A BLUSTERY WALK ON THE BEACH….
On the morning of Thursday 23rd February, I had a midwife appointment in the morning to have what’s called a stretch and Sweep. It’s not the most pleasant of procedures but it’s supposed to kick start labour so as I was now overdue at 40+4, I was happy to go ahead with it and see what would happen. I went to my appointment and the midwife told me as a first time Mum it’s unlikely it would do anything, however as she examined me she was surprised to see that I was already 2cm dilated and apparently favourable (whatever that means!). She said she was surprised I wasn’t in labour already and if I wanted to trigger it I should head home and hand express (this gets the oxytocin flowing) and also to go for a walk on a pebbly beach as apparently this ‘jiggles’ the babies head downwards and into the right position.
So I did just that – it was the day of Storm Doris, with gale force winds and the rain pouring, I was determined to follow the midwives advice, so I dragged Robbie out of his bed and we went for what I can only describe as the most blustery walk we’ve ever been on along the beach – although it soon turned into a disaster! Robbie (who is not usually allowed on the beach) was over excited by his sudden freedom to roam and pulled me in every direction, the biting wind cut into my face making my eyes and nose water, I was also very off-balance being so heavily pregnant, so decided after 10 minutes this was a bad idea and turned around to walk home when I suddenly grabbed my tummy as the first pain of a contraction jolted through my lower back and hips. I thought to myself, ‘this can’t be happening now’ and just thought it was a one off – I stumbled onwards, trying to climb a steep slope of pebbles which tumbled under my feet, putting me back to square one. Feeling in a panic I shouted at Robbie to pull me up the bank and he yanked his lead and got us onto the flat, phew! Within a couple of minutes I found myself hunched over a wall, breathing through another pain and shortly after came another – I was definitely in labour.
I got home and got everything ready – putting my hospital bag by the door I laid across my birthing ball on the living room floor to manage the contractions – counting each one using an app and practicing my hypnobirthing techniques to get by. I thought this part would be a long stretch, so I was surprised to see on my app that contractions were coming about 3 minutes apart at this point! Things were happening much quicker than I expected. I called Vee who came home immediately and called the hospital for advice, fully expecting them to tell me to stay at home, but they told me I needed to come in! I was shocked, I’d only been in labour for around an hour and a half at this point!
OFF TO THE HOSPITAL…
We drove to the hospital, which was only 15 minutes away but the drive was horrific as I couldn’t sit in the seat, every contraction I’d pull my bum off the seat holding the handles on the roof, things were going so quickly! Upon arriving at the hospital I had to wait in the maternity triage waiting room for around 20-30 minutes whilst I waited to be seen. In this time things were ramping up all the time, I arrived managing to cope with contractions but within 5 minutes I was laying on a mat on the floor, rolling on a birthing ball and starting to struggle with the pain. There were other pregnant women in the waiting room (who weren’t in labour) so in the end a midwife came and put a screen around me, probably so I could stop scaring all the other patients – OOPS!
I was FINALLY taken to a room on the labour ward and examined – the midwife looked confused and said she was surprised to find I was still only 2cm dilated. It was a kick in the teeth, I was in so much pain, how could this be? She then felt my tummy and said Violet was in the back-to-back positioning, which was why contractions were so sore. She apologised but said I couldn’t stay on the labour ward and I was bumped back downstairs onto the antenatal ward to wait it out. I asked if I could have pain relief and the only thing they would give me was pethidine – despite me writing ‘DO NOT OFFER PETHIDINE’ on my birth plan, I would have taken anything at this point so accepted it, mainly as the midwife said I could have a 3 hour sleep to prepare for ‘proper labour later’ so I agreed if it was going to be that good and completely knock me out!!
Well, it was totally pointless as it did NOTHING. I went onto the antenatal ward and with every contraction I writhed around, trying my best to remember hypnobirthing and breathing techniques but really I was uncomfortable. I felt so on edge about being on a ward (with others in the beds next to me) and had a midwife that was totally unsympathetic and unfriendly towards me. I feel like this is the real turning point in my whole experience. Before I was placed on the ward, I was in my zone, riding out the contractions, they were painful but I had coping techniques, but being on the ward with everyone looking at me and a really unhelpful, unreassuring midwife, things just went out of control and I lost grip and the fear set in.
