I just blinked and suddenly Morgan is turning 1 on Monday! It literally feels like about a week ago that I was in labour with him, and I'm still not 100% over not having my lovely baby bump any more!
It's got me reflecting on my pregnancy and birth, and I realised I've never shared my story on here so I thought it would be a perfect first blog post! And hopefully it might be useful or at least interesting to some of my Mammas and Mammas to be.
I had grand plans during pregnancy. I wanted a home birth, I wanted to see if I could do it without pain relief but planned to have gas & air and Pethidine as a back up. I wanted my husband to catch my baby and I was even considering (weather dependant) doing it all outside! My biggest concerns were whether or not to banish the cat, and how big a birthing pool to rent.
Well, best laid plans and all that. Cut to my 27 week gestational diabetes (GD) check, and it came back positive! (On reflection I should have realised this was a possibility as I was losing weight, struggling with fatigue which did get worse after eating at times and was soo thirsty! I drank maybe 10-12 pints of water a day.) I was told the result over the phone and booked in to see the consultant the following week to discuss a management plan.
I had no idea the implications of this, and so I went alone to that appointment. Big mistake. The consultant couldn't see me so I saw a midwife sister instead. She told me that this meant I was now a high risk pregnancy, and they would no longer recommend a home birth. I asked "high risk of what?" and she said "well, all the normal pregnancy and birth risks, but particularly still birth is the reason we advise against a home birth". I felt all my plans crashing down around me, not to mention the thought of losing my precious baby, and I just burst into tears (not like me at all!). Debbie (the midwife) was amazing though, she talked to me about why I didn't want a hospital birth (mostly because I didn't want to be away from my husband at all after giving birth, I had heard that high risk women weren't allowed water births, and because I used to work at the hospital and didn't want to see any colleagues while in labour/afterwards). She said I could book a birth planning meeting in with her as she was about to become Midwifery Matron, and we could talk it all out and make plans to make sure I had a birth as close to what I wanted as possible, but also as safe as possible. I left feeling a little better, but it took me a few weeks to fully digest the information and to come to terms with my new picture of birth.
Due to my GD I had to have growth scans every 4 weeks for the rest of my pregnancy, and meet with the obstetric consultant and diabetes consultant afterwards, as well as the dietician, diabetes specialist midwife and diabetes nurse. All of these people were in the room at the same time, as well as a junior doctor for each consultant, and little old me and my husband. It would have been quite intimidating I think if I weren't a nurse. I was checking my blood sugars via finger prick 4 times a day, and was following a restricted diet to control them, which, boring as it was, was working really well and they seemed very impressed with my blood sugars each time. I felt like a kid being given a sticker for doing well.
All was going well in that regard, and it was nice to see my baby on scans more often than I would have gotten to, but it still never left me, the thought that I was high risk and something could happen to my baby, and without realising it, it was something I was becoming quite anxious about.
My background in nursing was working in Anaesthetic recovery (where you wake up after an operation), and that involved working closely with anaesthetists, and also looking after children from age 1. Anaesthetists would fairly often get bleeped to go to A&E or labour ward due to emergencies, and some of these involved SIDS or other child deaths, or serious birth complications , maternal deaths and still births. Add to that the fact that (although it was extremely rare) I had seen, and been involved in, resuscitating children (to varying degrees) after their surgeries.
There is a thing in healthcare where you can get a skewed view of the world in general based on where you work. For example if you look after people with cancer, you end up thinking everyone will get cancer because, say 90% of your patients have it, so you translate that to 90% of the general population when actually it's just that 100% of people who do have it are treated by you. I hope that makes sense.
Two of the women I worked with had experienced stillbirth and late term miscarriage, which was absolutely devastating. So I think my brain was adding up how often an anaesthetist would be bleeped to an emergency and how quickly children can deteriorate in an acute care environment to the fact that I was high risk, and coming up with the idea that either I or Morgan would definitely die during or shortly after birth. Scary stuff, but my anxiety caused this to become an absolutely concrete fact in my mind.
