It all began with an induction.
On 11th June, I was a whopping 12 days late and really starting to wish away the last few days of my pregnancy. I was huge. I was tired. And I just wanted to curl up on my own and sleep and wake up with my baby. On the evening of 11th, I rang the labour ward at my local hospital to double-check they had the space for me to be admitted for induction as planned.
That call was nerve-wracking, as I half expected them to say no and that they were too busy. But thankfully they told me to come on in – they were “expecting me.”
As Stephen dashed around, filling up the car with our bags, I sat on the sofa and found myself welling up. I said a silent goodbye to the house and spared a final thought for Max, who was having a sleepover at my parents’ house. It was emotional leaving behind an old life. I’m aware that sounds dramatic but it’s how I felt! Like some martyr leaving to go through a lot of pain to make a difference.
I was so nervous that I was shaking and, as we arrived at the ward, I could barely talk properly. They found me my bed for the night and I was popped on trace to make sure baby was okay before the third woman in my life took to my vagina for a good fondle. I’m happy to say it hasn’t been a Katy Perry moment for me. A woman touched my bits. I didn’t like it.
Alone, I was 2cm dilated and 75% effaced and my plug had been coming away for the past few days, in what can only be described as finding that your vagina not only has a nose, but it can blow it. Foul. At that, she decided to offer me a double dose of the prostaglandin pessary gel.
It was a fantastic as it sounds. Like having cold jelly squirted up you while you maintain a jolly face and speak pleasantries with a woman you barely know while wondering if you did a good job with the grounds maintenance down below. Days like these, I’m thankful I can act.
|Last bump photo. 13 hours before he was born!|
The gel, as I was told, was quite the irritant and it felt cold and a little stingy. But, in order for it to work, I had to stay still for an hour so it didn’t “fall out.” So me and Stephen chatted away, conscious of the clock, as partners have to leave the ward at 11pm unless you are in established labour. Luckily our midwife was very sweet and encouraged us, after our hour was up, to go for a walk to see if it would get things going. We walked the hospital corridors, laughing and chatting and I made a mental note to remember how that felt. It was lovely holding his hand and just spending time together, just us, for the last time.
Nothing happened after that. So I put on a brave face and said goodbye and settled down for some sleep, aware that I would be woken at around 4:30am for a second dose of the pessary if nothing happened by then.
4:30am came and I woke up grumpy and irritated. No signs as far as I could gather. I remember my mum texting me and asking how I was getting on and me replying along the lines of: “My body is a /failure/I’m so dramatic/kill me now.”
Bizarrely, ten minutes later, I felt very strange and uncomfortable. My stomach hurt and I went to the toilet presuming it was pressure on my bladder and I needed a wee. It was there I found a bloody show – more of my plug, this time with blood, which is indicative that labour is on its way.
Then, as if by magic, my contractions started thick and fast. I never had much of a wait between them from the word go. Five minutes maximum. After trying to brave it on my bed on my own, I buzzed for the midwifery team for some support.
A lovely lady came and I was offered some cocodamol. Which, to be honest, was like being offered a paracetamol for a lost limb in my opinion, but I took it. I was desperate already and I didn’t even know what pain was by this point.
She examined me and I was 3cm. 3cm. Yes. A whole centimetre. Wow. Just call me Little Miss Progress…
Luckily, I was able to call in the troops – my birth partners; Stephen and Mum. I’d already told Mum to get to our house – we live very near the hospital and she lives in the neighbouring village – so within ten minutes I finally had some moral support. It was nice not to be alone.
Things started moving faster by then and I couldn’t speak through the pain. It felt natural to me to labour on my feet (lying down made me feel trapped and so uncomfortable). I leant on walls, over furniture, I hobbled around. My favourite position was to have Stephen, or Mum, cross their arms over their chest and let me hang from them with my head nuzzled in. But soon these techniques stopped having the same effect and I asked for some more help. I was offered a bath, which I accepted gladly. But the fact of the matter is, those baths must be made for children as I had the same experience as I did when I went back to a primary school as an adult and saw how small the toilets were. I was lucky to get my big toe in there to be honest and I just ended up sitting in it like I was sat in a bucket and thinking to myself: “My mum can so see my boobs and vagina right now/OW/OW/OW.”
In the end I got out and begged for someone to assess me. My contractions were anything from two minutes apart, to five minutes apart, and upon examination I could have cried. Not only was having someone’s hands up your bits, while a vice of pain grips your stomach and pelvis, agony, but I was still only 3cm and it was now 8:40am. I was so disheartened. I felt so different and nothing was happening for me. I remember whimpering and feeling like I was finished before I had even started.
My midwife decided it was time to break my waters to get things moving, so this time, along with her fingers, a long thin needle hook was inserted up me to manually rupture my membranes. The sensation was pretty much like wetting yourself after downing ten pints. I remember, in a haze of pain, going: “Urgh. Grosssssss.”
Then things went crazy. The pain I was feeling became extreme and so fast, without barely any time to rest between contractions. I was moved to a delivery suite and I remember walking there (God knows how I managed it) and thinking: “Oh what a pretty room. It’s pink. There’s a disco ball. Drugs?”
Time passed so quickly in that room. And I will never forget it.
I begged for some assistance instantaneously, only to be offered gas and air, which I took with a view to trying it for ten minutes, declaring it bloody useless and then demanding an epidural.
