The first contraction was felt at about 9pm two days before my due date, just as we were going to bed. I’d had reflexology that afternoon and she’d said things wouldn’t be too long now. The contraction was uncomfortable but not too painful, but it felt very different to a Braxton Hicks as it built and then faded. I had a couple of them, but quite far apart and was able to sleep easily. I woke a few times to go to the loo and felt a contraction each time but they weren’t keeping me up or waking me up.
In the morning I had a few more, about 10-15 minutes apart. Again they were still not particularly painful but definitely felt like contractions not Braxton Hicks. I was able to continue my day as normal. I continued to feel the odd tightening but they were up to 45 minutes apart and were not strong. My mum drove me to acupuncture, as she (and I) were a bit concerned about me driving, just in case something did get going whilst I was out. I had induction acupuncture and she was pretty positive things would be getting going within the next couple of days.
At 5pm the contractions started again. They started gradually enough but were definitely a step change to what I had been experiencing up until then. They were generally a maximum of 15 mins apart (although I did have the odd 20-25 minute break) and were increasingly painful. I was having to move into a forward leaning or all fours position for each one to make them more bearable.
We got the tens machine out and started taking paracetamol. The tens machine was an interesting experience when first put it on but I soon got used to it, not sure how much it worked (if at all) but it was worth trying. I also had a bath, which did relieve things a bit,although it also made the contractions slow down. I was able to eat dinner but I didn’t really sleep, maybe a couple of minutes at a time when there was a bit of a longer break between contractions, but not much.
By 5am I was getting 3 contractions in 10 minutes so we made the decision to go into the birthing centre. I was only 1cm dilated so they suggested that we go home. Slightly despondently, we went home and back to bed. I did get a bit of respite from the contractions and managed to get a couple of hours of broken sleep. I stayed in bed most of the day with the contractions steadily getting stronger and closer together.
I was getting quite despondent and teary by mid-afternoon as we didn’t seem to be making any progress. The contractions would get close together for a while and then I’d have a 15-20 minute break. The birthing centre had told me I needed to be having three contractions in 10 minutes for at least an hour before coming back in. I’d had a night without sleep plus a long exhausting day of labouring so was feeling pretty tired already and therefore starting to worry how I’d cope with the rest of labour if things still had a long way to go.
Mum came over at about 6pm and it made a huge difference having a second person to remind me to breathe, encourage me walking up and down the stairs, getting into the best positions to cope with the pain and generally just tell me I was doing well and could handle this. Managed to get a bowl of pasta down me, albeit taking me half an hour with a few bites taken in between each contraction.
At 7.30 we called the birth centre, they spoke to me through a contraction and said it sounded like it may be time to come in again. We were taken into the examination room for a VE. I was 3cm dilated and my cervix had fully softened and shortened. It was a horribly uncomfortable experience but I was so used to the pain of the contractions by then and so in the zone of labour, it didn’t seem quite so bad this time. I was slightly disappointed that we were only at 3cm but the midwife reiterated how much progress had been made to the cervix throughout the day in terms of shortening and softening so that was reassuring.
They let me stay in one of the rooms to ‘get some rest’ and progress a bit further on our own, and said they would check me again in 4 hours. They’d done all the usual checks and my blood pressure and baby’s heartbeat were looking good but my urine was showing traces of ketone which indicates that my energy levels were low so the midwife encouraged me to eat and drink something. She made me some tea and toast and I forced some of that down along with some lucozade and snacks that we’d brought with us. However I promptly threw most of this up!
I wasn’t allowed in the pool or onto gas & air (entonox) as I wasn’t yet 4cm and into established labour, but they were able to offer me some oramorph and some aromatherapy oils which were supposed to relax me and help labour progress. The oramorph worked to take the edge off (I was still using the tens machine and was at max dose of paracetamol too). I have no idea if the aromatherapy oils did anything but everything is worth trying.
The baby was looking towards one of my legs, rather than my back - which is the easiest position to give birth in - so I was encouraged to lie on my left side with a birthing ball between my legs. This was fine for in between contractions but very unpleasant during a contraction and quite difficult to get into the forward leaning/all fours position when each came. Contractions were now consistently every three minutes. Jack was doing his best to sleep which I have to admit I found quite irritating at the time as I was really struggling with the pain and tiredness myself but I know he does need to keep his energy up too, it’s going to be a long night...
I found this part quite tough, I was a bit despondent at having only dilated 3cm and was finding the pain of the contractions really hard to get through, there were definitely a few ‘I can’t do this’ and ‘I need more help’ (I.e more pain relief) moments but I was never thinking of moving to the hospital for an epidural, just that I might need the Pethadin and desperate to get into ‘established’ labour so I could have some entonox.
