The final post on my Celebrating Every Birth Story series is the lovely Maddy from The Speed Bump who writes honestly about the highs and lows of her unexpected pregnancy and her life with her wonderful little girl.
You can also find Maddy here:
When I was pregnant, I had a few ideas about how I wanted to give birth. I wanted to go into labour naturally, and give birth in water. I was under consultant-led care, but was told there was no reason why I couldn’t give birth in the pool at the hospital. Then I was told I’d have to be induced on my due date – I have a scar across my stomach from surgery as a baby and it wasn’t stretching well as my bump grew – and my dreams of a water birth went out the window, but I was still calm. I knew exactly when I’d be giving birth – no dramas.
Just before I was thirty-seven weeks, I noticed some swelling in my feet, my neck and my hands. I thought it was water retention, but when I developed a headache, my mum – who was visiting at the time – encouraged me to go and get checked out at the hospital. They did my blood pressure, and the midwife turned the screen away from me – she said it was so high, seeing the reading would make it even worse.
When they told me I had the start of pre-eclampsia, I was worried – what would this mean for the baby? Would they be safe? Thankfully I knew I was in good hands, and I was admitted immediately to hospital and told I’d be discharged after seeing the consultant in the morning.
Morning rolled around and the consultant came to see me. I was waiting for him to discharge me – I had to get back to class (yep, I stayed in uni full-time right up until the birth!) and was already dressed and waiting to go. The consultant had other ideas.
“Right”, he said. “We’re going to induce you”.
“Okay”, I replied. “Do I go home and come back in on my due date?”. He chuckled as he shook his head.
“No, we’re going to induce you tomorrow. You won’t be leaving hospital until you’ve had your baby”.
Ah. Right. Well, that was unexpected.
Of course, I went into a total panic at this point – I was only just 37 weeks, we’d only got 0-3 month clothes, what would I do about uni? It was the day before the final performance of the year opened, and I was head of marketing, in charge of getting bums on seats in the audience. How could I tell them I was otherwise engaged?
I sent my boyfriend Daf out to get some first size clothes (a good job, because in the end the baby didn’t fit into 0-3 month clothes until twelve weeks!) and then I called one of my friends, and asked to speak to the lecturer.
“I’m really, really really sorry… but I’m not going to be there for the show,” I apologised. “I’m in hospital”.
“Why…?” he asked, sounding alarmed – they’d been super supportive all the way through my pregnancy, and I knew they were concerned.
“I’m being induced tomorrow,” I said, bracing myself for the inevitable reaction of “Oh god, what are we going to do?”. Instead, he sounded so excited as he wished me the best of luck – and told the rest of the course as soon as he put the phone down, as immediately my phone blew up with Facebook notifications!
The next morning, we got the induction started nice and early. I had one of the perks of being an inpatient – a head start on all the other ladies coming in for induction at 8am, as mine was started at 5am. I knew it would be a long wait, but I had no idea how long.
I spent that day walking around the hospital with Daf and my mum, who was my other birth partner (at 19, I was very nervous and definitely wanted my mum there!). I was still in good spirits when they had to leave that night. The midwife told me I was 2cm dilated, which I was pleased with, and I’d amused myself by spending lots of time having mild contractions outside the antenatal department, scaring all the newly pregnant women arriving for their scans with their Bounty folders (the looks on their faces were hilarious as they saw heavily pregnant me, puffing and panting as I had more contractions).
The second day wasn’t so great. I was starting to get exhausted – coping with just paracetamol as pain relief and a steady stream of “Any news?” texts hitting my inbox. I tried to respond wittily at first – “I’m 2cm and my cervix is ripened” was my response of choice, just to try to put people off texting again – but eventually, it was getting too much. The ladies around me were heading off to the labour ward so frequently, and I’d been told I’d be moved down there in the afternoon – but by 9pm, it became clear they weren’t going to have room for me.
I was done. My Facebook feed was full of my friends discussing how great the shows were going, and I wanted to be there with them, enjoying the buzz and the rush. My inbox was exploding with messages asking for news, and the midwife on duty was not like the others – she was condescending and harsh and I just wanted Daf and my mum. When they were sent home, I sobbed – I was so fed up of the pain and being treated like a child and not making enough progress.
They convinced me to stay, and the online antenatal group I’d joined was my rock that night. They were all encouraging me, and one of the other pregnant ladies told me to make the most of my last night with my bump – soon I’d have to share my baby with the whole world, and there’d be none of the mystery of not knowing if it was a boy or a girl, none of the wriggles and kicks I loved so much. So I followed her advice – I got off my birthing ball, got into bed and enjoyed lying there, feeling the baby kick, until I fell asleep.
The next day, I was ready. I bounced on the birthing ball non-stop until after lunchtime, when I was taken down to the labour ward at last. I’d become weirdly possessive of this birthing ball, and the midwives had to prise it out of my hands and promise me that there was another one that was just as good in the labour room (I’d convinced myself that all the other ladies were jealous of my “superior” birthing ball and would steal it if I went to the bathroom).