I never got that far with my intentions. The pain came in floods then and I was delirious with the combination of that and gas and air. I kept trying to say I felt pressure and I needed help, but my warbled comments weren’t very well understood. Eventually, around 11:30am, after hearing me attempt to push, my midwife – a lovely woman called Jeannie – decided to examine me, to see where I was up to.
It was all systems go by that point, as I was fully dilated and already starting to push.
Panic central. Aprons were on. Stephen and Mum were excited. I was in agony. There was no time for any further pain relief and, after a while, I couldn’t concentrate with gas and air anymore, and I remember dropping it to the floor and going it alone.
Where I found the strength and power in all of this, I will never know. I’m good with pain and I know I’m a strong gal (after all I’m built like my dad!) but I expected to howl, scream and DEMAND drugs. Instead I was quiet, in a zone of my own, and the only noise I made was a guttural grunt, which came from nowhere every time I pushed.
You know I will be honest. Lying isn’t my thing. Women poo in labour. And I was one of them. Whoever says you don’t know you are doing it is a liar. I knew. I knew the first time, and the second and so on. One of my mum’s favourite moments from my labour, which she recalls with glee, is me being ever so apologetic:
Me: “Oh no!”
Midwife: “What’s a matter Charlotte?”
Me: “Oh I’m so sorry. I’m doing it wrong. I’VE POOED!”
It’s okay. You can laugh at my expense. Once you’ve given birth, Miss Dignity chooses to loiter in the doorway, while Miss Humiliation and Miss I’ve Shat Myself barge in unannounced.
The next part passed in a blur for me. I wasn’t 100% present and I remember floating away and dealing with the pain deep inside my head and not being fully aware of what was going on around me. At one point the Head Midwife and Registrar were called in as my pulse/blood pressure was shooting sky high (thought to be because of the speed of my labour) and baby boy’s was dipping dangerously low. Stephen and Mum both thought I was on the edge of needing an emergency c-section and I was just confused.
The Registrar was apparently amazing and remarked, after a good oggle at my flower, that I had a extremely strong vaginal muscles (hurrah for me!) and decided, with a good two-finger method, to stretch the buggery out of them.
It was funny. Watching these faces peer up me, while I watched from the other end of the bed. My legs were in stirrups by this point, the poo was no more, and everyone watched in fascination as my baby made his way down the birth canal. I’ll never know what it looked like but Stephen and Mum were in tears and they both say it was amazing to see. The pain of crowning was like nothing I can describe with justice, but it was a ring of fire and a slow stretch of which you felt every millimetre, especially without any pain relief. Contractions are a period pain/diarrhoea cramp but maximised on a level that you feel like the pain will burst out of the top of your head. It consumes you, but in a way that no other pain ever will, because it’s getting your baby to you.
After about an hour and a half of pushing, William James Darroch made his way into the world, weighing a healthy 8lb 6oz, measuring about 54cm long, at 12:22pm on 12th June 2012.
This will be forever the best moment of my life. I’m crying as I write this, just remembering the look
on Stephen’s face and the pride in my mum’s voice as she kissed my cheeks and stroked my hair.
The relief was amazing. The pain just leaves you, just like everyone says. I took a huge shaky breath and said: “I did it.” I could barely see past my nose at that point but I remember begging to know if he had a cleft palate. He was fine. Perfect in fact. My baby.
Holding him in my arms was just amazing. I was shaking with adrenalin and trying hard to steady myself so I could stroke his tiny hands.
My placenta was delivered 13 minutes later. I remember the midwife describing it as The Ugly Twin and it really was! You don’t realise how big the bloody thing is going to be. Don’t worry, I haven’t freeze-dried it or made it into a smoothie. I’m no Hannibal Lecter. (Mmm. Placenta). I had toast and a coffee after birth, you will be pleased to know, though this wasn’t until after the most traumatic part of my labour story – the after care…
As my muscles down there were so strong, they tore in three places – two second degree tears and one graze. The pain of having local aneastethic applied to your swollen and bruised bits is agony, as is the stitching, which you still feel, down to the tug of every thread. Plus I couldn’t hold my baby.
Not only was this horrible for me the first time around, but they missed a tear, which was found an hour later when they saw I was still bleeding quite heavily. I had to go through the whole ordeal twice, which left me sobbing and in more pain than labour, if that makes any sense. There was nothing gained at the end of it (apart from the new nickname of Frankenfanny) and all I could do was hold Mum’s hand, take gas and air and watch my son being cradled by his dad, who watched me with such pain in his own eyes, seeing me that way.
It was horrible. But eventually, it was over and I was able to hold my baby again and properly drink in every last detail of him. Because labour was so quick and intense, he didn’t have much of a cone head or a squished face, common with most newborns, and his features evened out very quickly. He was just beautiful.
While things didn’t go according to plan, and parts weren’t what I had hoped for, I am over the moon with my labour and I’m so proud to be able to say I did it on my own for the most part. I also owe two very big thank yous.
|Look how beautiful and proud she is.|
Stephen. You were wonderful. You were everything I knew you would be and I could feel how proud you were of me, every single second. Watching you cut the cord and seeing your eyelashes coated with tears will always be a memory I hold close to my heart. Thank you.
Mum. I know you never got the births you wanted, thanks to me and my complications. I hope you will cherish this as much as I did. I wanted to give you a positive memory to keep and I’m so glad I did. You were amazing and I’ll be forever grateful. Your grandson loves you already.
Being a mother is more than I could ever of imagined. He’s my world. He always will be.