My Birth Story: Bridget and Ben

BRIDGET AND BEN

Our beautiful son, Beowulf, was born into the birthing pool in our living room at 2.34pm on Wednesday 16th March 2016. This is the story of his birth.

Looking back, I think my baby started to ready for his journey into the world on the Friday, a week before he was due. I went to a birthing class on breastfeeding at a local children's centre, and was feeling a little concerned that my baby didn't seem to be moving quite as regularly or as boisterously as usual (I should've guessed with that much movement during my pregnancy that he would be such a non-stop wriggler on the outside!) On the midwife's recommendation, Ben and I went to King's to get the baby monitored, just to put my mind at rest. Of course, the minute I was strapped into the machine, Hovis (as the baby of unknown gender was called then) started up with the usual kicks and punches, and the heart rate was loud and strong.

Over the weekend, we went to visit my parents in Suffolk, and on the Sunday morning, lying in bed, I started to feel what I now know to have been very early contractions - what felt like mild period cramps in the lower belly. I also had to buy some sanitary towels, as I was a bit leaky.

The cramps continued irregularly throughout the day Sunday and into Monday, but they were barely noticeable at this stage. I baked some healthy(ish) carrot cupcakes, with the midwives in mind, and went for a walk round Brockwell Park. By the early evening, I was pretty convinced what I was feeling were contractions, so Ben decided to skip his capoeira class and cook my favourite meal of his - a big bowl of delicious, healthy veggie noodles. If this baby was on its way, I was going to need something nutritious to fuel me. By now, the contractions were quite obvious, getting more regular, and taking some concentration. As I recall we were watching a film, but I wasn't focusing on it very closely and couldn't tell you what it was.

Ben and I were both getting pretty excited at this point and so we started timing the contractions. They weren't yet hitting that 'call the midwife' frequency of three in 10 minutes, but they weren't far off. As much as I tried to suppress the thought, I couldn't help feeling little bursts of joy and anticipation that I was going to meet my baby soon, maybe even by tomorrow. 

Through Monday evening, we both set about turning our living room into our bear cave. Ben moved the weights bench onto the balcony as I had a real problem with its spiky edges. In hindsight, I was probably also uncomfortable with the air of testosterone and masculinity I associated with it. Whilst I lit some candles and incense, put on my prepared 'calm and relaxation' playlist, and arranged the living room with yoga mats, props and blankets, Ben filled the birth pool. 

I was very aware of timing the contractions because I was really keen to call the midwife and for the baby to be properly on the way. Patience is not my strong suit! But the atmosphere was calm and peaceful. The room smelt nice and the lighting was soft. I was working with each contraction, staying relaxed as I'd learnt in hypnobirthing, moving my body in whatever way felt good and breathing, breathing, breathing. My favourite movements at this stage were catlike stretches on all fours, wiggling on the Swiss ball, and hanging from the pull-up bar in the doorway. I was also enjoying resting between surges in a sort of child's pose over a yoga bolster on the floor. I'd read so much positive literature on birth, mainly the wonderful Ina May Gaskin, and taken in so much from the positive affirmations of the hypnobirthing that I was able to stay very relaxed, and focused on staying that way, with snippets of Ina May birth stories, and ones told to us by our hypnobirthing teacher, Phoebe, popping into my head. 

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, we decided the contractions were close enough together and called the midwife. After speaking to me on the phone, she was a little reluctant to come out to us, as she didn't think I sounded far enough along, but she agreed to come in an hour or so. Unfortunately the midwife on duty was the only one of a possible five with whom I hadn't felt a connection. When she arrived, the energy in the house altered and although she was perfectly pleasant, I felt a little less comfortable. She examined me, and in spite of my having asked not to be told how far my cervix was dilated, she came out with it: only one to two centimetres. After a whole night of no sleep, expecting a baby to be born imminently, I felt crushed. Only one to two centimetres! We'd barely got going. 