That, added to some crazy stuff going on at work (a blog for another time I think) meant that I developed general anxiety, and ended up being off sick from work from June-August. In that time I went to triage at least 3 or 4 times with reduced movements, which on reflection I think was partially me just wanting someone to tell me that my baby was okay and nothing was going wrong. The midwives were so good to me each and every time. I was always taken seriously, I never ever felt like I was being silly or wasting anyone's time.
I also met with Debbie for my birth planning meeting. She was amazing. She busted a lot of the myths I had in my head about hospital birth, including the worry about not being able to use water. We went through all of the different possibilities from natural labour to induction or C section, and what my preferences were, and she documented it all and signed it off as agreed by her, and that plan went into the front of both my sets of notes so that there would be no question of whether I was allowed the things we had discussed on the day. She encouraged me to write my own birth preferences as well for things like environment and pain relief and to bring that in with me. Debbie had noted that if I was feeling anxious after birth and desperately wanted my husband to stay then a plan would be made, whether that involved him staying in the visiting room or us moving to a side room if one was available.
We left that meeting feeling much more certain and confident about what was going to happen. I had now settled the idea of a hospital birth with myself and wasn't too worried about it (aside from still believing that I would die).
The rest of my pregnancy progressed pretty normally. I had the usual discomfort and feeling of being huge, but I was really looking forward to meeting my baby and it was so lovely washing all his clothes and getting things ready for him. I loved that time.
My last growth scan was at 38 weeks, and then I had a consultant appointment booked for my due date to discuss induction. I was due on a Thursday. I saw my normal midwife on the Tuesday, and told her that Morgan's movements had changed in their overall pattern since Saturday morning. I wasn't overly worried because he was moving regularly, but he had changed pattern from being active in the mornings to very quiet, and then from being quiet in the afternoon to quite busy, and nights were a little more settled than before. She listened to his heartbeat and reassured me that as long as he was sticking to his new pattern and moving regularly, it was all fine.
I went along to my consultant appointment with my husband, and it was all very positive as she explained they would book me for induction on 40+3 unless I went into labour any sooner. Then she asked about Morgan's movements and I told her the above, and she shook her head and said "no no, we don't like changes in movement at this stage". She asked her junior doctor (Jess) to go and book me in to labour ward for induction. Jess came back and said I was all booked for Sunday as they were full before then. My consultant just got up and said she'd be right back. She came back in a few minutes later and said "okay so you're booked for today".
She said to call labour ward at about 1pm and they would tell me what to do. We were in shock. So much excitement, and so much to do! I hadn't fully packed my labour bag, we would need snacks, I hadn't showered yet that day, what about the cat?!
My husband had left his bag at work so he popped back there and I went home and showered and tried (unsuccessfully) to nap, thinking I may not get any sleep after that point. At 1 I phoned and they said there wasn't a side room yet but if I came after 3pm they'd admit me and I could move rooms when one came up, but not to rush as I'd just be waiting on the ward until the room was available. We got cat care sorted, had lunch and packed the car to go in. On the way we stopped at Tesco for labour snacks and bottled water. By the time we got to the hospital it was 5pm, the room was ready and they had actually been calling me to see if I was alright.
We were admitted into a side room (standard for York Hospital inductions) with our own bathroom and a sofa. I went on monitoring and had my obs done, and then had the 24hr pessary inserted at about 7pm. We had a Nando's take away, chatted to my sister by Whatsapp and watched some comedy on the iPad. It was actually really lovely and quite romantic, Jonny was taking really good care of me and we were pretty much left to it apart from monitoring every 4 hours.
Nothing happened overnight, but by 9am the next morning I was having some irregular tightenings which were very bearable. We went for a walk at about 11 and by then I was needing to stop walking for the duration of the contraction. It just felt like very strong period pains but somehow they made me need to bend forward for a few seconds. We only walked to the canteen and back but when we got back I decided to have a bath and then put my TENS on.
Time was moving surprisingly fast. My contractions were irregular and bearable but getting stronger, and I wasn't entirely sure that the TENS was doing anything. I decided to take it off and try another bath instead. My first contraction after taking it off made it apparent that it had DEFINITELY been working, the pain was so much more intense without it! I put it back on after my bath but it didn't seem to do as much, or maybe my contractions were just stronger by then. We had timed them with an app a few times but they were irregular and about 7-10 minutes apart.
