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Cassy's second baby, Carys, was born on 28th December 2005.

Carys Freya Gally Sarum was born by emergency caesarean (but with a spinal, so I was conscious) after 4 nights and three days of labour at home, at 40+13 days gestation, weighing 7lb 5.5oz. We had carefully planned and longed for a home birth since even before her conception. This is what happened instead:

I started regular contractions at 1am on Christmas morning. They were coming every 15 minutes to the dot, full on, and not mild at all, but they stopped suddenly when my elder daughter came into the room with her stocking at 8.30am, stayed off for most of Christmas day (one or two per hour), and started again promptly as soon as the step-children had left after opening their presents! I managed to cook a full Christmas dinner and to join in all the festivities. The contractions continued all through the second night at 15 minute intervals, and I distracted myself with music on my walkman and with my husband, Craig, massaging my back through the contractions, and with kneeling up and grasping onto the head-bars of our bed.

We called the midwife when the contractions got to 5mins apart on Boxing day, and she came later that evening. It happened to be my own midwife, Ceri, who was on call at that time. While she was on her way, I felt that my waters had broken and we showed her the pad and she said it looked as if they had.

We inflated the birth pool (Made in Water) and Craig started to fill it. I had written in my birth plan that I wanted to keep vaginal examinations to a minimum, but after having had contractions for so long I agreed to being examined to see how far I'd got. Ceri found me to be 3cm dilated and as she examined me, I bled quite a bit which she said was a good sign. We got the tens machine going and used that, combined with music through my walkman (I played the same piece of music over and over again to focus my breathing) for some hours. Ceri just let me and Craig get on with it, as we had requested.

I don't know how much later it was when she suggested measuring me again, and I accepted. I'd got to 4cm and things seemed to be hotting up. This must have been sometime in the night of Boxing day. The midwife then started warming some baby clothes up and suggested I should get into the pool. I felt myself it might be too early for that, but was excited and got in nevertheless.

As soon as I got in, another contraction came, and I said that it seemed as if the pool wasn't slowing me down at least. I stayed in the pool for a while, coping well with the contractions. However, after a while Ceri said that they had slowed down and I should perhaps be measured again as 4 hours had passed since the last measurement. I hadn't progressed at all, despite some strong and frequent contractions before getting into the pool, and strong contractions in the pool.

Ceri said that if we followed the recommended 'Clinical Pathway for Labour', we needed to take some action. Either my waters should be broken (she had found that my fore-waters were still intact; it must have been my hind waters that had broken before), or we should go to hospital to have the contractions sped up. We both got quite distressed about this, especially when she said that if the waters were broken and were not clear, we would be advised to go to hospital anyway because it may indicate distress in the baby. However, she said, there was a stronger chance than normal that the waters would be coloured simply because the baby was 11 days overdue, so we might be going to hospital for nothing.

Craig and I asked for time to talk about it, and he was a pillar of strength to me at this time, when I felt so tired after, by now, three nights of no sleep and regular contractions. He reminded me that I had asked him to ensure that I did not go to hospital unless it was an emergency, and not to let me give in. After much discussion with Ceri, we asked if there was any other way to see if the baby was in distress. She called the next midwife on call and got her to bring a monitor to the house. Having refused both the options on the 'Clinical Pathway', we now were 'off' the pathway and could choose what to do, but at our own risk.

The new midwife came and I nearly burst into tears when I saw it was my favourite midwife, Meinir, who I had met at aqua-natal classes and who had been to see me at home a couple of times for various checks. I lay down on the sofa with the monitor on, the contractions slowed right down to 10-15 minutes apart and I actually slept for the first time in four days, for well over an hour. I heard her voice saying 'this woman is not in established labour, I'm not going to break her waters', and it felt like an angel had arrived. When I woke up, she was smiling at me, and said 'there is nothing wrong with this baby', and I said 'I don't want to go to hospital' and she said 'why on earth would you want to go to hospital, you're having your baby at home where it belongs'… and I burst into tears and said, 'could I start again please?'… and that's what we did.

Meinir went home (at about 10am on the 27th), and my husband and I worked together for the next 10 hours to work through and speed up the contractions. Lots of holding, hot water bottles, going up and down the stairs, nipple stimulation, me playing my big tenor recorder (!) and all sorts. It was an intensely loving and moving experience, we were so close to each other and I felt so intensely supported by Craig. We kept in touch with the lovely midwife by phone and she came out to see me for an hour or so before going home to put her children to bed. She came back again when we'd finally got the contractions back to 5 mins apart, and this was about 8.30pm on the 27th.

There then followed another very moving section of my labour. Craig lay on one of the sofas and I watched as he fell gently asleep, relieved that he could actually have some rest. Together with Meinir, I continued as I had before, and showed her where to hold me, and how to help me through the contractions. We had some beautiful music playing and she told me to turn the clock around so we didn't keep watching the time. She said she would not measure me, it wouldn't help. The contractions continued, regularly, painfully and I felt trance-like and totally in awe of the experience. Craig woke up after about 3 hours as the pain increased and joined in with the rhythm of the support. Meinir called out the second midwife and we got going with the entonox. This time round I ditched the tens machine and walkman (too many wires and too much mental concentration) and just went with all the feelings and sensations.

Once again it got to the point when the midwife thought I wouldn't be long. The second midwife joined in with the rhythm and movement and holding and support and the wonderful atmosphere in the room continued. I remember them asking if I felt ready to push. I didn't, but hoped it would not be long.

