tl;dr – no signs of labor before contractions & long pre-labor, gave birth in a midwife birth centre, no epidural because of scoliosis, labored in the tub and birthed on a birthing stool. 2nd degree tear and blood loss resulted in longer hospital stay.
Is this labor?
It started when I woke up to use the toilet around 1:30am. It turns out it was a strong contraction that woke me. I tried to go to bed and ten minutes later I felt another one. And then ten/fifteen minutes after that another one. Not able to actually sleep I started timing them. At this point I’ve had no bloody show or any other signs of impending labor. The contractions continued getting stronger and following the ten minute pattern throughout the night. My husband eventually woke up to ask if I was okay because he noticed how agitated I was becoming. I told him I think that things were happening and he should get sleep if this is the real deal.
Around 8am I message my midwife to say I’ve been having consistent contractions that having been getting stronger and lasting a minute each time but not shorter between. She confirmed it sounded like pre-labor and that if it gets to 3-5 minutes between to call the community midwife number. So this continued until the afternoon. I decided to take a bath during that time (btw I really recommend this), tried to eat when I could (I should have eaten more in retrospect), and my husband and I went for a short slow walk.
The walk wore me out and I slept for about 40 minutes. When I woke up the intensity of the contractions ramped up but the pattern still held. And this part continued until 6pm-ish when it was clear that they were quite quickly becoming very overwhelming for me. So even though the contractions were coming every 8-9 minutes we decided to go to the Birth centre to check on the progress. At 6:30pm they do the inspection and it turns out I’m already 4cm dilated and in active labor. They wanted to delay checking me in until 9pm because of staff issues but I guess my midwife caught wind of that (she was meeting me there) and kicked up a fuss. A bit before 8 another midwife came and took me up to the room and started filling the giant tub.
The check in was my only real negative experience in regards to the NHS. At this point my waters still hadn’t broken and there still was no show. When they (not the midwives) did the check to see how dilated I was, they asked if they could do that which is fine. What they did not ask and what they then proceeded to do was a membrane sweep and attempting to manually break my waters. Which sucks when:
You are in the middle of a contraction and
Don’t no why someone is continuing to shove their entire hand around up there.
After listening to me screaming stop, stop, stop my husband stepped in and was like please listen to my wife she is distressed. And then they explained that they were trying to break my waters. It was completely unnecessary. I’m glad my my husband knew to stand in and speak up for me.
This is active labor.
Earlier on in the pregnancy I said I was okay with a student midwife being present as well to help out and I don’t regret it at all. After we moved into the birth ward it was nice to have someone focused on you while someone else handled all the behind the scenes checks. They got the tub filled for me and finally being able to slip into the deep water was heaven. It brought the intensity of the contractions down to what it was earlier that morning and was such a relief. I spent about 3 more hours in the tub before they checked on my progress. It turns out that I was then 7cm dilated. My waters still hadn’t broken at this point but there midwives weren’t too fussed because things were progressing well. See what I mean about earlier being unnecessary? A bit after that the pain definitely ramped up again and I asked for gas & air. Laboring in the tub with gas & air is all I used for pain management. It definitely got worse but the nice thing about the gas is that it gave me something to focus on to get through each contraction.
From here it all became a blur that had to be filled in by my husband and aunt. I do remember the concerns about my blood sugar being dangerously low and they had to feed me honey for quick energy. I also remember throwing up a lot from the pain. And my waters breaking really late. At some point I was saying over and over that I couldn’t do it and would someone please for the love of God rip this baby out.
Pushing is really hard
They brought in a third midwife to help because I was stuck in the just before having to push phase. I couldn’t work out how to do it and the pain was rolling in where I wasn’t hearing much. She took stock of the whole situation and somehow got me to listen to her and focus on pushing. According to my husband she was also good at telling him how he was helping and making him feel less helpless. So I finally started pushing in the tub but I was too relaxed in the water and wasn’t making much progress. So she had my husband support me to the Birthing stool and hold me up from behind. At this point I was just going to do anything to get this baby out.
I didn’t have any pain relief for the pushing part. Just my husband holding me from behind. Looking back I think that did so much more for my mental state than anything. Since his arms were around me I knew I was safe and I could rely on him. Pushing still sucks and feeling the head come out lower and lower is more than painful. Honestly the word painful doesn’t even describe it. The good thing was that I was doing something and the baby was moving out. Again – having something to focus on helped so much with getting through it. And around 40 minutes after they moved me to the birth stool I had a baby placed in my shocked arms and was told it was mine.
A baby is here
I lost a lot of blood due to a second degree tear which had to be stitched. So they couldn’t wait for the placenta to be naturally delivered and gave me an injection to speed it along. They also couldn’t do the delayed cord cutting because the baby’s cord was actually really short and I was losing too much blood too quickly for it to be safe. They still put the baby on me right away for the skin to skin contact.
Post-partum recovery is definitely a challenge, especially when you also have a tiny infant relying on you for everything as well. But really, this is just the beginning.