The day before my due date (Easter Sunday!), I woke up at around 6am, feeling irregular but definite tightening sensations. I wasn’t certain, but thought it may be the very early stages of labour. Having read Pip’s advice on Instagram about having high-carb snacks to fuel me, I went downstairs, letting my husband sleep, and made myself a bowl of cereal, which I ate while bouncing on my birthing ball. The tightenings continued, but were irregular. They were completely manageable, and a few times I wondered whether I was even imagining them! However, I noticed I was also starting to pass some mucous so suspected that things were starting to happen, just slowly.
I woke my husband around 9am and told him about the irregular tightenings, trying not to panic him. This is our first baby and we were both nervous and fearful of the unknown. However, I felt a little more prepared having read Pip’s content and having spoken to female friends, colleagues and family members for advice. He started finishing off his work ready for paternity leave, checking on me every ten minutes or so. The tightenings started to become slightly stronger, so I deployed my new TENS machine, bought on the advice of a colleague, using a regular pulse and then a boost during tightenings.
The rest of the day was spent walking around our street, up and down stairs, and bouncing on my ball to try to get the tightenings closer together. There was no luck however and they remained irregular, lasting about 60 seconds each but anywhere between 4 and 15 minutes apart.
At 10pm that night I thought that I hadn’t felt the baby move as often as he usually did, so called our maternity assessment unit, who asked me to come in for foetal monitoring. We arrived at about 11pm and they put me on a monitor which showed the baby was fine thankfully. They asked us to go home, get some sleep and let them know when the contractions were closer together.
We arrived home at about 3am and went to bed. My husband slept but I was too uncomfortable. Aware he would have to drive me to hospital at some point so needed some sleep, I went downstairs and bounced on my ball again, and lay on the sofa snoozing between contractions!
The next morning my husband ran me a bath, which was so soothing and comfortable. We did more walking around the block and more bouncing on my ball, and at times contractions were as close as 3 minutes apart, but then they went back to 7–10 minutes apart. They were definitely starting to get stronger however. At 11pm that night I was very tired, having only snatched small snoozes since 6am the previous morning, and was worried that I wouldn’t have the strength to push the baby out if this carried on for another day. We called the maternity assessment unit who sympathised and were concerned that I had been in labour since 6am the previous day, and asked us to go in again for monitoring and assessment.
When we arrived at around midnight they examined me and found that I was 3cm dilated and fully effaced, which I was pleased about because it meant all the contractions had done something! I passed some blood vaginally after my examination, and the team found that my blood pressure was extremely high, and it wouldn’t come down with oral blood pressure medication, so the team suggested they admit me to the labour ward. The contractions were more intense by then, and the TENS machine wasn’t really cutting it! We walked round to the delivery suite, and met our amazing midwife Thelma who put on a monitoring belt to keep an eye on the baby. I asked for an epidural so I could get some rest and the team agreed readily. The anaesthetist even ran up to the lab herself to chase my blood clotting results before siting the epidural. She took two attempts to get the epidural in, but was so kind and reassuring and took breaks every time I had a contraction.
Once the epidural was in the relief was fairly immediate and I managed a tiny snooze. The midwife came and broke my waters and I watched on the monitor as the contractions ramped up, but couldn’t feel anything. Around 6am a new midwife came on shift and around the same time an alarm went off and lots of people came into the room – they told me that the baby’s heart rate had dropped and they asked me to move onto my side, which seemed to improve things, but the doctors and midwives continued hovering and keeping a very close eye on the monitor. It was frightening, but I felt like I was in good hands. Shortly after this the midwife noticed that I had passed some mucous which they examined closely, and then told me they needed to have a chat outside the room. At this point I knew what might be coming, and was happy with whatever they felt necessary to get my baby here safely. I had also been in labour for 48 hours by then and was very tired!
The team returned to my room and advised a C-section – I immediately agreed, and things happened very quickly from then. I signed a consent form and was wheeled to the theatre. I was slid onto a new bed, and a catheter was inserted (I didn’t feel a thing) and a screen put up. Everything was so efficient and well-organised. All the staff introduced themselves. My husband and midwife came with me and I was introduced to a new lovely anaesthetist, who sat at my shoulder and told me that if I felt anything in terms of pain or discomfort I should let her know and she would fix it. I felt briefly sick and she administered some anti-sickness, and then felt some pain in my shoulder blades which she administered morphine for which worked immediately. I felt very safe and well cared for. The anaesthetist told me that the C-section had started, which I was amazed by, as I couldn’t feel a thing. My husband, sat at my other shoulder, and I watched, and in seconds they were holding the baby up for us to see. My husband was encouraged to take photos, so we have pictures of this moment.
Our son cried straight away, and was taken to be cleaned up briefly – my husband went with him and the anaesthetist told me that he had grabbed my husband’s hands immediately which melted my heart. He was quickly brought back to me in a tiny hand-knitted hat for skin-to-skin. He remained on my chest throughout me being stitched up and transferred to a ward where the staff helped me establish breastfeeding. It was a long journey, but I felt so well looked after and safe throughout, and the moment we saw our baby for the first time is one I’ll never forget.
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