Birth stories – I love hearing all the different ways babies have come into this world. Every birth is different. My mum regularly reminds me that I kept her in pain for a 7 day long labour, and yet my sister arrived within minutes. My two boys were two very different birth experiences. They left me feeling two completely different sets of emotions.
My youngest has turned 9 months old today. He has now been outside in the physical world for longer than he was growing inside of me. I don’t know about you, but that feels like a sort of milestone. I’ve spent some of today looking back at the photos of the boys as newborns. Today I thought I’d share the story of my two boys births.
Our eldest, J: Born 2014.
In March 2014 I fell pregnant after a long time of trying. I remember ‘feeling’ pregnant but with a few days before my period I was trying not to rush into doing a test. Didn’t last as I ended up testing the day before my period. It was positive! So was the one I did the next morning and the one I did the next day.
Pregnancy was reasonably simple really. I had nausea which stayed away as long as I ate. I couldn’t stand the smell of bananas and I felt like I had a virus (tired, achy, headaches) for the whole first trimester. However I was ecstatic. I had quite a few check ups for reduced movements but each time everything was fine (but always best to get checked). Then at 38 weeks (cant remember +how many days) I lost balance and fell onto the corner of the end of the banister. It really hurt and dug right into my stomach. As I was rhesus neg, I called the midwife who told me to go straight to the maternity unit for an anti-D injection and a check over (I told them I also hadn’t felt baby move properly again since the knock). So, off I went. I had the injection and the listened to the heart beat with a dopler, and was told everything was fine and to go home. I didn’t feel particular reassured if I’m honest.
So, the next day I had a routine check with community midwifes and I told them what had happened and that movements still weren’t ‘right’. She was not happy with the fact I wasn’t adequately checked and was straight on the phone. I was sent back up to be reassessed. When I got there I was put on the monitor and sent for a scan (the doctor thought I was measuring small for how many weeks I was…I can assure you, I was in no way small and neither was J). Anyway, the scan showed I had low level of fluid around baby but I hadn’t lost my water and there I was still ‘sealed’. It meant that it was in baby’s best interest to come out and meet us all, whilst he was healthy.
Next morning we went in and I was induced. I didn’t feel anything for a while but by lunch time I was starting to feel period cramp type pains. It wasn’t painful though and my husband and I just chatted, played on our phones, read magazines. Later they became more intense. My hips and legs hurt like mad, and I continuously felt like I needed a wee. However, I was not even dilating. Later it was time for my husband to leave for the night and I cried. I didn’t like the idea of being alone…and there was only one other person on the ward. I spent the night pacing and having lots of baths (only time I felt comfortable). They then banned me from any more baths so I resorted back to walking. At some early hour of the morning I guess they get fed up of my pacing and they gave me some medication. I managed to get couple of hours sleep…
Next morning I was examined and I was 1cm. I bounced on the ball, walked some more and tried desperately to get comfortable. I was counting down for my husband to be allowed back in. Once he came in, I felt a sudden rush of emotions and started telling him how scared I was of labour and how I hurt so bad already. Thankfully we were taken over to the labour ward and they discussed how they were going to move things along. They decided to pop my waters and then see if I need more medication. Once the waters popped (which was uncomfortable but not painful…although I felt like I was doing the biggest wee) it wasn’t long before the contractions started and I was soon at 8cm. My mum was called (She was my 2nd birth partner – I needed my mummy).
Then nothing seemed to happen for a while and I was in the limbo of contraction pain but not being time to push (I was on gas and air at this point). Next thing I know my Mum says to me “you’re pushing aren’t you!” and I nodded. I was surprised because I had done it without realising. It wasn’t a conscious decision, my body just sort of did it. The midwife tried to tell me to stop, and she examined me. Then the mood changed and suddenly it was ‘ok go for it’ as I had jumped to 10cms and it was time to go, go, go. I pushed and pushed and things seemed to be going ok. I did throw up over my husband but that was due to mixture of Lucozade with gas and air.
