6th January 2023
First Time Parents
Baby Born at 40+4
Aberdeen Maternity Hospital
At 38 weeks I had our baby successfully turned via ECV (external cephalic version) and we were all hoping he'd stay the correct way round! I had some pelvic girdle pain, but was generally happy to continue with pregnancy as long as it took.
A couple of weeks later, after a visit from my folks who were taking our dog, my mucus plug came out. It was like the dog being taken away was the last thing I needed before I could relax enough to begin birthing my baby. My waters broke shortly after, and as dinner time was fast approaching I decided to cook a meal. I'd been into triage a few weeks back with braxton hicks and didn't get dinner until nearly 11pm... I wasn't letting that happen again! I was full of excited, nervous energy because it was all finally starting. I called Peterhead to say that my waters had broken but I had no contractions. This was a concern because I'd had Group B Strep in my urine early on in pregnancy and we were worried about the baby getting a potentially lethal infection. Peterhead advised us to go to Aberdeen where I could get induced if necessary. I desperately didn't want an induction so once we were ready to go, I tried hand-expressing some colostrum. I'd remembered that this could start my contractions and it only bloody worked! They were mild, but definitely happening.
Arriving at hospital
The hospital was BUSY. It was 8pm on a Thursday night and triage was so full that there was only one bed free when we arrived. Quite a few people in the room were very loud. Either very sick or talking obnoxiously on the phone about how inconvenient the timing was or how rubbish the food had been that day. I was using breathing techniques to try and remain calm and focussed.
Once I was given a room in the labour ward, we agreed that I would try and go as long as possible without intervention once I'd had the antibiotic injection (for the Group B Strep). I'd allowed the first vaginal examination, purely because I wanted to know everything was as expected... I was only 1cm dilated. This was extremely uncomfortable and no doubt reduced my oxytocin levels. I had spent around 9 hours pushing through mild contractions with only a TENS machine for pain relief and refusing intervention. I continued using the breathing techniques I had learned in pregnancy to keep calm and get through the contractions one at a time. Danielle, the trainee midwife who I had met only the week before commended me on my breathing and staying calm later on.
I felt my waters break again and again and again. What an odd and embarrassing sensation! I'd had several antibiotic injections by this point and the staff were visiting frequently to urge me to get induced and perform more examinations. Knackered, I agreed to have the 'hormone drip' to help progress the contractions/dilation. This definitely ramped everything up to 11 for me and after what felt like coasting along nicely for a long time I was feeling much more intense contractions which were now very painful. Around 8am I decided to try gas and air to help ease the pain, as this was the maximum pain relief I had previously wanted in my birthing plan. After a few hours of this and listening to a playlist I had on my phone, the gas and air was not adequate and I was near breaking point. I wanted to skip any further pain relief and go for a C-Section however as I was too far through labour they told me that wasn't an option. I chose to have an epidural around 11am which helped beyond anything I expected. I continued my contractions pain-free, assisted by gas and air.
I allowed regular vaginal examinations from around 1pm, as I could not feel them. It was evident how much faster everything was happening. I had dilated to around 7cm at this point and the contractions were more regular. Definitely stronger going by the small section at the top of my tummy which I could still feel... I was very excited to meet my baby! They had calculated that with the progress I had made by this point that I could be at 10cm by 5pm, and that they'd aim for around 7pm delivery... going well! My local student midwife (Danielle) was there with me, watching the ECG machine and counting me through the contractions with reassuring words of encouragement - she was a fantastic help to me and my husband. As the hours went by, after several examinations it was clear that my baby had rotated sideways. He was head down but looking towards my hip.
