I’ve wanted to write this story for months. I’m so glad that I have finally got round to writing it down. My early labour and birth!
I woke up on Sunday 6th May just like any normal day, I was 35 + 6 weeks pregnant and was relieved that I had a free day to get some much needed chores done. I had a fridge full of food and plenty of recipes ready to do a large batch cook ready for when the new baby arrived. Craig had planned to go to work in the morning and then give me a hand with some of my nesting cravings later on that day – putting pictures up and finishing the nursery!
I had had a really busy week getting things ready at work for my maternity cover as I was leaving the following Friday, had met two sets of friends on the Saturday so I was pretty tired (I felt my body beginning to slow down as it prepared for those highly anticipated few weeks of chill time at the beginning of maternity leave). I decided to have a little bit of a lie in.. nothing felt any different to normal. Now that I reflect on those last few days I did have a few twinges in the few days leading up to this, I’m guessing that these may have been Braxton Hicks contractions!
I left Craig fast asleep whilst I went to the loo and that’s when I noticed it. A LOT of clear fluid, I was a little shocked and tried to brush it off but felt that something had happened. When I stood up it happened again but on a much bigger scale and that’s when I knew that my waters had gone. I went to wake Craig, rang the MAC unit at LGI Hospital and they advised me to come in to check if they had gone… I already knew that they had, it was obvious!
We went around the house gathering things up that I had said that I wanted for the hospital. I doubted that I would be coming home now. Luckily, I had already packed most of my hospital bag (we went to London to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London the week before and I always had a feeling that my baby would be early and wanted a few bits with me.. just in case!). I was very calm and was sure to bring my hypnobirthing toolkit with me – I had my birthing affirmations all over the place and was very keen to make sure I scooped these up with me before we left.
I began to study hypnobirthing when I was 15 weeks pregnant (I will touch more on my hypnobirthing journey in another blog post) as I’ve had a real fear of giving birth since I was younger and I knew that for my baby’s sake, my sake and Craig’s sake it was something that I needed to tackle as it would have resulted in a very negative birth experience from the word go if I didn’t find a way to remain calm. I used several different hypnobirthing tools but the thing that I used the most was the digital pack with Siobhan Miller of the Positive Birth Company which had launched just a few weeks before (buy it.. I promise you it’s worth it!). Prior to giving birth (I still need to remind myself of how well I’ve done) I had a real phobia of passing out after numerous blood tests where this happened (my tip.. always eat before them and keep a chocolate bar in your bag if you struggle too) and because of this the thought of an epidural absolutely freaked me out.. more than actually giving birth! I have absolutely nothing against them in any way, it’s just not something I couldn’t see myself having (this is completely based on my phobia and not based on anything else) and I understood that in the event of a caesarean I would need a spinal block, but I knew I needed to find a coping mechanism and hypnobirthing was what I found.
We got in the car and I was very conscious that I hadn’t yet written my birth preferences – this was one of the jobs I had intended to do on this very day! I remember trying to write it out in the car whilst Craig scrambled around and put on my requested music, my favourite band – Blink 182. I knew exactly what I wanted to write on my birth preferences and was keen to get them written down as soon as possible, if my contractions were to start I wanted to go into my zone and not be disturbed and by having everything written down so. Although I knew that a lot of these preferences (I knew along that these were preferences and not demands!) may now be tricky to fulfil considering my waters had broken first, there were certain things I was absolutely adamant I wanted – not to be on my back, to use active birthing positions and no offers for pain relief (this was due to the phobia I mentioned above!).
As I suspected, an examination confirmed that my waters had gone – there were now two things to I need to do. Take antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection and decide if I needed a steroid injection to develop my baby’s lungs in case there were any complications with her being early. I found this decision really hard but used I used BRAIN (Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Instinct, Nothing) and I decided to go ahead. I was told that if my contractions started naturally that we would just go with the flow and if they didn’t they would send me on my way after 24 hours of monitoring and re access in a weeks’ time. The Sunday this happened was the first weekend of the really hot weather, it was BOILING in the ward.. no air conditioning and no fans! I’d spent hours doing research on my labour bag and one of the things that I had remembered to bring from our honeymoon in Thailand last year was cooling spray.
By the time I was transferred into the ward it was about 2pm and after a chat with Craig we decided that it might be best for him to go home to get our pets to the kennels and sort out the house, just in case. There were a few things that I had forgotten to bring and being the OCD freak that I am, I was keen for all the food I had bought to be put in the freezer. We agreed that it was best for Craig to get his rest and come back on the next day around 8am when the consultant would come round to discuss what was next.
