First up in the birth story series is a blogging hero of mine, Suzy from The Airing Cupboard. I love her witt, hippy-ish ways and style of writing. Suzy had high hopes for a water birth at home but things didn’t go to plan…
Charlie’s Birth Story
This is what I get for giving the finger to the almighty uterus. I said F**k you, 40 weeks, and you know what? 40 weeks fucked me.
On the night of my due date, we decided to do a trial run of inflating and filling the birth pool in the sitting room. I set a stopwatch and sat on the couch while Brendan did a lot of cursing and faffing. He started filling the pool. After a few inches we decided that we’d learnt enough, so we set about emptying it. Brendan held the pool at an angle and I switched on the pump. We heard splashing in the kitchen. I ran in to see that the hose had fallen out of the sink. What I didn’t see was the puddle of water on my white floor tiles. Cue a big pregno slapstick slip and I landed flat on my back.
I lay there for a thousand years (apparently this may have been one of those “time slows down” moments) until Brendan picked me off the floor. Halfway up I realised my wrist was a bit sore.
A bit sore turned to incredibly sore and I burst into tears and sat looking at it. There was a big lump forming on the wrist. Brendan had forgotten that we had a small child asleep upstairs and was about to pack me straight into the car to go to the hospital. Instead he called my mum (who got all excited because she thought that this was The Call) to come down and stay with our 3-year-old while we went to A&E.
We arrived. The lady at reception looked at me and my bump and said “You’re in the wrong hospital”. No shit.
I got triaged and x-rayed, then we sat waiting for the results. I kept saying that this would all be very funny tomorrow. I think we both assumed it was just a sprain and we’d be embarrassed for having rushed into hospital with it.
But it wasn’t sprained. It was fractured. Broken. Tears burst. Cast on. Come back in a week.
We got home and I shuffled into bed and cried because of the pain and cried for the fact that I’d have to labour whilst disabled, and for all the things that lay beyond the birth that I wouldn’t be able to do.
After 40 weeks of egging on the baby I suddenly wasn’t so eager for him to arrive. Oh-ho, the irony. I stopped eating dates, convinced that would do the job. I no longer felt “birthy”. I told myself that my body was not that stupid, that it would deal with the task at hand and start mending some bones before putting me through a second trauma. I went to bed that night confident that I would carry the baby for at least another week.
At 1am I woke up needing to pee but didn’t quite make it to the toilet. OH GREAT, I thought, WELL, FUCK YOU BLADDER AND ALL THOSE PELVIC FLOOR EXERCISES. I sat on the loo and looked down at my knickers. I gave them a cursory sniff. It didn’t smell like pee. Oh Christ, was it amniotic fluid? Not now.
I stood up tentatively and waited for another gush. Nothing. I went back to bed, mumbling to Brendan that I wasn’t sure if I’d pissed myself or if my waters had started leaking. I didn’t have any contractions so I told him to go to sleep.
I started getting the odd twinge. Maybe two an hour. They were very short. I tried to sleep but couldn’t.
In the morning I realised that every time I went from sitting to standing I was leaking. I still wasn’t sure if my pelvic floor had left the building, so we carried on regardless. We went for brunch. Of course we did, it was Saturday. I got pumpkin pancakes with maple syrup and bacon. I was having more frequent contractions but they weren’t painful. Then we stood up to leave and the gush was… plentiful. We hurried out of the cafe, put down a toilet training pad on the car seat and went home.
I called the midwife, who said she’d come out straight away. I immediately went back to the paranoid sniffing of my knickers, less sure now that it wasn’t pee. I even thrust a pad under Brendan’s nose at one point and screeched TELL ME WHAT YOU SMELL!
The midwife arrived, checked me, and said the waters had gone. Thank god. Sorry, bladder. She told us to pack off the child and dog because we had work to do. We were now on the clock because the hospital’s policy dictates that my right to a homebirth would expire exactly 18 hours after the waters started leaking. I would have to go into hospital to get antibiotics at 7pm because the baby would be at risk of infection after that.
