I just want to start by saying that I had wanted to get pregnant since myself and Nick married in 2003, so when we decided to try and fell pregnant the very next month I was so grateful and happy that I knew I wouldnt complain or feel negative about anything during the pregnancy. It was a fairly easy pregnancy, with a little morning sickness which I dealt with by eating a bit later on in the day and NOT brushing my teeth until about 11am. Gaviscon became my best friend for months, and I still have a half full bottle sat on the shelf.
I started thinking about the labour and birth towards the middle of my pregnancy. I had of course heard all the horror stories, and the "think about pooing a large melon" etc. I had laughed at the time, as I had no intention of having a baby. One of my friends sent me her Hypnobirthing book, which I found really interesting and I thought made a lot of sense. I mean, how could something that we were designed to do (either by God or by evolution) hurt and be such a traumatic experience. It didn't make sense for it to be so especially when animals such as cats, dogs, even our closest genetic relation the apes did not have any noticeable pain during birthing their young.
(Aside from Angela: I've been with quite a few dogs and cats while they gave birth, and it seemed to me that most found it hard work and some were certainly in pain, although certainly not to the extent that many people are. Cats may purr loudly when in labour - they do this when in pain, eg after a serious accident, as well as when they are happy. Hypnotherapists vary in their views about whether pain in labour can be eliminated; for info on several different approaches, see Hypnotherapy for Labour.)
I started believing that the birth would be hard work, but I convinced myself that there would not be any pain as such. I planned to go to Hypnobirthing classes, but decided they were too expensive, and that I would manage on my own. I did buy some Natal Hypnotherapy CDs which I listened to as much as I could, although I found it difficult to lie down comfortably after about 35 weeks. I did worry a little that I hadn't listened enough for it to be effective, but I needn't have. The whole hypnotherapy idea is that if you are worried about giving birth, you will tense certain muscles, which stop the uterus doing the job it needs to do. By being relaxed and open to the sensations you would be able to cope with them more easily and actually your body's natural endorphins will be able to make the whole thing almost enjoyable.
When I got to 40 weeks my midwife offered me a stretch and sweep procedure to see if we could get things moving along. I declined this until I was actually 42 weeks, and this was only because I was due to go into the hospital the next day for induction (I was actually only going to accept monitoring I don't believe in rushing what should be a natural process, although I do understand why some women would want to). However, I needn't have worried about this either, because the day before the midwife was due to come round I went into labour...
I started getting strong period type cramps on Monday night (19th) not very long, or as strong as I expected contractions to be, so mainly ignored them, but mentioned them to Nick as we left our friends house that evening... "Don't want you to get too excited but I think I might be having labour pains!" I think I'd been having them on and off all day actually. I'd also started seeing a pink discharge. We'd spent most of the day having a nice drive around the countryside to try to relax me and to get out of the house. It was lovely to get out and see all the sheep.
I woke up in the night a couple of times and went to the loo. My discharge (Nice!) had got darker. Woke up at 4:30am (Tues 20th) with really strong pains, and managed to time a few. They were about 6 min apart, so I woke Nick up and told him. His exact words were "can't it wait until morning?" I decided to try to just relax and got my mp3 player out and played my hypnotherapy track. It was quite nice really, practicing breathing through the sensations whilst they weren't too intense. So I eventually got up around 8am, and had a shower, thinking I might not get the chance later... pah! Managed to time some contractions properly and I was going around 10min between them for about 30secs. This continued until around 10am, when things started slowing down. Kept getting the odd one now and then, but all manageable. Since I was clearly fine, Nick popped off to work.
Things carried on during the day, and I started timing contractions using a funky website I found, which measures the duration and frequency of each one in relation to the next. Things were pretty steady at about 6min in between and 30-40 secs. long. I wasn't too worried, as I was managing things well, rocking and bouncing on my exercise ball and sometimes on my hands and knees. Nick was due home at 10pm, and just before then things started getting quite intense. I held out until he got home, and asked him whether he thought I should ring the midwife. He really wasn't bothered, and I don't think he really thought there was much going on. But I did call her, as the contractions were about 2 and a half min. frequency and coming up to 40-50secs in duration. She kept chatting to me on the phone, and did not seem convinced that I was in labour; she kept me on for a while, clearly trying to assess my contractions herself, but in the 10min I was on the phone I only really had to stop for a really strong one and say "mmmm" so you can't really blame the midwife for being unconvinced.
