Postnatal Without A Baby

Once you’ve given birth in hospital, you’re usually transferred fairly quickly to a ward called postnatal where midwives look after you by providing regular monitoring of your blood pressure etc, help you establish breastfeeding if you’ve chosen to feed that way and make sure baby is okay too.

First time round, I spent 11 days between postnatal and labour wards after the birth, with Dylan allowed to stay most nights because of how poorly I was. Whilst it was tough and I was in horrendous pain – not just from the stitches and general soreness of giving birth but also from the clots and pneumonia that had decided to join me for the post partum experience – we met some genuinely lovely people there, healthcare assistants, midwives, cleaners and doctors.

The second time round, I was taken to postnatal (I gave birth in a different hospital this time) where I spent six days. But the key difference this time was I didn’t have my baby with me. He was downstairs in NICU and was really quite poorly at the time.

I know how severely under funded the NHS is right now and that you’re lucky to get a bed and some meds! But I so wish the money was there to provide a separate ward for all the NICU mothers before they’re discharged. Having a baby in intensive care is a pretty harrowing experience anyway, but to come back on to postnatal every night and hear the (healthy) cries of everyone else’s baby who is right by their side on the ward is awful. I remember hearing one baby cry while I was waiting for them to intubate Max for the first time because he was so unwell he needed a ventilator – that was probably one of the lowest moments of the whole process. Especially as I knew I wouldn’t hear my baby cry until he was well enough for them to take the tube back out.

I missed most of my regular checks because I was downstairs with Max and only popping back up to express, eat and sleep. I’m sure it was frustrating for the staff me not being there (although I’m assuming most NICU moms do the same?) but it came across in the tone of some. Like I was inconveniencing them or being a nuisance. Some of them would happen to catch me a few times during my shift and never even ask how my baby was doing.

Generally I felt fine. I coped with all that NICU life threw at us. But every time I was on postnatal or thought about it, I felt upset and angry. I dreaded going back on the ward and I couldn’t wait to be discharged. Everyone told me the parent accommodation I moved into for the rest of Max’s time on NICU was super basic and lonely but I breathed the biggest sigh of relief when they finally let me leave postnatal. I think I skipped off the ward at the thought of no more checks, no more stern words from some of the staff and mostly no babies crying.

If I suddenly became a billionaire I would love to fund special private wards for NICU moms where they could come and go as they pleased, chat to the other moms in the same situation and get some support from midwives trained to deal with how they may be feeling. It’s an ordeal but there are ways to make postnatal life easier for those who have sick babies.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Midwife Appreciation

Max is very happy we got a lovely midwife.

During every big life event you’ve ever gone through, the people around you will have mattered hugely at the time. Roll on a week, month, year or decade into the future and their name, manner or appearance may have blurred so badly that you can’t recall anything about them.

That’s certainly the case about birth. Both times I was in hospital for longer than average. 12 days in total on antenatal, labour and postnatal wards with Alexandra, then ten days on antenatal while pregnant and a week on delivery suite and postnatal with Max. (We’re just talking pregnancy/birth specific wards and stays here so not my long hospital admission postnatally with Alex or any of the care Max received)

Along the way we met many midwives and other staff who were utterly amazing, whose names and faces are imprinted on our memories, and none more so than the midwife who delivered Max. Her name was Antoinette and I knew from about 30 seconds after the start of her shift that I liked her.

She walked into the room on the morning of the 26th March, introduced herself and had a quick handover from the night midwife and then immediately began tidying the room. A woman after my own heart! She instructed Dylan what to get out of the bags then put them away, and got out everything she might need for the delivery even though it wasn’t imminent at that point. She wanted to be ready for every eventuality and, as someone who writes lists like it’s going out of fashion, I was won over by this!

She chatted to us about her family, asked us questions and got to know us as well as you can in a couple of short hours. Everything was sorted so she could focus on us – even fetching Dylan some breakfast. Then when everything ramped up (Antoinette told me once I got into established labour it would be quick and she wasn’t wrong!) she knew the time wasn’t right for chatter anymore and began guiding me calmly and efficiently through the process of giving birth. There was no panic, alarm or harshness. There were just suggestions, advice and care. She knew what to say and do at any moment and her decades of experience combined with the joy you could tell she still feels every time she helps bring a new life into the world.

