Ah, the birth story.
I actually wrote this post a few weeks ago. Y’see, in the days following the birth of my son, Atticus, I felt a desperate need to attempt to piece together all the details that surrounded his arrival into the world.
My labour wasn’t necessarily traumatic or negative, but it was intense and long and left me feeling a little shell-shocked, and so writing about it – as with every event in my life – was my way of accepting it and finding closure. My way of better understanding it so that I could move on.
So yeah, it might be best if you plonk yourself down with a good ol’ brew and some sort of delicious biscuit (the Co-op have some sweet as lemon and white chocolate cookies that I tried the other day that are absolutely top dollar, if you’re in the market for suggestions).
Mostly because THERE ARE OVER 2,500 WORDS. TWO THOUSAND AND FIVE HUNDRED.
I’m not even slightly soz.
And hey, if you don’t like babies, it’s cool if you wanna swan off to some other area of the internet instead and do quizzes about cats and pizza, I won’t hold it against you.
So yeah, let’s get a-crackin’.
My story starts on the morning of Saturday 30th December 2017 at Ipswich Hospital.
The little gremlin in my belly had been measuring big at all of its scans, and because of that, the consultant suggested I might like to get induced on my due date to avoid any complications.
And so we rolled with it.
We swanned up to the antenatal ward at 8am with a cool bag full of Marks & Spencer snacks which we’d carefully handpicked the day before (everything from dried apricots and mango chunks to a BLT and Percy Pigs), Scrabble (we played two games and I lost both, although in my defense I was probably a bit distracted) and a sense of apprehension at the complete unknown ahead of us.
Because things were pretty busy at the hospital I wasn’t actually examined until midday, and soon thereafter a pessary (which is basically like a 2D tampon straight out of a 1990’s Game Boy game) was inserted right up into my vagina. It didn’t particularly hurt, but it was a little uncomfortable – a bit like someone was giving me what’s best described as a ferocious fingering.
The point of the pessary is to kick-start labour, and for some women this can be almost instant, whereas for others it can take a second dose and a couple of days. So I was a bit like let’s just play it cool and not expect too much and if it happens then HELLO BABY NICE TO MEET YOU, and if not, then what’s another couple of days of waiting after nine months really going to matter, eh?
We spent the afternoon walking around the hospital trying to get things moving and reading v outdated magazines with nice stories about dead babies (strong work, hospital), and then I started to feel something not dissimilar to trapped wind pains.
They weren’t the sort of pains you could time so I just assumed that I y’know, needed a poo or something.
I’d had similar pains throughout the last month of my pregnancy which had never amounted to anything, so I decided not to read too much into them. And, at 10.30pm, I sent Chris home to get some proper sleep whilst I set myself up in bed with a Harry Potter audiobook and a colouring-in book.
No, you’re predictable.
Anyway, I probably only listened to about three minutes of Stephen Fry’s soothing voice describe Hogwarts to me before realising that nuh-uh hunny, this pain ain’t the one.
I downloaded an app to attempt to time the pains which were by this point coming in noticeable waves and asked one of the midwives to attach my TENS machine to help me ride them out.
I started trying to silently bob up and down on my birthing ball without waking any of the other three pregnant gals on my ward – which was actually quite hard considering I was crashing about during each contraction like a labouring hippo in an antique shop.
When the contractions were lasting about 60 seconds and coming every few minutes I asked if maybe it would be a good idea to get Chris to come back to the hospital.
The midwife seemed hesitant – and reader, at this point I was well aware the baby wasn’t about to shoot out of my vagina unannounced – but I really needed some moral support and someone to stroke my hair and pour Lucozade down my throat.
He waltzed back in at 2am and by 4am, whilst spread out on all fours on my hospital bed, my waters theatrically broke, exactly the way you see on TV.
And they were baby pink which y’know, helped me feel fairly certain that I hadn’t just accidentally done a really big wee all over myself.
And after that initial gush, it just kept on coming.
Turns out it’s not just one woosh of water and that’s you done. Oh no, there was water and mucus and lumps and bump and gross bits and blood and pretty much everything residing in my womb aside from the actual baby. All over my bed, my clothes, my legs, the floor, the entire hospital.
Labour is so dignified.
I felt very sorry for a) my boyfriend who looked like he’d just seen me being cut in two and b) the midwife who had to get on her hands and knees and attempt to mop it all up.
It was at this point that I whacked on a nice big adult nappy and changed into my nightie like the goddess I am.
I was escorted up to the labour ward within the hour, but because things were still really busy, I was taken to an assessment room rather than a delivery suite.
The pain really started to amp up a gear and my hypnobirthing breathing techniques were no longer cutting it, so I was offered paracetamol and morphine until I could be examined and the doctors could come up with a game plan.
I decided to have a 6am candlelit bath (fake candles supplied by the hospital, obvs) which Chris later described as ‘like something out of a horror film’ mostly because I was thrashing about in the water whilst making distressed roaring noises.
And I’ve got to be honest here, the hours that followed were easily the hardest of my entire labour.
There was still no-one available to examine me and the midwives were reluctant to offer me any stronger pain relief, so I mostly just sobbed on the floor and told Chris I couldn’t do it anymore whilst ramming Wine Gums in my mouth between contractions with the hope of keeping my energy levels up.
You know me, strong independent woman and all that.
Anyway, at midday all my prayers were answered.
A midwife sauntered into my room, told me we were headed for the delivery suite next door and that absolutely yes I could have an epidural and she’d ring the anesthetist now and would I like to chow down on some gas and air whilst we waited?
Spoiler: I chowed down on a lot of gas and air.
Within an hour I’d been changed into a hospital gown, had a catheter installed, had my epidural administered, been examined (HELLO 3CM DILATED), and was hooked up to a drip that was was pumping me full of Syntocinon to further speed up the labour.