Once in the labour room with my mum and Daf, they broke my waters – totally not a scary experience, despite what people told me – it’s as uncomfortable as a normal vaginal examination, with just a weird sensation as your waters break – and then tried to get a cannula into me for the drip. It took around ten attempts, three midwives, a ward sister and an anaesthetist, plus one collapsed vein, to get the cannula into me, but finally it was in, and the induction could begin!
I’ve heard horror stories about inductions, but honestly the pain was bearable. People had told me to get an epidural straight away, but I decided to hold off a bit, and I’m so glad I did. I managed with paracetamol for about an hour and a half, before moving on to gas and air as it got a little tougher. I was having contractions in my thighs and my back, which were worse than the pains in my tummy – I later found out that the baby was coming out facing sideways, which explained that!
The gas and air made me hallucinate – I thought I was giving birth on a farm with goats, threatened to punch a goose and thought there were polar bears walking along at the end of my bed – but it worked, and after a shot of diamorphine, I slept between contractions for a couple of hours.
I was blissfully oblivious to this, but the midwives told Daf and my mum that they were worried I was progressing too slowly. I’d last been examined when my waters were broken, and wasn’t due to be examined again until 11pm. Based on the fact that I didn’t seem to be in a huge amount of pain when the diamorphine wore off, they thought I was at about 5cm, and would have to start looking at a C-section.
At around 10pm, while they all worried about this, I had a different worry. I was starting to feel like I needed a poo, and it was hurting. I was slightly embarrassed – even though I knew it was totally normal to poo in labour – and decided to hold it in. I held it in for ages, while Daf played my impromptu birth playlist – my phone on Shuffle, so we had everything from “Proud” by Heather Small to “Hakuna Matata”, which the midwives sang along to with us.
Finally, by 11pm, it was too much to bear, and I had to tell them I needed to poo. They were great about it, and helped me onto a weird toilet chair. The pressure in my bum was horrendous, and for the first time in the whole labour, I cried out in pain. They tried again with a bowl on the bed, but it was still too much pressure and I was crying.
“I’m just going to examine you,” the midwife said. She examined me and when she looked up, it was with a look of shock. “Maddy… you’re at ten centimetres!” she told me.
“Are you sure it’s not a big poo?” I asked. After regaining their composure from laughing, the midwives assured me that it wasn’t a big poo – I’d been holding in my baby’s head for the last hour! By 11:30pm I was ready to push.
“WAIT!” I yelled, pointing at the TV. “Turn Question Time off. Dad will never forgive me if this baby is born to the sound of Jeremy Paxman’s voice”. After turning the TV off, I was ready. The midwife looked at the clock.
“Will the baby be born today or tomorrow?” she asked. I saw that as a challenge, and became determined that the baby was going to be out before midnight.
My mum had spoken to me a lot about what to expect in the pushing stage, and I knew the importance of conserving energy. Under her guidance, I gritted my teeth, pressed my chin against my chest and pushed down with all of my might. I think that’s one of the most important things you can do – it’s tempting to scream or shout, but it wastes energy.
With one push, the midwives told me they could see the baby’s hair. On the second, I felt the most intense burning pain ever, and I thought I was doing something wrong – then there was relief, and the midwives told me that the head was out. I was shocked – everyone I’d spoken to told me that pushing took ages; hours even. I took a moment to regain my composure, as Daf and my mum looked down at the baby’s head, both in tears by this point and telling me over and over how well I was doing (never underestimate the power of encouraging birth partners!).
I even paused for a brief moment to think about how my life was going to change. My friends from my course were all out celebrating the final show, which had finished just an hour earlier. I was about to become a mum. Yes, I was going to go back and continue studying in September, but still – our lives were about to go in very different directions.
“Final bets,” I said breathlessly. “Boy or girl?”.
We all unanimously agreed boy – they’d both said boy throughout the pregnancy, whereas I’d gone backwards and forwards, but by this point there was no doubt in my mind that we were having a boy.
With one final push, our daughter was born at 11:45pm on April 10th, 2014.
She weighed 7lbs 3oz and was absolutely beautiful in every way. Daf was the one to tell me we had a daughter – an amazing moment, and something I highly recommend if you’re on Team Yellow! – and he cut the cord as I held her close, just so relieved that she was healthy and perfect. I was so grateful to everyone – the doctors, the midwives, my mum and Daf, for making sure our baby arrived safely and encouraging me the whole way through.
We were about to embark on the biggest learning curve of our lives – bigger than any university course imaginable – but for that moment as we sat together and cuddled her, a family of three for the very first time, it felt like the circumstances – an unplanned pregnancy at nineteen, continuing with my studies, the judgement we’d faced and the stress we’d been through – didn’t matter.
Even the circumstances of the birth, which sound like hell on paper – three-day induction, baby facing sideways, holding the baby in at 10cm, two hours of stitching afterwards – disappeared, and to this day I remember the induction and the birth as one of the funniest, most relaxed, happiest experiences of my life. My birth partners agreed – I was pretty laid back the whole way through, which I think is really important – but all in all it was such a wonderful experience, and it’s why whenever I see someone getting bombarded with negative induction stories, I share my story too.
I’d do everything the same all over again in a heartbeat.
Thank you Maddy for sharing your story and rounding off my celebrating every birth stories series so beautifully.
Why not head over and see what else Maddy is writing about on her blog The Speed Bump.