Emily's Birth Story

By Karen Fairweather

I woke up at 4a.m. on Friday 2nd February with mild contractions. At first I wasn't sure if they were the real thing but after lying there for a while I realised they weren't going away. I also realised they were coming every 5 minutes. 'Surely that's not right', I thought. I had read that most people start their contractions at every half an hour with them gradually increasing in frequency and strength. This panicked me for a bit as my midwife had asked me to ring her when contractions were every 5 minutes lasting about a minute. I then remembered reading that sometimes they did start like this with them continuing every 5 minutes throughout. Well they were only lasting about 20 seconds and not very strong at this point so I relaxed and dropped back off to sleep.

I got up as normal and carried on through the rest of the day trying to ignore my contractions. I made my partner David some breakfast and he went of to work, I took my stepson Daniel (who's 7) to school, had my new gas cooker delivered, picked Daniel up from school and even did my ironing. At about 6p.m. they started to get too painful and I asked David to finish cooking our evening meal whilst I got into the bath. I didn't eat what I had cooked for myself (a bad move.)

The bath eased the pain and I sat in there for about 2 hours. David and Daniel popped out for some choccie biscuits for the midwife and I sat listening to Macy Gray. About 6-30p.m.I started timing my contractions and they were now lasting about a minute. David then timed them as well as I didn't believe myself. They were definitely the magical minute but I didn't want to ring the midwife yet as I didn't want her to come and find I hadn't got anywhere. So I hung on and when I got fed up with the bath I started dancing round the bathroom rubbing my back with a towel at the height of each contraction. I had a lot of backache pain with each contraction and this was the only way I could cope with it.

About 8-30p.m.I decided it was time to ring the midwife. I spoke to Ruth who was on call and whom I hadn't met before. She asked if it was urgent, as she needed to pick up her son at 9p.m. and as I had waited anyway I said another half hour wouldn't hurt. She said she would be with me about 9-15p.m.

When Ruth arrived I explained what had been happening and she examined me. Bad news, I wasn't even dilated! The cervix was growing thinner though. I was most fed-up. Also to make matters worse my contractions had started to slow on the appearance of the midwife (typical!).

Ruth suggested that I tried to get some sleep and she helped me on with the TENS machine I had hired. I hadn't really intended to use the TENS but Ruth thought it might help. She left about 11p.m. and I tried to sleep. But the TENS wasn't helping at all. I fiddled with it a bit and David moved the pads about but to no avail. Sleep wasn't something I was going to have the luxury of at this point. So I took the TENS machine off and decided if I wasn't going to get any sleep I might as well go for it instead. So I necked some Lucozade I found in the fridge and ate some chocolate. I got back in the bath and whilst David tried to get some sleep I found my contractions starting to pick up again.

At about midnight I had a show. Not what I expected at all, it was like something off of Alien. There was loads of it and I couldn't clean it away. It just clung. About an hour later I was still trying to get rid!

At 1a.m. I decided I couldn't cope anymore on my own and I went and lie on the bed and talked to David. Whilst I was lying there I felt a bit weird. 'David, David my waters are about to break', I shouted. I don't know how I knew, I just did. David said not to worry, 'Just let it happen'. Luckily we had put the plastic sheeting on the bed earlier that day. I decided it might be time to ring Ruth again. This time when she examined me it was better news. 'You're about 7cms dilated' said Ruth. 'Brilliant' I thought. The Lucozade had obviously paid off.

As I had progressed at such a pace Ruth felt it might not be much longer before baby was born so she rang Sue my midwife who had looked after me throughout my pregnancy. Sue had agreed to second the duty midwife when I went into labour. She arrived about 2a.m. I continued to move between the bathroom and bedroom making more and more noise. Sue examined me and she wanted to do a urine test for ketones because my contractions had started to slow again. I couldn't do a wee though! I was getting David to massage my back with oil. I had apparently made my back very sore from the previous rubbing with the towel so I was trying to not do that again although it was difficult as I knew it had relieved the pain earlier. I panicked if David went downstairs to make tea or get something, as I had to have him there every time a contraction came. I started to use the Entonox at this point but only sparingly, as I knew there was only about 50 minutes of supply. I also wanted to be in control as much as I could. I got in the shower for a while but David couldn't get in with me so I didn't stay in for long. Both midwives just let us get on with it, which I was glad of.

At 5-30a.m I was fully dilated. 'Oh maybe I'll go into transition now' I thought. 'I could do with the rest'. But it wasn't to be. I felt the urge to push and I went with it. Sue told me how to bear down properly and I squat at the end of the bed holding onto it for support. After about an hour we didn't seem to be getting anywhere and Sue tried to examine me. She couldn't feel which way round the baby's head was but she felt the baby move on a contraction. Contractions were slowing again. There was no Lucozade left and all the other drinks in the house were low sugar. I tried to eat some chocolate but for the first time in my life it made me feel sick. I suggested some honey in hot water and David went off to make some. David suggested going out to the shop but nowhere nearby would be open and I didn't want him to be gone for too long. I drank as much of the honey drink as I could.