Anyway, so clearly the midwife wasn't coming, and I was beginning to doubt if I was actually in proper labour. All this considered, I decided to have a bath. It was funny, because as soon as I started to run the bath, the contractions started to slow (still intense). I think I was probably in there for about an hour (it was about 12midnight by this point) I put the last of my Jasmine bath cream stuff in and it was just divine. Got into bed with Nick after the bath, but couldn't settle and was getting wound up, so went downstairs after about 30min of trying to sleep, so I could be more mobile. I think I lasted about an hour before I needed to wake Nick up again for some company (I always feel better when he's around) So he played on his xbox360 and I lay on the sofa (exhausted) apparently I was waking up about every 30min with a contraction, moaning a bit and then I was out like a light or making a comment about his game, which was actually fairly calming to watch, despite being a military-type 'sneak up and shoot em' game hehe.
Morning comes, and Nick is still on his game, looking like a complete zombie, so I send him to bed. This is at about 8am. I spend another hour or so coping with really strong contractions, and wondering how he's going to cope with being so tired, and the fact that he really didn't seem to know what to do to help me out or keep me company (sorry Nick!) so I finally bit the bullet and called in my mum. I think I hadn't wanted to ring her sooner out of pride, and independence. I wanted to do this myself. But I realised that I really needed her and that I wouldn't be losing anything by having her there, things would be just as special.
Mum arrived shortly after I called. We chatted and timed contractions. It was lovely. We decided to leave Nick in bed as long as possible, as he clearly wouldn't be going into work today, so I went up and gave him a nudge to call work at about 1:30pm (he was due to start at 2pm). I think he probably slept for another hour, maybe less, and then came and joined us. I can't really remember what we talked about or did for the rest of the day, just remember feeling relaxed and calm and warm. Oh, and VERY excited!! The midwife was due to come round to do a stretch and sweep (to get things going ha!) at 5ish, so we waited for this.
Midwife S arrived at 5pm and we went upstairs to do the S&S. I had thought this would be painful, but I was still keen to avoid going to hospital. I'm not sure why I/we didn't discuss whether it was really necessary, I guess this was mainly because I just wanted it over with. So Midwife S discovered that I was 5-6cm dilated "already" and was quite shocked. This seemed to get everything rolling and everyone was called to battlestations. We hadn't managed to get a thermometer for the pool, and the shops would be closing soon. It HAD to be a proper one that went underwater. Eventually got one from my sisters' work (a pet and fish shop) It was nice that her boss let her have it at trade price I think!
While they were trying to find a suitable thermometer (in a blind panic the pair of them Mum and Nick) they left me with Midwife S. Which felt a bit odd as I had never met her before, and I really didn't feel like chatting. I'm pretty awful at getting to know people at the best of times, but I really was trying to concentrate. She kept asking me questions about what was where and this and that. She seemed overly concerned about our lack of central heating and the fact that we only had a gas fire in the living room. This made me really cross, but I couldn't express this (again one of my weaknesses) and anyway I was trying to concentrate on breathing the "surges" away. I realise now she was probably trying to assess how far along I was, and how strong the contractions were, but at the time it was irritating as heck. Especially when she was making a big deal out of something so very minor as our central heating. I could rant about that a lot, but it's irrelevant now.
So a lot of what happened next is a blur. It didn't seem like much time passed, but it clearly did. Midwife J (one of the midwives who I'd seen during my pregnancy) arrived with student Midwife C (I had consented to this I met her at a couple of my antenatal appointments and thought she was really nice and also wanted her to have the experience of seeing a pool and hypnotherapy-type birth (as I was hoping it would be) The 3 of them set up camp in the living room and put the gas fire on full as things were thought to be imminent. Nick had been busy pumping up the pool and filling it with hot water, with the help of Mum. I went upstairs with midwives S and J to recheck my dilation (I realise now that Midwife S did not believe her own eyes or in this case fingers J) and in the hour I had progressed another cm, taking me to 6-7cm, with bulging membranes (this is my waters)
So we just carried on as I had done all day, bouncing on the exercise ball, rocking on all fours, pacing about and leaning over when I needed to all very relaxed, and still able to be aware of what was going on around me and having conversations, although people were beginning to ignore my input a bit, which annoyed me, so I stopped chatting and tried to listen to my natal hypnotherapy CD which we had put on my mp3 player. This didn't work, because people continued to natter, and I couldn't focus on the words and music. So I gave up. I think about this point I started to complain about how hot it was (fire on full blast) and I think I might have either gone upstairs or into the kitchen to try to escape. I got turfed out of the kitchen as I was in the way, and mum and Nick were desperately boiling water in pans and kettles to fill the pool, thinking the birth was imminent. Midwife S popped out to get some dinner.