After a while (I can’t tell you times by this point) I just felt something change. It no longer felt natural. I felt like I was pushing, more than my body was pushing. The midwife checked and I knew something was wrong. Suddenly I had more people come in and checking, there was discussions going on and I didn’t know what was happening. It turned out that J had gotten stuck (I blame his big head). I needed to get into surgery to have help but the operating room was in use. They tried to assist manually in getting J in a better position (which was PAINFUL – but I didn’t care, I wanted him out). They gave me an epidural (which I honestly didn’t even feel. I was contracting and that pain was the only thing I could feel). However, the epidural did nothing. There was a lot of discussion going on and I know things weren’t great as my heart rate was going up and my baby’s was going down.
Then, thankfully the operating room became free. The staff were brilliant. They were all so calm, yet worked quickly. It was literally one mama out, me in so they didn’t get a break or chance to recover. I was then numbed from waist down with a spinal block. It was great, I went from being in a huge amount of pain to suddenly feeling nothing. The gas and air was still in my system too so I was talking non-stop and laughing hysterically over not feeling anything. It is a strange sensation when you’re told to push, when numb. The doctor told me to imagine I was doing a poo, and my body would know what to do. I had someone pushing on my stomach and the doctor then cut me (to avoid tearing) and pulled J out using ventouse.
He was then taken to the other side of the room and brought back in a blanket and given to my husband. I don’t know why he wasn’t handed straight to me – never occurred to me to ask. It was probably to check he was ok after such a dramatic entrance into the world. I was stitched up and taken to recovery, and finally allowed to hold my baby. If I’m honest I don’t remember the next couple of hours very well. I think exhaustion, drugs and trauma kicked in. Sadly, I didn’t have a good experience back on the ward. I was lonely (staff rarely spoke to me), I was in pain (and my m.e had kicked in but I was ‘forced’ to get up and walk to the shower) and I couldn’t get F to breastfeed. I asked for help multiple times and kept getting told that they were busy, someone would come to me, there were first time mum’s needing help ( I was a first time mum?!). My husband ended up getting a bottle for us by day 2 as J was screaming in hunger. We were discharged once he started to drink more of the bottles (although he wasn’t drinking much of that either). We were told he was jaundice and that the community midwife would keep an eye on it.
To keep the next bit brief, once home we made it one night before we were then sent back to hospital to the scbu as J needed to have light therapy. The staff there were amazing. They advised me on feeding, how to deal with my stitches (honestly, they hurt like mad) and even managed to convince the other ward to let me have a bath even though I wasn’t their patient. They sat and chatted to us regularly and by the time we went home the next day I felt like a new mum. The next year was tough for me emotionally. I think I had PND and looking back I think I never got over the trauma of the birth. I never once felt in the loop or in control and I hate that feeling. J is now 5 and I still can’t think of those first few days of his life without my heart going faster. But I am thankful that he arrived safely – even if it was dramatic.
Our angel baby: 2017
After that you may wonder why I went on to have another baby…
When J was 2 we decided to try again. I got pregnant a lot quicker this time round and in 2017 I again, got excited to see two little lines on the test (and again the next morning). Sadly I had a miscarriage. I was crushed. I waited a while to start trying again. I was so scared that it would happen again.
But then in August 2018 I felt all the symptoms of early pregnancy again and 2 days before my period was due I tested…positive (and I was positive the day after, and the day after that…yes I think I had a bit of a compulsion to retest ‘just to make sure’).
Our youngest son, F: Born 2019
This pregnancy felt stressful from day 1. At the beginning I had a scan as there was a concern it was an ectopic pregnancy (it wasn’t) and then I had a 4 day scare where I was bleeding but no one would scan me as it was a Friday evening so had to wait for the call and fit me in after weekend. Thankfully, it wasn’t a miscarriage, as I had convinced myself. I can’t remember the details but something was aggravating my cervix and making it bleed. It did eventually stop and I had no more bleeding throughout pregnancy but it made me incredibly anxious the entire time. I would thoroughly check the tissue whenever I went to the toilet.