The midwife came at 7pm to monitor me so I could remove the pessary. Everything was fine and she said she'd be back in about an hour to check my cervix. I asked for some paracetamol at that point which she gave me, and decided to have another bath as the TENS was not cutting it at all. I had a bath, which for the first time did not help with the pain, and the night shift midwife came to check my cervix. She said I was 3cm and ready to have my waters broken, but there were no beds on labour ward and I was second in the queue so to expect a long wait. I impulsively asked for Pethidine as I was in discomfort between contractions to the point of struggling to move around and get out of the bath, and my contractions were becoming more frequent and were very intense already, and I wanted to get some sleep since the baby wasn't imminent. (And you can't have gas & air until you get to labour ward.)
Pethidine may well be the best thing on earth. She gave me it as an injection into my thigh, and told me to be careful moving around the room, and make sure my husband supported me as it can make you sleepy/dizzy. It kicked in within about 5 minutes and I felt so much better, so calm and comfortable and happy. I got in bed and snuggled down, and my husband was talking to me but I wasn't really listening, I just felt totally blissed out. I even dreamt/hallucinated a little that he was feeding me cake, and was trying to take bites out of the air!
I slept until about 1am, and then got up for a wee. As I was going into the bathroom the midwife came to do my 4 hourly monitoring. She told us that there was a bed on labour ward and even though I was second in the queue, the other lady was coping with her contractions without pain relief so they thought I might be further along, so we needed to pack up to move! I asked about more Pethidine but she told me it would be best to wait until I was on labour ward so I would be alert while they admitted me.
By 3am we were in and sorted and had gas & air going as well. We set the room up with fairy lights and had John Meyer playing in the background. My new midwife, Pippa spent some time reading my preferences, then got us an essential oil diffuser (Orange & Peppermint) which was lovely, and then broke my waters.
I was struggling with contractions still, and finding it difficult to breathe slowly enough for the gas & air to work, so I had a second dose of Pethidine. I decided I didn't want to get off the bed, and Pippa explained that it was best to put the drip up straight away in that case, which she did. I was already on monitoring. Initially she told me each time she increased the drip but I asked her to stop telling me as I couldn't handle knowing my contractions were going to get even more intense. I did ask what % the CTG was showing I was contracting though. My thought was that if the level of pain was say 80% or over then I could handle the rest. It was 70%! But she told me that it's not accurate and I was having very powerful and effective contractions so she suspected it was higher than that.
My blood pressure started rising, and Morgan's heart rate was not reading very well so we decided to switch to a head clip monitor for him. I was finding contractions unbearable, they were coming continuously and overlapping each other with no rest, and I would have happily let someone cut me in half just to make the pain stop. I asked about more Pethidine, but not enough time had passed since my last dose. When Pippa placed the clip she told me I was 8cm dilated. I decided I wanted an epidural. The team were already on the ward, so Pippa said it would be no problem but they were with someone else so I needed to wait.
I don't know how much time passed. To me it felt like about 45 minutes but my husband said it was more like 15. Lo and behold the ODP who came to assist the anaesthetist was a girl I used to work with in PACU! She looked at my bits, then my face, then recognition dawned and she said hi. I really didn't care at that point about people seeing me, I was naked already although I'm not sure when I had taken my clothes off.
They asked me to sit up and move back on the bed, which was near enough impossible given the continuous contractions, but I did manage it with my husband basically lifting me. It felt awful as I could feel Morgan's head and was sitting on it, but it was only for a few minutes and then the epidural was in.
It was amazing, it took effect within minutes and I could suddenly breathe and talk and think again. I laid on my side to make sure I didn't get a complete block, as I wanted to be able to feel my contractions and to be able to push.
From here is where things went a bit pear shaped. My blood pressure was still very high. Having moved about for the epidural had dislodged the head clip, so Pippa replaced it, and it was now time for handover to the day shift. My new midwife was called Samantha. She was a flapper. She walked in and immediately started panicking about the monitoring, that the clip had managed to get unplugged. All she needed to do was plug it in but she was muttering and seemed so frantic. I told her she was stressing me out and to calm down! I'd never have dared in any other circumstance but she was killing my nice calm birth vibe.