Even once Max was born, she was fabulous. She made sure I was washed, changed and fed as soon as possible and kept me company while Dylan and Max were on the transitional care ward then got me in to see him as soon as possible once he started showing signs of being poorly and had been transferred to NICU.

I’m sharing all of this because I can’t believe what a difference having such a great midwife made to the birth. Altogether it was better anyway owing to the lack of need for intervention but she made it so positive and something I look back on fondly despite the pain and blood and gore!

Having someone championing you and telling you you’re doing great (other than your husband cause you know he’s GOT to say it and what does he know about delivering babies anyway), having someone who intuitively knows what you may need at any given point or how you may be feeling, having someone who makes you feel like the most important person in the world right now – let alone the room. That’s something you can’t pay for, you can’t order, it’s luck of the draw.

Whoever walks into your room to deliver your baby will be qualified, but what their nursing degree won’t have given them is that amazing attitude we saw that day where nothing was too much trouble, everything was kept calm (as calm as it can be when you’re pushing a human out of you) and we were the focus – not the doctors or the medical side of things or even Max, me as a woman giving birth and us as a couple having a baby that day.

Dylan’s had four children and been at all of their births. He can’t remember any of the other midwives’ names but we know we won’t be forgetting Antoinette ever!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Post Birth Recovery

Looking a bit less dead than I did last time.

I’d just like to warn anyone reading that I’m going to talk about lady bits during this post. So maybe look away now if you’ve either never had a baby and don’t want to know about the grizzly details or if you don’t own lady bits and want their postnatal state to remain a mystery forever.

I realised today I’ve talked a lot about my children’s progress on this blog, which is a given really, but not really mentioned my own recovery from the birth this time.

If you put aside all of the other complications that happened postnatally with Alexandra – there was still the small matter of an episiotomy and 27 stitches to recover from. Even if you’ve pushed an entire human out of your body with no lasting damage to your hooha, it’s still going to be a little sore right? So add into that the fact someone’s done a cross stitch in your lady bits and it’s a long slow recovery. I’ve heard of people taking up to a year to recover from an episiotomy.

Thankfully mine didn’t take anywhere near that long but I do remember around day five getting the midwives to check my stitches as I was in so much pain I was convinced there must be some sort of infection going on down there. There wasn’t but it was still pretty unbearable!

This time round I escaped with a small tear that didn’t need stitching. I cannot tell you how much easier that was to cope with! None of that wincing as you sit down (handy when you’re spending all your waking hours in a chair next to your baby’s incubator) and weeing was much more comfortable – although that first post-baby poo is always going to be a terrifying prospect! But the thought is MUCH worse than the reality.

Aside from the hooha situation, I lost weight much more quickly the first time round (obviously being so ill!) so I’m still well over the weight I was when I got pregnant with Max (although I was this fat when I got pregnant with Alexandra!); I’m expressing this time so clearly that’s affected what’s happening up top as my milk had dried up by this point first time round; emotionally I didn’t have the third day baby blues either time but I think that’s because I haven’t had a ‘normal’ postnatal experience – there’s definitely been hormones flying around but isn’t that always the case even when you’ve not just given birth!

I was shocked how well I felt this time having had an unassisted delivery. By the next day I was walking around normal and aside from the lochia, leaky boobs and empty sack of a stomach I hardly knew I’d had a baby! People were commenting how well I looked and it was super refreshing especially having prepped myself to feel pretty shoddy.

It’s nice to know you can go through something as major as birthing a child and feel so good afterwards! It’s kind of empowering really! Which I feel a bit cringe saying but having felt like doctors delivered my first child and everyone else looked after her for months while I was a bit…well…useless, to bounce out of bed the next day and put some proper clothes on having pushed a baby out all by yourself feels pretty amazing actually.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

A tale of two births

After I had Alexandra, there was obviously a very extended recovery time from all of the physical things that had happened to me relating to CAPS. That meant that the recovery from the actual birth (physical and emotional) was somewhat pushed aside and I’ve never really thought about my ‘birth experience’ that much – that was until after I’d had Max and I had something to compare it to.

