Why share my baby’s birth story?
I’ve thought long and hard about writing this. Mostly because it’s not helpful for mums-to-be that read my blog to be flooded with the gory details of a birth that didn’t go to plan. It’s not about putting on a pretence and running from the reality that it will hurt, we all know that that’s how it is. But when you’re gearing up to something so physically demanding, you need to be in a good frame of mind. You wouldn’t train for a marathon by reading about all the injuries that past marathon athletes have suffered. It would just psych you out. Instead you’d keep your eye on the prize and remind yourself that your body can do this. It’s no different with child birth. There’s no room for negativity or unhelpful fear.
I’m also a little aware of TMI – who really wants to know the gory details anyway?? I think I’m a little sadistic in that I’m fascinated with birth stories. I just can’t get my head around how clever a woman’s body is, to grow a mini human and then push that mini human out of something in a way that defies logic. It’s crazy impressive. But I know that most people aren’t as weird as I am.
But here’s the thing; people ask me about it. And often I’ve not had the words ready. I havn’t known what to tell them and what not to tell them. Acquaintances have heard that something happened but they don’t know what. Neighbours saw or heard the ambulance but don’t know why. Friends and family held us in their hearts and prayers as they waited for news without knowing exactly what was going on.
I want to know what to say when people ask me. I need to get my head around it. And for me, part of that means sharing our story. It means slamming the door on that tiny voice in my ear that tells me I did something wrong that made it happen the way it did. Guilt and self doubt are a lot louder when you keep them to yourself.
I once read that a perinatal psychologist advised a new mum who had experienced a difficult birth that it can take a up to 13 times of telling their birth story to come to terms with it, particularly if it was traumatic or didn’t go the way they hoped it would. Sharing and being open about something helps make sense of it.
Any difficult experience can leave you reeling, and it takes time to get your head around it. I didn’t have that time and space immediately afterwards (more on that soon) and then we were thrown into the beautiful chaos that was the summer holidays. I’m only just getting the space now to think it all through and start to process it.
So it’s taken me until now to be ok with writing our story of how we met TJ. I’ve removed most of the gore, this isn’t about that. It’s about looking back and being ok with a plan ‘gone wrong’; a plan that I’d had my heart set on as my baby grew in my tummy.
Unless you’re new to my blog, you’ll know that there was a bumpy ride to getting the go ahead for the home birth I wanted. I had problems with my gall bladder at around 36 weeks of pregnancy and had to go see a consultant for approval. The agreement was that I could have my home birth on the condition of a lower threshold for transfer to hospital. Any issues at all and I’d be in that ambulance before I could protest about it. Deal.
If you had a tough time having a baby, please know it’s ok to wrestle with it to make sense of it. It’s ok to not be ok about it – if it gets you to a place of actually being ok with it. You didn’t do anything wrong – you did an amazing thing and I think you’re a rock star.
Here’s how we met our son.
My contractions started in the early hours of Monday 11th july when I was just past 38 weeks pregnant. With two giddy girls running in and out of our bedroom in various states of dress as they got ready for school, I breathed away the pain just as I’d learnt from the hypnobirthing techniqes I’d studied over previous months. I was confident in what I was doing. This was going to be my easiest and smoothest birth yet – the one part of this pregnancy that I could look back on and give a nod of approval to. I told the girls that though nothing is guaranteed, they would very probably come home from school to meet their baby brother. Heck, they may even get a call at school from home by lunchtime if Boo’s birth was anything to go by (a straightforward but speedy five hour labour from start to finish).
Yes, I genuinely believed I’d have my baby in my arms by lunchtime.
The girls didn’t get a call by lunchtime.
They came out of school to the news of zero baby and went to hang out at granny and granddads before coming home in time to get ready for bed.
Fifteen hours came and went with not a lot to show for it. Contractions would trail off, then come back for a while and then trail off again. They never fully stopped but I began to think that I’d be in labour forever. But things did eventually get going and by 8pm Mr C was pleading with me to let him call the midwife. I reckon he didn’t much fancy delivering the baby himself. Little did he know..!.
The midwife had been over to the house earlier and left again with the promise to come straight back when contractions were getting more full on. In my stubbornness I held Mr C off for another hour as I wiggled my bum and dangled over a birthing ball in our living room. I eventually gave in and gave the ok for the midwife to come back and as she walked through the door she said “now that’s more like it”, as I ignored her arrival and groaned through a contraction. She said she could see that I was much further along now and didn’t expect to be here long.