The midwife left and said to call when we were further along. Then the sun came up, my contractions slowed and I started to feel miserable. It felt like we were going backwards. Most of Tuesday went by in a bit of a blur. I remember dancing on my own in the living room to Ella Fitzgerald and Etta James songs whilst Ben tried to catch some zzzs; there was a failed attempt to use the Tens machine; I sat in the bath for a bit. But it didn't feel like we were getting any closer to meeting our baby. This was the only point through the whole labour when I felt actual pain from the contractions: I was in my head, I wasn't focusing enough on my breath, and I was cross with my body for not working quickly enough. So adrenalin was eclipsing oxytocin and we'd hit a wall. At this point Ben suggested I try some pain killers, so I had my first of two lots of paracetamol.

Some time in the afternoon, Ben persuaded me that we should call Ingrid. She was my wonderful pregnancy yoga teacher with whom we'd done a birth preparation course only a week previously. It had been a brilliant, informative and practical day of learning, and Ben and I had both come away feeling closer as a couple, more confident about the impending birth, and totally in love with Ingrid! She said we could call anytime day or night if we needed advice, so we did. It's hard to know what impact each little thing had on the smoothness of the birth process, but I believe Ingrid's help at this point was instrumental in turning things around. She suggested some yoga exercises I could do to help the baby move a little in case it had got its angles slightly wrong, then she told us to try and get some sleep, even if it was only for a few moments between contractions. Ben conked out as soon as his head hit the pillow, and I managed to refocus my breathing so that I was working with rather than against the surges, and rested in between.

By the time the sun left the sky on Tuesday night, we were back in the game, the contractions were getting closer together and more intense, and we were feeling positive, if slightly exhausted. As the process intensified, I chose the bedroom as my safe space. With nicely dimmed lighting, and freed from the constrictions of any clothing, I started to get in touch with my animal side, using deep growls and groans with every new surge. God knows what the neighbours must've thought, but that wasn't really top of my list of priorities at the time! I got into a good rhythm, pushing against the wall with my hands, swaying my hips and making deep bear/cow noises with each contraction, and then lying on the bed to rest for a few seconds in between. And repeat. For a really long time. Somewhere in here, Ben called the midwife again (a different one on duty now, one with whom I felt a greater affinity), and from his description of what I was up to, she said she'd be round within the hour.

When the midwife arrived she wanted to examine me to see how far along we were. The thought of having to lie down through a contraction whilst she did it filled me with dread (I needed to be on my feet and moving) but she timed it well, and I survived. Having written in my birth plan I didn't want to know numbers, there was no way I wasn't knowing how dilated I was now, so when she said eight centimetres I was ecstatic. We were getting closer to meeting our little Hovis. I laboured for another couple of hours in the bedroom, and Ben emptied and refilled the birth pool. It was wonderful to know that I had the relief of the warm water to look forward to, and I wanted to get as far along as possible before I plunged in.

After a few really overwhelming surges, I decided it was time for the pool. And my god did that water feel good. Sinking into the warmth, feeling the water wrap all around me, everything suddenly felt a lot easier. I could lean over the edge of the pool and hold onto Ben when the contractions came, and then flop my head down and drift into something like sleep in between. The room looked and smelt beautiful, curtains closed, soft lighting, a mix of lavender and lemon oils on the burner. I have an incredibly sensitive sense of smell, heightened even further by pregnancy, so scent is very important to me, and even more so to primal, mid-labour me. So after Ben had eaten something with garlic and onions, I dispatched him to brush his teeth, much to the amusement of the midwives (we had two by now for the final stages.) 

The midwives said it was find for me to wee in the birth pool, but I actually found the process of getting out, climbing the stairs and having a moment with a contraction or two in the bathroom to be worth the effort, and actually quite enjoyable. It felt comparable to leaving the dancefloor in a club and taking a moment to yourself in the toilet, only to realise quite how high you're feeling. That process of looking in the mirror and really seeing yourself, the rush coming over you as a change of scene spikes the effect of whatever drugs you've taken. A friend who'd been through labour only a few months before told me her experience was not unlike staying up all night at a music festival - the euphoric exhaustion, the lack of sleep, the minimal amount of food - and I totally get what she meant.

The midwives were amazing. Essentially it felt like they left Ben and me to our own devices, although I know they were actually working very hard to allow us to have that sense of ease. The one thing that I had a problem with was their monitoring of the baby's heart rate. Of course, I knew how critical this was, and the midwives were incredibly kind, but wow was it annoying, being prodded in the belly every few minutes when you're trying to have a goddamn contraction! But I feel very fortunate to have been able to labour at home in such comfort and with so little interference. 