Within an hour or so, I found myself absolutely howling the ward down during each contraction. I didn’t think I’d be a loud kind of person and I felt so embarrassed but with every contraction the only way I could cope would be to shout and scream with the pain. I begged the midwife to examine me at this point, but she stated for a new mum there would be no chance I would have dilated at all and I needed to just carry on. This was just the worst feeling in the world, I couldn’t believe the pain and I would only be at 2cm. At this point, I’m so grateful as another midwife came onto the ward and noticed me howling in pain, I asked again if she would examine me and I can remember her words ‘Oh Lyndsay, you are a superwoman, you are 7cm! You need to be on the labour ward!‘. Suddenly everything changed, they wheeled the gas and air over and suddenly my bed was flying through the corridors with Vee running alongside me, I couldn’t lay on my back so I was on all fours screaming as another contraction came and we burst through the doors of the labour ward. It was like something from a movie, I felt really surreal but I was so pleased that midwife recognised my screaming and helped me, if she hadn’t I think I’d have been pushing on the antenatal ward before the other midwife had paid me any attention!
ESTABLISHED LABOUR…. BABIES COMING!!
Arriving into my room on the labour ward, I had around 5/6 midwives trying to calm me down. The experience of being left on the ward with no pain relief and the midwife that wouldn’t believe me (I just KNEW I was more than 2cm!) had really upset my balance and I struggled to calm myself, screaming through contractions at the top of my voice, even though they kept trying to calm me, it was just involuntary – like a primal animal in pain, the noises just came out my mouth. As I had on my birth plan that I wanted a water birth the midwives offered to go and start running the water, but I kept screaming that I wanted an epidural. They did their best to talk me into a water birth but I was just past the point of any help and screamed, I couldn’t see how the water would help me at this point. I think I even said to a midwife ‘I just want to be put down in the vets!!‘ which after it was all over we had a giggle about!
Finally, the anaesthetist came to give me my epidural and I couldn’t have been happier to see her. She went through a list of risks including being totally paralysed and I remember saying ‘don’t care, don’t care, don’t care‘ to each point – haha I am clearly very polite when in labour! ;). The procedure itself was absolutely fine, I didn’t feel a thing. I can only remember having to sit really still during a contraction being the hard bit, I remember in my mind fighting the urge to move and thinking ‘move and you get paralysed’ – that definitely kept me on the spot. Once it was in, they set me up on the bed and within around 10-20 minutes I felt it take hold and suddenly every last bit of the pain had gone – I could literally feel NOTHING. It was amazing and the best thing I could have done at that moment in time. My heart rate slowed from the panic I’d been in and I sat for the first time and had a chat with the midwife, explained I am not usually crazy screaming lady and kept apologising for the random things I was coming out with, I think I also told the anaesthetist I wanted to hug her.
I then realised I was really hungry so they brought me some sandwiches and a little cheesecake. It was honestly the best cheesecake I’ve ever eaten!
Eating a cheesecake at 10cm – who’d have thought it!
They examined me again and I was coming up to 10cm, but I needed to wait a couple of hours until it was time to push as this is the procedure after an epidural. At this point they broke my waters and noticed meconium in the waters, so with a very worried face, the midwife disappeared and a Dr was called in and I was told there would be extra monitoring needed and also a machine was wheeled in, which they called a ‘spaceship’ but I later found out this was a resuscitator for after she was born – glad they didn’t tell me this at the time!
IT’S TIME TO PUSH!
I can remember they told me I’d start pushing around 1am, as the time ticked by I couldn’t wait for this moment, I was about to meet my baby! After a couple of hours it was finally time – the midwife explained where and how to push and with my next contraction I gave it a good go. With the epidural I found it pretty tricky as I couldn’t feel exactly where to push, but after a few goes and some guidance I was told I was doing it right. I thought at this point I would push a few times and the baby would be here, but this bit went on for a LONG time.
Two hours went by, pushing with every contraction and there was still no sign of baby. At this point the midwife started to look quite stressed, after looking at the monitor she left the room to get a Dr as she noticed babies heart rate was starting to drop. At this point everyone started to get quite serious and worried, although they kept telling us everything was ok. They were already on edge about the meconium, so now with a low heart rate they were starting to panic.