A Flexible Birth Plan
I was advised that a forceps delivery would be the safest option because I was so far through labour and despite that being on my (beautiful and detailed) birth plan as a hard NO... I agreed. I wanted my baby to be delivered safely, with as little risk as possible and I trusted those who were advising me. Both me and my husband were extremely apprehensive about the forceps delivery, but it was the only real option at the time and we put the safety of our baby first. Unfortunately this also meant I would have an episiotomy. Another hard NO on my birth plan. It does make more sense to have a nice neat cut than an uncontrolled tear from forceps though, so I was happy to continue. After around 25 hours of labour starting, they prepared me and my husband for theatre. He was whisked away to get changed, and I was given a spinal/epidural top-up.
Throughout labour I had a playlist of my favourite moody rock and grunge songs, a TENS machine, snacks, Lucozade and my brilliant birthing partner, Jonathan. As the labour progressed, my personal connections with each midwife vastly improved. The first was pushy and as I was finding my voice in terms of confrontation and sticking to my birth plan she was difficult to get a rapport with. The midwife after the shift change was much more on my wavelength and when Danielle (the student) joined I felt ten times more comfortable. She actually stayed 2 hours beyond her shift ending and reappeared around 3pm the next day after a relatively short sleep to help coach me through the last few hours. Wow!
Birth Support Team
I was wheeled into theatre towards a bouncing, energetic scene. Full of females looking like they were absolutely loving their work, listening to upbeat pop - what a bloody boost!! I can only imagine what that did for my oxytocin levels after being awake for 2 days straight... I'll never forget that. Each woman I encountered had a warm, welcoming smile and told me everything I wanted to know in advance of me wondering it. I was in great hands. My husband finally joined me, dressed in scrubs with a face mask on (COVID19 was still a concern in the hospitals) and things began to kick off. The music stopped, I had my legs raised (for me!) and placed into the leg rests on the bed, and the operation began. I was surrounded by women who oozed calmness and confidence, making me feel pretty invincible.
Meeting Our Baby
In the lead up to the birth I felt like I was on the top of a rollercoaster just waiting for it to drop. I hadn't been listening for the cry at all but my husband did. Our son cried immediately and was placed on my chest for skin to skin, wrapped up in a blanket looking very sleepy. I will never forget those precious moments looking into his eyes for the first time! I felt majorly overwhelmed and full of love and joy. Very teary! I remember seeing my husband holding our son for the first time... I felt so much pride in that moment and was elated for us all, having each other in our lives.
After our son was weighed and cleaned up my husband was sent home at half 3 in the morning. We were both gobsmacked that after he had also been awake for 2 days he was being made to drive home to Ellon, leaving our tiny, precious boy in my very inexperienced hands in the wee hours, with only the odd midwife sneaking about. The first time I changed a nappy was in hospital only a few hours after I gave birth, shortly after Jonathan was sent home. I had to ask to be shown how at 4am in a dimly lit room. All whilst 4 other women and their babies were sleeping/snoring. I don't even remember how I knew the nappy needed changing. I don't remember how I knew he needed fed or needed to sleep. I'm guessing instinct has a huge part to play? Crazy how you can be just thrown in the deep end and feel what your new baby wants. Hospital was hot! Even in early January. HOTTT!
Reflections on Parenthood
Looking back on childbirth, I don't really remember the feeling of any pain. I am proud and happy with the choices I made in the moment. Watching Jonathan eat a three course meal in front of me when I was only allowed tiny bites now and again was torture however. Especially as it smelled amazing! Haha, I remember reflecting in those early weeks on past conversations with friends after they'd given birth and how naïve I had been. How little I knew and how I must have come across. If you know, you know. Until you've been through it yourself, you know nothing! I think even being in a room with someone as they give birth would only be half the story. I feel like I can fully appreciate now how really bloody awesome women can be. Parenthood is hard. I'm writing this with a beer in my hand as my 8 month old sleeps peacefully in his own room after a few hours work at the laptop and I can honestly say I know being a mum is the best thing I will ever do. Parenthood is rewarding and joyful and exhausting and frustrating and beautiful. I feel so fortunate and I can't wait to do it all over again.