On paper, while the postpartum experience with Alexandra was about as horrendous as it gets, the birth itself wasn’t totally awful. Around 27 hours from start of induction to birth, her heart rate slowed down, gas and air plus pethidine for pain relief, episiotomy and ventouse delivery. Not totally without its hitches but a lot better than some of the stories I’ve heard.

Compare that however to Max’s birth which was like a dream – okay the induction itself took a lot longer and even the time between my waters being broken and baby’s arrival was longer, but I got to actually push this baby out myself!

I felt totally in control, once I started listening to my body I pushed when I wanted to, I felt like I gave birth. With Alexandra’s birth I felt like the doctors had done it and I was almost a bystander. The gas and air didn’t do much for me – whereas with Max because I felt much more in control I was able to take in the proper amount of gas and really feel the effects of it. Yes I would have liked an epidural but in hindsight I’m pleased they didn’t get to me in time!

I felt a real sense of achievement after having Max and it was made even better by the fact I was able to get up and walk around very quickly after. Obviously it’s really helpful when you’re birthing a 4lb 13 long skinny thing who ‘slips out like an eel’ in the midwife’s words, but I still feel quite empowered by the whole experience.

Does that sound cheesy?
I guess I felt like my body let me down a bit last time, firstly by needing that assistance to get my baby here and secondly because I didn’t really know what I was doing and didn’t cope as well as I wanted to during labour. And then there was the whole organ failure thing afterwards.

So this time I was shit scared of giving birth. I felt like I was going to crumble completely and spend hours saying ‘I can’t do this’ like last time (and I mean not just during the transition phase like you’re meant to but through the whole thing practically). I just did not want to go through labour.

Now I am so so glad we didn’t end up with a c-section which was being talked about at one point (not that there’s anything wrong with a section, needs must!) but for me I almost needed that little ‘yes I did it’ moment after!

Having children and not dropping or breaking them (and hopefully not screwing them up too bad) is one of the biggest achievements any of us can list, but I’m actually really proud of giving birth to Max and it’s not often you catch me praising myself quite so liberally!

Crazy how you can have two births only 18 months apart and feel so differently about both.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Max’s Birth

I was just about to write a post about the differences between both my births and the advantages of having an amazing midwife, then I realised while I’ve written about Max’s first few weeks in hospital, I haven’t actually dished out the gory birth story details. Here we go:

We had always known I’d be induced and we’d had a date for weeks that we were working towards, although a hospital stay at 32 weeks had meant we knew there was a fairly good chance we’d go earlier than 37 weeks.

As it was, we had a growth scan at 34+6 so the three of us (myself, Dylan and Alexandra) went along to the hospital with the intention of doing something fun in the afternoon before having some friends over that evening. At the scan it became apparent quickly to me that there was an issue. Normally they’d talk me through the details straightaway but instead the sonographer asked us to go and talk to our obstetrician. She said it looked as if our son’s growth had slowed down from the 50th centile to the 10th since the last scan four weeks previously. There was also a concern over the blood flow from the placenta indicating it had potentially started to fail.

The doctor said all this, combined with me having slightly raised blood pressure, meant now was probably the time to start the induction process.

We had to wait a couple of hours and my sister came to pick Alexandra up while my parents sorted out the arrangements for getting all our bags and hers sorted. Then we were shown to our bay in the induction suite.

At around 7.30pm that evening (Friday) I had the first prostin tablet inserted. Overnight Dylan stayed at my mom’s to try and get some rest (it’s nearer to the hospital than our house) and I had another tablet in the morning.

They ended up doing a third one because, while I was getting tightenings, they weren’t regular enough and my cervix wasn’t dilating very quickly. Then the doctor came at around 4pm on the Saturday to check if I could have my waters dilated, this was the most painful part of the process including giving birth! In fact the doctor who did the check came back a few days later and apologised to me for how awful the check was.

It was then a wait to get a room on the delivery suite: we were told it could take days although I was given priority because of my condition. In the end it was about 12 hours before we went round. In that time we’d gone on endless walks to try and progress things. I tried sitting on the birth ball but found it really uncomfortable this time round (although it did wonders helping me dilate during Alexandra’s labour).