As we got into late Wednesday morning, the midwife told us we needed to hurry things along a bit. Her recommendation? She told Ben to kiss me passionately and play with my nipples. And sure enough, boom, oxytocin, everything sped up. The text books were right. Talking of text book, it was at this point that I had the moment of clarity, which hindsight can tell me was the adrenalin injection going into transition. I knew I couldn't do this. I couldn't go on anymore. I couldn't push this baby out. But for Ben this was the signal that we were nearly there (thanks again, Ingrid) so he upped his game even further with his support and encouragement. At this point the contractions intensified and moved downwards, creating the urge to push. I hung around Ben's neck, almost pulling him into the pool at one point, and summoned energy from the depths of mother earth to get the baby out. (Ben admitted to me later that he'd hurt his back as I hung on during one of my more vigorous contractions, but he soldiered on as he didn't want me to worry about him and hold back.)

Bridget.1.jpg

Each contraction had drawn animal-like noises from inside me, but at this point, the midwife told me to ease up on the noise, and put all the effort into pushing. She said I was wasting energy on sound. This was a real challenge, as I'd become accustomed to imitating a cow/bear to release the tension. Just as I thought there was no more energy to draw on, the midwife got me to stand up, and the movement brought on an enormous surge. I splashed down into the water, pushing with everything I had and out came the head. With another push, and a very strange sensation, the rest of the body wriggled out and I looked down into the water to see our little dark haired cherub floating in the murk. It's a cliche, but nothing can compare to that feeling of seeing and holding your child for the first time. We were so overwhelmed with happiness, relief and exhaustion, that we didn't even think to check the gender until prompted by the midwives. According to our notes, we held Beowulf for a good 20 minutes before we knew he was a he.

Having negotiated my way out of the birth pool with wobbly legs, holding a baby attached by a cord through my vagina, I sat on the sofa to deliver the placenta. With one heel raised on a yoga block, the midwife looked around for something to lift the other foot. She picked up a hardback version of Mary Beard's SPQR which was the perfect size. (The midwife knows Mary, and told me she was rather pleased to know her book had been put to good use.) When the placenta was out, the midwife carefully cut off a couple of chunks for our smoothie (yes, we did) and put the rest in a box to be turned into pills (yes, that too).

The midwives examined me for damage - no tearing, just a slight graze (so maybe all that horrible perineal massage did work) - made sure we were happy with breastfeeding, filled in all the paperwork, and then left us as our new little family of three. It was so wonderful to be sitting in our own living room, our bear cave, and not have to leave. We'd created our perfect little space in which to deliver our perfect little boy into the world. 

Bridget.2.jpg

Throughout the whole 40-something hours, Ben remained calm, cheerful, supportive and encouraging. Ingrid had told him he needed to be my rock, my knight in shining armour, and my goodness did he fulfill that role to the maximum. He made me herbal tea, fed me pieces of fruit, prompted me to drink water (and go to the toilet), massaged my back and let me hang round his neck. I could not have hoped for a better birthing partner, and his unwavering strength and confidence in me made me love him in a whole new way. I fully believe that his tenacity allowed me to have the birth experience I dreamed of and planned for, the experience which so many naysayers wanted to have me think would never be possible. 

I can't deny I felt a flash of vindication when I was able to tell people we'd had exactly the birth we'd hoped for. Here was proof that with the right planning and attitude, it was possible. And I'm not just talking pregnancy yoga, hypnobirthing and reading Ina May (although they all helped enormously). Ben rightly pointed out I'd done a lifetime of preparation which contributed to the smooth, painless, empowering nature of Beowulf's birth; almost 10 years of yoga practice gave me an awareness of the connection between mind, body and breath, and how to harness that connection to move in sync with the unfathomable energy surging through my body as the baby made its way into the world; and years of triathlon training and racing instilled in me the mental determination and the physical strength to keep going in the face of exhaustion, and the confidence to know you can always give just a little bit more to finish the race. 