Suddenly there were about 10 people in the room and I was being instructed to push by the Dr, saying ‘Your baby is in distress, push like I’ve never pushed before!!’. Everyone was encouraging me, but with the worry of the baby in distress, my contractions completely slowed, almost to a total stop – so the midwives were instructed to set up the drip to give my contractions a boost. This bit all seems like a blur really, I can remember Vee shouting ‘just give her a C-section’ and her being told it was too late and they were going to try and assist her into the world by ventouse. The next thing I knew, a contraction came and I pushed as hard as I possibly could, I could also see the Dr pulling with all her might too.
I didn’t actually expect anything to happen but suddenly this tiny baby was coming towards me and was placed on my chest for all of 5 seconds, all I saw was the back of her head as I burst into tears and within seconds she was whisked into the machine they called the ‘spaceship’. I remember saying to Vee ‘I didn’t see her face, I didn’t see her face!’ so Vee went over to see her properly and check she was ok – whilst she was there she took a photo for me, so I saw her face on my camera first as the medical team did everything they needed to do. It wasn’t quite the magical birth moment I imagined, but the relief of knowing she was safe and hearing her cry was all that mattered at this point.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD, VIOLET
Finally, after the panic calmed and the finished their checks on Violet, she was placed on my chest for our first skin-to-skin contact and this has got to be the most surreal moment in my life. I don’t think anyone that has given birth can quite explain the feeling when you first hold your baby, but it was like I felt my whole life change forever in that very moment. The love, relief and happiness was just overwhelming, I think I just sat in awe of this tiny bundle and sobbed and sobbed, staring at her in total disbelief that I had created a tiny human that would now depend on me forever. Also, the relief that we had made it – the 18 months of trying to conceive, our IVF journey, 9 months of pregnancy and 15 hours of labour – she was finally here.
After what seemed like chaos, we were left in our room which was on the 13th floor with beautiful views over Brighton beach and the pier. Watching the sun rise over the city, I fed her for the first time and she latched perfectly – it was just meant to be and a beautiful moment I will never forget.
MY THOUGHTS, AFTER THE STORM…
I feel like Violet’s birth was a storm, it was the day of Storm Doris, so maybe a fast and furious birth was apt for that day. After the birth, I’m filled with mixed feelings about what happened. They say you need to be flexible with your birth plan and I really thought I was -but afterwards there have been a couple of things that have played on my mind.
Firstly, I was so disappointed in myself that after I did the hypnobirthing course, I lost sight of my techniques and couldn’t regain control once I’d got to that point, at the beginning I was doing so well but I feel like my experience on the antenatal ward really let my fear kick in and once I lost control that was it, I just spiralled. I think if I could give anyone advice about giving birth it would be to try and keep as calm as possible, the fear and panic really changed things for me and I wish I’d have kept my head together.
I also wonder if I could have avoided so much medical intervention if I’d have just gone with the water birth and not had an epidural. I can’t help but feel guilty about that, especially as Violet ended up with jaundice (which was likely caused by the big bruise on her head from the suction cup). It’s hard not to feel guilty, that I’d caused a long labour that put her into distress, when my body was ready to do it quickly without causing her such harm.
I know I’m being hard on myself but seeing her in distress and then being treated for jaundice was so hard to see too. Plus I think it’s only natural to feel ‘Mummy guilt’ about things, all Mum’s do it. At the end of the day, our little girl, Violet, arrived safe and well in the end. Yes, we were slightly bruised and battered, but she will recover and before we know it, my labour will be a distant memory and only the memories of seeing her face for the same time and feeding her at sunrise will stick in my mind.
So, that’s our story. I couldn’t feel more blessed to have such a gorgeous baby girl, she was so loved and wanted, even before she was conceived, now she’s asleep in my arms as I type this. Vee was the best birth partner I could have asked for and supported me through every contraction and held my hand as I pushed our baby into the world. I also thought the team at the Royal Sussex County Hospital (minus one midwife, ha!) were fantastic. We were kept in 6 days and we had amazing support throughout the time with Violet’s jaundice, plus plenty of breastfeeding guidance and support (even at 3am) plus they were just generally lovely too.
I look forward to sharing our life together as a family on the blog and documenting Violet’s life as she grows! So, here she is….
Introducing Violet Sandra Britton – Born 24th February 2017 at 02:54am, weighing 6lbs 2oz.