It then took an hour and a half to get a cannula in my arm before they could break my waters. Nothing much happened and then at 8am our midwife Antoinette came on duty. She was fabulous! She got everything organised straightaway and then after a couple of hours it was time to start the drip to see if they could progress my contractions.

Nothing happened for a while and then all of a sudden it was like a switch had been flipped. I went from 2cm to 5cm in a matter of minutes. They decided I could have an epidural (they’d said no originally because of the blood thinning injections I’m on – but it had been long enough since my last dose to make it safer) so I said I’d like one.

The anaesthetist came to have a chat to me about the procedure and I agreed to it but it became quickly apparent there wasn’t time. I had a check as Max’s heart rate had dropped a little, to see if he could tolerate the epidural, but by this point I was 8cm. I was just using gas and air (although probably mentioned a few times that it was painful and I’d really like some more pain relief!) and feeling really out of control during contractions. I then realised instead of concentrating on breathing in the gas and air during a contraction, I actually needed to focus on the fact my body wanted to push.

Because I had a ventouse delivery with Alexandra, I’d never experienced the urges to push so it took me a while to realise I just needed to trust my body and go with what it was telling me. Dylan said he could visibly see when that happened and I became much more focused and wasn’t thrashing around the place like I had been previously.

All of a sudden I was fully dilated and it was time to push. Then his head was out and one push later our son Max was born at 11.57am weighing 4lb 13.

He was lifted onto my chest and Dylan got  to cut the cord (for the first time even though Max is his fourth child – with Alex because she needed a bit of oxygen straightaway the doctors cut it). We had 15 minutes of skin to skin before he was taken for his checks and taken upstairs to transitional care while I was sorted out. Although that process was a lot easier this time (just a small tear with no stitches required compared to an episiotomy with 27 stitches).

Antoinette had said to us it would all happen quickly once it started and wasn’t she right! It was amazing to actually get to push the baby out by myself this time. As I mentioned earlier, I definitely want to discuss the differences between the births soon!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

The Perfect Birth

Whatever your views on pregnancy, birth and parenting, I don’t think anyone could disagree women these days know far more than they used to about the whole process. When I talk to my nan, who had five children, she just didn’t have the knowledge about how everything worked. She didn’t have access to the internet, to the NCT, to the kinds of books we can pick up from any high street store these days. When I was talking to her about various aspects of my pregnancy with Alexandra, I was telling her things not the other way round which is crazy when you consider Alex was my first. Things she’s told me about people she knew losing their sight during birth, she puts down to the baby being so big but actually the more I’ve read the more I’d bet it was a condition like eclampsia (although maybe that’s just because I feel a bit weird thinking about pushing out such a large baby you actually go temporarily blind!).

Whatever you think about women having much more access to information (and in most cases it’s extremely empowering and beneficial to all involved), it does create something else – more pressure on women to have the ‘perfect’ birth regardless of what the medical professionals are telling them.

I think women these days (and I talk about women because I am one and I know a lot of fellow moms, not because I think there’s no pressure on men) are under more strain than they’ve ever been to do things the ‘right’ way. Whether it’s breastfeeding/formula feeding, staying at home/working full time, vaccinating, weaning, we are judged on every single aspect of our motherhood journey even from before conception because everyone thinks they’re an expert.

And one area where I feel there’s increasing pressure (and there really shouldn’t be) is in the labour room. I’m constantly seeing a barrage of posts in various places online about the ‘perfect birth’, this pressure to have an all-natural birth, to have relaxing music, candles, no intervention, someone playing a harp in the corner of the room. Not being induced, not taking all the drugs on offer, breathing through contractions rather than screaming at your husband and breaking his hand holding on so tight.

Whilst it’s great to promote the labour that women want, and to empower (there’s that word again!) them into being able to speak up about how many people they want poking around their nether regions while they pop the baby out, or about giving birth at home, or whatever’s consider the ‘best’ way – we also need to accept that this ideal is just not what’s going to happen in some cases.

Some of us need a room full of people staring up at them while they’re in stirrups, some of us need doctors who know far more than us, some of us need scissors and vacuums and all sorts of exciting contraptions to get the baby out. For some of us, a low risk birth in a dimly lit room with just a whale sounds CD for company is simply not going to happen.

