I had some worries in the first half of my pregnancy and when I told my midwife about this she said she hoped that after what I’d been through I’d have an easy birth and my baby would just pop out. And he did!
I’d never really understood what Braxton hicks were but for about a month before the birth I’d been getting mild period-type pains most days, usually in the evening, and suppose these were them. After a very good nights sleep (my last!) I got up at about 7.30am and decided I would go into work (I’d stopped about 2 weeks previously but for the past few days had got bored with waiting around – my baby wasn’t due for another 5 days, and being my first it was sure to be late). I was slightly suspicious to find that I had those period pains at that time of day and I think this was why I decided to take my hospital notes with me, just in case. I walked to South Ken from Battersea, as I normally did, and did stop myself on Albert Bridge and think for a moment ‘Am I ok?’ but shrugged this off and continued on my way to work, thinking maybe things would start to happen soon, as in a few d ays.
Of course by the time I got to work I was bursting for the loo and when I went was pretty sure something was going on.. my waters breaking. I left straight away and called the hospital who said I should come in. Although I was feeling relatively calm I didn’t feel like standing and waiting for a bus or taxi to take me to Chelsea and Westminster so set off walking again.
When they examined me at the hospital they said that it was not my waters but my show and that I should go home. Although I was slightly disappointed as I thought that a show meant it could still be a couple of weeks before the baby arrived, visiting the ward that I would be going to at some point soon had made me feel relaxed. It had a surprisingly calm and quiet atmosphere (I think it was just that particular day!).
So, I set off walking back to Battersea but spoke to my mother on my way who decided she’d pick me up and drop me home. By this point I finally realised that these period pains were coming in regular waves. They weren’t painful and my mother and I were joking about how close together they seemed to be, but weirdly we thought little of it. We arranged to meet for tea that afternoon and she left me at home.
My husband, Tom, kept asking me when he should rush home from work but I kept telling him that even if things were starting it would probably be days yet. It wasn’t until about 12.30 when I googled ‘the early signs of labour’ to remind myself what was going to happen that I realised I was probably in labour. I rang a friend to cancel meeting up with her that afternoon. She’s had two babies and told me I couldn’t possibly be in labour.. I wouldn’t be talking to her on the phone, there is no way the contractions would be so close together already (a few minutes), and they’d be far more painful. I ignored her and asked Tom if he could come home after all. By this point the contractions were becoming more intense and I was pacing around the sitting room and leaning on chairs and the walls (like we’d practised in class). For some reason I had imagined contractions to feel like something I had not experienced before but it was just the familiar old period pain, though admittedly at this point much more intense. They were not that painful though, but they were very close together. I kept getting too distracted by them to time but I think they were coming every 2 to 3 minutes. I had hired a tens machine but of course I had not tried it out! In the very short time between contractions there was no way I was going to have a chance to read the instructions so was relieved when Tom finally got home (about 1.30pm) and set it up for me. I rang the hospital and described my contractions to the midwife. While I was speaking to her I was saying ‘..and here’s another one.. and here comes another one..’ and finally she said I could come in to hospital.
The tens machine was great while I was at home but really came into its own in the car. I buzzed myself all the way there and it was a great distraction. We arrived at hospital at 2.30pm. They examined me and told me I was 3 or 4 centimetres dilated (I can’t remember exactly) and I could either go home or go to the antenatal ward and wait there and they would examine me again in 4 hours. There was no way I was going to go home again and thank goodness I didn’t. They offered me pethidine which weirdly I said ‘yes please’ to despite having decided against this previously. Fortunately they then told me that they thought I didn’t need it and I was doing fine on gas and air (which I was.. it was wonderful and I’m so pleased I didn’t have the pethidine – I don’t know what I was thinking!).
After about 30 minutes in the antenatal ward I started getting that “urge to push”. It was exactly as described in class – retching from the other end! We called for the midwife. I think she was quite surprised. They whisked me back to the labour ward. I can’t remember how dilated I was (but it wasn’t 10cm) but my cervix was very very thin and had moved right round (I don’t really know what that means!). Anyway, the pushing went on for a couple of hours I suppose although it didn’t feel that long. Also it wasn’t really me pushing, or rather it was involuntary and I was amazed how my body seemed to know what to do. Tom was amazing and operated the gas and air for me, though by this point I didn’t really notice any effect, rather it just helped me breathe. The midwives were great too. I kept expecting them to say ‘no, this is never going to get out of here’ but they didn’t.. they w ere very encouraging! Weirdly, and despite all the yoga preparation classes, all I wanted to do was lie on my back! I was aware that surely my coccyx would be bending the wrong way and gravity would not be on my side but that was just how I felt comfortable. I think it had something to do with all that walking earlier in the day! Our son Jonathan arrived at 5.24pm (3 hours after we arrived to hospital) and weighed 7 lbs 8oz. Previously I had been quite scared about tearing. I did tear and had to have a few stitches but it was no big deal at all and was not worth worrying about.
Within two hours we had a room full of visitors already and I felt remarkably normal. Some of the nurses I’d seen earlier in the day were surprised to see me now with a baby before the end of their shifts. It was an amazing experience and I was so surprised at how quick and natural it all was. I was very lucky! And it really wasn’t very painful (a big poo!) (maybe don’t tell the class this but doctors have since told me that I have a high pain threshold).
Unfortunately we then got stuck in hospital for 5 days because Johnny got jaundice which was then complicated by our different blood groups… so in that way I wasn’t so lucky as 5 days on the postnatal ward is hell.
Johnny is now doing very well and is 3 months old and huge!