In the lead up to D-day and preparing for labour I scouredwebsites and talked to other mums, yet nobody could really tell me what contractions feel like – perhaps because everyone is different.
I was expecting to know when I was in labour: the gushing of waters breaking and excruciating pain! I can tell you that the first stages of labour are nothing like that, or they certainly weren’t for me.
At 39+2 weeks, in the early hours of the morning while I slept, I began experiencing back ache – so uncomfortable it woke me and I tossed and turned to get comfortable again. It was an ache that came and went so I drifted in and out of sleep for a couple of hours. My assumption was that this was the baby putting pressure on my back and hips, hence the discomfort. The aching has dissipated by morning and as my last day working before going off on maternity, boy was I glad to be working from home. I managed 2 hours of some desktop work and then rang my Manager who told me to put my feet up and he would ring if he needed anything. So that was the start of my maternity leave and unbeknown to me, those aches were the early stages of labour.
I read that chances are first time mums go overdue, so I went to bed that night thinking of the nice relaxing days I had ahead of me before the baby was due – brunch with the girls, time to do some meal prep, some light housework and time to catchup on my favourite tv shows.
In the early hours of the following morning those back aches returned, now with some lower abdominal aches too – similar to really bad period pain. Although this time the tossing and turning wasn’t enough and by 3am, when the aches came the discomfort forced me to get out of bed. I had never experienced anything like this before and it was coming in waves… could these be contractions?! I woke my partner and started timing the waves of these aches – coming every 5-7 minutes. At 4.30am I rang the birthing centre who confirmed that I was indeed in the first stage of labour and to take some paracetamol, have a bath and have something light to eat. I would need to contact them again when I was getting x3 contractions lasting more than 45 seconds in a 10 minute period.
Wow. This was real, it was happening.
I had been practicing hypnobirthing ready for this moment so I switched into hypnobirthing mode: my contractions were now surges, I wasn’t experiencing pain it was energy and I worked to breathe through each surge when it arrived (along with timing it using my Ovia app contraction timer).
I followed the midwife’s advice and by 10.45am I could barely speak during a surge and was glamorously regurgitating my breakfast into the kitchen sink. So my partner rang the birthing centre and we were told to come in.
A quick pit stop for snacks and phone calls to our nearest to tell them what was happening and within 20 minutes we were at the hospital and heading to the birthing centre. (This was my first baby so I liked the fact I could use the birthing centre but was steps away from a labour ward and doctors if we needed it!)
I was examined at 1pm to see how I was progressing, to be told I was 8cm dilated. I had managed to get that far by myself at home, I was impressed and in my head I thought, it can’t be too much longer!!
I was offered gas and air as the surges were very powerful now and the midwife advised that the gas and air would help with my breathing. Definitely true! I plugged my phone in, played my hypnobirthing affirmations on loud speaker, I closed my eyes and used my breathing techniques and the gas and air to get through each surge.
Despite having my swimming costume packed to use the birthing pool, it was out of order, which was a bit disappointing. In all honesty I had no time to be disappointed as I was too busy focusing on my breathing: I was in the zone.
I drank so much water during this time that my bladder had gotten full. My problem was that I couldn’t pass much water and my bladder was blocking baby’s escape route – so catheter #1got things moving.
By 3.15pm my waters broke and I was told that I needed to start pushing, the midwife could feel the babies head. I was in active labour.
Oh great! It can’t be much longer now!
By 5pm I had tried different positions for pushing, it was starting to get dark and I was tired. I hadn’t eaten since 9.30am, with the exception of a handful of Haribos, and my body was exhausted. My hypnobirthing affirmations had been on loop for 4 hours, which probably sent my partner loopy! So we put on my birthing music playlist (lots of my favourite tracks), in the hope that the music would motivate me and keep me calm.
I got told my bladder was full again and it needed to be empty for baby to come out, we were so close but I was so tired. With no success of emptying my bladder naturally, and being in a state of exhaustion, my partner motivated me to try catheter #2and 30 more minutes of pushing – and if no avail we would head to the labour suite for other medical interventions (episiotomy and other pain relief). I agreed and as I waddled back to the bed, another surge came and I bore down so hard I almost pulled over my burly, strong partner! Gravity and my movement had shifted things and the midwife could see the head – the baby was finally coming!!!
I made it back to the bed and with a newly refreshed vigour I pushed like never before: I wanted my baby here with me now! I remember hearing ‘the head is out, just the body now’. Next came the arrival of another midwife to help as the baby’s shoulder was stuck and with 3 more pushes I felt the sensation of the baby’s body release and the baby had entered the world! IT’S A BOY! At 7.02pm, we had done it! He was here and he was perfect!
Baby and I were tired but very much okay! We had skin to skin immediately and I had delayed cord clamping to maximise nutrients from the placenta in the time after birth.
Due to his shoulder getting stuck I had tore so was a bit fragile.In light of this and my state of fatigue I opted for the injection to induce the 3rd stage of labour, despite my original intentions of wanting to do it naturally. In that moment I made a decision that felt right for me and my baby – get it done so I can enjoy my new son.
My tear was a little worse than expected, 3rd degree, so I was whisked off to theatre to be stitched. At which time my family and the in-laws had arrived and baby boy was handed to his dad. I knew my partner would be fine – albeit completely shell shocked from the events of the day. Despite his nerves and whatever else he was feeling, he put it aside and became the best birthing partner and motivator I could have ever asked for! His strength, focus and support was nothing short of amazing. I honestly could not have done it without him!!
After a spinal block, I lay on the theatre bed and had the mostamazing nap. I was returned to my partner and our new son at 10.40pm, where I was able to enjoy some time just the 3 of us for another hour. What a day! We had a son!
It was a complete whirlwind and despite the exhaustion, it was such an empowering experience! I managed the whole labour on gas and air and my hypnobirthing kept me in the zone for so long. I was able to dig deep and keep going – it is amazing what the human body is capable of. Birth is such a beautiful experience and it gave us our beautiful baby boy.
Thank you so much for sharing your special moment @welshmummysteph x