So let’s not give first timers the idea that they can have exactly the birth they want, because it’s not a restaurant order (yeah I’ll have a water birth with a side of delayed cord clamping please). Yes, it’s good to read up, to know what you’d prefer ahead of time. But it’s also important to understand the risks if we start ignoring medical professionals – sometimes they still know best no matter how much your friend Dr Google might try and convince you otherwise!

And let’s also not keep pressuring women that there’s a ‘right’ way to give birth. The best way to give birth is for there to be a baby in your arms at the end of the day, whatever way it came out. You don’t get any medals in this game – your reward is your child!

Harriet, Alexandra and bump x

 

A Labour Of Love

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I want to start this post by saying a massive congratulations to my sister Henrietta and her other half Ben on the birth of their son Zachary. He made his grand entrance last Friday and I could not be prouder or happier! I am so excited to be an aunty and to watch the relationship between Alexandra and Zachary as the cousins grow up together.

Henrietta being in labour has reminded me of something: I am terrible at waiting. Even more so when it’s for something as important as a baby.

I’m the kind of person who is always early, I’ll get the train before the train before the one I need to be on, I’ll hang around for ages waiting for people, I’ll set my alarm super early if I know I need to be out (this is counterbalanced by Dylan who lives in a different time zone to anyone else in the world, his family actually look puzzled and shocked if he manages to get somewhere on time). If someone’s coming round I hover by the window waiting for them. I can’t help it.

So transfer that knowledge about me to the situation last week: Henrietta went into hospital on Tuesday morning, Zachary was born on Friday morning. A whole three days. Now clearly this experience was about three gazillion times worse for her than me as she actually had to do the whole ‘pushing a baby out your hoo har’ business. But at some points I genuinely felt like I’d rather go through labour again than be waiting for the news! At least during my own labour I knew what was going on (most the time. Pethadine is wonderful). During this one I had no clue.

I tried not to be that person that texts and calls every three seconds for an update because clearly that’s about the most annoying thing you could do. But I couldn’t help myself. If I hadn’t heard anything for a few hours I normally ended up messaging my mom who was one of her birthing partners.

I spent the whole three days jumping every time the phone went and then getting sorely disappointed when it was only Pizza Hut texting me about their latest deals (it’s always damn Pizza Hut even when you’ve opted out of their messages a dozen times and you have no clue how they even have your number). Then when I knew she was in active labour it was even worse! Having been through a labour myself it made it all the more nerve wracking for me, knowing much more than I ever did pre-Alexandra about all the potential pitfalls and complications.

But I guess those three days of being on edge made the good news even more sweet and all of a sudden I felt like the whole world had lifted off my shoulders! And getting to see him on his first day in the world was amazing, plus he was born on our nan’s 84th birthday so that is truly special indeed. It’s like it was meant to be.

Harriet and Alexandra x

 

Men on Maternity Wards

Alexandra's blissfully unaware daddy's gone home and mommy's in charge!

Alexandra’s blissfully unaware daddy’s gone home and mommy’s in charge!

I’m on a parenting forum (not THAT one!) and very often interesting discussions come up about all sorts of topics relating to babies, parenting and more. A few weeks back (I write down ideas for posts and then tend to sit down and pen a couple in one go so as a result I’m sometimes massively behind the times!) there was one which got me thinking hence deciding to write a post on it.

They were talking about the rights and wrongs of having male partners staying overnight on a maternity ward. Personally my experience is the two nights after I had Alexandra I was in a four-bed bay and Dylan had to go home overnight. Once I became unwell, I was moved into a private room and we were then given a camp bed for him to sleep on and he stayed every night until our discharge 12 days after Alex was born, even on the nights we were moved back up to the labour ward.
Personally I couldn’t have coped without him at that point, especially as I was becoming so unwell it was often up to him to do the lion’s share of the childcare. If he hadn’t been there I would have needed much more input from the midwives and healthcare assistants who were already speaking a disproportionate amount of their time with me due to the extra needs I had compared to most women they see.
I completely get that it’s not practical to always allow men to stay on the wards, especially when their partners are on a ward rather than in a side room. After all, the other women might want their privacy after having given birth themselves. But from a mental health point of view (and a physical one too where it’s been a traumatic birth) I think there’s a real argument for men being there.
It’s one thing a woman who’s had a straightforward birth and is likely to be out after a day spending that one night on her own with the baby (although to be honest even the thought of that while I was pregnant scared the hell out of me) but quite another if they’ve had a section or something go wrong or they or the baby are unwell. Having a partner there to support you, get up and see to the baby or even just to calm you when you’re worrying about something in the middle of the night is pretty essential in my books.
Of course in an ideal world we’d all be back at home super quick and have that early time to bond as a family, but we all know it doesn’t work like that! Also in an ideal world they’d be enough midwives to go round and all the rooms would be private rather than shared bays. But now I’m really getting into the realms of fantasy!
Harriet and Alexandra X

