This time last year i was in labour. Chris was inflating the birthing pool. Our 23 month old Tobias was fast asleep in his bed and our unborn baby Rudyard was on his way!
It’s actually insane to me, how quickly this last 12 months has flown. I thought Toby’s 1st birthday came around fast but that was nothing compared to the speed at which tomorrow seems to have arrived.
Obviously 12 months is 1 year and each year passes as quickly (or slowly) as another. But it certainly doesn’t feel that way!
There really is nothing like your child’s very first birthday to get you feeling all nostalgic and sentimental and deep. For Mums anyway. Maybe not so much for Dads. Chris is a fairly sensitive guy i’d say, but as deep and meaningful as he got this evening was to ask me “Which would you rather be doing…wrapping presents and writing birthday messages on chalkboards like you are doing tonight…or being in labour?”
My answer was wrapping presents and writing birthday messages on chalkboards…”but only because i get to drink red wine while i do it.” Unlike during labour. When consumption of alcohol is generally frowned upon. Although the taking of more hardcore substances encouraged?! Go figure.
Anyway that got me thinking about my labour and Rudy’s birth and i realised i haven’t yet shared his birth story here. Although it’s in the public domain elsewhere as i posted it to a couple of the parenting forums i use but i thought it might be nice to revisit it anyway.
This is my original and unedited birth story, written within days of Rudy’s arrival.
So, grab a cuppa (better make it a pot actually…well i was contracting for a while you know!) and a hobnob (or again, perhaps a packet may be more appropriate, we could be here for sometime!) and enjoy 🙂
Alternatively. If birth is Not Your Thing. Then feel free to read the first line and last paragraph and then take yourself off to bed. It is after all, getting rather late 😉
Rudyard Jonathan Holland
Born at 38 weeks and 4 days gestation on Tuesday 11/10/11 at 3.16am weighing 2.855kg (6lb 6oz)
At 12:47am on Monday 10th October I woke up to a tightening. I had another about 8-9 minutes later, then a few at 7 minutes apart, then a few at 5 minutes apart. After an hour i started using the contraction timer on my phone- but i couIdn’t get the hang of it at all- I kept dithering about whether or not a contraction was building and then pressing it too late, and then forgetting to press it again to say the contraction had stopped!
Sitting in bed timing contractions while Chris snoozed was getting a little dull and uncomfortable so I moved downstairs to the sofa for a bit. At one point they were every 3 minutes or so and I thought maybe I should wake Chris but then almost as soon as I thought it, they spaced out again. Soon they were back to being 8 minutes apart, and I decided enough was enough and went back to bed!
Unfortunately, Toby had other ideas and woke up! It was about 3.30am ish i think, and i heard him pad across his room saying “Mimmy?! Mimmy?!” I went to his door and he was stood at his safety gate saying “stairs” which is what he says in the morning when he wants to get up! So i had to tell him, no, it was in fact still bedtime!! He wasn’t impressed but settled down when i got into bed with him.
Trouble is, his tiny single bed was SO uncomfortable at 38 weeks pregnant! And he was really wide awake- so at 4.35am when i was still lying there and he was still not asleep and i was still contracting, i got a bit cross about the fact Chris was peacefully snoozing away in the other room with our double bed all to himself! So i yelled at him to come and take over from me in trying to persuade Toby back to sleep, and i went and lay down in our bed.
I had no idea how frequently the contractions were coming but i knew they weren’t as close as they had been so decided to just try to sleep. I did sleep but was faintly aware they were still going on. When i woke up it was 8.30am and Chris and Toby were still fast asleep in Toby’s bed, and Chris was supposed to be leaving for uni at 9am! Initially when i first woke i thought everything had stopped, but then i had a contraction sat up in bed and felt relieved that things were still happening. Chris and Toby woke up and at first Chris was frantically getting dressed to quickly head in for his morning lecture, then i decided to go pee and had a ‘show’. I told Chris and he changed his mind about rushing into uni and decided to see how things progressed throughout the morning.