I had various issues throughout such as a mysterious rash (where I had to have all the dangerous things ruled out) which was incredibly itchy and later having to stay in hospital as I was struggling to breath (after lots of tests to rule out the big things I was discharged with no clue what it was. Went back to the GP to check me over and said it was my asthma and once given steroids I was loads better). Like J, I also had a few visits to maternity for reduced movements. Each time everything was fine but as the midwives kept telling me, they’d rather see me one hundred times and it not be needed, than for me to not come the one time that it is (they put it a lot better). I spent a lot of time planning and prepping. I found it helped with the anxious feelings.
The story of the day I went into hospital to have F makes my Mum laugh. I’m pretty sure that people think I’m making it up or trying to make myself look like a matrye but I can guarantee you that what I’m going to tell you is true. So…I took J to the easter egg hunt at his nursery. It was a lot of walking and I felt really uncomfortable. I was 38 and a bit weeks pregnant, huge and struggling with my hips/pelvis. My back was aching like mad but I was getting on with day to day stuff. I realised about lunch time that I hadnt felt baby move. I wasnt too concerned at first because he was more of an afternoon wriggler but at the same time I started doing all the usual tricks (cold drink, lay on my side etc). When my husband came home from work there was still no movement so I called the materity unit. I figured it would be like all the other trips so I told other half to stay with J and put him to bed, and my Mum could drive me up there.
Well, we got to the hospital and the midwife told me off for not coming sooner (in a friendly way). She hooked me up to the monitor and instantly there was the racing heartbeat of my baby. I lay there and waited for the kicking to start – because babies do that, don’t they? They wait for the monitor to be on and then start doing the can-can. Nothing happened. My mum was watching the screen and my stomach as I laid back. She said she saw my stomach move but I didn’t feel anything. When the midwife came to check we told her this. Maybe baby had been moving all this time and I just couldnt feel it? Which then freaked me out -why couldnt I feel it?! That’s when the midwife asked how long I had been having contractions. Now this was my second baby. I know what contractions feel like and I wasn’t having contractions…
Actually I was. It was there on the screen. The midwife held my stomach as it went solid and the numbers on the monitor shot up. Both the midwife and my Mum stared at me. I honestly didn’t feel a thing. I did start to feel flutters of movement eventually but that was it. The midwife sent me over to the next part of the ward…the part you go to when you’re getting ready to have the baby. I was then given an internal and I was in fact 1cm dilated. I was contracting and not feeling a thing. Turns out the back pain I’d been having during the day was probably the start of labour! It’s ironic really. I wouldnt have even called the midwife it is wasnt for the lack of movement and here I was getting ready to have a baby.
I hadn’t brought anything with me! Thankfully I’m a bit of an organizer so I had already packed bags, including J’s. Luckily I didn’t live far and as my mum was driving they let me pop home to pick up my husband and my bags. I phoned my sister so she could come over to be with J (who was sound asleep- I did wake him and explained what was happening. He’s autistic so it would have been too much for him to wake up and find we were gone) My sister knows how to help J – what he eats, how he thinks, what he needs. We had to plan and prepare things throughout pregnancy including how we told J that we were having a baby. J can struggle with change and emotions – both of which pregnancy and baby can bring.
I grabbed the bags and we headed straight back to the hospital…my husband looking a bit pale. Disappointingly, nothing happened that night. As the hours went passed I got more uncomfortable so I was pacing the room and on the birth ball. My back was in agony despite back rubs and I finally started to feel the contractions. There wasn’t the gradual build up like with J. It went straight into the heavy breathing stage but they had lots of time between them so no rush. This time round my husband was allowed to spend the nights as rules had changed. The whole experience was different – the staff would pop in to check on me, bring me water, offer help how they could.
Nothing happened that night, or the morning after. By the afternoon I was in a lot more pain and just couldn’t get comfortable. My m.e was kicking in from being so tired. They sent me over the labour suite that afternoon. Annoyingly I was barely any further along with dilation. I was also dehydrated so both our heart rates were a bit dodgy. They decided to pop my waters to see if it helped me along. This time it didn’t pop as easily because F’s head was already so low that the membrane (?) was tight across his head. But they did it and out came the flood. I was put on a drip and monitored. Once everything looked a bit better I was allowed to go for a walk. I felt so much better and so much more in control having that freedom to move around.
