My memory has been rubbish for as long as I can remember (no pun intended!) so, with the added worry over what baby brain might actually do to me, I was genuinely concerned about forgetting about all the special little (and big!) moments in my child’s life. So a few days after the shock and awe of having our first baby had subsided slightly, I started a diary. And unlike the many attempts at diary keeping at various points throughout my childhood and early adult years, I’ve actually done really well at keeping this one. I guess it means so much more to me to remember the moments in my child’s life than it does to learn about who I had a crush on at the age of 14! My very first entry recapped the day that I went into labour and I’ve decided to share a slightly-abridged version here with you!
My husband, referred to as Mitch from here on in, works away during the week so every Sunday he returns to his military base in Dorset at around 9pm, which usually gets him back and tucked up in bed for midnight. But this particular good night’s sleep was not meant to be! (An omen of things to come, perhaps!)
That Monday morning I turned 39 weeks pregnant and woke at around 2:15am as though it were any other night.. I needed the loo! I started getting some cramping that felt like gas/period pain but then it went away soon after. After that happened for a second time I wondered whether it was an early labour sign, so I started my contraction timer app and found that the pains were coming almost exactly nine minutes apart. It took just three contractions before they suddenly starting coming every three minutes, but they weren’t lasting very long. I decided to ring Mitch at around 3:30am and apologetically tell him that something was happening but, as the antenatal class had warned me about, there was a chance that it could be false labour. He was understandably tired and said that he was going to try and get some sleep but to call him again in an hour if it started getting worse – of course we were both prepared for the long haul of labour! Less than half an hour later, however, I was ringing him telling him it was definitely time to get his arse home!
It was starting to get pretty painful and I felt hot, sweaty and nauseous. I went outside to get a bucket from the shed and wished that I could stay out in the cool air, but as I was already getting pretty vocal with each contraction I thought it might be a little antisocial! I went back inside and looked for something lighthearted to watch on TV to take my mind off it all but it clearly didn’t work as I didn’t even notice when the normal programming ended and was replaced with teleshopping! I had rented a TENS machine for pain relief and had a nightmare trying to get the electrodes stuck to the right places on my back all by myself, only to find that all it did was intensify the pain even more – I couldn’t get it off fast enough!
At around 5am, I called the hospital who confirmed that I was in early labour and that I was looking for the golden rule of contractions that we’d learned in our antenatal class: you can go into hospital once your contractions are coming every five minutes, lasting for a minute each and you’ve been like that for an hour. Mine were coming every two to three minutes but they were only lasting around 40 seconds, so the midwife told me to take some paracetamol and try and lay down and rest as I’d be needing the energy later on. Great advice, except the paracetamol did nothing and when I tried to lay down, I felt even more nauseous than before. Mitch rang for an update but the last thing I wanted to do was hold a conversation; I was uncomfortable, constantly fidgeting, changing position between every contraction and the only relief I could find was to get a cold, wet tea towel and place it alternately under my bump and on my lower back. Oh, and I swore – a lot!
My husband arrived home at 6:20am to the relatively calm sight of me leaning over the fireplace staring at the same teleshopping ad that had been repeating for a few hours now, but it wasn’t long before I was having another really strong contraction and telling him that it really f***ing hurt! Just twenty minutes later, we were back on the phone to the hospital who said that I had progressed well and that it was time to make the short journey to the birth centre that we’d been shown around just two weeks before. My contractions were still only lasting forty seconds and I told Mitch that I’d be gutted if I arrived and they told me that I was something like 2cm dilated – there was no way I’d be able to stick to just gas and air! Well it turns out I didn’t have much of a choice as I was 8cm dilated when they examined me – I actually fist pumped the air!
So it was straight into the birthing pool with the gas and air – which gave super effective pain relief having had nothing but paracetamol until that point – and I felt a feeling of relief as everything suddenly seemed so much more manageable. I was no longer in pain, just uncomfortable with each contraction. I was still fidgeting like mad though; I was flipping from my front to my back every time a contraction came and I realised that my decision to use the birthing pool had been the right one as it made changing position so easy. Mitch was amazing, picking up quickly on my many non-verbal cues to take the gas and air between contractions, when to rub my back and when to stop and when to pass my water bottle, despite all my gestures being pretty much the same! We felt like a great team.
I felt a pop between my legs as my waters burst in the pool and my labour quickly progressed to a feeling of needing to push. I remember thinking how amazing it was that I just knew when it was time! I’m not really sure how long I was pushing for but Mitch assures me it wasn’t long – I was only in the pool for 2.5 hours altogether. I remember feeling anxious about the final part of pushing out the baby’s head as the tension built up and was getting frustrated as it felt like I had been pushing for ages with little progress; the midwife kept saying it’ll just be one more push and it just wasn’t. I was kicking myself afterwards because I had realised in hindsight that I could have pushed for longer at an earlier stage but I thought/felt that I should be stopping when the contractions ended instead of pushing for as long as I could. Doh – my baby could have been born even faster!
I remember feeling pretty dazed after the head came out (Mitch said I let out a very high pitched squeal!) but the next push was quick and easy and, at 0946, our baby was finally out and placed onto my chest for some skin-to-skin contact. I hadn’t even thought about what sex the baby was yet when my husband lifted the towel the midwife had placed over us and said ‘look at the size of those b******s!’; not exactly the beautiful moment I had imagined finding out whether I had a baby boy or a girl…
We got to enjoy a lovely few moments together to sit as a new little family and take it all in before the not-so-lovely admin of delivering the placenta (a walk in the park after all that!) and getting stitched up (definitely more gas and air required!). The latter was probably the most negative part of the whole experience; I’d been told to sit on the bed and they’d be right back to stitch me up but I was left there for ages. Mitch was getting some great skin-to-skin time but I was desperate for a cuddle and to get on with breastfeeding. I asked Mitch to bring the baby over so that I could try to feed him but I didn’t have any luck on my own so we had to wait for the midwife to come back and help. Although you wouldn’t have known it, as it was so quiet, the birthing centre was clearly very busy that morning so I couldn’t be too annoyed – besides, I had a beautiful baby boy who had decided he couldn’t wait to get into the world and meet his mum and dad! I feel incredibly lucky to have experienced labour the way I did. And although I started this diary to make sure I don’t forget anything, I don’t think I’d ever be able to forget that day.