And honestly? It was bloody wonderful.
I had a kick-ass midwife who waited on me hand and foot and made me feel like a queen. I couldn’t feel any pain, but because of the epidural I was bed bound indefinitely and hooked up to machines to monitor the baby’s heart rate. I also had to have my temperature and blood pressure taken every hour.
The type of epidural I’d had meant that I could administer my own dose of it every 20 minutes (it would never go above what a doctor would prescribe) which meant I could keep it at a level where I could still feel my legs and slight tightenings in my back every time I had a contraction, but not any actual pain.
I guess it helped me feel a little more like I was experiencing my own labour rather than feeling completely detached from it.
My room had huge windows and loads of brand new birthing mats that reminded me of school PE lessons. And, although I couldn’t use them, they made a fantastic spot for Chris to nap – the midwife even got him pillows and a blanket so he could get comfy.
It was just, well it was really, really nice.
I was examined again early in the evening – and by this point it had been 24 hours since the initial pains had started – and found that I’d progressed to 7cm dilated. The consultant then decided it would be worth increasing my dose of Syntocinon to get me through the last leg of labour.
And that, my friends, is when the problems started.
Every time my midwife attempted to up the dose, my baby’s heart rate would randomly dip for a few seconds before returning to normal. The higher the dose, the more often it would dip, until it got to the point where it would no longer bring itself back up to a normal rate unless the Syntocinon was shut off completely.
Before we knew it the clocks were striking midnight and we welcomed in the new year watching the fireworks cascade across the Ipswich horizon from our hospital room. Which, probably would have been quite lovely and poignant had I not been riding into my second night without sleep.
I was examined again and had made it up to 9cm dilated but there was a tiny bit of cervix still in the way – the consultant asked me to try pushing to see if I could move it out the way, but alas nope.
And so the words ‘emergency c-section’ were uttered.
My baby’s heart rate was by now dipping every few minutes and the general consensus was that we just needed to get the little chump out as soon as possible.
And so we did.
Chris was asked to prepare an outfit for the baby, I started aggressively inhaling some lavender oil on a tissue because MUST. STAY. CALM and then within a matter of minutes I was being wheeled on out of my delivery suite and up to the operating floor.
I’m not sure I had enough time to feel scared or to even really take in what was happening, but there was a moment, somewhere between having a second cannula rammed into my hand and having an ice cube slid about my body to see how well my anesthetic was working, where I let one teeny tiny tear fall out of my eye.
And then I remembered that I was going to meet my baby within the next ten minutes and suddenly it didn’t really matter so much that ten complete strangers were hovering above my abdomen staring down at my overgrown pubes.
Having a c-section is a funny sensation. You can’t feel any pain, and yet you can still feel everything.
I was told it would be like having someone doing the washing up inside you and I gotta say, I can’t think of a better comparison.
It took about ten minutes of being pulled about before I heard the first hyena shrieks of my baby at 2.54am, which was nice because at least I instantly knew he/she was very capable of breathing on their own.
The baby was then held up so that I could see it, and there was a weird moment where I felt completely detached, like this thing in front of me couldn’t possibly be my baby. As though I was watching someone else’s episode of One Born Every Minute.
A few minutes after that the baby was brought round to me so that I could see that HELLO I HAVE A SON, and then he was placed next to me because there wasn’t room for him to be snuggled onto my chest.
And that’s where we had our first awkward mum and son encounter where I just mumbled ‘I love you’ and ‘hi baby’ on repeat like a shit Furby whilst also being completely dumbfounded by the fact I couldn’t recognise myself in the teeny tiny pink creature blinking up at me.
(As his face has become less squashed-in-the-womb we’ve decided that he has my mouth and chin, so hey that’s something, right?)
I stayed in surgery for another half an hour whilst I was stitched back up, before I was wheeled into recovery and my little love bug was weighed (a v healthy 8lbs 5oz) and checked over before coming over to his number one gal for some skin-to-skin contact and his first taste of breast milk.
I don’t actually remember the few hours after that particularly vividly – the first baby photo on my phone is taken at 5.37am, and aside from that I’m assuming I probably gobbled up a few snacks from the snack bag, whinged about the fact I wanted a shower but still had a catheter shoved up my private parts and just stared at the baby sleeping like he was as exciting as the last episode of Broadchurch season one.
We named him Atticus, purely because we liked the name, but also thought Atti as a nickname was particularly cute. His middle names, Robert and Rudolf, are both family names that mean a lot to me and Chris.
I also secretly think Robert Rudolf is a v strong stage name should Atti decide to take Hollywood by storm and then maybe buy me and Chris a condo in Malibu. So y’know, that too.
Anyway yeah, we stayed in hospital another day and a half – I had morphine and paracetamol to deal with the fact I’d just had pretty major surgery and now had a newborn to look after, iron tablets because I’d hemorrhaged during said surgery, and injections in my tummy to stop my blood clotting.
Chris’s mum came to visit, as did my dad and step mum, and we were photographed (looking like we’d died about 73567 times over) for The Ipswich Star because Atti was one of the first 2018 babies born at the hospital. And bless the little goblin, he even ended up making the front page. That’s my boy.
I ate a lot of jacket potatoes, changed a lot of nappies, and FaceTimed my best friend who was drunk in New York who kindly told me I looked like shit.
What are friends for, eh?
And, whilst my labour and hospital stay was a lot longer than I’d hoped for, and I basically worked my way through the entire pain relief list, I wouldn’t change my experience for the world.
And heck, even a few weeks on I’m looking back like yeah ok sure I’d do that again for another baby.
I had incredible midwives who made me feel strong and capable and looked after, but more than that, I have a healthy little flump of a son with a baby daddy I really bloody love, and honestly, what more could I ask for?