Birth Plan? Don’t Bother

And that my friends, is a facial expression symbolising absolute relief!

And that my friends, is a facial expression symbolising absolute relief!

Some people have a hugely detailed birth plan which basically goes through their labour minute by minute. My birth plan largely focused on ‘get the baby out’. Whatever happened, I was focused on the fact I wanted to leave hospital with a healthy baby whether it came out upside down, through the ‘sun roof’ or doing a tap dance. My view is does it really matter? If no one died (I was going to type ‘or got hurt’ but realised that probably is an unrealistic birth plan!) then all’s good. I say that fairly flippantly, but in truth that’s what it comes down to. Did the baby come out of you? Are you now taking said baby home? Great!

Don’t get me wrong, there were a few things I would have liked in an absolutely ideal world. I thought about having a water birth and, all things being well, I probably would have asked about the possibility when I got to the hospital. All things weren’t well and I couldn’t have one. It didn’t really fuss me, although I did feel a slight sense of irony when I was put into the water birth room a few days later when I was transferred back on to the labour ward from post natal. I had to stare at the damn thing all day.

Other things would have been great, like not needing to be induced and delayed cord clamping (she needed oxygen so faced with two minutes attached to her cord or her being able to breath, the latter was definitely preferable), but really I had very little expectation about the birth other than the baby had to come out.

I find it frankly quite worrying when I hear of people writing huge, long, detailed plans because really the likelihood of it happening exactly that way is so slim. Out of the seven of us NCT moms who gave birth within two months of each other last year, I think one would possibly say her birth went pretty much how she would have liked (although I’m sure there are still things she would have changed if she had the choice). The rest of us ended up with an assortment of ailments, interventions and tales to tell which frankly wouldn’t be in any right-minded person’s birth plan (I’m not trying to put any first timers off birth, honestly it’s fantastic. Unicorns come and play harp music to you. It’s like a holiday really rather than a hospital stay).

I fear people who decide they are definitely having a drug-free birth or a particular type of pain relief (most of the options weren’t available to me cause of my platelet levels being so low) will end up being hugely disappointed and will this affect the birth because they’re so down about it? I would hate for anyone to get their hopes up about something only to have them crashed when it’s so vital for them to stay in a positive frame of mind to get through whatever the labour brings.

Conclusion of the tale: you’re going to get a baby. A soft, squishy, lovely baby you can take home and cuddle so tight their head might pop off (don’t do this). You’re about to embark on a really long journey which, although an important part, labour is only the tiniest proportion of. It’s like focusing on the fact you forgot to take a particular t-shirt you like on a year-long journey around the world. At the time (and often most of the way through pregnancy), labour is the sole focus and it seems like the biggest deal ever. But in a month, or a year, or ten years, it just won’t matter as much because what will matter is your baby, your family, the life you’ve had since that tiny newborn was placed on you for the first time.

Oh and don’t be a hero, no one hands out prizes for being tough. Take all the drugs on offer! (Seriously, best hour and a half of my labour was on pethidine. I remember nothing)

Harriet and Alexandra x

Having A Baby! My Birth Story

I can only describe my look here as 'relief'!

I can only describe my look here as ‘relief’!

My last post announced the arrival of my baby daughter Alexandra but I wanted to go into more detail for those who want to know what happened during the birth and afterwards. Warning: I will be fairly graphic about it all so maybe don’t read during dinner or if you don’t like (a small amount of) gore.