My Birth Story: Zainab and Justin

Zainab and Justin

I woke up at about 3am on 27th January with surges and downloaded an app to time them. When I got out of bed I let go quite a lot of liquid (enough to wet the floor) and thought that my waters may have broken. By 7am the surges were coming 3 every ten minutes and my husband called the midwives. After a night awake I managed to fall asleep around 8, and when the midwives got to me at 9 the surges had slowed right down to one every ten minutes. They checked me and I wasn't even dilated so they left. Apparently my waters had not broken, and this was more likely to have been the show as a result of the sweep that I had been given. 13 days past the due date I was not thrilled at the prospect of more waiting. I had quite bad nausea since I had woken at 3am, which was worse than the contractions themselves. This reminded me of the hyperemesis I had experienced in my first trimester and was not a symptom of labour I was prepared for, but on the advice of the midwife I had spoken to that morning, I tried to make myself eat so I wasn't being sick on an empty stomach. The hypnobirthing breathing got me through the rest of that day and night. My husband helped me walk up and down the stairs in our house, and at one point I even tried camel walking!  I found sitting on my birthing ball didn't help the pressure on my lower back but leaning forwards on it or my husband was better. He got tired of rubbing my back after a while though! 

By the early hoursof the 28th the surges were much stronger and more regular again. My husband called the midwives again and when she first came I was only 2-3cm dilated so she left and came back again around 6am I think. Then I was 5cm so she stayed and my husband helped fill up the birthing pool. She told me the baby had gone back to back so I tried to make sure I stayed stomach down (e.g. on all fours) to encourage him to move back. It worked as when the next midwife checked me he was back to front again. That morning was spent in the pool (with a couple of breaks caused by leaks in the pool which my husband kept having to fix..kept him busy). I used a lavender soaked cloth (gifted to me from my pregnancy yogi) from the freezer to keep me cool in the warm pool and focused on the positive birthing statements that I had stuck on the walls, when the surges got stronger. At about midday (33 hours into labour) I told the midwife (a new one following another shift change) I might take a couple more paracetamol, as I had taken a couple earlier on. She laughed and said she didn't think they would help much at this stage, so I was offered gas and air. The gas and air, coupled with the hypnobirthing breathing and the water I was nesting in, got me through that final stage of labour. 

 

The most difficult thing was having to get out of my "zone" to be regularly checked by the midwives. In hindsight, I was at home, being watched over and supported by women who were very respectful of the little sacred space I had created, and it was much less intrusive than having to be hooked up to a machine. But at the time I just wished they would leave me alone until it was time to push. I remember that being the most vocal point for me during the labour, as I began to breath harder and ask where my mother was. After a while I felt like I needed to go to loo, but it wasn't happening. The midwives said that if I felt like pushing I should just do what feels right. So, I began to push. At this point my waters still hadn't broken. Then suddenly there was a big "whoosh" as my waters broke in the pool all at once. I was told I had to get out of the pool as there was meconium in the waters, so we went on to my bed. I was very wary of not lying on my back so as to allow as much space as possible in my pelvis for the baby's exit (arrival) so I laid on my side instead. My husband stood by me, holding onto my leg (I remember them saying he should let me hold it myself, he remembers them saying he should hold it). At that point my mother turned up and began some renegade coaching from the bedroom door - much to the disapproval of the midwives present as she'd be like "push! push!" when they were saying "wait for the next contraction"; but perhaps it was the extra nudge I needed to push harder (maternal pressure has always been a big motivating factor in my life. Ha). The midwives had called an ambulance as a precaution and I was desperate to get him out before they arrived. When I looked up to the midwife holding a needle and saying "I think we're going to have to do an episiotomy," I didn't need any more encouragement. I pushed as hard as I could and then another "whoosh!" I had managed to do it myself. The chord was round his neck but I could hear him start crying straight away. Mukhtar Justin announcing himself to the world. Though they had to cut the chord soon as he came out and make sure he was fine due to the meconium, I knew from the first moment he was just fine and couldn't wait for them to pass him to me. Once he was in my arms, the first thing he did was latch on and start feeding and it feels like that's what he's been doing ever since!

