; it was a lovely spacious room with a view over London and a mural of a sunrise on the wall. While I was waiting for the pool to be ready, my Mum popped in to see me – she’d been going to come and visit me that day anyway and she kindly offered to look after our dog while we were at the hospital, but it was so lovely to see her. The midwife filled the pool with warm water and I got in, and for the first time in about 12 hours, I was semi-comfortable. I was sitting in the pool, using gas and air during the contractions (Sam kindly tested the gas and air out to make sure it was all working correctly…) and I remember wondering how long it was going to take – now we were just…waiting. Painfully so. Sam had brought me a pair of goggles to put on while I was in the water, for no reason other than entertainment! The midwife left us alone, so for a while it was just Sam & I. It was very surreal.
(See, during labour, Sam genuinely gave me some goggles to put on for comedy value…)
After about half an hour, something changed and I told Sam I felt like I needed to push. The midwife didn’t seem bothered, I hadn’t been very far along when I got into the water, so she said she’d check me at about 1:30pm. Around 1:15pm she tried to find Dougie’s heartbeat while I was in the water but couldn’t, so I had to get out of the water. She still couldn’t find it, and after checking me over, she realised that Dougie was very much on his way. My waters still hadn’t broken, so she broke them for me, which was a very weird sensation. As soon as she broke them, she realised Dougie had poo’d in them, it’s fairly common but it meant I couldn’t have a waterbirth and it can be a sign that the baby is distressed. She STILL couldn’t find his heartbeat so she called for assistance. I was lying on a stupid beanbag on the floor, she was telling me to push, then the phone rang and she told me to “hold on a sec” while she answered…
Suddenly the room was full of people and I was being told to get onto a trolley so I could be moved as they needed to monitor Dougie. Also, being told to get up off a beanbag is hard enough as it is, let alone while being in active labour, and also being ginormous. I was whizzed through the corridors to a delivery room, all I remember was lights flashing past, and panicking about where Sam was because his jumper was the same colour as the doctors scrubs and I couldn’t see him.
As soon as I was in the delivery room, they put a proper monitor on me (the midwife before had just been using a handheld one called a Doppler) and immediately they found Dougie’s heartbeat. I was told that Dougie was coming and that I needed to push when I felt the contraction. This is something that I never really understood, you’re never told HOW to push – the doctor kept saying to push down, I have no clue what I was doing, but I just remember holding Sam’s hand while he reminded me to breathe. I think I was offered paracetemol at some point around this but I didn’t take anything. The gas and air had helped with contractions but I don’t think I even used it during pushing, everything was a blur, I don’t think I would have had the ability to focus on using it at the right time.
I was told at one point not to push because Dougie was coming quickly, but I’d already gathered the energy to do it, which was when I tore I think, although I had no knowledge of this until after Dougie was born. One thing I remember from my NCT classes was that screaming wastes energy, and this was something I had in my head during the whole thing. Sam told me afterwards that he thought the veins in my head were going to burst, but hey, at least I saved my energy for pushing rather than screaming!
I was so tired, so drained, but I just knew I had to keep going. I had been terrified of labour and childbirth, but I had told myself that it was such a tiny part, I’d spent 289 days carrying him inside me, and I knew soon I would be able to properly hold him, and that was what kept me keep going.
Suddenly Dougie was here, but he wasn’t crying. I saw them clamp and cut the cord, which is something I was told they wouldn’t do – they were supposed to give him straight to me, I didn’t understand why I wasn’t holding my baby. They ran him round to a table to my left, all I saw was a swollen blue bundle, who wasn’t making a noise. That was when everything hit me, and I’ve never been so scared. It felt like an eternity but it was probably less than 30 seconds and I heard a tiny shriek which turned into a cry, and then a bundle of baby and blankets was handed to me. Every part of me ached – while I’m actually really proud of the fact I did most of the birth with no pain relief whatsoever, it meant that once the adrenalin had worn off, I was in a lot of pain. The whole thing had been really quick. I got out of the pool just after 1:15pm, and Dougie was born at 2:17pm, weighing a chunky 9lb 4oz!
I won’t go into detail about the recovery, but I will say the following two weeks were probably the hardest of my life. Sleep deprivation, a tiny baby who is entirely dependent on you, learning to breastfeed, worrying about absolutely everything and having to physically and mentally recover from labour and childbirth was a struggle.
I was pretty lucky, I had a great team of doctors and midwives, they were all amazing, and while labour obviously had its ups and downs, it went relatively smoothly. Every labour is different, and no two experiences will be the same.
It was surprisingly cathartic writing this, and if you actually read the whole thing, thank you!