The contractions were still very mild but started coming every 10 minutes throughout the morning and I was getting a lot of pressure and stabby pains in my cervix. I also went full into nesting and organising mode and by 10.30am had washed up, cleaned the kitchen, emptied the kitchen bin, put a load of washing on and hoovered the entire of downstairs!
I continued to have irregular contractions all day on Monday. At times they would get into a pattern, of being consistently a set distance apart but then they would go a little crazy and coming at random intervals. Then in the early afternoon they started to come 6 minutes apart for a whole hour and i thought- yes, this is it! But again they then died away and came back at random intervals. Late afternoon i started to get tetchy. Toby hadn’t napped all day and i think he was getting frustrated with how distracted both Chris and i were and was wanting a lot of attention from me and to be picked up and cuddled, which was tricky as i was trying to spend time on my ball to encourage things along. We’d had a grocery delivery booked in for between 2 and 4pm and it arrived around 3.30ish, so we had all that to unpack and then Chris and Toby had something to eat and watched some TV and i tried to zone out a little bit and concentrate on what was happening with my body. I thought, and hoped, things would progress once Toby was safely tucked in bed asleep and it turns out, i was right! 😉
When Chris took Toby up for his bath and milk they were coming around 5 minutes apart and lasting 30 seconds, when he came back down they were still the same, which i took to be a good sign as it meant they hadn’t dwindled off again. I got off my ball and started to pace up and down the living room and at around 9.30pm they started to come every 3 minutes (still lasting around 30 seconds ish) I decided that once they had been reliably coming every 3 minutes for an hour i would ring the midwives. After an hour though i still doubted it was the real thing and was worried they would become irregular again or that i’d be ringing the midwives too soon and i didn’t want to be ‘faffed’ with unnecessarily, so decided to wait another half an hour. By 11pm i felt that although they weren’t any closer together, they were getting stronger, and some were lasting longer too, a couple were around 40-50 seconds long and i had started needing to breathe through them. At this stage i was still pacing the living room floor and then when one would start to build i’d grab on to the bookcase or windowsill (depending on which side of the room i was closest to!) and i’d lean over and sway a little, or squat a little and breathe through it. I wasn’t making any noise at this stage but i did sometimes feel like i needed to close my eyes. Chris had started to inflate the pool.
I rang the number i had been given and spoke to a receptionist who took my details. 5 minutes later a midwife called Pam rang back and asked me a few questions- she wanted to know how long i’d been contracting for, and how often they were coming. She asked if it was my first baby so i told her no, my second and she asked if anyone had been out to see me during the day so i said no, we hadn’t called anyone until now. She said she’d come out to see me but that in the meantime she advised i take some paracetamol to take the edge off (I didn’t)
She arrived at midnight, the contractions were still the same at this stage. She told me that’d she’d noticed i had a student caseholder, Heather, and had called her and left a voicemail and that Heather had rung her back and was on her way as well. I was really pleased about that because i’d seen Heather for a lot of my antenatal appointments and thought she was really lovely and would be a reassuring presence and familiar face, and i trusted that she was on board with our birth plan to stay home and do things as natural as possible.
Heather had told me that when i rang in labour i should remember to let the midwife know that i had a student caseholder but i had totally forgotten in the heat of the moment so i was glad Pam had figured it out herself. She looked over my notes and read our birth plan. She told me she would just take my blood pressure and leave the rest of the ‘assessment’ to Heather when she arrived. My bp came back ridiculously high, it’s usually around 110/70 or so, and was 150/110! That was during a contraction though so Pam repeated it a couple of minutes later and it was 130/95, so still high but better! I said that i seemed to have trouble with the mini electronic bp machines and that it might be better to take it manually so she said she’d have to see if she had her manual sphyg and stethoscope in the car.
