This is something completely different, if you’re here for the drawings of landscapes, sweet little birds and trees then you may want to scroll on past. I won’t be offended! I conducted a poll on my twitter account and on instagram stories to see if anyone would be interested in reading about how my beautiful son, Harrison was born. The overwhelming answer was yes! The idea of sharing came about because when I was expecting I read Charlotte Jacklin’s positive birth story blog post and I watched the YouTube video that Rachel Harrison of onrshop shared too. Both went into detail of how their babes were born and really helped me feel a little more prepared for my own labour. I thought it might be weird for me to share though as my usual content is art and sometimes travel related and a birth story is a very personal story but as one lady named Jane commented on Twitter;
”Anything that gets the message out that it needn’t be hellish is a good thing. If you just help one woman, it’s worth it.”
I couldn’t agree more so here we are.
When people find out you’re pregnant you tend to get a lot of opinions and thoughts thrown at you. I was told by a few other people how their labours went and some words like ‘horrendous’ and ‘awful’ cropped up. Needless to say it didn’t put me in a very positive mindset and contributed to feelings of dread about how painful my labour would be. When you’ve carried a baby in a big bump for months it feels almost impossible that a time will come when you have to get the baby out.
I was 41 weeks pregnant, feeling absolutely huge and wondering when my little one who I’d waited so patiently for would make an appearance. Craig and I had just got the keys to our first home together and had managed to paint a few rooms and conduct one hell of a clean up in anticipation of our new arrival. It had been snowing the week before, once again Basingstoke had made it on to the national news because the snow had caused total gridlock but it had now cleared and the route to the hospital where I’d planned to deliver was drivable again. I felt a mix of feelings; anxiety about the birth and excitement to meet our baby. I was tired but felt pretty well considering my big bump was making getting around quite difficult. It was a Wednesday and I was a week overdue already, I had a routine midwife appointment booked for the next day and an induction booked for the following Monday just in case. I really didn’t want to be induced as my hope was that I could have a water birth and an induction would put paid to that. Late on Wednesday night I had ‘the show’ - a small part of the mucas plug had come away. Finally I thought, something is happening. I went to my midwife appointment as scheduled on the Thursday where Zoe my midwife performed a stretch and sweep to try and get things moving, all of mine and baby’s observations were looking good and I was 1cm dilated. On Friday morning at roughly 5am, early labour began. I felt waves of abdominal aches like period pains but I wouldn’t describe them as painful, I was reluctant to even call them contractions. The aches were dull and uncomfortable but passed quickly. We used an app to time the length and frequency of the contractions, they lasted roughly 40 seconds and were 3-4 minutes apart.
After a time I had a hot bath which really helped to relax me and soothe the aches which were getting stronger. Craig put Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban on to keep me calm and happy, I breathed deeply through each contraction with Craig rubbing my back as we’d been taught in NCT class. Craig insisted on calling the Labour Line but I felt that there was still a long way to go and so put him off calling until the contractions started becoming a little more intense. Once things had started progressing I let him call. The Labour Line advised Craig to keep me calm and hydrated and to call again when my contractions were more intense. We followed advice and called again once the contractions had gotten about a minute long and were stronger. The advice was to keep doing as we were doing and to call again once I could no longer focus on anything but getting through the contraction. It was about 4pm by the time I’d reached that point and we were told to come in.
We reached the hospital, my contractions were coming regularly and were strong. We were pointed in the direction of one of the pool rooms after requesting it over the phone. I was examined and was at 4cm and in established labour which I was pretty pleased with as I was allowed to get into the pool. It took an age to fill up the giant tub, I attempted to stand and lean forward on Sophie the midwifes advice before stripping down to my maternity bra and getting in the warm water. The lights were dimmed and electric candles were lit creating a relaxing atmosphere, the radio was on and I remember the warm water really taking the edge off each contraction. I kneeled down leaning on the side of the pool with my head in Craig’s elbow crook at each contraction and after a time started using the gas and air. I found that the gas and air didn’t seem to do much while I was breathing it in until after I took it away when I’d feel a lightheaded woozy rush to my head. It certainly helped me focus on my breathing though which I tried to keep as deep as possible as Craig had kept reminding me to do all day.
