We start part 2 with Tom and I arriving at the maternity ward for my induction, with me feeling confident that I would have progressed beyond 2 cms dilation and wouldn’t need the induction. Unfortunately that was not the case and after quickly discussing things with the midwife, I decided to have the pessary inserted. Similarly to the stretch and sweep, it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined it was going to be and as soon as it was done I realised that I actually felt fine about being induced. My midwife was nice and open to discussing everything with me, baby was still showing no signs of distress and I knew that my pre-eclampsia could turn into eclampsia quite quickly, so having an induction now was the best option.
Six hours passed with me having some mild but irregular contractions and at about 4pm I was offered a second pessary, which I accepted. It felt like as soon as it went in, my body went into full-on labour mode and the contractions suddenly got stronger. I started using a TENS machine and Tom kept me moving around, trying different positions and walking as much as I could, which was very helpful and definitely what I needed.
The next 8 hours or so are a bit of a blur to me – I remember eating dinner (and throwing it up a few hours later), the contractions getting much, much stronger and very frequent and when we walked around the maternity unit, I had to really concentrate during each contraction. Yes they were painful, but as I knew they were for a reason I could get through them. The only thing I regret about my labour is at this point, when the contractions were very close together, I started making a lot of noise during each one. I don’t regret it because of the level of noise, but more because it didn’t actually help with the pain or my concentration, it just made my throat hurt!
At one point the second midwife – the one who would deliver Freddie – came on shift and asked me whether I wanted any more pain relief and I started to think about having something and even begrudgingly agreed to some co-codamol. Interestingly she never brought it to me and, looking back, I’m really pleased. I went on to have a labour without any pain relief (except for the using the TENS machine) and that is completely down to that midwife: she asked me what my plans were, must have heard something in my voice that told her that I didn’t want anything unless I really needed it (even though I said I just wanted to see how things went, in reality I wasn’t really happy with any of the options available) and saw that I was coping well. I’m very, very grateful for such a professional and sympathetic midwife – long live the NHS!
So as we’ve established that I didn’t have any drugs, how did I get through the contractions, which, by 10.00pm were practically every other minute and lasting around a minute at a time? (Once I’d realised that screaming was not helping.) The main thing was breathing: when I felt a contraction coming on, I pressed the boost button on the TENS machine, opened my eyes and focused on a spot on the curtains surrounding my bed. I then slowly and regularly breathed in through my nose and out through my mouth, visualising that I was blowing onto that spot, as though I could move the curtain. I also raised my hands as I breathed in and pushed them down slowly as I breathed out. This combination gave me something to really focus on and as the contractions were around the same length I knew how many breaths I had to do before it was over. Incredibly, between contractions I was able to sleep so I actually didn’t feel as exhausted as I thought I would. Tom, on the other hand, was looking pretty drained and napped on the chair next to my bed, making me sip water and energy drinks every few minutes and force down some sweets when I could. He was a brilliant support.
During this time my waters suddenly went with a real ‘pop’ and gush, which was a surreal experience. Tom has said since that it sounded just like a water balloon!
After a few hours of this my midwife decided that the contractions were too close together because of the induction and so I was given an injection into my stomach to slow them down. I had to have a quick talk with a consultant before they gave it to me and I remember asking him what the pros and cons were of the injection, which he obviously thought was really weird, but I just wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be slowing my progress at all. It turned out that the injection would actually speed up the labour as it would give my body more chance to dilate rather than focus on the contractions. I was glad I asked, though, as I wanted to know what was happening at each stage and small things like this made me feel like I was in control and could get through this.
At about 4.00am the midwife assessed me. At my other checks I hadn’t progressed beyond 2 cms, so I had no idea what would have happened by this point. Incredibly I was 8 cms and it was time to go to the delivery room. In a daze we gathered everything together and moved into the room where our baby would be born.
As we got settled and I tried to find a position that I could be (relatively) comfortable in and concentrate on my breathing, another midwife came in. She watched me have a contraction and then asked whether I would like to try some gas and air. Now, I can’t say that I hadn’t contemplated all of the pain relief options in the hours preceding this, but as I knew that I had got this far and my breathing techniques were really working, I knew I didn’t want to break my concentration and I was worried that gas and air would make me feel out of control and nauseous. I said that I was fine and the response I received was “there are no prizes for being a martyr about this, you know. Just have some”, not the supportive “you’re doing so well!” that I would have liked, but there you go. Luckily she then left and Tom and I were able to do our own thing for a couple of hours, which just sped by.
Oh, I should just add that for quite a lot of my labour I was attached to the fetal monitor so couldn’t move around as much as I would have liked. I’m not sure why this was, as baby didn’t get distressed at all, but it didn’t get in the way too much so I didn’t mind. I did also ask a couple of times whether I could use the birthing pool, but it was in use, so I put the thought out of my mind quickly.
At about 6.00 I started to feel pressure with each contraction. I asked the midwife when I could start pushing and she told me when I couldn’t ignore the urge to push. Quite quickly I felt like I really, really wanted to push with the pressure and I remember very politely asking whether it would be alright for me to try. The midwife calmly said I could give it a go and after a few minutes came to have a look what was happening and sounded quite surprised that, actually, the baby was coming!
Once the contractions turned into ones I could push with, I felt completely different. I could talk between contractions, I could concentrate on the room and the pressure did not feel painful, as much as something I could not stop even if I wanted to. Overall I felt like my body was telling me to do everything possible to bring our baby into the world and giving me the ability to focus and listen to instructions to help me, which was wonderful and a big relief from the hours of painful contractions. With each push I knew I was getting closer and I got better at focusing my energy on the right place. Once baby’s head was coming through the midwife guided my hand to feel it and that gave me the drive to keep going. (If I sound like I got through the whole labour really calmly, I didn’t: I did say at one point before then that I didn’t want to do this anymore, thank you. Turns out I didn’t have a lot of choice.)
I pushed for over an hour, I think, moving positions and listening to the encouragement. With some of the pushes I needed to make a low, guttural sound, which, even though I knew took some of my energy away from the birthing canal, really helped me get through it, otherwise I just focused my whole body on the space between where I knew the birthing canal was (hint: not in your bottom). Tom was absolutely enthralled by seeing the baby’s head emerging and kept encouraging me by saying “a bit more, just a little bit more, that’s it!”, which – I’ll admit – was a bit disparaging at times (and if I had had enough energy I would have told him to shut the f up) when I had nothing more to give, or the contraction had finished, but at least I knew I was doing something.
Suddenly the head was coming and there was an intense stinging feeling. The midwife had warned me about this and helped me breathe through his head being born. That was the hardest part of the last few hours of labour, as my body was pushing against this pain, but my head was telling me to stop. I think it was about this point when I suddenly had an overwhelming fear that the midwife would have to cut me to get the rest of the body through and so I suddenly shouted out “please don’t cut me!”, but I was quickly reassured that she wouldn’t do that.
Once the head was through I knew our baby would be here soon and so with the next couple of contractions I pushed with everything I had – and I mean everything. I have never put so much into anything before in my life! Suddenly I felt something wet between my legs and our son was born. Straight away I felt completely calm and filled with happiness and when he was placed on my chest, it just felt so perfect. Writing this now I have tears in my eyes, but at the time I didn’t feel like crying at all – I just felt so happy that we had our baby boy. I turned to Tom to see him looking at me in awe and asked whether this was our Freddie. He said yes.
Part 3, which starts after having Freddie skin-to-skin for an hour and ends almost a week later, to come…