Then Heather arrived, so she nipped out to get it. Heather was very excited and when she repeated my bp manually it was fine- around 120/80 i think. She listened in to baby’s HR with the doppler and said he was very happy and not at all bothered by anything that had been going on all day. Then Pam asked if i would consent to an internal examination so they could see where i was up to. I said yes as i was keen to know if the irregular contractions all day had actually done anything. I said “but if i am 1cm then i don’t want to know!” and Pam pointed out that even if they didn’t tell me, i would probably guess when they started to put their coats back on! Heather performed the VE and found me to be “2cm and stretchy but with a slightly thicker cervix to one side”. She told me she’d given me a good sweep while she was there and had pulled away a big bit of plug so that would hopefully get things moving.
Pam said she felt it would be unwise for me to stay up all night pacing the floors and trying to encourage things to move along as it could possibly still be a long while before things started to hot up and she didn’t want me to run out of energy. She advised taking some paracetamol and going to bed to rest and reassured me that this was the real thing and i didn’t need to worry about things stopping and that i would wake up when things properly got going. She said if i couldn’t sleep i should at least try to have a warm bath. I felt slightly disheartened, i admit, but i agreed with her and sleep didn’t seem like such a bad idea.
During their visit Toby had woken up and started to cry so Chris was upstairs trying to settle him back into bed when they left and he had no idea what had happened or what they’d said or anything like that.
Chris came back down after about half an hour to report that Toby was refusing to go back to sleep and wanted to know what he should do?! He also wanted to know what the midwives had said so i told him. At this point i was still contracting, although i had stopped timing them, but they were feeling stronger than they had been when Heather and Pam had been here and i started making a little moaning noise towards the end of each one.
I said to Chris he should put Toby in our bed and i’d come up too and we should all just snuggle down and try to sleep and if i couldn’t then i’d take a bath. I was really struggling to see how i’d be able to sleep with contractions so close together though when they seemed to be picking up in strength too. Nevertheless i went up the stairs and went for a wee, and then headed into the bedroom, Toby and Chris were there, and then i had a really big contraction. I got on my knees on the floor and leant over the side of the bed and moaned through it. I told Chris i thought i needed my tens machine and that i’d take that paracetamol now after all. I pulled my t shirt off (i had a little crop top underneath) and when Chris came back i asked him to put the tens on. He couldn’t remember where the pads went and neither could i. I told him that someone had scanned me a copy of their instructions on one of the forums and i needed my laptop if he wanted to see it, so he went back downstairs to get the laptop.
I was moaning through my contractions and starting to worry that Toby would be getting distressed. He didn’t seem upset but kept saying “Mimmy?!” and he wanted me to get in the bed with him but i didn’t feel like i could move from where i was.
Eventually, the tens was on, i had taken my painkillers and had a drink of apple juice and i was just kneeling there, contracting and moaning into my t shirt that i’d taken off and scrumpled up and was burying my face in to at each contraction. I remarked to Chris it would be more helpful if it had chloroform or something on it! Haha.
I had sent my best friend Emma a message when the midwives had left telling them what had been said and she’d texted back saying that sounded good and did we want her to head over? At that time i had thought no, probably not, because the plan had been for me to go to bed and sleep, but i had thankfully never got round to actually telling her that, because i now felt that we did need her, especially since Toby was wide awake and i was becoming more vocal. I told Chris to ring her and ask her to come. She asked if she should bring anything and apparently i specifically said not to forget the tealights for the oil burner?! (We had some clary sage and lavender essential oil to burn)
Pam and Heather had said i should ring them back if anything changed, like if contractions got stronger or my waters broke, or if baby stopped moving or if i was worried or had any questions about anything.
I started wondering at what point i should call them. Things were starting to feel intense but i was all too aware that it hadn’t been hardly any time since they had left and that it was unlikely i’d progressed all that much since.
To be honest, time once i got upstairs all went a bit hazy, i think i retreated into myself and just tried to get through each contraction as it happened. I knew they were close together but since we’d stopped timing them i didn’t know any specifics. They were definitely getting longer and stronger though. As one died away i mooed to Chris “I think i need my natal hypnotherapeeeeeeeeee now!” and he fetched me my ipod. I tried to listen to the “excitement phase” track on the labour companion cd, which is recommended for when you know you’re in labour and having regular contractions, but almost immediately it was annoying me. The rhythm of her speech didn’t match up to the rhythm/intensity of my contractions and i decided i’d rather just listen to the relaxing birth music. In hindsight i was definitely listening to the wrong track and should have been listening to the “serious phase” track at that point but i wasn’t to know!