So, in short, after a 36 hour labour I gave birth at home having taken a couple of paracetamol in the morning and other than that just used gas and air. Despite the scare caused by the meconimun and the chord, everything was fine with the birth - not even a tear so no stitches needed. The hynobirthing relaxation, breathing, positive statements and all the learning I'd done about birthing really helped it to be an amazingly positive experience and I'd be happy if I can give birth like that again in the future. I feel really blessed that I was able to give birth, at home, as planned, without any major complications. I know how lucky I am to be able to provide my birthing story as another example of how a low intervention home birth can go right.

My Birth Story: Siobhan and Gav

Siobhan and Gav

It has taken me a long time to write down the details of Rory's birth, almost a year in fact. I wish I'd written it sooner as I struggled to remember the details, but for me it was a long and difficult experience that I was keen to quickly move past. Birth stories are something I found a lot of comfort in while I was pregnant. The huge uncertainty about birth and a woman's transition into those early days of motherhood is as unsettling as it is exciting, and because every birth is so unique, we find ourselves wanting any insights we can into what it might be like for us. I didn't think I would share Rory's birth story, which is most of the reason why I didn't make note of many of the details. But since the months have past, I realise how much I don't want to forget it. Perhaps to share with Rory one day if she asks, but also because I thinks it's important to put these things out there in case they provide comfort, reassurance or something helpful for other women.

Before you read my story, because it's really pretty long to leave the important stuff until the end, I just want to say that although Rory's birth wasn't the calm, empowering experience I'd hoped for, it's something that I now feel very positive about. The moment my daughter was born was the most overwhelming and wonderful moment I've ever had. It didn't matter that this was in a theatre full of hospital staff, under bright lights with me hooked up to machines. Because it was the moment my daughter was born, and that's how it happened for me and for her and for us. In that moment, I didn't care about anything else. The labour, the pain, the exhaustion...nothing mattered but her. About a week after the birth, once my hormones settled down, all the memories of it started to fade. It's such a tiny part of the experience of pregnancy and motherhood, but at the time is so all consuming. My tough experience has faded, it really has, and it has changed in my memory to become nothing but the amazing story that brought me my child. It has become the positive and empowering experience I wanted, because that's what birth is. It doesn't matter to me now that it took time to feel that way, because the three days it took to bring my baby into the world has been utterly, magically eclipsed by the eleven months of her life so far.

Ok, so here goes...

Sunday 3rd January 2016 (49 weeks pregnant)

I'd had some back pain during the night and was generally feeling really restless, so I got out of bed to try and get comfortable on the sofa. I put something on Netflix and dozed on and off for the rest of the night, waking up at about 6.30am. I notice right away that my pyjama trousers were all wet, really wet. I stood up slowly, as more water poured down my leg and onto the floor. I knew right away that it was my waters breaking. I think my first feeling was a pang of disappointment. I was hoping for at least another week of maternity leave to rest before the baby arrived, and also that when labour starts with your waters breaking, it's likely that you're going to be induced and then even more likely you'll receive some kind of medical intervention in your birth. It seems so silly now to me that I ever felt like that, but when you've never given birth before I don't think you can help but cling on to your 'birth plan' because it gives you a feeling of control over a situation you really have very little control over.

I went into our bedroom to wake Gav. I said "you're not going to like this, but my waters have just broken". He'd been so busy at work for weeks before, and having his first day off for quite a long time. Willing my body to hold on to that baby for just another week so he could rest. I called the hospital labour ward, and they told me not to rush but just to come into see them as soon as we were ready. I took a bath while Gav slept a bit longer, tidied the flat, got dressed and headed out to the hospital. All the while, my waters were breaking. I assumed that when your waters break it just happens once, but turns out that's not what happens at all. Your waters just keep going and going and going. I was wearing two maternity pads at once, and changing them every 5-10 minutes to keep from soaking through to my clothes.

