Amy over at and 1 more means 4 (or even 5!) is running a birth story carnival, which reminded me that I've never actually written down my full birth story. I've blogged about some aspects of it, specifically how my attempt at Hypnobirthing went, or how my dissatisfaction with how the birth went still was on my mind a year later. Mr. Cartside, much more organised than me, did write the birth story from his perspective, but can't get hold of it right now, so here it goes with my rather selective memory. Just like Amy, I'm addicted to birth stories - I don't think there's anything more amazing than that magical moment of a baby emerging into this world. Yes, I've been religiously watching One Born Every Minute too, and got lots of head shaking from family, friends and colleagues.
Cubling was late. Although this was relative - I had two different due dates (one given my an obs at a 7 week scan in Germany as the 12th of March, one at my 12 week scan in the UK as 8th of March). However, at 41 weeks there was no engagement, no sign of labour. Induction had been offered even at term, as I wasn't feeling well, but when I asked if there was any medical indication, the answer was no, so I politely (and shakingly) declined. I did agree to a stretch and sweep and had three in total, from 41 weeks. Knowing that the risk of stillbirth increases after 42 weeks of gestation, I also booked for induction for 42+1. I was monitored closely to check amniotic fluid levels, blood pressure and if baby was happy, and all was well.
The morning I went for my third sweep, at 42 weeks exactly, I woke up with hardly noticeable regular period type niggles, and I wondered if that could be it. At the hospital, I underwent the now familiar checks - scan, heartrate monitor for 30 mins, sweep. I mentioned the niggles - could these be contractions? They were 15 mins apart, and yes, they did come up on the heart rate/contraction writer. I was elated. The midwife gave me an extra good sweep as she said, and apparently I was already a little bit dilated (head still not engaged), but I can't remember how much.
The rest of the morning I went shopping in a supermarket for all the food that I felt like, made a super tasty lunch, danced a dance with Mr Cartside and we took a few videos to celebrate the end of this rather long pregnancy. Then I lay down on the sofa with my hypnobirthing scripts and went for a nap.
At about 7pm I was woken up by strong period type pains, 5-7 minutes apart. They increased in strength over the next few hours but not in frequency. I used birth ball, TENS, paracetamol and bath to try and make myself comfy, but the pains were bad enough to make me irritable (hubby was trying to finish an assignment for his MSc and I kept shouting for him, I couldn't bear for him not to be with me ALL THE TIME, although there was sweet nothing he could do, and looking back, those contractions were very manageable). I practiced hypnobirthing breathing techniques and really, although it was uncomfortable and I couldn't focus on anything but contractions, it was all very doable.
When contractions were 5 minutes apart I rang labour ward as advised. They told me to stay home. Fair enough, that's what I wanted anyway. Then suddenly, contractions went to 90 seconds apart, much stronger. The kind of shift that made me want to go to hospital without any doubt in my mind. So we got ready. We left just after 4 am, the birds were singing, the first sign of dawn was visible at the horizon. It was a beautiful night. I struggled down the 3 flights of stair between contractions, slowly, without any rush. At 4.30am we arrived at the hospital (I joked that I was a bit early for my induction which was set for 8am). In spite of my very strong and very regular contractions, they doubted if I was a stayer. The initial monitoring and check confirmed I was dilated enough to stay (was it 4 or 6cm? I can't remember) and I was asked if I wanted to labour in the birth pool. Oh the joy, all going to plan then! The pool was run, and I soaked myself in the spacious pool, complete with essential oils. The midwife asked if all was well and if we were happy to be left alone. We were. This was great - no further interference, I was able to snack, drink as I pleased, just Mr Cartside and myself.
At 9 am, the midwife shift changed and the new midwife and a student introduced themselves. They were now staying with us all the time. Contractions were strong and regular, but the water really helped. We had brought CDs and I loved listening and singing along to calming music, interspersed with hypnobirthing scripts. Yes, I was tired, but it was still ok. I hated having to leave the pool for checks for heart rate, especially as the student often didn't manage to find baby's heart beat. I didn't want to talk, but the midwife requested to read my rather long birth plan and took it very seriously. All was going well until my waters broke. This was followed by the most excruciating contraction, the first one that made me scream, and worry. Hubby asked if I knew what had just happened. Indeed I said after I was able to speak again. Because the midwives were not qualified to deliver in water, and for risk of infection, I had to leave the pool after my waters had broke. I could hardly get out, even with the support of three people. My hip, my every bone in my lower body seemed to hurt. I had no control of balance or my own weight, and the intensity of contractions outside the water was unbearable. An examination revealed I was 9cm. I think it was roughly 12 noon at that point. I couldn't get up after the examination. I wanted to, but I couldn't lift myself. My legs were cramping, my bones felt like they were being crushed, I had the image of my baby's head being crushed inside of me. Fear took hold and I lost control. I begged for pain relief, but fearing an epidural, I asked for diamorphie. The midwife tried to delay, she followed my birth plan and tried to talk me out of it, that I was almost there and diamorphine won't do much good now. I insisted.