I was really chilled by this point, the hypnobirthing was doing this job, this was to my first hospital stay since being a child and the old Laura would have freaked out, not anymore! We had been down to the hospital shop, I had magazines, Mary Poppins on the hospital TV, scented room sprays, affirmations and my birthing tracks to listen to. I had told my family and friends several weeks earlier that when labour began that I wanted to go into my own space. I used the time to write down my birth preferences and then requested it be put in my file. It was about 11pm when I started to feel like my contractions were starting, the first one that I had felt like quite a strong one lasting over a minute so I went to tell the Head Midwife, when I explained that I had only really had the one she said to wait until I could spot a pattern.
By 4am I was needing to use my up breathing throughout a contraction and they were coming about twice in ten minutes (I’ll be honest and say throughout my whole labour I didn’t really pay much attention to when they were, I was quite content to just follow the process through) and I thought it was time to call for the midwife again. She came into my cubicle whilst I was having a contraction, hooked me up to the monitor (I had already agreed to be hooked up regularly to check on my baby’s heart beat) and I remember her very clearly saying ‘I’ve just read through your very detailed birth plan, you do know a lot of this is going to go out of the window now’. Although I was quite shocked I chose to continue breathing through the contraction and brush the comment off – I knew that already but I was keen to stay focused and in my zone (my birth plan was based on preferences and I had written a plan for every type of birth as I knew it was the most realistic approach to take). I was then advised that it would be best to have another examination and to have my final steroid injection – I agreed. The examination confirmed that I had begun to dilate and that I was 1cm, I was fine with this but then the registrar sat on the bed and begun to explain that due to my baby being premature they may need to go into a Special Care Unit (I already knew this was a possibility due to my niece coming early), however, there were no beds in Leeds, none at LGI (where I was) and none at St James. I began to worry as she then said it might be as far as Sheffield if they were unable to locate a Special Care bed closer, that’s 40 miles away! I gave my preferences based on research I had done on other hospitals and they set out calling around the local hospitals – I went back to my bed and had a little cry when I began to speak to Craig and explained what happened. He said he would be there as quick as he could.
It was about 8am by the time that Craig got to me and we were told that Airedale Hospital had a spare bed for us and that an ambulance transfer was being arranged. I was relieved, I had heard really positive things about this hospital and it wasn’t as far as Sheffield, it was 25 miles away. We had to wait a while for the ambulance transfer and when the paramedics and a delivery suite midwife (just in case!) arrived with a wheelie bed it all felt a bit unreal! Craig had to meet us there as there wasn’t enough room for us all (it was a tense moment when we left, what if the baby came in the ambulance!?). I wasn’t that nervous as soon as we made the journey to the new hospital, I kept doing my breathing, had a really good chat with the paramedic and the midwife who was sitting with me and even managed to get a picture of our journey. I was not expecting the sirens to come on but as soon as we left they did, I don’t know why but I found this hilarious. When we actually got the hospital I said to the paramedic who was driving ‘I wasn’t expecting the sirens to come on’ to which he replied, ‘I didn’t really want you giving birth in the ambulance’. Fair point.. I didn’t want to give birth in there either! Whilst we were travelling to the hospital the delivery suite midwife felt my stomach whilst I was having a contraction, she said she could tell that I had been doing hypnobirthing and that it was really working. This really spurred me on and when my contractions kept coming I went into my zone and as soon as they finished we were back laughing and joking. I decided that given the circumstances it was a good time to have a laugh!
Luckily Craig wasn’t far behind and when I arrived at the hospital I remember being welcomed by the loveliest people, everyone was smiling and happy, it really put me at ease. As I had come to the hospital quite early there was some debate as to where we should go, the midwives were happy for me to go down to delivery suite but after some conversations I was put in the postnatal ward (I didn’t realise this at the time but when I started noticing new-borns in the rooms it was clear where I was). Before this, the baby was monitored to which we received a lot of compliments on heart beat base line, this sort of information was so reassuring to hear. We had no idea why my waters had gone early so it was everything to me to know that my baby was okay.
I can’t remember what time it was when we got into our room, it was good enough for me – it was ours and I could move about which was what I really craved. The only thing it was missing was a bathroom (this is an important bit to remember!).Craig had brought my birthing ball and I immediately sat on it when I got in the room, we had had many decisions about my wishes on an active birth and Craig was fully supportive. We had been to NCT together and I think that like myself, understanding how labour worked had made Craig a lot more at ease with the process – we were a team and needed to work together in order to make this process as calm and enjoyable as possible for our baby.