As we only live a five minute walk from Kings College Hospital, we walked through the park and down the hill to the labour ward. I could feel my waters breaking as we walked, my legs were getting wet and I hadn't brought a change of clothes.  After a short wait we were seen by the triage nurse. She checked my pads, confirmed my waters had broken and hooked me up to a foetal heart rate monitor to check the baby was alright. I got a bit paranoid as I hadn't felt much movement that morning which was unusual, but everything was fine. The midwife told me that if I didn't go into labour soon, or progress quickly enough I was going to have to be induced. They give you 72 hours from when your waters break to deliver the baby, because of the risk of infection. I remember feeling close to tears in the hospital, because I knew that meant no water birth and probably an epidural and other interventions that I didn't want. I was tired and scared and emotional from a few sleepless nights, but after a little cry I got over myself and started to feel excited that our baby would be with us soon. The midwife sent us on our way, and told me to call the labour ward the next morning, or sooner if I started to have strong contractions. She told me to go for a walk, eat a hot curry and spend a lot of time bouncing on the birthing ball to try and encourage my labour to start.

We went home, Gav made me a nest of cushions on the sofa and we put Star Wars on our big projector screen. Sometime around midday I started to have contractions, irregular and not very strong, but I knew my labour had started. I timed them all afternoon while we watched movies, ate and tried to tidy the flat ready for bringing the baby home. I went for a walk around the park with the dog, sent Gav to buy up every maternity pad in South London and ordered the hottest curry we could find. By the time the curry arrived, around 4pm, my contractions were coming on a lot stronger but were still really irregular. I started to feel sick, and only managed a few mouthfuls of curry. For the rest of the evening, I sat on the sofa and timed my contractions, getting excited that my labour seemed to be starting properly and thinking that I might not have to be induced after all. Around 10pm I called the hospital, convinced that my contractions were as strong and as regular as the midwife said they needed to be before I called the hospital again. I made the call, and they told me to come in for a check.

We packed our bags into the car and drove to the hospital. I was seen by a different triage nurse who checked me and said I wasn't even one centimetre dilated yet. Nothing was happening and we needed to go home. She gave me some painkillers to help me sleep through the contractions, and said I should call in the morning to update them.

Monday 4th January (39 weeks +1)

I spent another sleepless night in the living room, after trying unsuccessfully to sleep through the contractions whilst lying in bed. Even though they were fairly mild at this point, they were strong enough to keep me from sleeping. I was excited and nervous about the birth, which was only adding to my restlessness. At about 1am I gave up trying to sleep, and went into the kitchen to put the kettle on. I spent the next few hours upright rocking backwards and forwards on my birthing ball, timing the contractions as they got more intense and closer together. The contractions were manageable, but I was on my second night of no sleep and starting to feel exhausted and emotional. By about 4am I decided to run a hot bath to help with the pain. I put the laptop on the loo seat while I took a bath, and spent a few hours topping up the hot water, breathing through the contractions and watching stuff on Netflix. I must have stayed in that bath until about 8am, gripping the sides when a contraction came, chatting with Gav in between the pain. At one point, I remember Gav coming in to find me in tears through a contraction, crying because I was just so tired and needed some rest. It's so hard to deal with pain when you're exhausted. At around 9am I called the hospital to update them, but the midwife said it still didn't sound like my labour was progressing very fast so they would definitely be inducing me that afternoon. I was to stay home for now, and call them again at midday.

At some point, I got out of the bath and Gav made me a nest of cushions on our bedroom floor. He wrapped the birthing ball in a duvet, put another duvet and pillows all around me so I could lean onto the ball and rock back and forwards through the contractions. I called my Mum for a bit and chatted between contractions, but for most of the next few hours I listened to the playlist Gav had made for my labour while I breathed and rocked during the contractions. At midday I called the hospital like the midwife asked me to. I was told there were no beds available, so to wait another two hours before calling. Another few hours passed much the same as before, until 2pm when I called the hospital again. The midwife said I had to come in and just wait, because as soon as a bed became available she wanted me to have it. My contractions were getting steadily stronger and more painful by that point, but still manageable. I got dressed and we drove to the hospital, me yelling out and gripping the door handle every time a contraction came. I went into the hospital while Gav parked the car, and I had to keep stopping on my way up to the labour ward to grip onto something during my contractions. The ward receptionist told me to wait in the ward waiting room until a bed became available for me. I remember that being particularly unpleasant, labouring on a plastic chair in a waiting room with total strangers, waiting there for their relatives who were about to have a baby. Coming from our cosy home, lights dimmed and music playing, the hospital was a bit of a shock.