Anyway when she did plug it in, the readings showed that Morgan was in distress. A doctor came into the room and told me I would need a Ventouse delivery. She said she would discuss it with her day team colleague but she was fairly sure they would agree. She went off to hand over and about 5 minutes later the new doctor came and said the same thing to me. I asked why I couldn't at least try to push. She told me to lie on my back, put her hand over my bits and said 'ok, push.' I wasn't even having a contraction but I tried and nothing happened. She shook her head and said sorry, but it was going to have to be a Ventouse. I asked if I could push in the meantime and she said 'sure, why not. You can push while I set up the sterile trolley.' I went back on my side and Sam came over to help me. She got me to lift my leg up by my head, and initially tried to coach my pushing but actually I could feel when to do it so I did it myself.
I'm not saying that this was ideal birthing, in fact I definitely used 'purple pushing' for all of it, but within 10 minutes I had managed to get Morgan's head all the way to crowning, so when the doctor turned around all I actually needed was an episiotomy and he was here!
The doctor said his chord was around his neck, unwrapped it and placed him on my chest. He didn't move or make a sound, he was just stunned and staring blankly ahead. I think that image will stay with me forever. The midwives whisked him over to resuscitate him, and all I could think was 'oh no, it's going to be him' as I was so sure one of us would die. One of the midwives was Nicky, the wife of a consultant I know well and trust, and I did find that quite reassuring but all I could do was watch for what felt like forever as they gave rescue breaths and nothing happened.
At the same time, I had been given an injection to assist with delivering the placenta, and the doctor was trying to help with pulling on the umbilical chord. She said something about the chord starting to snap, and Sam started pushing really hard on my tummy. The doctor sort of jerked back and appeared to be holding the chord with my placenta at the end of it. I asked if I could see it and she said 'well this is half of it' and held it up. The rest had fallen on the floor, luckily, rather than being left inside me.
The doctor set up a sterile sheet so she could do my stitches. After a few minutes she said 'she's bleeding' but nobody really seemed to take notice. Then she said 'no, she's REALLY bleeding' and Sam pulled the emergency bell. Near enough at that moment, Morgan finally cried, and I thought 'thank god, it's not going to be him, it'll be me who dies'. Madness, given that I was actually so relieved and happy that he was okay, still so high on having given birth which was such an amazing feeling, but still having such horrible and scary thoughts!
They gave him back to me for some skin to skin. It was absolutely magical, he held on to my fingers and we just stared at each other. He was completely fine and pink and healthy. There were loads of people in the room at this point, injecting me with all sorts into my cannula and my bum cheek, but I didn't really register them all as I was just looking at my sweet little baby. I was more concerned about getting started with feeding, and Sam was clearly busy so I just latched him myself and he went for it. Within about 10 minutes everything was okay again and the room emptied out, and it was just back to the three of us and Sam. To give some time scale, the new doctor came in at 8.30am and Morgan was born at 9.02am so all of the above happened very quickly.
I was so high on endorphins after birth, it took me about a week to realise that it had actually been a bit traumatic, and my anxiety came to a head on about day 5 (but again, that's another blog for another time).
In the mean time, it was so lovely having my little boy and seeing how he had so much hair and such huge dark blue eyes, how he smelt, how he was so soft and wrinkly, how big and yet tiny his hands and feet were. Everything about him just amazed me. It still does to be fair.
The first night, after Jonny had gone home for some sleep, Morgan and I just spent ages looking at each other. It was such a sweet moment, I can't describe the feeling but it was like we were both just saying "oh, it's you", but also like we'd known each other forever already. He just fit straight in.
So that's my pregnancy and birth journey. Well done for reading this far. A bit bumpy, but not too bad and in the end I actually really enjoyed my labour and birth, pear-shapedness aside. I wouldn't mind being induced again if necessary, and I definitely won't hesitate to use Pethidine or an epidural if I need to! I have no regrets about how it all went, I truly felt like the best care was taken of me the whole time and my wishes were respected throughout. I can't thank all the midwives enough, especially Pippa who just seemed to get it and made us feel so safe and private. I would do it all again in a heartbeat, especially if it meant meeting Morgan at the end of it all again.