I had convinced myself that I would be at least a week over my due date, so when I went into labour on my due date it took me a while to realise it was the real thing. In fact, it took about 6 hours of, what I now know were, contractions before I finally twigged that I was about to meet my baby!
I don’t know about you but throughout my pregnancy I was told horror stories about labour and constantly had people telling me how bad it was. Way to scare a Mum to be hey! Now I’ve been through it, perhaps those negative Nancy’s did me a favour. I prepared myself for the worst, stressed myself out in the lead up worrying that I couldn’t cope, so when it came to the real thing it didn’t feel anywhere near as bad as I imagined. Now, I’m not going to lie to you, it hurts like hell. But that’s obvious. The tolerance of the pain will totally come down to your own pain threshold. But I always thought my pain threshold was pretty low and I coped surprisingly well, so I’m sure you can too.
Here’s my story:
I woke up on my due date and didn’t think for a second I’d be in full-blown labour by the end of the day. I’d done loads of research into what to expect in the first stages of labour and what happens in the lead up and I really hadn’t felt anything that gave me any inkling that labour was imminent. I’d even had a midwife appointment the day before and he wasn’t even engaged so I still thought I was way off.
My Mum came round for a cup of tea late morning and I was complaining that my hips and lower back were hurting. I put it down to the fact I’d been using my ball the day before and was aching from the ‘exercise’. (I suffered with PGP throughout my pregnancy and hadn’t done any exercise at all so I figured using the ball had just worked the bones and muscles I hadn’t used for a while!) After Mum left, around 11.30am, I started feeling waves of period pain in my tummy and lower back. I remember thinking to myself, ‘ooh this might be my body getting ready for labour next week’. Little did I know! I suppose it’s because people can’t really tell you what it feels like, so when it happens you’re not really sure it’s the real thing, and I never imagined it would happen on my actual due date. You also expect to ‘see’ something but my waters didn’t break until I started pushing and the mucus plug didn’t happen until I was pushing.
I had a couple of friends coming for lunch so I carried on getting ready for their arrival. For the next few hours I made pizza, chatted with the girls, played with my friend’s baby girl and continued with the day until around 3pm when I finally realised that these ‘period pains’ were getting stronger and a lot more regular. So I started tracking it and found that they were lasting around 30-40 seconds and coming every 4 – 6 minutes. Not regular and not what I’d call painful so I was still to be convinced that it was labour. I waved goodbye to my friends at 4pm. All of us oblivious that I was 14 hours away from meeting my baby. Next I welcomed my sister in law who had come over to paint my toe nails and give me a reflexology session. Again, all stuff I’d organised in preparation for going into labour the following week. It was a busy day!
By 6pm the contractions were coming more regularly and they were a hell of a lot stronger so I rang my husband to warn him to keep his phone on him. By the time he got home at about 7pm they were coming thick and fast so I rang ahead to the hospital to let them know and just to make absolutely sure I was actually in labour. I can’t believe I still thought it was just the practice stuff! But I still hadn’t seen this muscus plug they talk about and my waters hadn’t broken so I figured I must still be at the beginning of the first stage and I still had a long way to go.
The next few hours seemed to fly by. We had pie for dinner and at around 8pm I finally realised it was really happening and decided to have a good tidy up of the flat, feed our pet rat and double check the hospital bags. I phoned Mum to let her know it was happening and had a chat with her between contractions. (which were now coming every 4-5 minutes and lasting 40-50 seconds) I was still completely calm and just going through everything I wanted to do before I had to go into hospital. At 12midnight we made our way to the hospital, as they were lasting over a minute and coming every 4 minutes. I was also getting pushing sensations, so I thought I’d better go and get checked out.
That stage between 8pm and when I went into hospital was pretty intense. When the contractions got to that stage I really had to focus on breathing to get through it. Some people go for visualization techniques but they put me off so every time I had a contraction I went on my knees and leant across the sofa and did deep breaths in and out for the whole contraction. (that was just how I felt comfortable. I tried standing, walking around and bouncing on my ball at the start so by the time the intense part started I knew what felt comfy!)
I also had to tell my husband not to talk to or distract me during a contraction. I couldn’t talk while it was happening because I couldn’t breath properly and when wasn’t fully focussed on that, that’s when it really hurt. I also didn’t like my husband rubbing my back or massaging while a contraction was happening either. But it was just nice to have him there so I got him to put his hand on my shoulder or back and just hold it there so I knew he was there supporting me but not distracting me. And that’s how it went for my entire labour, pretty much. When the contractions got more intense I just had to focus harder! I’m a big baby when it comes to pain. I still cry when I have blood taken, I feel like I’ve got flu when I’ve got a little cold and I’m a total weakling so I really didn’t think I’d do very well at dealing with the pain of labour. But if I can cope with that pain anyone can – as long as you stay focused and don’t panic when it starts hurting. And no matter how much it hurts just keep your breathing deep and consistent and don’t panic because that’s when it really hurts. The thing that also helped me get through that really intense pain was thinking ‘I’m a step closer to meeting my baby’ Because the more painful it gets the nearer you are to the end. Woo!
When I arrived at the hospital they went through my notes (between contractions – that’s not easy I can tell you) and then they examined me to see how far dilated I was. They use that horrible instrument used in a smear test for the examination, something my husband hadn’t seen before and it didn’t go down very well. During my examination (still in between contractions I might add) my husband declared ‘I’m not feeling too well’ and before I knew it he was stumbling side ways to a chair whilst being guided by a midwife half his size. My husband is over 6ft tall and the week before had driven himself to A and E after splitting his head open at football, but the heat of the labour ward, instruments and the impending birth were all too much for him and he nearly fainted. Suffice to say the midwives and I had a good laugh and he was told to stay at my head and keep his eyes away from the ‘action’. (although he was brilliant after this and even cut the cord at the end!)