Baby’s heartbeat was monitored regularly but other than that I was left to it in the pool, I had no idea how many centimetres I was dilated or how long the process would take. I wasn’t clock watching and so my sense of time was distorted, it felt like I was only in the pool for a short time before I felt something really happening. There was a strange sensation below, almost like the head was being born which sent me into a bit of a panic because a) it seemed too soon for that and b) because the midwife was out of the room! Craig attracted attention and the midwife took a look, the membrane containing the waters (amniotic fluid) had half come out and was dangling there but hadn’t broken. It felt like there was a half inflated balloon between my legs. By this time it was nearly handover so there was a new midwife in the room and a student midwife too. All three midwives said they’d never seen anything like it before. In my semi delirious state I could hear them talking about how weird it was which isn’t what you want to hear when in labour!
Sophie the midwife had left, I continued contracting and could hear the two new midwives Amy and Abbie chatting with Craig and telling me to listen to my body. I’d started to feel this incredible sensation at each contraction which was so strong I couldn’t breathe the gas and air through it. Those sensations were my body pushing the baby right down, or at least I assumed they were! The pressure felt nearly unbearable but would quickly pass, I kept reminding myself that the intensity wouldn’t last long. Although I’d never experienced labour before the pushing sensation felt oddly familiar, like when you’re being sick and your whole body tenses up and you can’t breathe. Soon I felt the baby’s head, there was a sharp burning pain and as the contraction ended I could feel the head move back up. By this point I was actively pushing though I don’t remember anyone telling me to push, I was just doing it. The baby’s head was born, Amy and Abbie told me to push a little more to get baby’s chin out. With the next wave of pain I pushed and our baby was out, it was 8.39pm. I lifted myself up a bit from my kneeling position, reached down into the water which was now bright red and picked up our baby, Craig and I discovered together that we had a boy and I held him to my chest feeling elated. It was done and he was here safely. He grunted a little but didn’t cry, he was slippery to touch and felt rather big with chubby cheeks and strong arms and legs. I’d hoped to do optimal cord clamping where the cord wouldn’t be cut for a time while I held the baby to my chest for skin to skin but although my request was written in my birth plan it didn’t happen. With hindsight I think this may have been because I’d lost a lot of blood and they needed me to get out of the pool to be examined. Craig cut the cord and the baby was whisked away while I was helped out of the pool. Shakily I walked to the bed where I held our son who was wrapped in a towel. He was the most perfect thing I’d ever seen. Craig took him for skin to skin while I birthed the placenta, I’d opted to try and expel it without an injection and after several pushes which was more effort than I’d expected it came out. We decided to name our son Harrison, he was weighed and everyone’s guesses were blown out the water as the scale read 4.550kg between 10lbs and 10lbs one ounce. I was examined and told that it looked like I’d torn quite significantly. A surgeon was brought in who conducted a thorough examination which I needed to use gas and air for, I found the exam to be incredibly painful and I’d just pushed out a 10lb baby! Unfortunately he found that I’d suffered a third grade tear which needed to be repaired in theatre under a spinal block. After calling my mum I was carted away and spent a few hours on the surgeons table with a spinal block, a catheter, a cannula feeding me a drip and a blood pressure cuff inflating every few minutes. It wasn’t how I’d hoped to spend my first hours as a new mum and meant I wasn’t able to give Harrison his first feed which I was quite upset about. After midnight I was wheeled to recovery and reunited with Craig and Harrison.
Thanks to the tear and 1 litre blood loss my recovery was going to be a little slower and more painful than anticipated but my boy was here and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. I consider my birth story to be a positive one even though it wasn’t completely straightforward. I’m so lucky to have had the water birth I wanted and to have been able to bring my own son through the water and on to my chest. I hope my experience helps other parents-to-be realise that labour and birth doesn’t have to be a horrible ordeal. Harrison is three weeks old today and although I’m still recovering it really is true that you start to forget the pain you went through in labour. When I think back the strongest memory I have is that first look at Harrison as I held him to my chest with Craig by my side. Pure happiness and pride coursed through my body at this perfect human we’d made from scratch.
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