Chris and Toby were snuggled up in bed together watching Cbeebies on the laptop. I was worried that the noises i was making would be traumatising Toby and suggested to Chris i go downstairs but he said not until Emma arrived as he didn’t want me to be on my own down there. Then some time after i suggested he should go start filling the pool but again, he said not until Emma arrived as he didn’t want to leave me with Toby on my own. I told Chris i felt cold and he covered me with a fluffy blanket i’d put out for the baby, but i told him “no take it off, that’s for the baby!” so he covered me with my dressing gown instead.
Emma arrived, i’m not sure what time it was, and she came up and settled down on the bed with Toby and Toby was really excited to see her, and i was relieved because it had started to all feel like a bit too much with just me and Chris on our own with Toby. She saw me go through a contraction and then said that she’d fetched the tealights but that she guessed it had gone past that point now?! I said “yes, definitely, unless you’re planning on setting fire to me with them to put me out of my misery?!” Haha.
Chris went downstairs and started to fill the pool. At some point i said to Emma, “i think Chris should ring the midwives now.” In my head i was thinking that i had nothing to lose by calling them as the contractions were becoming really overwhelming. I was definitely worried that i’d seem like a wuss, and that they would be thinking “we only just left her and she’s ringing back already!” but i decided to myself that if they came, and i was still only 3 or 4cms then obviously i had very poor coping strategies in labour and i would just have to face up to that and opt to transfer in for more pain relief. And if they came and i’d progressed well, well then it would be reassuring to know and good to have them around as it felt like things were happening faster than i’d expected.
Chris called the midwives at 2.20am (i only know that because our phone logs calls!) and Pam rang back 5 minutes later, he told them that things were progressing and that i wasn’t coping as well. Pam misheard and thought he said “things are progressing and i’m not coping” and was having a laugh with him about that. She told him they would head back out. He came upstairs to tell me and i said i needed a wee. I took myself off to the bathroom and had a very horrible and loud contraction on the toilet and briefly considered knocking my head against the bathroom sink to dull the pain!
I then felt i should really get down the stairs or i never would! And i was still worrying about the amount of noise i was making and the effect on Toby, but remember both Chris and Emma reassuring me that he wasn’t in the slightest bit bothered!
Chris was still filling the pool but Emma went to get him so he could help me down the stairs. I didn’t make it very far- just to the little half-landing between our room and Toby’s room and then had a massive contraction, i said “It’s too late!” and grabbed on to Chris and basically hung from his neck and mooed down his ear until the worst of it was over and then we quickly got down the stairs.
Once downstairs i flung myself on to the sofa, on my knees and leant over the back of it and buried my face into a cushion. Chris finished up filling the pool. I remember a few things, like that i felt very cold and then very hot and i started to feel slightly sick so Chris fetched a bucket over and put it by the side of the sofa, although i never actually needed it. I remember asking him what time it was and how long it had been since he rang the midwives and he told me hang on, i’ll check, and then said it had been 20 minutes, which depressed me because i thought, well it will still be a while until they get here then. I told him that my ipod was annoying me, because it was getting tangled with my tens cables and the headphones kept falling out of my ears! He asked me if i wanted my ipod on the speakers on the hi-fi instead and i didn’t understand but then he repeated the question and i said yes, so he started playing the relaxing birth music through the speakers.
I told him i really wanted to get in the pool and he said it was ready for me and that i should do if that’s what i wanted, but for some reason i was very worried it would turn out to be too soon and that it would make things slow down or stop, so i wanted the midwives to give me the ok first. Chris reassured me that i seemed to be really progressing well and i should just go with my instincts but i felt safe over the back of the sofa, and moving seemed like it would be almost impossible so i said “no, not until the midwives get here”. I think i was mostly worried that if i got in, and then they arrived and i had to get out to be examined that would feel worse than not being in at all- if that makes sense?!