It was around 12 o’clock at this stage. No pressure then.
We dropped off the appendages and headed straight for the hill. I stuck in my headphones and we walked. It was a beautiful sunny day, there were people kite-surfing on the beach below, everything was feeding into all the mental imagery I’d been rehearsing as part of my GentleBirth practice. I was confident I could get the sprog popped by 7pm. The contractions were getting more regular and slightly more intense but they were still only lasting 20 seconds.
We went home, I closed the blinds, bounced on my ball and started bopping. By 3pm the surges were 3 minutes apart and about 40 seconds long. I knew it was all far too manageable so I was reluctant to call the midwife, but I wanted to let her know I was getting somewhere. She said she’d come out straight away.
After she arrived my contractions slowed down. She was so lovely but she’d been able to scare them off with her presence. I knew I wasn’t in labour then. I tried so hard to get back into the zone, but the clock was ticking and I felt under pressure.
I carried on doing my circuits of steps and lunges and the contractions became more intense. I stopped timing them, it was too distracting. Just as I felt I was getting somewhere the midwife appeared in my bedroom with Brendan hovering behind her. It was 6.15pm. Time was up. I looked up at them and said, “motherfuck”. They laughed.
I was ok with it, I really was. There was no big disappointment. The only risk now was that I’d have to stay in hospital for 48 hours if I had the baby before the second dose of antibiotics was given, which would be at 11pm. So in a way we wanted things to slow down again. More irony to choke on.
We went straight into the delivery room and they hooked me up to the IV and did a CTG on the baby. The contractions were intense now. They said the baby was getting tired. So was I. I asked her to check me and I was 1 cm. It was almost 8pm. 19 hours and I had only got to one lousy centimetre. I kind of wanted to kill myself.
I sat on the ball and looked out the window and felt utterly hopeless. I started contemplating an epidural.
The midwife asked if I’d try a squat during the next contraction, so I did, and holy crap, it hurt like hell, but it felt like it was doing something so I kept at it. After a few more I could feel the baby’s head hitting the top of the pelvis. I was beginning to feel overwhelmed by the pain. I said it to the midwife. She suggested I take a shower.
Before I got in I asked her to check me again. She was reluctant but I insisted. I was 6-7 cm. It was almost 9pm, less than an hour after the last check. Zero to hero, again.
I put on the plastic thing to cover my cast and got into the shower. I managed a few more squats and then the contractions seemed to disappear for a while. I wondered whether this was that infamous pause of transition, but I thought I wasn’t close enough for that. But apparently it was. During the next contraction I felt like I was going to explode. I opened the shower doors and threw myself onto the toilet and exclaimed that I was going to poop. I was vaguely aware of the midwife getting very excited.
With the next surge my body took over and started pushing involuntarily. The midwife yanked me off the toilet and got me down onto my hands and knees on a mat on the floor. She put Brendan in front of me, sitting on the ball, and told him to hold me by the armpits to take some of the pressure off my broken wrist.
With the next surge I pushed with it and made a lot of noise and felt the baby move down a bit. I won’t lie, it felt like I was crapping out my insides. Another few pushes and baby was crowning. I can confirm that the ring of fire is correctly named. Another push and head was out. I felt him turn and I wanted to scream at him to stay still, for fuck’s sake, wasn’t it bad enough already?
I heard a knock at the door and the midwife say “Just delivering, I’ll be out in a minute” in a sing-song voice. It was nearly over. I steeled myself for the next one and pushed like hell and with that I looked between my legs and saw him fall out of me into outstretched hand. The cord was loosely around his neck. She unwrapped it and slid him between my knees and he lay there, stunned and unmoving for a minute before letting out an angry roar.
It was 9.23pm and the song that was playing was Mogwai’s Two Rights Make One Wrong. There’s a joke in there somewhere.
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