For four more hours I held onto Mr C through the contractions. It was just what I’d hoped for. I was in my own home and my girls were tucked up in bed, ready to meet their brother in the morning. I felt in control. I felt comfortable. I felt safe. In the early hours of Tuesday morning the midwives laid out sheets on the floor and suggested I pop off my PJ bottoms. The end was insight. Or so we all thought.
And here’s where my plan, the plan that was so carefully thought out, went to pieces. Everything suddenly slowed right down again. At what seemed like the very last hurdle, my body started to protest. I was falling asleep when I wasn’t sucking on the gas and air, and as each contraction got further and further apart, we all sat waiting for something to happen. They examined me and after nearly 22 hours of labouring I was only 6cm dilated.
In my hazy, gas and air induced state, I remember wondering why the two midwives kept exchanging strange glances. It was like they were having a non-verbal conversation that Mr C and I were not privy to. And then they let us in on it.
They were a little worried they said. I was getting too tired they said.
No. I could do this, I thought. I’ve practiced relaxation and breathing techniques, -I know what I’m doing, I thought. These thoughts screamed inside my head as I internally begged by body to work the way it was supposed to. The way it had done twice before.
Midwives are a very clever breed of people. They can stay calm and reassuring in absolute crisis. But they didn’t look happy anymore. They didn’t look confident anymore. So when they explained they wanted me to get to hospital as soon as they could get me there, I knew not to argue. They told me that it was something called ‘maternal exhaustion’ and they didn’t think I’d have the energy now to push when I needed to. And they didn’t want me an hour away from hospital when that happened.
An ambulance was called and I was soon on the road to hospital.
Should I tell you what’s not fun? Contracting in an ambulance while it’s bombing along the windy and bumpy country lanes of the Yorkshire Dales, that’s what. Not even gas and air makes that fun. Credit where credit’s due though – the driver took 45 minutes to drive a 1 hour and 10 minute journey. Fair play.
I arrived at the delivery ward around 3am, followed 15 minutes later by Mr C who was a little baffled how I’d got there so quickly.
Going from having two kind and gentle midwives in my own home, I found it really hard to suddenly being in a small room with busy and abrupt staff at the hospital. The midwife attending me didn’t agree that I had been 6cm dilated before I left home and insisted I was not even in established labour yet. She condescendingly asked if this was my first baby. If I’d had the energy, I would have summoned my inner-ninja on that woman.
Because my contractions had slowed right down, a midwife and a consultant broke my waters; one of them doing their thing down below while the other pressed down hard on my tummy to stop baby from popping up out of my pelvis.
You hear about waters breaking in spectacular fashion, which I didn’t experience with either of my girls. I hadn’t even notice it had happened. But this time they gushed out like someone had launched a water bomb at my nether regions. And it was warm. Of course it would be warm, it made sense for it to be warm – so why did it surprise me so much? Sucking on the gas and air, the shock of it made me laugh. I laughed and laughed as more and more water poured out. The midwives did not laugh. They did not think it was funny.
But boy oh boy did it work. Now this is where I cut out the gory details. It hurt, blah blah blah. Got a little delirious with each contraction, blah blah blah. Pethidine, blah blah blah. Out for the count, blah blah blah.
Fast forward a few more hours and we’re reliant on Mr C’s recollections because from this point on I resembled a meth addict. I’m genuinely sad to say that hypnobirthing was well and truly out the window because the pethidine hit me like a ton of bricks and left me in a drugged up stupor.
Shortly afterwards I started straining and told Mr C that I was pushing. He ran out to get a midwife. When a lovely cheerful midwife came in and she asked if I was pushing I shook my head. Way to make your husband look like an overdramatic liar.
Turns out he wasn’t lying though because seven minutes later, yes seven, out came my baby boy.
But not before stupidly trying to move from kneeling up against the back of the bed. I was precariously hovering over the side of the bed when TJ shot out and Mr C, who happened to be directly behind me, caught him.
After worrying about the midwives not getting to the homebirth in time, Mr C ended up delivering the baby anyway.
It was not the birth I had hoped would be my grand finale in all things pregnancy. I didn’t get to curl up in the comfort of my own bed with my fresh, new baby on my chest and my girls around me. I was still high on the pethidine that dulled the elation of meeting my son.
But I would soon realise that being in the hospital when my baby was born would actually save his life.
Within half an hour of being born things changed pretty dramatically. The photo above was taken immediately after he was born. Little did I know at the time that it would be the last time I would get to hold my baby for over 24 hours.
Mrs C x
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