So I made it to 37+3 and other than the headaches I’d been experiencing for weeks, everything seemed to be running fairly smoothly. I went for a routine appointment with my midwife who said my blood pressure had gone up (it had been low throughout my pregnant) and there was some protein in my wee. The blood tests I’d had done at the hospital a couple of weeks previously had shown that my platelets were slightly lower than they’d like so she made the decision to do another blood test and see what was going on.

The following morning I had a call from her saying my platelets had dropped even further and I needed to go in to see the consultant at the hospital as I was showing a lot of the signs of preeclampsia. That afternoon I had my appointment where it was confirmed that’s what I had and decided I’d go in every other day for monitoring. If my blood pressure went up any further he said they’d induce me but they wanted to try and get me to 38 weeks if possible (this was the Thursday and I’d be 38 weeks on the Sunday).

The following day I didn’t feel very well at all so I went into the day assessment unit with my mom and as soon as they hooked me up to the blood pressure monitor I knew I wasn’t coming out of there without a baby – it had gone up even further and the consultant on that day said actually he was more concerned about my platelets so let’s induce!

I was transferred up to the antenatal ward where I was checked (cervix was soft at this point) and given the first lot of gel. They said it might take two or three to get me going but within an hour I was having regular tightenings and wondering how the hell I was going to get through labour if this first bit was so bad.

Dylan managed to finish up everything he had to do at work and home and then come down for what was a long night! I had a little walk around and a bath but neither of us got much sleep as he was sat in a chair for the night – although we managed to fit in the bed together for an hour’s nap near morning. Fast forward to 2pm and we’d sent him home to sleep and my mom had come back in, I was examined again and it was decided I was 1.5cm and my cervix was ready enough that my waters could be broken.

I was taken upstairs to the labour ward and my waters broken and put on a drip to get things going a bit more. Immediately I felt very out of control – like the midwives were controlling my labour not me (not because of what they were doing, they were great, I’d just got into a weird mindset about it all) and felt quite distressed. Dyl came back and my mom left for a while although she was back for the pushing bit (we hadn’t intended to have her there but things just worked out that way as we both wanted the extra support).

I went on the birth ball and Dylan encouraged me to keep mobile and do all the things we’d learned at our antenatal classes – although apparently I was moving round on the ball so violently I was in danger of knocking everything over. I was using solely gas and air at this point for pain relief and I didn’t feel like it was working but the midwife said I’d tell the difference if I didn’t use it for a contraction. We had a slightly comedy moment when the mouthpiece of the gas and air came off and we both completely panicked but luckily I got it back on again really quickly and could carry on using it through the contraction I was having.

I wasn’t meant to be examined for four hours but I begged them to do it an hour early at 5pm which I’m glad I did as it turned out I was 5cm dilated and could have some pain relief, although my options were limited cause of the platelets and blood pressure, so I had pethadine. I then can’t really remember anything until what must have been about twenty to seven.

In the meantime baby’s heart rate had started dropping and the midwife had pressed the buzzer prompting more medical staff to come in. I had my legs up in stirrups and could hear the doctor talked about EP which I knew meant episiotomy and it turned out they were going to use the ventouse to get her out. I really wasn’t very good at pushing at first but thankfully got myself a bit together in the end – although we had a slight mishap when the ventouse slipped off her head. Thankfully second time round it worked and less than a couple of minutes later our baby daughter was born!

She was put on my stomach for a while – the first thing I asked was whether she was really a girl! They got me to check and yes she was!’ – but then she needed a little bit of oxygen to get going, they said because of the shock of being born so quickly. I’d gone from 5cm to fully dilated (10cm) in an hour and a half and she was born half an hour later, so my recorded established labour is actually just under two hours.

I can’t remember where she went then but I think she was either with me or Dylan during the time I was getting stitched up – I asked how many stitches I was having and the doctor said ’20 but it’s only really one’ as it’s all in a row. I’m claiming 20 though! That was slightly painful and felt like he was stitching up my leg! So I had some gas and air during that which helped a little. After that (the placenta delivery I hadn’t even noticed!) the whole ‘birth’ business was done and it was time to start being a family and recovering from the labour.

Now there is a whole lot of drama to come but I’m going to have to split up the posts otherwise it’ll be the longest read ever! So I’ll grab some time soon to write up the first part of the post-birth story.

Harriet and Alexandra x