Eventually the pool was full and I was even more excited. I wanted to get in (I was already past the 5cm mark that the midwives set down before you "should" get into the pool, so I couldn't see a problem) Midwife J wanted to wait until Midwife S got back, but I really didn't. I had a bit of a hissy fit in a tearful kind of way, and this seemed to work. Midwife J wanted to do another VE to see how I had progressed before I got in. I don't know why I allowed this as I had clearly stated that I did not want routine exams at all and that I would ask if I wanted to know. I think a case of the MWs taking over before my mum could remind me of my wishes and me being in a place where nothing really mattered (was high as a kite with absolutely no form of conventional pain relief, just relaxation techniques and endorphins!!)
So I got into the pool, lost all sense of dignity as I thought I probably would (had thought about buying a bikini top or something, but thought it would be a waste of money. Stripped off and jumped in. We have a bit of a blind between our living room (where the MWs were) and dining room (where the pool was set up) so I think this was pulled across a bit to give us a bit of privacy, but could still hear and see MWs. I don't actually have any pictures of this, since I did expect to be in there a lot longer...
THE POOL WAS BLISSFUL!!! I have never felt better. I was in total rapture of how good it felt. The contractions were still there, and were still strong, but I didn't notice them as much at all. Unfortunately my contractions seemed to subside (the ones we were timing at least) I was pretty tired by this point as it was around 12midnight I think. So I was encouraged out of the pool, dried down and got dressed again. Things did pick up a little contractions started being more intense, and I felt them more (surprise surprise) but they didn't seem to be any closer together (Does this seem familiar see Tuesday night)
Eventually the heat from the gas fire really got to me (Midwife S insisted on having it on full blast, still sure that the birth was imminent I imagine) that and the nattering. Mum and Nick were ever-so supportive at this point. I was encouraged to walk up and down the stairs to keep things going I used this as an opportunity to go to the loo frequently (I was being stuffed with toast and jam and juice and boiled sweets in an attempt to keep my energy levels up) and to get out of the heat of the living room. I think I spent most of the rest of the time at home upstairs in my bedroom, trying to use the small space at the end of our bed as best I could. Nick rubbed my back hard (I think he actually bruised me slightly) but it really helped. I was still calm, alert, and excited about everything that was going on, although I was getting really tired, and I did want to sleep. I tried to lie down on the bed (on my right side) at one point but my mum was terrified that I would fall asleep (no idea why this would have been a problem).
So eventually at about 2am, a decision was made by the midwives. I had been at 9 and a half cm for over 2 hours, and they felt that I should transfer to hospital for augmentation (oxytocin drip). This was something I wanted to avoid by all means. Midwife S was quite forceful about the whole thing. I do remember saying "Can't we all just go to bed and see what happens in the morning?" To which the answer was obviously "no". Since the Midwives knew how far dilated I was they had a duty of care to stay with me until baby was delivered. And they had been with me a long time, and they were probably getting (almost) as tired as me. So I realised we were going to have to go to the hospital, and for the first time I the whole of the 36 or so hours I'd been in labour, I lost my calm and sobbed in my mothers arms, with Nick holding me from behind and rubbing my back.
(Note from Angela: the midwives' duty is to stay with the mother or to arrange alternative care, eg call another midwife to take over; shift changes happen at homebirths as well as in hospital! The midwives probably felt that Hannah was exhausted and their employer's protocols may have advised hospital transfer for slow progress. While transfer may well be the right choice in any given situation, it's important that the mother is aware that she does have a choice. Hannah really could have tried to go back to sleep if she'd wanted to, and I've heard of cases where progressive midwives have encouraged women to do just that, or given opiates like Pethidine to allow her to do so. But if the midwife is pressing for transfer, it can be very difficult for the mother to go against that advice. If you are planning a home birth for a first baby, it's well worth considering how you might handle this scenario, because slow progress is by far the most common reason for first-time mothers transferring to hospital. See First babies and homebirth for more.)
I calmed down a little, and we discussed further options. I was terrified mainly to go on the oxytocin drip because I knew it would speed up the contractions, and that I was exhausted and wouldn't cope with the pain. I was dubious about entonox, from the stories my mum told about how almost drunk and daft it made her. I knew I needed to still be in control. Had not even considered an epidural, but as soon as MW J mentioned it I grabbed onto the idea, and I focused if I was going to "have to" have chemical hormones pumped around my system I may as well go the whole hog and be able to do it pain-free; I don't know how that logic works, but it helped me get my head around it. So an ambulance had been called (Before I agreed to go I suspect) and they arrived half an hour later. We walked out and I got strapped into the ambulance bed (on my side!).
