At 10 am I surprised my midwife at her scheduled visit with the news that my waters had broken 3 hours earlier. We spent the morning putting away paints and tools, having finished decorating the previous day, and assembling the pool at 10:30 pm the previous night! We started to fill the pool, however what we thought was a soothing bubbling noise turned out to be a fault due to fitting the filter incorrectly we were actually cooling the water down! We sorted out the filter, and my husband spent the rest of the day running from the kitchen with endless kettles and bowls of boiling water.
My contractions became steadily more regular throughout the day, with no pain-free period in between. I coped with peaks by kneeling on stairs or bending over banisters, transferring my weight between legs, with my husband massaging my back. My birthing ball was only used once - it caused horrendous pain, although it clearly did the job, as it caused my trickling waters to gush out.
My midwife returned at 5:30, at which point I was having powerful contractions every 3 minutes. The pain never felt unbearable but extreme and intense, all in my back. I had an internal examination whilst lying on my back on the sofa it was agony to lie down and I vowed not to do it again. I was 6 cms dilated and so climbed into the pool.
The pool was still only lukewarm, but provided relief. The pain did not reduce significantly, but my body was supported, which made the pain somehow easier to bear. The water increased the intensity of the contractions. After about 30 minutes in the pool the contractions felt more 'pushy', however I could not believe that I was ready as I'd had none of the dreaded transition symptoms at all, and felt very calm. I asked for an internal and was amazed to hear that I was completely dilated!
I had been in a kneeling position in the pool but as things intensified my midwife asked me to change position to lean backwards so they could see what was going on. The change in position was useful as during each contraction my body rose effortlessly towards the surface of the water, into its most comfortable position. At this point another midwife and a student arrived. They stayed in the background and I was almost unaware of them, other than as a friendly presence. The midwives were incredible throughout leaving my husband and I to ourselves, asking before doing any heartbeat monitoring, offering iced water. They trusted us to do this together, and provide assistance, rather than taking over
My husband kneeled behind me (outside the pool) during whole period talking me through contractions, telling me when they were subsiding, spraying my face with Evian spray (a life saver) between them and floating me to relax my body. I could not have done this without him.
The contractions became incredibly strong; I did not have to push - my body did the pushing for me! It was an incredible sensation, I cannot believe that my body is so powerful I was quite passive, allowing my body to labour for me. This stage lasted about 2 hours, but I was totally unaware of time, I had gone into my own place, with my eyes closed throughout. I was in intense pain during contractions, but felt very calm and completely able to cope with it.
As head started to crown the pain was pretty horrendous - the so-called 'stinging' pain was awful, and did not deaden as promised by the NCT advisor!! My body pushed the baby out about 4 - 5 contractions later, head first and then body in 2 surges, all within one contraction. My baby was handed to me, onto my chest. I had to be told by everyone Open your eyes! both of us had inexpressible, overwhelming feelings about our new child, combined with the very down to earth 'Let it be a boy!' as we don't have a definite girl's name in mind. He is a boy! He is tiny (6lb 10) and covered in vernix and absolutely incredible. He screams continually making very specific 'Wah' noise not a peaceful water baby!
10 amazing minutes later, midwives took him for checks etc (Apgar scores of 9 then 10). I stood up to deliver placenta (after syntometrine) one push (the first and only active push of my whole labour!) and it delivered painlessly. It is smaller than I expected (unknown to me and the midwives I had a large piece of placenta remaining more of which later).
After 30 minutes of stitching we have our first breastfeed, which was difficult but amazing. The baby was slightly cold so was wrapped up, given a hat and handed to Dad to warm up. Slowly the midwives packed up and drifted away until about 10.30, when I was settled in bed, while my husband played our gorgeous babe Brian Eno's 'An Ending (Ascent)', the first piece of music he heard in the world. Very peaceful, he sat quiet but awake on his daddy's chest.
Unfortunately my fantastic labour was followed by an undetected postpartum haemorrhage due to a large piece of retained placenta. This was not detected for 5 days, even though I had horrendous afterpains all night and lost a lot of blood. The GP saw the soaked sheets, towels, inco pads etc. and assured me that this was normal.
5 days later I passed an orange sized clot which was examined and found to be 'ok', however the midwife took a blood sample as I was still so pale, faint and tired.
That evening we received a visit from the onduty GP who told me that my haemoglobin levels were dangerously low (6) and that I needed to go to hospital for a transfusion. The next few days were pretty dreadful; I needed a spinal block to have the placenta removed, and was re-sutured. The pain following this procedure was far worse than anything after my labour and lasted for at least a week despite taking Voltarol and paracetamol.
It was distressing to have to go through all this with a tiny baby, especially after such a positive birth experience, however overall I feel very positive about my labour. I am proud of the way that I managed the pain (only 2 paracetamol at the outset to fend off the remains of a slight cold). My husband was enabled to be the perfect birth partner. I felt very calm and empowered and the pool provided a sanctuary which allowed me to stay in control. 5 months on our baby is a wonderful, happy little boy and life could not really be much better.
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