Me and John got married in 2011 when we were 27 and had agreed that we’d like to try and have a baby by the time we were 30. Given the fact that you never know how long it might take to get pregnant in the first place, or whether that pregnancy will be successful, and then the fact that you’re pregnant for 9 months anyway, we decided we should probably start trying after our honeymoon. I got pregnant straight away.
Although I knew the stats about 1 in 4 pregnancies ending in miscarriage and the possibility that something could go wrong, for once in my life I was optimistic and assumed that everything would be fine, and it was. For the most part I enjoyed my pregnancy and sailed through it and just looked forward to meeting our baby. I had some sickness but nothing horrendous. I didn’t get any weird and wonderful cravings, but I did go off some foods. I remember poor John making me a Thai green curry one night as one of my favourite dinners, and I took one look at it and couldn’t stomach it. I went and had a bowl of cereal instead.
I didn’t really mind whether we had a boy or a girl but for some reason I just kept picturing this baby as a boy. I couldn’t get it out of my head and thinking of a girl felt wrong somehow – maybe subconsciously I did want a boy. When we were offered to find out the sex at our 20 week scan I wanted to – I didn’t want to get to the birth thinking boy boy boy and then find it all a bit weird if it was a girl instead. But John was really adamant that he didn’t want to find out until the baby was born, so in the end he left the room while the sonographer told me that we were having a girl. My first response was “Are you sure?” “Well we’re not supposed to say 100% but your baby has her legs wide open and I couldn’t have got a much better view.” Definitely a girl then! So much for my maternal instinct. I quite enjoyed having that little secret and unless John has kept quiet the last 8 years so he doesn’t burst my bubble I was pretty proud of myself that I didn’t let slip to him and he didn’t find out that we had a girl until he saw for himself.
I thought I might as well make the most of life as I knew it for the last few weeks of my pregnancy, plus I wasn’t really enjoying my job at the time, so I went on maternity leave at 32 weeks and had a lovely time seeing friends, getting to make new friends through our NCT group, and sitting in the garden reading books. All very civilized and chilled out. My due date was 24th May, which was boiling hot in 2012 and I was past the healthy pregnancy glow phase by then. I was huge and swollen. I’d had to take my rings off and my cankles were quite impressive. I had so much fluid in my legs that if I poked them my finger would leave a hole which would then slowly puff back up again. So I didn’t look great, but I felt fine. Walking around wasn’t a problem and I didn’t have back ache or hip ache or even much of a waddle.
I went a week past my due date and the midwife started talking about induction. I had two sweeps which didn’t do anything. I drank lots of raspberry leaf tea which was OK at first but by the time I had Katie I was sick of the sight of it. I happily ate spicy food. We did not have sex. I don’t know how anyone even manages it when they’re that huge!! When I was 10 days overdue we were told to head to the hospital so that I could be induced. The date was 3rd June, which is my step sister’s birthday, so I was hoping it wouldn’t be too quick and I would have the baby on 4th June so she had her ‘own’ birthday!
Oh my God induction. It was horrible. They gave me a pessary at about midday and for a few hours nothing happened. Me and John sat and played cards and watched the Queen and Prince Philip getting soaked on the Thames as it was the weekend of her Golden Jubilee. It was all very uneventful although from mid to late afternoon I was aware of feeling a bit crampy. It crept up and crept up on me until I couldn’t concentrate on cards anymore and had to keep moving positions as it was so uncomfortable. It was like permanent really bad period pain that just got worse and worse. In hindsight I should have asked more questions about induction as I’d thought I’d just go into labour and that would be that. I was prepared for painful contractions that started off slowly and got closer together. I wasn’t prepared to be in that amount of constant pain when I wasn’t even in labour. I sent John out to ask for some pain relief and he came back with paracetamol which did nothing. I sent him out again and a midwife came and gave me some codeine which she said would make me a bit drowsy and take the edge off. It didn’t. I felt like a right idiot and panicked that if I couldn’t even cope with this how would I cope with actual labour and birth?
Well it turned out actual labour was a lot better than random painful build up. John had been watching the final of The Apprentice while I rolled around trying to get comfortable, and just as the credits came up at the end I was hit with my first contraction. There was none of this gradual build up we’d been told about in NCT classes. It hit me hard and strong and from then on they came constantly every couple of minutes. Although the contractions themselves hurt a lot more than the pain I’d had before, I preferred them and I felt much more in control. Yes they were horrible but then they subsided and I wasn’t in constant pain anymore. Also this was the expected pain that meant I was properly in labour. It felt productive.
Apparently I’m immune to pain relief as I had some pethidine at some point, which again they told me would send me away with the fairies. It didn’t. It made me start throwing up and everything hurt just as much as it had before and the world didn’t go fuzzy round the edges. In the end I settled on gas and air as although it didn’t really help with the pain it was useful to have something to focus on during contractions. And there I stayed, in the delivery room puffing away on gas and air for a few hours, not necessarily loving life but managing quite nicely.
I remember it getting to midnight and being pleased I’d made it to 4th June and Katie would have her own birthday.