I listened to my Positive Birth Company tracks and we put my birthing affirmations around the room, I put on my headphones and went into my zone. I had briefly turned my phone off aeroplane mode whilst I was travelling to the hospital but had now turned it back on – this was it. We were on our way. The room was absolutely boiling, Craig did everything he could to keep me cool (this was one of the things I was most nervous about because I hate being too hot!) every time I had a contraction I begged him to spray me in the face with my spray until he got the message that I wanted it every time. I had bought a TENS machine and had been using it since we got to Airedale Hospital, it wasn’t what I expected and made me jump the first time I turned it on, but it helped with the stronger contractions. As I mentioned above, we weren’t really timing them, however, I knew that they were becoming stronger and more frequent but I knew that my baby would come when my baby was ready.
We had regular pop in’s from the midwives and they suggested that I go for a bath, they said it worked miracles for making you feel more relaxed. Craig helped me walk down to the bathroom and left me to it as soon as it was ready, as soon as I got in I felt at peace, water has always been a place where I can relax and because of the risk of infection the pool birth wasn’t and option for the actual delivery. I had accepted it and had moved on – I knew it was always a possibility. I must have fallen asleep as I woke up with a start with a very strong contraction, the strongest so far and I admit, it took my breath away. I quickly continued my up breathing and told myself my affirmations in my head – my favourite at the time being ‘My surges cannot be stronger than me, because they are me’. That’s when I discovered, I could no longer lay down with pressure on my back. I text Craig and asked him to come back whilst I rocked on all fours on the floor to work through the contraction.
It was about 5pm by this point and I was finally feeling the effects of not having much sleep the night before – I was determined not to be on my back but wanted to rest so I decided to lie on my side. Craig closed the curtains and turned on the TV and I spent a few hours in and out of sleep, as I learnt through studying hypnobirthing and NCT, not many women remember the ins and outs of all of their labour and I don’t really remember everything that happened during this time, all I can remember was that the contractions were getting stronger and I was now having to work really hard to keep myself focused. I had begun to become quite vocal during a contraction and found myself laughing. Mooing was a joke during our NCT class, our tutor had told us that midwives knew that a labouring woman was well on her way if she was making these sounds and I was making them.
By about 11pm Craig had put on the tea lights which Siobhan from the Positive Birth Company had suggested we put in our birth bag, in order to create a relaxed and romantic atmosphere… and… Notting Hill was on the TV, my favourite romantic film, I was in my happy place. One of the midwives that had been coming in and out popped back in whilst I was having a contraction and suggested that it might be time to have an examination to see how far along I was, I will admit that out of everything in my labour this is the only thing that I wish I had said no to, in a clearer state I realise that this wasn’t needed, however, in the moment I agreed despite Craig reminding me that I said I didn’t want any in established labour. I was told that I would need to be on my back for the examination and I refused immediately – it wasn’t something that I was willing to do. The midwife then said that it might be a good time to introduce me to the gas and air, I happily obliged (this was the only method of pain relief I said that I would accept in my birth preferences). Boy did it make a difference, I know it doesn’t work for some people but it worked for me! I felt high as a kite as soon as I started sucking the tube and I loved it! The examination confirmed that I was about 5 or 6cm and that they would let delivery suite know that I would be on my way down to them.
As soon as they left the room, I got back on my birthing ball and Craig began to pack our bags. Out of nowhere I felt a huge urge to go to the toilet. The sensation was exactly like needing a number 2, I told Craig I needed the toilet and that I wanted him to come in with me. All of a sudden I felt like I wanted him to protect me, this must have been my method of transition! I begged him not to leave me.. he must have thought I was nuts! I had a wee and tried to have a number 2 but nothing. We went back to the room and I continued my breathing with my now best friend, gas and air and my birthing tracks and drifted in and out of sleep. By about 1.30am I felt I needed to go for a number two again, I told Craig that I really needed to go so we began the trip back to the bathroom. On the way we bumped into the midwife who had been coming in and out and she introduced me to another midwife – Kim, who were told would be delivering our baby. She had come to escort me down to the delivery suite – I told her that I wouldn’t be a moment as I really needed the loo. I told Craig that it was okay for him to wait outside and that I wouldn’t lock the door – in this crazy moment Kim and Craig realised that they knew each other from school and were reminiscing (small world)! I had been sat on the toilet for a few minutes by this point and the midwife must have asked Craig if I was okay, he explained that I needed the toilet but was struggling and that’s when she flew into the room apparently saying that there were no babies being born on the toilet tonight! All along, the feeling had been my babies head and I hadn’t realised.