Eventually we were admitted onto the ward, where we were told we had to wait until a delivery suite became available. A few other women came and went before me, that from their sounds I assumed were further along than I was. My contractions had slowed a little once we were in the hospital, but after a few hours came back with a vengeance. Because I hadn't slept since the previous Friday, the midwife advised me to take some Pethidine for the pain and try to get some rest. She gave me the injection, everything went all woozy and although I could still feel the contractions they seemed further away somehow. I was pretty high. The room started spinning and I couldn't talk properly, so I lay down and managed to drift in and out of sleep for a few hours. When I woke up, the midwife had come to explain to me what was going to happen that night and what my options were. They advised me that because it was my first birth and they were inducing me, that I should get an epidural because the contractions would come on very strong very quickly. I asked them how long they thought it might be before I gave birth, and they said they couldn't say but that they weren't even planning to check me until 8am the next day. Ten hours! I decided to take the epidural, contracting in pain all night after several days of no sleep didn't sound like much fun to me.

At about 10pm, we finally got told that a labour suite was available for us so we could be transferred out of the pre-natal ward. We'd been in there for eight hours already, and my contractions were starting to get stronger so we were pretty glad to be finally on the move. As soon as we got into the labour ward, I got changed into a hospital gown and the anaesthetist was called. He arrived pretty soon afterwards, and I remember being in really good spirits and joking with both him and the midwife in between my contractions. I think I was just so happy to be in our own room at last. The epidural didn't take long to do, but I do remember freaking out a little that it had done something weird to my legs. When a doctor reads out the risks of something to you late at night when you're in labour, and one of the risks is 'temporary paralysis' that's basically the only thing you hear. The pain relief was like a wave washing over my body. I couldn't feel the contractions any more, and my legs and lower body were heavy. Gav and the midwife helped me get comfy on the bed, and put some food and drink on the table so I could reach it At around midnight, I told Gav to go home and get some sleep. There was only a chair for him to sit on in the labour suite, and as we live only five minutes from the hospital it seemed crazy for him not to home and rest up in bed. Especially as we knew that we still had a pretty long way to go. We figured I would sleep until the morning, and it'd be much better if we both got some rest.

About an hour after Gav left, I started to feel really sick. I remember calling the midwife into the room as I was lying almost flat on my back and was so scared that I might vomit and choke. She adjusted my bed, gave me a bowl in case I was sick and an injection in my thigh to help stop me feeling so sick. It didn't work, and I was sick about four times throughout the night. I couldn't sleep as I felt so nauseous, so just sat up chatting to the midwife and listening to podcasts on my phone. Around 4am, one of the monitors started beeping loudly. The midwife told me to stay calm, but that the monitor meant the baby's heart rate was dropping rapidly and she needed to get a doctor. She warned me that a lot of doctors were going to rush in, all the lights would go on and they would be examining me to try to figure out what was going on. I cried immediately, I was so exhausted and overwhelmed, emotional because Gav wasn't there and I was worried that something serious was wrong. About a minute later, a group of doctors came in and turned on all the lights. One of them examined me, and I was told that the induction drugs had meant that my contractions were really strong and were putting a lot of pressure on the baby's head. They said everything was fine, but that they would have to turn down the drugs to reduce the contractions so the baby could recover. The lights went down, the doctors left and everything was quiet again.

Tuesday 5th January (39 weeks +2)

At some point after the doctors had given me the all clear and left the room, I dozed off. The first few hours of sleep I'd had since the previous Friday night. I woke up at 6.30am to find Gav had arrived back at the hospital and was stroking my head. I remember being so happy and relieved to see him, and glad that he'd managed to get some rest so at least one of us felt like they had the energy to get through the day.

The midwife came to check on me at 8am, to see how far dilated I was. They don't like to check you too often when your waters have broken, because there's a risk they can introduce infection. She told me I was just 4cm dilated, and needed to get to 10cm before I could start pushing. It was really frustrating, to know that after two days of labour I still wasn't that far along. She told me she'd check again in two hours, and see how far I'd progressed. Two hours passed, only another 2cm dilated. I did the maths and figured at this rate I'd not be ready to push until 2pm. Another four hours to wait. It doesn't sound like a long time really, but when you've been in labour for two days, even five minutes seems like too long to wait. I was exhausted, and beginning to wonder if this whole thing was ever going to end. Hearing 'we'll check you again in two hours' made me feel like I was stuck in a time warp, in a hot and windowless room, huge and pregnant and contracting for eternity. I hadn't slept in three days, had spent the night vomiting up any food in my system and I was over it. I think at some point I cried to the midwife "this baby is never coming out!" but she assured me that they all come out in the end. What if I had the first one that didn't? The first one that stayed in there forever.