I remember about 1am looking at John nodding off in a chair next to me. To be fair labour must be fairly boring for the partners. It’s not like they can do much.
I remember the midwife telling me she was going to break my waters and just as she was coming at me with that thing that looks like a knitting needle they went anyway and gushed all over the bed. That was another surprise for me – I thought once your waters had broken that was it. I hadn’t realised I’d have a gush with every contraction and keep leaking all over the place. Fun times.
At some point the midwife said she’d need to get a doctor in because the baby was showing signs of distress and her heart rate kept dropping too low. They clipped a monitor onto her head. It’s funny how completely not bothered you are about having anyone shove their hands up your lady bits when you’re pregnant. A bit later they said they needed to take some blood from baby to check her oxygen levels (I think?). Along came doctor and shoved her hand up again and I’ve never known pain like it. I don’t think I’d made a fuss up until that point but I couldn’t help crying and asking her to stop it. She did it twice and the second time the midwife said usually mums have an epidural if it’s done again, and did I want one? But I said no because I (a bit too optimistically) wanted to be able to feel it when it was time to push. Whatever they found the second time though worried them enough to decide to perform an emergency C-section. I was still only 4cms dilated so it’s not like I was going to give birth any time soon.
So off we went to theatre where they gave me a spinal block and worked their magic. I remember lying there trying to absorb everything, knowing this was the moment our daughter was about to be born, but it was after 3am and the reality of it 8 years later is that I can hardly remember anything. I do remember when she was born they said she looked like one of the biggest babies they’d had for a while. When they weighed her she was 10lbs 13ozs and I was just relieved she’d come out the sun roof and not down below! I looked on my notes afterwards and Katie hadn’t scored well on her first apgar test and had needed some help breathing, but I wasn’t aware of any of that. It all just passed in a bit of a blur. I think John got to take Katie and have a cuddle with her while they stitched me up but I’m not quite sure where the time went between 3.32am when she was born, and around 5.30am when we woke parents up with the news they had a granddaughter.
John got the joys of the first poo nappy change as I was still numb from the anaesthetic and couldn’t move, ha ha.
At some point he went home to catch up on some sleep and Katie and I were left on the ward to sleep, cuddle, feed and all the other newborn bits. Unfortunately it didn’t last long as the midwife came round to see how we were doing, and said she was going to get a doctor to come and have a look at Katie. The doctor came and said they were going to move her to the special care baby unit. John had only been at home about an hour but he turned round and came back to the hospital while Katie got taken to SCBU and I got left behind on the ward. I didn’t really get to spend any time with her for most of the day because I had to wait to get feeling back in my legs and have my catheter taken out. I got moved to a room on my own so that I wasn’t with all the other mums and their babies. It turned out that Katie’s blood sugars weren’t right and she had an infection.
The next few days were spent visiting Katie up in SCBU waiting for the doctors to get her blood sugars stabilised, expressing milk, being prodded and poked to make sure I was healing OK, and having cuddles with our new baby. I was discharged after a couple of days so we’d go home to sleep and then spend days at the hospital.
The doctors when Katie was in special care and the midwife I had when I was in labour were brilliant. I wish I could remember the name of the midwife we had so I could have said thank you afterwards. They kept us informed all the way through but never at any point did I feel panicked. I think there was an element of self preservation as well though, of not wanting to consider how poorly Katie was, especially when I’d had such a trouble free pregnancy. The special care unit was split into two halves and for some reason I had it in my head that all the really poorly babies were over the other side and Katie’s side was for the ones whose conditions weren’t too serious. It was only after a couple of days when the doctor said they were moving her across that I looked up at the signs and realised that Katie had been on the intensive care side and was now being moved to the ‘good’ side.
Katie had been being tube fed so the last couple of days she was in hospital were just to allow us to get breast feeding established and to check that she kept gaining weight. John and I were given a room in the hospital and got to spend our first night with Katie. She wiggled and fussed all night and we were up until about 4am when a nurse came in and burped her and she went straight off to sleep! The nurse made it look so easy!
And then, after a week in special care, Katie was discharged and we all went home together. I got lots of sympathy from people about the birth and Katie’s hospital stay and lots of comments about how traumatic it must have been. But actually we were really lucky and it genuinely didn’t feel like a difficult time. I was just happy to have our baby. It’s not like I had any previous births to compare it to. I’m glad I got to experience what labour was like but I don’t feel I missed out by not getting to the end. I never felt that I was a failure for not being able to give birth naturally and although it had been an emergency C-section, like I said the doctors and midwife had been so reassuring and calm it didn’t feel like a massively stressful situation. I also recovered really quickly from the operation. I was up and walking about later that same day and the pain wasn’t bad at all. I didn’t even finish taking all the painkillers that were prescribed. I wasn’t trying to be a hero but I didn’t need them. And although I’d never choose to have a baby in special care, in a way it was really helpful because while we were there we were shown how to bath her, I got help with breast feeding and pumping and the nurses were there whenever we had any questions. We got broken into parenthood gently and we got the happy ending every parent hopes for. Job done.