The journey was pretty awful; I felt every bump and turn and when a contraction came it was so hard to cope with (still only moaning slightly though like a mmmmmmm type noise as I recall) Eventually we were there, and I could get up (v hard with pregnant belly) we walked through and I went to the loo as I was desperate, but couldn't go when I got there. We went to our room (me and nick mum was following in the car) and eventually MW J came back with the hospital MW MW N, who was v quiet, but seemed lovely.
I'm a little hazy on the exact order of thing from then on (understandably), but I remember saying I'd only have the drip put on AFTER the epidural had been sorted. So I imagine someone went to sort out an anaesthetist. Mum encouraged me to try the entonox (as it was on taplol) and eventually I got the idea, breathing in AND out of the mouthpiece. I got about 6 puffs apparently before wailing "Uuughh I'm drunk, mum I feel drunk", turning, and leaning on the bed looking wide-eyed into the terrified face of my husband (think rabbit in headlights for both of us) and deciding I wouldn't do that again (As part of my religion I don't consume alcohol. I did however have a rebellious phase don't we all and I'd been really drunk rather than just tipsy a couple of times. I didn't like it then, and I didn't like it at this point in time either. What can I say I'm a control freak I need to be in control all the time!)
MW N asked me to get on the bed they needed to attach the monitors (oh I'd put on a v stylish hospital gown at some point) Mum found this very cool; when she wasn't watching and helping me, she was entranced by the peaks and troughs of the machine readout. Baby's heartbeat was still good, showing no signs of distress, and contractions were coming through fairly steadily, although apparently quite weak (I was really feeling them, but still calm, and breathing through them) It's probably worth mentioning that this was the point at which I realised I was doing so well, as I could hear the screams of supposed pain from a couple of women on the ward, and if I hadn't had been so relaxed and focused it would have been pretty terrifying to hear. Mum went to the door a couple of times to close it, but I told her not to worry, because it wasn't upsetting me, and I just felt sorry for them.
So my anaesthetist eventually arrived, we'll call him David Tennant, because he reminded me a little of him in his new role as Dr. Who just the mannerisms and he was really amusing. He said I was a very good patient. Although I didn't get a lollypop or a sticker. Very disappointing. Anyway, he did the epidural. Mum stood behind me, intrigued to watch the whole thing, and Nick sat in front, trying not to notice what was going on (he's awful with needles, drips, anything like that poor lad, plus he was starting to drop off to sleep I reckon) When it kicked in it was great, couldn't feel a contraction at all just watched them on the monitor. They checked it was working by putting ice cubes (inside a rubber glove) on my skin to see if I could feel the cold. When we were sure they started the oxytocin drip, and away we went. Well, I went to sleep, along with Nick. I think mum probably stayed awake to keep an eye on things (Isn't she fab?!) So anyway, this was at about 4am.
I was left until about 7am to see if things would progress, but by this time I was still and 9 and a half cm (I think this is because the baby's head hadn't turned completely she was back to back presentation and so her head wasn't putting enough pressure in the right place) C-Section was suggested and I said something along the lines of this is so far removed from how I wanted her birth to be, that I was past caring about it all now, and agreed to the section. I was also consciously very keen to avoid forceps delivery. Not that it was looking like I would have needed to push any time soon. So Dr Who came back and topped up my epidural for surgery. It was weird - a cold feeling in my back; I knew every time he topped me up again. Nick was nudged and taken to change into scrubs. When he got back I got all excited and demanded that someone take a picture of him in scrubs (grr) much to the amazement of everyone in the room apparently I was a bit out of it because I hadn't slept much and I was so relaxed, didn't really know what as going on I was just focusing on one person at a time.
So I got wheeled into the operating theatre and they put up the tent -- hehe. Nick was completely focused on me (due to his squeamishness) this was nice, but I would have like for one of us to have seen her being born! I knew she was out when the whole atmosphere in the room changed and I heard a couple of wails. Not even a proper cry! I got a bit cross at this point since they took her away to be checked for what felt like ages, and I knew she hadn't been distressed previously at all. Eventually some guy brought her round the screen (cord still long and attached) and I tried to make out if it was a boy or girl. I couldn't as his hands were in the way, but I didn't really look long, as my eyes were just drawn to the amount of hair she had!! They cleaned her up and brought her round in a blanket and laid her on my chest. She was so well bundled that I couldn't really see her, and couldn't really move her either, so I got Nick to hold so I could get a bit better look. We got to hold her for about 10min before the MW took Nick out to weigh and dress her, while they finished stitching me up and took me up to the high dependency unit.