Chris suggested we at least get me ready to get in the pool, and i said “what do you mean?!” and he said “well, let’s get your pants off for a start!” but apparently i refused and said i didn’t want my bare bum to be the first thing that greeted the midwives when they walked through the front door (In my defence, our front door was basically right off the street and as we didn’t have a hallway you walk straight into the living room and the sofa had been pushed right in front of the door- so my bare bum really would have been the first thing they saw!)
I had some real stinking contractions leaning over the back of the sofa, and as a couple of them built i remember i said “Chris! Help!” but it was funny because even as i was saying it, i was quite calmly thinking that there was nothing anyone could to do to help and i just had to get on with it. Chris responded by massaging my lower back, at times i said “thank you, that helps” and at other times, if he was too late starting the massage and tried to start to touch me at the height of a contraction i would say “no no no!” Poor guy probably didn’t know what to do with himself!
I started to feel a bit like i was grunting at the end of each contraction, and like i was physically moving my legs wider apart. I had the sensation that the baby felt like it was trying to come out of my actual bum.
The midwives arrived at 3.05am, i heard car doors slamming and Chris said “they’re here” They arrived and having heard me contracting from the street they got straight to work. Heather said “you’ve not been messing around have you?!” and Pam said “can we listen in to baby and check you and then we’ll get you in the pool?” and i said “yes” but they wanted me to lie back on the sofa for the VE and just as i moved to lie down i had another contraction, so i threw myself back up on to my knees and in the process yanked one of the cables out of the tens machine. So i was frantically trying to gesticulate that my tens had come unattached (because i couldn’t talk through the contraction) but no one knew what i was on about, and Chris , bless him, thought i meant “please press boost!” so was pressing the boost button for me, and it wasn’t even attached! Once the contraction was over i managed to say that it wasn’t attached. At first Pam thought i meant one of the sticky pads on my back had come off, but then i said “nooo!” and eventually everyone got what i meant and found the stray cable and attached me back up. I’m not even sure that the tens was making much of a difference to the pain to be honest but i didn’t have any other pain relief and i liked the feeling of control it gave me, being able to press that boost button!
I told everyone that it felt like “this baby is trying to come out of my bum!” and Pam said that was good and that maybe my waters were about to go. She asked if she could do the VE now and i managed to lie down and Chris held my hand. Pam said i was “a good 8 to 9cms so i’d done really well” I have never felt so relieved in my life, i thought “i’m not a wuss after all!” and i said “Chris i am so glad, i thought you were going to come back and tell me i was 3cms!” and Heather and Pam both laughed and said it was obvious to them from when they arrived that i was further than that. She also told me my membranes were bulging and that baby’s head was at a slight angle but not to worry as everything would just rotate around and happen naturally as things progressed.
Pam went out to the car to get the rest of their supplies, the gas and air for e.g. and delivery pack (we had a homebirth kit dropped off the week before but it only had very rudimentary stuff in like gloves, inco pads, a bucket for the placenta etc)
I was kneeling up on the sofa again and Heather listened in to baby’s heart rate which was fine.and started to take my tens pads off ready for me to get in the pool, but i said “no not yet another one is coming!” so she stopped unpeeling the pads. I then felt, very suddenly and definitely that the baby was coming NOW and i said to Chris, who was at my head-end “the baby is coming” and because he’d heard Pam say that my membranes were bulging he said “i know, i know it’s the waters” and i said “I really need some pain relief” and both Chris and Heather were saying “It’s ok, we’re going to get you in the pool now” and I said “No, i’m pushing!” and both Chris and Heather were reassuring me that it was probably the waters about to go and then Heather said “the head is there!” and i knew i was right. I had that feeling of being at the top of a rollercoaster and knowing it’s going to go down whether you like it or not and it’s too late to get off! I knew this baby had to come out and that the gas and air was still on it’s way in from Pam’s car and that there was nothing i could do about it now! I had the temptation to just really give a massive push as i knew that would get it over and done with but i was thinking quite rationally inside “you don’t want to tear!”