The contractions still weren't coming as quick as they should and Sue suggested going to hospital and going on a dextrose drip. I decided I wanted a bit longer and I sent David to the corner shop, which was now open. He came back with more Lucozade and some energy bars which I tried to eat but couldn't. I guzzled the Lucozade though. By now I was feeling very tired and I was depending more and more on the gas and air. I was trying to give my all with every contraction but about 7-45a.m.I gave in and said I would go to hospital for the drip. David ran round putting things in a bag for baby and me whilst I looked for my beach sandals. The midwives tried to help but my cupboards aren't the tidiest in the world! David arranged for the neighbours to look after Daniel who had managed to sleep through most of the evening's proceedings including my screaming!

Sue travelled with me in the ambulance whilst David followed in the car. I sucked on the Entonox in the ambulance for a bit of relief.

At the hospital I was put on a belt monitor and examined. That was when they first realised that the baby was Occiput Posterior (OP) meaning her back was against my back instead of her facing inwards as she should be (for more details see 'get your baby lined up' - Angela).

The registrar came and explained the options to me. He told me that they could use forceps to turn the baby but I would need to have an epidural and an episiotomy and if the forceps didn't work they would have to perform an emergency caesarean. He did say though that he would leave me to carry on if that's what I wanted. I decided that I wanted to try for a bit longer with the dextrose drip, which is what I had originally come in to do. The registrar suggested Syntocinon to strengthen my contractions and I agreed to this. He said he would give me half an hour and see where we were then. After some initial confusion where one of the other staff tried to give me a saline drip instead of dextrose I eventually was hooked up and I got down to some serious pushing! The Syntocinon made the contractions very strong though so I used the Entonox to get over the pain whilst pushing as hard as I could.

I had an hour of pushing as the registrar was called to another emergency. Sue suggested I relax after the half hour had gone but I felt that any extra pushing I could do would make it easier for baby. 'Even if I can't push baby out myself, I can push it into a better position to make it easier with the forceps', I thought. David was looking worried and I remember trying to reassure him between my contractions. At 9-50 a.m. the registrar came back to examine me. He said I had moved the baby a bit further but it was still OP. I agreed to go for the forceps.

I was prepped for surgery, David had to take my belly ring out which I had managed to keep in throughout pregnancy. Everyone introduced themselves in surgery, which made me feel more at ease. The epidural was put in whilst David held my hand. The registrar decided he was going to try and turn the baby by hand first. He succeeded but when he turned to get the forceps to bring baby out, baby turned back. So he then used the Keillands forceps. He told me to push as hard as I could when Sue could feel a contraction. I pushed for all I was worth because I knew this was my last chance before they started talking c-section. I pushed hard and out came baby. David had first look at what it was and exclaimed 'It's a girl!' We both had tears running down our cheeks as baby Emily was passed to me for my first cuddle.

Born at 10-51a.m on 3 February 2001, Emily weighed 7lb 11oz and had a very healthy Apgar score of 8/10. She was hardly marked at all from the forceps, just a small scratch on her ear. I fed her in the delivery suite and she carried on feeding for two hours whilst they transferred me to the ward. We both left the hospital at 7-30p.m. the same day, as I didn't like being on the ward at all. I was told the epidural would wear off in 2-3 hours by the anaesthetist but the ward nurse said I would be lucky to be able to stand-up and walk after this time.

I had also been told in the delivery suite that I had to finish having the rest of the Syntocinon before I could go but I only needed to have one of the bags that were attached. On the ward they insisted I had both bags and later on I realised one of them wasn't even on! I sorted the Syntocinon out with them making sure I was getting what I should and then as soon as the Epidural started to wear off I frantically started wriggling my toes and moving my legs to get back my circulation. I stood up and felt all right so I tentatively tried to walk. I then spent the next two hours showing them how well I could walk up and down the ward and trying to convince them to let me have a shower.

No one changed the sheets on my bed so I couldn't lie down and feed Emily. I finally got my shower and then had to wait to be examined. I wanted to make sure Emily was healthy because although I wanted to go home and felt fine she couldn't tell me how she was though she looked happy enough. So Emily was examined again by a paediatrician who gave her 9/10 Apgar score. I was therefore happy to take her home. All these hassles were something I could have done without on Emily's first day of life, as I wanted to be spending all my time with her. I could have given in to them but I felt that we would get more rest and feel more relaxed at home. I ended up discharging myself.

I came home to a nice clean house (courtesy of David) and we all got some well-earned rest in our own beds.

Although I had really hoped for a home birth I don't regret being admitted as I still did most of my labouring at home and always felt in control. Sue said later that she hadn't believed baby was OP as I was coping too well with the pain and OP births are usually very painful. She did say as well that if she had realised it was an OP birth she would have insisted I had gone in earlier. I know that if I had been in hospital from the outset I would have never been given the chance to push for as long as I did. In retrospect I wish I had known that Emily was OP as I may have been able to help her turn. But there had been no indications whilst I was pregnant and she may well have turned into that position during labour.

Baby Emily is the most beautiful baby I have ever seen with lots of dark hair and she is loved very much by us all.

Karen Newnham

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