Last Sunday started early. Very early, in fact, thanks to The Baby waking at ten to one in the morning and not settling back to sleep until well after two. Having eventually got back to sleep, I was strangely aware of drifting in and out of sleep between contractions. I managed to stay conscious long enough to realise that these contractions felt a little different to those that I had been experiencing recently, and phoned The Boyfriend, who was doing a sleep-in at work. He obviously thought I was over-reacting and asked me to phone him back in an hour if they hadn’t stopped.
If they hadn’t stopped??! Does he not think I know my own body?!
I had two contractions during that following hour. Shit, I thought, I was over-reacting. I’m just over tired and desperate to meet this baby, and thinking this is The Day and actually it’s not. Bugger it, I’ll phone hime back and tell him they’re still strong just not that regular.
So I did. He was home by quarter to seven. The Baby woke at ten to, I waddled down the landing to her room to be greeted by “Poo poo!” and the sight of my daughter with her hands down her pyjama bottoms, dangerously heading for the inside of the nappy, and at that very moment, my waters broke. I shouted The Boyfriend, and shouted again, and again and again, until eventually he came upstairs to see to The Baby, who was no longer threatening a dirty protest but revelling in shouting The Boyfriend’s name at the top of her voice like a baby parrot.
Meanwhile I was noting the loss of the plug and the constant trickle of water and the definitely very present, very real contractions.
I took a co-codamol, strapped on the TENS, put on some mascara, and settled in for the long-haul. The Boyfriend packed The Baby off to my dad who had foolishly, sorry, kindly, volunteered to do the childcare when The Big Day came, with the help of my sis and her boyfriend (who were, in the event, rather hungover and very tired). When he returned, I expected my mum to walk through the door at the same time, and I panicked when she wasn’t there. The contractions were getting regular and were strengthening each time, and I wanted to know my mum was close by. After a quick phonecall she was on her way.
So far I had walked, knelt and rocked on my gym ball through the contractions. I was trying to focus my breathing and concentrating on the fact that we would soon see Little Pea. By late morning, I needed to lie down. I lay on the bed, and chatted with The Boyfriend and my mum between contractions. Suddenly I felt like I needed to call the hospital. The pains were getting stronger and closer together, and I’d read lots of stories about very quick second births recently, and didn’t fancy the idea of a home/car/car-park birth. We were on our way to the hospital by half-twelve.
The contractions were getting too difficult to breathe through. I wanted the gas and air, I was daydreaming about that mouthpiece, about the instant relief, about the spacey, other-wordly feeling…bring on that entonox.
2cm??! All this work for two frickin centimetres??! Are you joking, woman? The midwife, who was clearly deluded, had examined me to find that my fore-waters were “bulging”, so either it was my hind-waters I had trickled all over The Baby’s floor or I had temporarily lost control of my bladder, and that my cervix was high and evidently fairly tightly closed. I’d had enough. Stop this, let’s start again. I’ll be 2cm dilated, and you, contractions, can get weaker and more bearable, and not do anything unpleasant until at least 9cm.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work like that, so I got in the bath. The water did actually provide some relief from the pains, and I managed to get my breathing focused and take control of the pain. I lasted a while like this before I broke down in tears and declared I couldn’t go on and I wished I had had an epidural. I was sure I actually couldn’t do this; the only woman in the history of the world unable to give birth.
The midwife administered pethidine at my request, and again it helped me to focus my breathing and gain control. Having leaned over the bed for a while, my legs needed a rest and I climbed onto the bed. The midwife handed over to another, and after a little while I was again dreaming of the magical entonox. The midwife was a little sceptical, as the last examination had furnished such bad news, and had been less than two hours ago. But she obviously took pity on the pathetic wreck, unable to deal with pain, writhing in front of her, and decided to brave the exam.
“5cm, no, 6cm, 7cm as you’re contracting!” I loved this midwife, she said much nicer things than the last one. The entonox was brought forth, and I sucked and breathed and calmed down. She checked again minutes later, and I was nearly fully dilated. I needed to move onto my side, I was getting uncomfortable, and as I turned, my waters went and I needed to push immediately.
And at that point, things get very blurry. The sensation of my waters going and the urgent need to push were accompanied by the midwife’s voice, which was saying “Meconium, thick meconium…paediatrician…”. I was pushing as hard as I could. I had no idea who was in the room, my eyes were tight shut with the effort of it all. I assumed my mum and The Boyfriend were still there, I didn’t know who else had joined them. I kept sucking and pushing. I heard “Slow heart rate…call the two’s…transport…”.
The room suddenly seemed full of people and I was being told to push into my bottom, that the baby needed to come now, that if I didn’t do this I would be taken to theatre. I was doing my best! I did better, and felt a release. Pea’s head was out. Another breath, another suck, another push…Pea was born. Pea is a boy. Pea isn’t breathing. The Boyfriend cut the cord. Pea was placed on my chest, this bloody, grey, still thing, and whipped away again. There were voices, there was no crying.
I was injected and delivered the placenta three minutes after Pea was born. Then the stitching began. Apparently I had had an episiotomy, but it had passed me by. The local anaesthetic did not pass me by. And nor did the stitching of the part of my perineum that the anaesthetic had not managed to reach. During this time of having thread pushed and pulled and stuck through my nethers, while my legs were pinned up on stirrups, I heard vague squeaky noises, that sounded like a tiny guinea pig. There were people milling all over, and I looked up to see The Boyfriend holding a pink-coloured Pea.
My top was off, Pea was on my breast and feeding. He was OK. I was OK. It was only just after 4pm. When I read my notes the day after, I discovered the duration of my labour had been 26 minutes. I also read that Pea had had rescusitation. He had had the cord wrapped round his neck, but due to the fast-thinking and planning of the midwife, everyone who needed to be there was there, everything was in place, and Pea was given more than a fighting chance. At birth, his Apgar score was 2. Five minutes later it was 9.
I still can’t believe that this all happened to me, to us, to Pea, that it happened so fast, and that the outcome could have been so very different. Thanks to that magical entonox, my memory of the whole thing is very hazy, and I’m glad it is. It was enough just to read about it in my notes.
Little Pea is now five days old and thriving. He has barely lost any of his birth weight, he feeds and feeds and feeds, which is lovely, I’d missed breastfeeding a lot, and sleeps well. Only time will tell if this is what we can expect, or if it’s just a calm before a storm, but for now I am eternally grateful that he is here with us, thanks to the wonderful team at UHNS.