Pam came back into the house and was greeted by, according to Chris, a terrified looking Heather and himself and the sight of the baby’s head crowning. Chris told me Heather seemed to be out of her depth but i didn’t feel frightened at all and thought she sounded extremely calm, as the contraction built up she was telling me “blow it away, that’s right, blow it away” and although i felt grunty and pushy i did try to poof poof poof and sort of pant/breathe through it, as i really didn’t want to tear. I never got the full on “I need to push!” sensation with Toby so it was really quite an interesting experience for me having that incredible urge, and i now understand why people say it’s like vomiting downwards- there’s nothing you can do to stop it happening, even if people tell you to!
Heather told me that baby was coming out in his waters and Pam told me that was lucky 🙂 From where he was standing Chris didn’t see him in his waters and Heather told me afterwards that they broke naturally as he was born.
With that one contraction i pushed and both head and body were born and (according to Chris) Pam caught the baby and placed him on the sofa. No one had any gloves on and the delivery pack wasn’t open. We seemed to have caught everyone, including ourselves, by surprise!
Chris said “he’s here he’s here!” and i was saying “Is he okay is he okay?” and then “where is he?!” because i was kneeling forward still and so he was behind me. I didn’t hear him cry right away but from where he was standing Chris told me afterwards that he hadn’t been worried because he could see him moving his arms and opening and closing his mouth trying to cry.
It seemed to take me a couple of minutes but with some help i managed to work out how to sit back without squashing him or getting tangled and i got to meet my beautiful little guy.
He was quite gurgly and mucusy at first because of coming out in his waters i guess, he seemed as surprised to be here as the rest of us were! His apgars were 10 and 10 though and he was a lovely colour right away.
I started to talk to him and say “Hey, hello little guy” and then i said “He is definitely a boy isn’t he?!” and Heather and Chris both reassured me he was but i had a peek under the blanket to check, just in case! Haha.
The cord was still attached and Pam said “am i right in thinking you wanted a natural 3rd stage?” so i said yes, please and then she said “Chris, i think the placenta is right there anyway” and Heather looked between my legs and said she could see it, i gave one push and she guided it out with the cord and it just plopped on to the sofa. Heather was kneeling on the floor checking it over when just then Emma appeared at the door and said “What happened?!”
She told us later that she’d heard a baby crying and thought “no way!” but then when it carried on she’d figured she should come and check to see if she was going mad! Toby was at the top of the stairs saying “Memma? Memma?” so Chris fetched him down to meet his brother. He said “Baby!” but then got distracted almost immediately by the giant pool in the middle of the room!
Heather double-checked with Pam that the cord didn’t need double clamping before cutting as it had stopped pulsating and the placenta had come away and Pam said that yes, just one clamp was fine and they asked Chris if he wanted to do it and he said yes and cut the cord.
At some point, i can’t remember when, Pam had called a second midwife, Sally, who then called back on our house phone just after Rudy was born and Pam went into the kitchen to talk to her and tell her she wasn’t needed after all.
The next couple of hours are a blur really. I mostly sat and had skin to skin with Rudy on the sofa whilst the midwives did a bit of paperwork and whilst Toby played with his toy cars on the side of the pool (occasionally dropping them in!) and we all just chatted. Heather and Pam discussed what to put for the second stage, as Pam felt strongly that there had been a definite rim of cervix left at 3.10am but Rudy was born at 3.16am, so they left it as unrecorded. They recorded the length of first stage as being 5 hours and 46 minutes (from when i told them my contractions became regular) and the third stage as being 4 minutes.
After some bitching afterpains (worse than the labour itself by a long way i’d say!), a quick examination to see if i’d torn (1st degree tear, no stitches needed happily!) and a brief feed on Rudy’s part everyone left and at 6am the four of us went to bed for a couple of hours. Despite the craziness of the night Toby was then awake again at 8.30am and we began our day (and life!) as a family of four 🙂