Sebastian Jack

The day before I went into labour my community midwife told me that there was no chance I was going into labour anytime soon and that I should go home and enjoy my last Christmas just the two of us. At 5:25am the next morning I was woken up by my first contraction, on Christmas Day!

I spent the morning alternating between the bath and my birth ball, making good use of my TENS machine to help with the contractions. We opened our Christmas presents, including a couple for the baby and wondered whether this would be his first Christmas, or if he’d hold out until after midnight. All of our families were calling to wish us merry Christmas and I was trying to talk to them all in between contractions so that they wouldn’t realise I was in labour.

For the rest of the day we watched Christmas TV and I breathed through the contractions, which were steadily getting more painful but not really getting more regular. They seemed to be coming 3 quite close together and then 1 a little bit later.
We decided to go out for a walk at about 3pm to try and get things going. So we set off to the coast, trying to walk along the icy paths and having to stop for contractions. After a mile of walking I was freezing cold and needed to get home, so we set off and I got back on my ball.

By 10pm the contractions were coming much stronger, but still quite irregular. I was struggling to talk through them so we decided to phone the maternity assessment unit at the RVI for advice. After trying to speak to the midwife she told me I sounded like I needed to come in so we packed the last minute things into the hospital bags just in case and headed to the hospital. We got there and I was examined and found to be 5cm, so was told I would be staying in. The midwife said she was surprised I was 5cm as I seemed to be coping really well with the contractions at that point. We were told that it was very quiet on the delivery suite right then and that both birthing pools were free, I was grinning like a loon at that news, I was going to get my water birth!

After a 40 minute wait for the pool to be filled we met our midwife and were shown to the pool room. I stripped off and jumped in, which immediately made the contractions more manageable. I floated around in the pool and we chatted to the midwife while Stephen fed me foxes glacier mints and played games on his iPhone.
We had my natal hypnotherapy CD playing and the atmosphere in the room was so calm and relaxed. We carried on like this until 2:40pm when the midwife wanted to re-examine me. For this I had to climb out of the pool, which instantly made the contractions harder to handle (at this point I realised how much the water was helping!). I decided I needed to wee and poor Stephen had to help me to the bathroom and on to the toilet (unfortunately this wasn’t the worst thing he was to see or have to do in the next 24 hours!)

I was examined and after 4 hours in the pool had not dilated any further, I was gutted. The midwife explained that my contractions were still happening as they had been all day, 3 close together and then a gap before another one and that they just weren’t effective enough. She said we had two options, I could get back in the pool for another 2 hours, or she could break my waters to see if this would get things moving.
I was starting to get tired by this point, so we decided to have my waters broken and see if that would help my contractions become more regular.

Getting back in the pool there was an immediate change in the contractions, they were far stronger, but still coming in that irregular pattern. The midwife said they would give me 4 hours in the pool after having my waters broken and would then re-examine to see if I’d made any progress and we’d go from there. This is where everything goes a little hazy for me as the pain started to get very intense and I was getting exhausted.
After having my waters broken I started getting very intense back pain, which was relentless, the contractions I could handle, but the back pain was beyond horrendous. I asked for the gas and air, which made me really woozy and I was struggling to keep breathing properly when I was taking the gas and air and I couldn’t concentrate because of the back pain. I started to cry and Stephen told the midwife that he was getting in the pool (didn’t even ask if it was okay, just told her he was doing it, ah my knight in shining armour!). So in he got and he got behind me and started doing some
of the back massages we had practised, which relieved some of the pain in my back but I had by this point started to panic and was struggling to cope. The midwife was fantastic and while Stephen was massaging me, started to tell me to relax in a way that was so similar to the natal hypnotherapy I’d been using that it actually worked; I suddenly found myself relaxing and being able to cope with the contractions again.