All too soon, it was 8am on 28th Dec and the end of Meinir's shift, another all-nighter had passed and I felt both guilty for keeping everyone up, and sad that she would be leaving. My own midwife, Ceri, returned and I felt panicky that I would be back on the clock and measurements and pathways. Another midwife, Glenda, came as well, because of me seeming so close to birth, and I knew her too from aqua-natal, and she was lovely. I gave a little lecture to both the midwives about the way that the previous team had supported me, and we sort of got the rhythm going again, although I felt that it had been broken somewhat and was beginning to feel exhausted.

After about 3 hours, Ceri asked if I would let her examine me, as the contractions had slowed once again. I really didn't want her to as I felt as soon as she asked, that it would be bad news. It was, I had not changed at all in 27 hours of additional labour… no increase whatsoever. What's more, I had developed a sharp pain in my side, a bit like stitch only worse, which did not come and go like the contractions but was over-riding them, and I felt that I was beginning to lose control.

Then followed the only bad time in the whole process. At that point I knew that I did not have the strength to go through more labour and still not progress, or to take another day with a risk of no further dilation. I said that I wanted a c-section, I could not see any other way forward. I was devastated and exhausted. Craig was distraught, he encouraged me to try the Meptid drug which we had on standby, to let the midwife break my waters (which we had been convinced had broken AGAIN the previous night – huge amounts of gushing everywhere, but on examination the membranes appeared intact) and to keep going. But I knew in my heart that I did not have the strength to go on. We agreed a compromise whereby I would have an epidural at hospital and the drug Syntocinon to augment the contractions. Numbly he packed a bag for me (I had refused beforehand to pack a hospital bag just in case) and an ambulance was called. It arrived very quickly and we made them wait in the lane until we were ready.

The ambulance journey was horrific; it felt as if it had no suspension and every jolt went right through me, I just kept sucking on the entonox. Craig was sat next to me looking so sad that it made me feel more dreadful than ever. I felt a complete failure. Ceri came to the hospital with us and said she would stay with me for the birth, for which I was grateful.

We were taken up to the delivery suite and the anesthetist was called. He turned out to be an old style chauvinist and made the most inappropriate remarks about my size and so on, but on top of everything else I actually managed to laugh with my midwife about him. The first epidural didn't work, the second did, but it was a horrible experience. I was stuck on the most uncomfortable bed in the world, falling down a crevice in the middle of it, and with my feet jammed against the footboard as I kept sliding down the mattress. The pain down my side wouldn't budge. We had forgotten to bring our music or anything that would make the experience more relaxed. The contractions sped up, and went on like that for hours. Eventually the midwife measured me again, and surprise surprise, I had not dilated any further. In fact my cervix was swollen and I was back down to 3cm. I was in tears and convinced that I would not give birth to a live baby.

The only option now was a c-section. Once Craig and I realized this, we turned the situation around. We felt strong again and knew that we had done all we could. The registrar who came to explain the procedure to us was utterly sympathetic and calming and all the staff were wonderful. We asked that nobody should tell me the sex of the baby except Craig, and that my home-made cord tie should be used. Every part of the procedure was explained to us and I felt cared for and well treated. What's more, Craig looked very gorgeous in his scrubs!!! We knew that at last we would see our baby very soon, and I can honestly say that the c-section was a positive part of the whole experience.

When Carys was born she had some difficulty breathing, so more panic and tears from me, until I heard a little pathetic cry. She was taken off to the SCBU and Craig didn't know which way to go. I told him to go with the baby, so for a little while I was left in a room on my own with no Craig and no baby…another low point. It didn't last long though and I was soon wheeled through to her where I was able to breast feed Carys in the unit. I couldn't believe how easily she took to feeding, having had a terrible job with my other daughter 11 years before.

Ceri had arranged that Craig and I could spend the night in one of the delivery rooms, rather than me being taken to the ward. The hospital usually sends fathers home at night, but we had said we wouldn't go to hospital if he was sent home, so we were grateful for this concession. We both drifted in and out of sleep until the morning, when I was taken over to the post-natal ward. I asked to be taken back over to SCBU and was wheeled over in a chair while Craig went home in a taxi to gather some stuff for me. While I was there, the consultant did his rounds and said that although Carys had had small pneumo-thorax (fluid leak from her lung) it was self-healing and he was prepared to discharge her from the unit, so she could be with me on the ward. I was so happy.

I spent 3 days on the post-natal ward, not exactly what I'd wanted, but it was better than I expected. I came home on New Year's Eve and Carys has been a contented little girl every since. She breastfeeds very well, and even gives us some sleep at nights.

We have talked through our experiences a lot since the birth and feel that we had nearly everything we wanted from a home birth, apart from the birth itself. In fact, as the midwife has since said, we had twice most people's experience of home birth, with the length and nature of the labour at home. The birth itself was a moving experience (Craig now knows me inside as well as out!) and it was only the horrible half day in the delivery room on the epidural that was a bad experience.

I would really like to try and understand what happened to me, and why, despite all that amount and intensity of labour, I failed to dilate. The midwifery team said they had never seen anything like it and could not understand. On two separate days they had both been convinced that the baby was imminent. Carys will be my last baby, so the knowledge is academic to a point, but I still feel that I need to know and to understand what was going on.

In any case, it was certainly a Christmas week to remember!!

Cassy

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