So I was moved into the delivery room, away from the dimly lit, cosy birth pool room where I had hoped to give birth. I was put on my back. I tried to move on my left side but the pain was too bad. With the diamorphine, I felt sleepy and all I could think was I want to sleep, I don't want any contraction anymore. And contractions slowed down. I liked it. However I had been fully dilated for a while now and things weren't meant to slow down. So I had to be given a drip. I begged to keep the amount minimal, please no more of these horrible contractions. The midwife said that I could push if I wanted to. Yet I didn't know how to push plus hypnobirthing tells you to breathe down, and not to push. I didn't do anything, just wanted to sleep and not be in pain anymore. By now it was 3.30pm (I think - I remember looking at the clock in the delivery room at that time). I'd been fully dilated for 3 hours. I hadn't pushed once. Suddenly the OB was there and waved a c-section consent form in front of me. I panicked, as in - total panic. I screamed. I hyperventilated. 36 years of fear of childbirth came out of me at once and I suddenly realised in this emotional turmoil that all this was about was not to go through what my mother had gone through - severe pre-eclamsia, a c-section, and permanent health issues as a consequence, the hopes of a second child crushed, me an only child, forever loathing a sibling. More than anything, I did not want a c-section. I didn't make any sense to the OB in my drugged state, but Mr Cartside translated calmly what my outburst was about. The OB changed his approached and calmly talked me through the situation, and assured me that they would only do a c-section as a last resort, and try to get Cubling with forceps. However, for the safety of the baby, I had to sign this form and have a spinal.
It took me 5 minutes to sign. My hand shook uncontrollably, I cried, no, sobbed. All I could think of was that I was consenting to something I did not actually consent to. As everyone left to get ready for theatre, I felt devastated. Then suddenly I realised that there was a bit of control I still had. I may not know how to push, but I sure could try. So I pushed with all my might. And pushed. And pushed some more. As I was wheeled into theatre, I felt something move. Encouraged, I pushed again until I had to stop for the spinal to be given. Everyone was in theatre, cheerful and calm, which helped, but I was still panicky. I was terrified that the contractions came too frequently for a window to get the spinal in. But once it was in, oh the bliss of no more pain. Still, they had to give me more gas and air to calm me sufficiently for the procedure, I was a wreck of nerves. I really thought I was going to be cut open. Then, the OB (still there) announced that he could do it with forceps. I felt like dancing on the operating table (if only my legs would have moved!). I didn't feel a thing, Cubling was born at just after 4pm and delivered straight unto my chest as we had requested (as a condition for me signing that consent form). I named her there, in my drugged daze, and luckily Mr Cartside agreed. Not for long though and the time it took to stitch me up (I had had an episiotomy and torn inside too) I felt very vulnerable not being able to see my daughter, not knowing if she was ok. I only knew later that hubby was with her all the time.
I had to spend 3 or 4 hours in recovery, which felt like an eternity. I was starving and incredibly tired. I kept falling asleep with Cubling lying on top of me, scared for her to slide off, but I couldn't keep my eyes open. I tried to get her to feed but she wasn't interested. Mr Cartside had to leave at 8.30pm. That first night, I slept like a log. When Cubling cried a bit, she was taken away as I couldn't get up yet to look after her. She was away from 10pm to 2am, and I remember waking in between and panicking yet again where she was, being reassured by a midwife, and sleeping again.
For a full year I felt that the birth hadn't gone the way I had hoped for. I kept thinking that maybe an epidural would have been wiser than the diamorphine which messed up my mind. Or maybe my mind was messed up by transition and and epidural was out of question because it was too late in the day. I felt that I hadn't given birth because of the instrumental delivery. 3 years on though, those thoughts are gone. I did the best I could and above all I'm glad I didn't have a c-section, which was my real fear. And having witnessed a c-section, I now also know that it isn't that bad - I still wouldn't want it, and do realise how hard the recovery is, but at the end of the day, what counts is that baby and mum are well. With all my expectations for a natural birth, what really affected me was the sense of failure, when really there was none. My sense of failure came from my high expectations, and if there's anything I've learned is that it's better to have realistic expectations, because no birthing mama deserves to feel like a failure for a full year.
I was very pleased with the midwife support - and lucky that the same midwife was with me from 9am to 6pm, that she tried to follow my preferences for birthing. The birth pool was fabulous while I was allowed to stay in it, and for the birth of Tiddler, well, there's a birth pool now as part of many labour rooms and the midwives have had training and can deliver in the pool now! I'll also change my birth plan to request coaching on how to push, and won't exclude the option of an epidural - however I will not ever want to touch that diamorphine again which messed up my head and that of my baby (she didn't feed for 2 full days, and was very sleepy which I blame on it).