At 12.45am the midwife came to examine me again, it had been a little under 4 hours. I was 6cm so well into established labour and therefore allowed into the pool and onto gas and air. Yay!! They moved us into the larger birthing room, where they had run the pool for me. Getting into the pool was amazing, I immediately felt more relaxed, the pain was more manageable and it was easier to move around to get into the best positions to get through the contractions. I just got completely naked, not even a pretence of modesty, at that point as I really did not care! I was also allowed onto the gas and air which again was great at taking the edge off the pain. Jack got some music going although I’ll admit I barely noticed it playing until after delivery.
I laboured in the pool for a couple of hours, the contractions got stronger and closer together but I was coping pretty well. Jack was force feeding me lucozade and water, although at my latest urine sample the ketones had gone. There were still a few ‘I can’t do this’ but overall I was coping and managing the pain - just making a huge amount of noise and possibly nearly breaking Jacks hand at times! I wasn’t getting any negative side effects from the gas and air which was a big plus.
At about 2.45am I realised that I was pushing with the contractions, the midwife looked with the mirror and announced that she could see the fore waters which were in front of the babies head, my waters hadn’t broken yet. I started pushing properly and continued to do so for about 45minutes, these contractions felt slightly different, they were lower in my pelvis and almost hurt less but maybe that was just because I was focussing on the pushing now rather than just getting through the pain. It took me a while to get the hang of pushing, it is like you are trying to do a poo which took me a while to get my head round, and to stop being worried about pooing myself!
A second midwife came in at this point, which reassured me as it suggested the baby was nearly here. They were measuring the babies heartbeat every 5 minutes now, it had been every 15 minutes since getting into the pool. After about 45 minutes of pushing there hadn’t been any obvious progress so the midwife offered to break my waters. She could still see the bag of forewaters which was making the pushing a lot harder as I was pushing the waters and the babies head which made everything a lot bigger.
I continued pushing for another 10 minutes or so and the midwife said she could now see the babies head which was quite exciting, however I was again feeling quite despondent. I’d now been pushing for nearly an hour (although had no concept of time at this point, just felt like a long time!), was getting tired and didn’t feel like I was making any progress. With every contraction I pushed with all I could and I could feel the babies head moving down and out but then by the time I’d get to the next contraction they seemed to have reverted to the same place again. The midwives were very good at reassuring me though and explaining that it is two steps forward one step back but that they could see the baby slowly moving downwards and going ‘round the bend’ of my pelvis. I was making a lot of noise at this point and quite literally screaming with each contraction, this was less because of the pain and more with the effort of pushing but they all (including Jack) kept encouraging me to direct that energy into the pushing, not through my mouth! I was really surprised at the effort required in pushing, you do not ‘breathe your baby out’ as they say in hypnobirthing you push with everything you have, repeatedly.
After another 10 minutes (3.55am) they suggested I get out of the pool, I was a bit reluctant as I knew that meant I wouldn’t be giving birth in the pool as I’d hoped but by that point I was so desperate to get the baby out I was willing to do whatever they suggested might help.
Out of the pool and onto a birthing stool/Jacks lap which basically involved me squatting whilst being supported by Jack. By this point I was feeling the ‘ring of fire’ burn which again I found quite exciting as I knew that meant the baby was crowning. I found the squatting position quite tough as I was having to put a lot of my weight through my arms, and by this point (almost two nights without sleep by now) I just did not have enough energy to do this so I moved into an all fours position on a mat, another couple of big pushes and I felt the head come out. This is the only time that I felt remotely panicked and out of control, it just felt incredibly surreal to have birthed the head but have the body still inside, and the feeling of the head having come out was very very strange. Plus when I looked down I could see a lot of blood, in hind side this was blood mixed with my waters so quite dilute, but a little bit of blood does go a long was when poured onto the floor so it looked a lot worse than it did. Three minutes later with another contraction and big push and the body came out, again a very strange sensation when you are pushing with all your might and then suddenly it just comes out. It was 4.15am.
The midwives must have grabbed her and I collapsed back onto Jack, they passed her through my legs and onto my chest. I was in complete shock, she was covered in blood and vernex but alert, crying a bit but not screaming. I held her for a minute or two as she looked around then she made her way to my breast for a first feed.
I was in complete shock and not really able to take everything in. After a few minutes they cut the cord and suggested I have the injection to bring about the placenta delivery. The next contraction came about pretty quickly, and it was a proper contraction (I thought I was done with the pain!) I got up onto my knees and pushed, quite surprised at the amount I had to push but it came away in one contraction.They then left us alone for a while, I was still in shock so don’t think anything was really sinking in, but we just stared at her, watched her trying to feed, which I think she was doing successfully, and just tried to get our heads around it all. She is here, we have a daughter and I managed to birth her at the birthing centre with no intervention. I was feeling a mixture of relief and wonderment, and it was all very surreal.