Anyway, once the commotion was over we found out I was 6cm dilated. Yay! I was so pleased I’d managed to stay at home for so long. I really wanted to stay at home for as long as possible to reduce the time at the hospital so I was really chuffed. I went straight through to the delivery ward and to the water pool room. But the pushing feeling I had been getting was because Miller had turned. So we were now back to back and I was having to get through the contractions and also stop myself from actually pushing. It was friggin hard because he was putting pressure on my back and my body naturally wanted to push. So I made some pretty weird noises while I was trying not to push. No mooing though! 😉 I had to put everything I had into getting through that because it really hurt. Little sod had been in the right position the entire pregnancy and at that very last moment he moved. I wasn’t fully engaged when I went into labour though so I think that could’ve had something to do with it.
I loved the pool it was really relaxing. But it’s bloody hot so if you go for a water birth make sure you take a flannel and at every contraction you could get your partner to wet it with really cold water so when it finishes you can put it over your face and round your neck to cool you off. The cold water also helped to wake me up between contractions so I was ready to go when the next one hit. Oh and make sure your partner has water bottle at hand. That was my husbands job for the whole time I was in the water. He sat in front of me and held the gas and air machine when I didn’t need it, passed up water when I wanted it and kept the flannel cold. He did it well!
I took a bikini with me to wear in the pool, but when it came to it I just stripped off and jumped in naked. It’s true what they say, once you’re in full stage labour you don’t care about being naked and all those people looking at your foo. I did keep worrying about pooing though. I hated the thought of my husband and a stranger seeing my poo. Haha! But the fact is you’re pushing down into your bum so, I’m afraid, it’s pretty likely to happen. But I’ll give you some tips on that in another post. (It’s got to be covered!)
I was in the water until 4am and had gas and air towards the end. By 3am I was 10cm dilated and was pushing. But he was still back to back with me, so it was getting tougher and tougher. As hard as it is, I’d really recommend you keep moving as much as possible throughout labour, even when you’re knackered. Just move positions rather than staying in the same position throughout. Because I’m not sure I did move enough during that early stage and that could be why he ended up moving.
When you get to the pushing stage it’s the weirdest feeling because your body just takes over and you don’t have a choice but to push. Your contractions just get even more powerful (or should I say painful!) and rather than deep breathing you just push while they’re happening. After the first couple of contractions like that you realise it’s easier to push than try breathing through it anyway because it hurts more. I kept asking the midwife what I should be doing so she was telling me what to do and when. I’d take a massive deep breath in when I felt a contraction coming and when it started I’d use that breath to push with everything I had for the whole contraction. The contraction is basically your chance to get the baby moving down, so save all your energy for that and remember this is the FINAL stage. You’re about to meet your baby! (yes, I totally repeated that to myself throughout the whole thing!)
I had to come out of the pool though at 4am because the midwife felt I should’ve had him by that point and because they can’t examine you in the water, I had to get on the bed for an examination. His head was coming down but he was still the wrong way round so it was basically going to be harder to get him out. I spent the next hour pushing to get him out on the bed but every time I pushed him down he went back up again. It was bloody infuriating and I was knackered. That stage was soooooo tough and I really struggled to stay focussed because the burning sensation as the baby comes down the birth canal is fecking intense. But I carried on and got focus back (amongst a slight stage of panic!). I couldn’t use the gas and air while I was pushing either because I couldn’t push enough when I was using it. So I just knocked it on the head and went for it. Something takes over when it’s not quite going to plan and all you want is for your baby to be OK so you’ll do anything to get him out.
I really did want to get through to the end without any intervention or major drugs. Looking back I really shouldn’t have been so set on it, but when you haven’t been through it before you don’t know what it’s like and there was just a part of me that wanted to experience the whole thing and be able to say I’d done it all! Each to their own – do what’s right for you and don’t be influenced by any one else’s opinions!
I ended up in theatre with an epidural at 6am because I couldn’t get him out. I was pushing with everything I had but I was absolutely knackered and I couldn’t get enough energy to get the bugger to turn to come out. So they had to cut me (episiotomy) and they used the suckers to get him out. I didn’t want an epidural but that was what was best to get him out so I went for it. My options were a general anesthetic or epidural and, as they told me a general anesthetic doesn’t always work, I went with epidural. I’m not THAT stupid! The most infuriating thing was that, once I was in theatre and they’d cut me, it took just two pushes to get him out. But it was obviously so much easier because I couldn’t feel a thing and I just pushed with everything I had when they told me to. Epidural is amazing by the way and I have a feeling I’ll be opting for that much earlier next time, especially now I know what it feels like to try and push a baby out!
And that was it, he was born at 6.32am, placed on my chest and I didn’t give a second thought to the pain of labour.
Yes it’s painful but it’s not so bad that you can’t get through it and you get such an amazing thing at the end that it’s totally worth it. My advice for any first time Mums-to-be is to be opened minded about pain relief, if you feel that you can’t cope with the pain, because it’s not worth the worry and it’d be far worse if you start panicking, so keep all the options in mind and go with the flow and what feels right for you. And remember YOU CAN DO IT! xx