We went to the cafe on that floor and I had a salad. I’m not usually one to pass up chips but I figured I’d be on the gas and air soon and didn’t really want to be repeating the vomit incident from last time. My mum came up at this point and after watching me she said my contractions were getting a bit too close together and maybe we should get back to the ward. Honestly think husband and I were so sleep deprived that we hadn’t noticed.
Once back at the ward they checked me over again as I was contracting closer together but yet again I wasn’t dilating. It was so frustrating. So I was given the hormone drip. Well, that certainly did its job and everything was kicked started. It got so intense they had to turn the drip off! Similar to J, I was told I had a bit of time before I could push. The midwife and trainee doctor left the room. My husband took this opportunity to pop to the loo (you have to choose your timings carefully here, birth partners).
As with J, my mum said “You’re pushing, aren’t you?”…yes, yes I was. I sucked on the gas and air and couldn’t stop myself from baring down. Honestly, I was not in control of my body. My mum had a peak (didn’t give a s**t, a whole brass band could look if they wanted) just as my other half walked through the door. Next thing I hear is “get help now”. What Mum was seeing was F’s hair.
It was all quite fast by then. A different midwife came in and checked, then my midwife reappeared with the trainee doctor. It was time to push but I quickly became overcome with intense pain and was given pethidine and anti sickness meds. However it didn’t have time to come fully into effect as F was determined to show his face. I pushed and pushed and then had a panic attack. I was shouting ‘he’s stuck, he’s stuck’. My mum realized that I was having flash backs to J (I’m crying just typing this part). She explained it to the midwife and they kept telling me ‘this isn’t J, he’s almost here’. I didn’t believe them. In my head it was all going wrong again.
In reality the head was out and all I needed to do was one big push. I took a big breath on the gas and air and pushed like I’ve never pushed before. I won’t lie – I felt myself tear and it was like someone slit my lady parts open with a hot knife. But I didn’t care. I felt F slide out and it was over. I had done it.
Baby F was placed straight onto my chest and I held him for as long as I wanted (whilst the midwife delivered my placenta and sowed me up). I felt the drugs and fatigue hit me so passed baby over to my husband. I drifted in and out, watching my baby. In that moment all I wanted was J. I suddenly missed him. I think it was because I wanted this blissful, happy moment to include him since I didn’t get it when he was born.
I soon had to say goodbye to Mum and Husband as I went to the postnatal ward. Again, baby did not take to breastfeeding. He just wasn’t interested (turns out he was jaundice too, but not to same extent so didn’t need treatment so just regular attempts at feeding). I had so many people squeezing my breasts, giving me advice and support but barely anything came out. I think we managed one and a half of the tiny syringes over two days. So I asked for a bottle but kept attaching him for couple more days too. This time round I had friendly staff who popped in to say hi, had chats with the other mums and felt so much more relaxed.
They helped me with my chest pains I was getting (still the asthma issues and a chest infection so that was fun), thoroughly checked and double checked F (he failed the hearing test multiple times and had to have his eyes checked – all eventually came back fine) and I went home when I was ready. I felt so much more relaxed and ready for babyhood again. It was a complete opposite to my experience with J in every way.
So, I have two beautiful boys. I love them both so much that sometimes I get choked up looking at them. I feel guilty at how happy and relaxed I am with F as it took months to get to that stage with J. I wish I had gotten help. I wish I hadn’t hidden how I felt so well. I have an amazing bond with J, and frankly, he doesn’t remember his baby days so he doesn’t hold any grudges. All he knows is that he’s loved and cared for. Just as Baby F is.
Two different pregnancy’s and two different labours. It shows the difference that feeling supported, listened to and in control has when it comes to giving birth and the first days of babyhood. If you’re reading this as someone who is pregnant or trying for a baby please don’t be worried about the pain I describe. End of the day you will get over it. Things heal and every second of that discomfort and pain was worth it. Write a birth plan. It’s not a contract so it can change but it gives you opportunity to think about what’s important to you.
Also, if things are traumatic and you have those gaps in your mind after Labour then please, please speak to somebody. I left it too late. I suffered when I really didn’t have to. But that’s in the past now and I am looking to the future. A very noisy, exhausting but fun future x