There was a little bit of chaos at this point as I was helped into some disposable knickers by the midwife who whilst helping me put them on said that they were the latest thing trying to make humour of the situation, I needed it as I was shocked that I was already at that stage. Craig had vanished to go pick up all of our things and Kim had run off to go get a wheelchair. When we got down to the delivery suite it was brightly lit, this was something that I hadn’t been keen on as I wanted a nice dark environment but I knew I was already there and I was already proud of what I had achieved so far, there wasn’t time to debate, I just wanted to deliver my baby safely, I was well and truly in my birthing zone and nothing was going to stop me now. I had got to this stage all with the help of my breathing and hypnobirthing and I knew that I could do this. Poor Craig, after the birth I noticed that he had started to get the tea lights out of the bag, there was no time to set the room out as we had discussed!
During the delivery I was told that I would need to be monitored to make sure that the baby was okay, I agreed but only under the circumstances that I wouldn’t be on my back. I climbed onto the bed and Craig helped ensure that I was propped up on my side with pillows – my contractions started coming and I knew that it was time to push. I had my gas and air with me and I worked hard to do my down breathing, it took me a few attempts to understand what Kim was saying when she said push down into your bottom but when I finally got it, I was confident and calm and worked with my body. My contractions were quite spread out which gave me a few minutes to get ready for the next one, Craig was still spraying me with my cooling spray and I repeated my affirmations in my head and told myself I could do it. The baby kept sliding in and out of the birth canal (I was told this was due to her being small) but I grasped it and began to feel her head come out, Kim asked me if I wanted to touch it but I was too in the moment and wanted to focus on getting her out in the next push. Kim told me that with the next contraction my baby would be here and I pushed with every bit of strength I had left and then I heard my baby cry.
My baby was put straight onto my chest for that perfect skin to skin moment, it was a relief for me to hold her as we had to have a baby doctor present at the birth just in case there were any problems – as soon as she said congratulations and left the room I knew that everything was okay. I didn’t cry despite being a crier normally, I was still in shock and my adrenaline was at a high. Craig was crying which shocked me even more and he had forgotten to tell me the only thing that I was dying to know. The sex of our baby! We hadn’t had the slightest urge to find out as we wanted a surprise but I was absolutely convinced that the baby was a boy, when he said ‘It’s a girl’ I was absolutely gobsmacked and knew her name immediately. Charlotte Terri. Charlotte was born at 3.09am weighing 5lb 13oz, Charlotte was the only name I really loved and Terri is in memory of my Grandad Terry who I never had the pleasure to meet (it is also my middle name and my nieces.. a new family tradition).
I had been quite indecisive about the 3rd Stage of labour prior to the birth, having several conversations with Craig and my new mummy friends, I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to deliver my placenta naturally or have the injection. When it came down to it I decided to go for the injection as it meant that I knew it was over and done with. I can’t believe how quickly and painlessly the placenta came out.
I was so proud of what I had done, I had made and delivered our little girl in the calmest way possible. It was everything that I ever wanted, we had lots cuddles and skin to skin time with our baby girl and some much needed toast and my favourite thing in the world.. a cup of tea. I asked Craig to ring my Dad first as I knew out of everyone he would worry that he hadn’t heard anything, I was right, he hadn’t slept all night. It was really nice to hear Craig speaking to our parents to tell them they had a new grandchild. I just held on tight to Charlotte in awe and disbelief. Me, a mum? It was just bonkers that this little person was mine. I was asked how I wanted to feed at this point, I had decided very early on in pregnancy that if I could, I would breastfeed Charlotte for at least 6 months. I had told myself beforehand that if it wasn’t to be, it wasn’t to be. I was more nervous about breastfeeding than I was labour, I’m still not sure why but to my amazement Charlotte latched on straight away with the help of the midwife and I was relieved. We laid there for a while until we moved back up to the postnatal ward, laughing when the room which they gave us was the one that we had been in during labour several hours before.
My Labour –
Time from Waters Breaking before Labour Started – 18 Hours
1st Stage of Labour – 24 Hours
2nd Stage of Labour – 45 minutes
3rd Stage of Labour – 15 minutes