So I continued on in a drugged up state on the gas and air for the 4 hours until I could be re-examined. Stephen had to practically carry me out of the pool at this point. The midwife found that not only had I only managed 1cm in the 4 hours, but that baby’s head wasn’t facing in the right direction, which may have been contributing to the contractions still not being regular and me not dilating. At this point I started to sob, I was exhausted and we didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. The midwife advised at this point that because things weren’t progressing we should consider being put on a
drip to make the contractions more effective, but she recognised that I was exhausted and struggling and making the contractions stronger with a drip would make it even harder for me to cope, plus as soon as the drip went in I wouldn’t be allowed back in the water so wouldn’t have that for pain relief. I was gutted that after making it to 5cm with just a TENS machine that things had stopped progressing now and I was struggling with the pain so badly. I was also pretty out of it by this point and couldn’t have made a decision if my life depended on it. Thankfully Stephen, being fully versed in what I wanted managed to ask all the questions I couldn’t voice and we made a decision with the midwifes help that pethidine/diamorphine probably wouldn’t do much to help me at this point and that if I was going to have the drip, then an epidural would at least allow me to sleep and get some energy back for pushing later.

Within minutes there was an anaesthetist in the room to discuss the epidural with us and I was being prepped to have it inserted. It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I feared it would be, and my fear that I would get a contraction while it was being inserted never happened (in fact my contractions stopped as soon as they decided to fit the epidural, probably due to the fear and adrenaline rush!) As soon as the drip was in and the pain relief started to work I managed to go over to sleep and they brought in a chair for Stephen that flattened right out for him to have a sleep too. We were left for
4 hours to rest before they re-examined me and I was 9cm, at long bloody last. The midwife said she would leave me another 2 hours to go the remaining 1 cm and then we would start to push. After an hour I said that I could feel pressure and so she examined me earlier than she’d planned and I was fully dilated and she could feel baby’s head, but wasn’t sure if it was facing in the right direction as his head was quite swollen. She got everything ready and then explained to me how we were going to push, she was absolutely fantastic with encouraging me. Stephen was reading the traces and telling me when to push and helping me breathe properly while I was pushing. So 2 hours went by with me, in the midwifes words ‘pushing like a demon’  and although the baby had moved a bit, it hadn’t gone very far and she was pretty sure by this point that he was still in the wrong position. So off she went to get a doctor who agreed with her about baby’s position and decided that a forceps delivery in theatre might be necessary. At this point they realised that there was some meconium in the waters and things stepped up a gear. A scanner was brought in which confirmed that the baby was facing the wrong way and it was explained to us that they would try to rotate the baby using forceps and if that didn’t work everything would be set up for an emergency c-section to take place right away. So we were whisked to theatre and Stephen was sent to get dressed into some rather fetching orange scrubs and came to sit next to me in theatre.

Having written in my birth plan that I wanted my baby to be born in water and that I wanted as fewer people in the room as possible the actually birth couldn’t have been more different. There seemed to be tonnes of people there and the midwife told me that another guy would be joining them, to which I replied ‘well one more isn’t really going to make much of a difference’. I was shaking at this point and fighting back tears, my legs were put into stirrups and these huge lights were shining down on me and I remember thinking how completely undignified it all was. Poor Stephen looked
terrified and I just kept asking him if he was okay, but he told me not to be daft and to concentrate on me.

So the doctor started with the forceps trying to turn the baby, it was really uncomfortable and I could feel it but it wasn’t painful. She said that she’d managed to turn the baby and I could start pushing with the next contraction. I was terrified of ending up with a section so I pushed with energy I didn’t even know I had left. Within 3 contractions the baby was out and placed on my stomach for a few seconds. I’d told them that Stephen had to announce the sex so he went over and shouted back ‘it’s a little boy’ to which one of the midwives replied ‘little?!!!!!?, it’s a toddler!’. He was whisked to the resusitaire, I’d told Stephen that I wanted him to go with the baby at all times so he went with him and brought him back in a blanket to meet me. He sat beside me with Seb while I was stitched up and I couldn’t stop crying and I just
wanted to hold my gorgeous boy. We were all wheeled through to recovery once I was repaired and I was finally handed him for a cuddle and he latched straight onto the breast, perfect latch first time! I loved him already!

So things didn’t exactly go the way we wanted them to, and what we’d hoped would be a natural water birth turned into a highly medicalised forceps delivery. It’s not something I would ever want to go through again, I found the recovery afterwards difficult, it’s just a good job that my boy was worth every second of it!

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