On the way someone who clearly thought I should know her stopped us and asked how I was and "my daughter". Completely knocked me for 6. I think I would have coped with "your son", but it was so weird to think that I have a daughter. Weird and good :)
I couldn't stop looking at her in her cot. I was almost scraping at it like a puppy at the back door. The nurse came and gave Eve her first feed. I felt a bit awkward as she didn't really let me help :s but it was so nice to have her so close and I was just so happy :)
Nick and mum both had a hug and hung around for an hour or so then they went home to let me rest and to get a shower etc. I didn't get much sleep the ward was busy with elective caesarean clients and their families, so I probably dozed a bit, but not much. Got really upset when she started crying and I couldn't do anything someone had moved my button away from me, so I had to wait for someone to hear me calling or her crying. Then I got moved in a wheelchair to the normal ward. The orderly was really nice and kept making me laugh, which hurt a bit actually. I was really lucky to get a private room, with an en-suite! I think they had read my notes and felt really sorry for me. The biggest rooms on the ward only held 3 women and their babies, so it was all quite nice. Spent 4 days in the hospital and it was lovely. Nick could stay between 10am and 10pm and he did most days, I think I would have coped even better if he had been around overnight too. I didn't like calling for help too independent and proud I guess.
I couldn't have asked for better care at the hospital; they really looked after me! Three square meals a day and always someone around if I needed help with anything. I probably called them maybe 5 times the whole time I was there, but it was good knowing that they were there if I needed them in the night (although I would have been fine at home because I'd have had Nick around and possibly my mum too).
One of the midwives caught me having a little weep the day before I was due to come home. I was worried that coming home would spark off the feelings that I had failed at my homebirth, or remind me how cross I was with the community midwives. She was fab got my notes and went through it all with me so I understood what had happened and I could ask her questions about it all.
Nick is really living up to all my hopes as a father. The best thing about the whole c-section thing was that he got to hold and spend time with her, which I was actually pleased about I had been a c-section baby, and since my mum was under general anaesthetic my dad got to spend time with me first, and I've always been quite close to my dad. I hope for the same for Eve and Nick. I almost have to fight him to get a cuddle sometimes!
I can't believe how easy things have been for us. She is feeding like a dream, sleeping 3-5 hours at a time; she put on weight in her first week. My wound has healed, and it's looking like a really neat scar. It's not pulling or hurting anymore, and I'm managing to get around and do stuff well, I'm nearly off the meds (paracetamol and ibuprofen) too.
Eve is now a month old. I am still upset about the way things happened. I don't think there was a good reason for a section. I was fine, coping well, and there was no sign of distress in the baby. In fact her agpar scores were 8 and 10! I really do believe that if the community midwives had not been around, or had been more in touch with the idea of "natural" birth, I would have been able to stay home, rest myself overnight, and she would have been born in her own good time. The only reason we were sent to the hospital and had a C-section in the end was FTP failure to progress (and for the MWs and Docs to be patient). I am having big issues trying to get my head around the idea of VBAC and a "trial of labour". More so the fact that one of the community MWs has told me I will "not be allowed" to have a homebirth next time. Even worse, I am not sure in myself that I would be able to trust the CMWs enough to have a HB next time!
Note from Angela: There is no question of a woman not being "allowed" a homebirth if she has a previous caesarean; it's unfortunate that some health professionals use language like this when what they mean is "I wouldn't advise it, personally" or "My employer's policy is to recommend against it". Many women do have homebirths after past caesarean sections, having carefully considered the risks and benefits. If you can afford it, the best option is to have an independent midwife, who is likely to be very experienced in caring for women having a vaginal birth after caesarean, but women do have homebirths after caesarean (HBACs) on the NHS too. See the VBAC pages for more.
Home Birth Stories
Home Birth After Caesarean
UK VBAC/HBAC (Home Birth After Caesarean/ Vaginal Birth after Caesarean}) group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ukvbachbac
First Babies and homebirth
Independent Midwives - what they do, and where to find one.
Transferring to hospital - why it might be advised.
Get Your Baby Lined Up - what it means when your baby gets in an awkward position, and what you can do about it.
Hypnotherapy for childbirth
Overdue - but still want a homebirth? When is 'postdates' risky?
Homebirth UK email group
Pain relief - what are your options at home?
Waterbirth at home
Home Birth Reference Page