By this time, it was 10am. The midwife checked me, and told me to wait two more hours. Midday came, I'm checked again, and again I'm told to wait two more hours. The midwife told me I'd definitely be ready to push at 2pm, so at 1pm I was to start easing off my epidural - basically not to press the button every 20 minutes to top up my drugs. Around 12.30pm I started to feel really strong contractions coming back. I panicked. The midwife called the anesthetist to come and check the epidural, but neglected to tell him I was due to push at 2pm and so just to give me a light dose. By the time he'd sorted the epidural it was 1.30pm, and of course, he'd given me a double dose to make sure I couldn't feel any contractions. At 2pm, the midwives checked me and confirmed that after three days of labour I was at last ready to push. They told me how to breathe and use my breath to rock the baby through the birth canal, letting me practice a few times before starting to push for real. I had two midwives with me, one watching all the action (lucky her) and the other feeling my tummy for the contractions to tell me when to push as my epidural was so strong I couldn't feel a thing. I pushed for an hour and a half, and nothing. Still no baby. Now I was more exhausted than ever, starting to get emotional and the baby was feeling the strain of having her head contracted for such a long time. They called the doctor, and I was told that the next step was to take me to theatre so they could try and get her out with forceps. If that didn't work, I'd need a cesarean.

At that point, I remember feeling pretty low. I was so tired and just wanted the whole thing to be over. I felt like I'd let everyone down by not being able to push the baby out by myself, and I was really scared and upset. I had to sign all the papers to authorise the surgery, the anesthetist topped up my epidural and checked me with a cold spray to make sure I was numb from the armpits down. It was around 3.30pm by the time everything was ready for me to go to surgery, when an alarm went off in another delivery room. The doctors all rushed out, and I was told there was an emergency C-Section that had to be done on another patient so I'd have to wait to go to surgery. Another two hours.

At 5.30pm, I was finally wheeled into surgery. It was a world away from the calm, dimly lit delivery room. Bright lights, loud radio, and so many people. They were all introducing themselves to me, telling me what their job was and then attaching various things to me - monitors, needles, I've really no idea. They had a big screen to monitor the baby, and the volume was turned up loud so I could hear the heartbeat. The midwife told Gav his job was to stay by my side, hold my had really tight and give me lots of encouragement. I remember him looking at me to ask if I was okay, and I just said "I'm so scared" and started crying. I felt so helpless, lying on my back with no feeling in most of my body, completely exhausted and unsure of what was about to happen. I could feel the doctor doing something, as even though you can't feel any pain at all with an epidural you can still feel pressure. He told me he had managed to turn Rory's head with his hand, and that he was confidant she was in the right position to be able to get her out with forceps. But, he said, "you're going to have to push really hard'. It's pretty weird trying to push a baby out of you with all your might, when you can't feel anything going on below your armpits. You just have to grit your teeth, push like hell and hope you're doing it right. I remember going for it with every last bit of energy I had, and pushing for what felt like about ten seconds when I heard everyone in the room start yelling "I can see the head!". Gav squeezed my hand and started crying, "baby, I can see the head!". Then all of a sudden there she was. My baby. I can't even really begin to describe what that moment felt like. Relief that it was all over, sheer joy at seeing my baby for the first time, utter exhaustion and confusion at what was going on. Gav was crying, I was crying, I could hear Rory screaming from the other side of the theatre where they had taken her as soon as she was born to check her. The doctor stood up beaming and said to me "you did so well" and Gav and I both cried back at him "no, you did so well!". He laughed and said "yes, I did do well didn't I?". So funny, that for him this was just another day at work, but for us this was the biggest moment of our lives so far. Such a contrast between those two things.

I stayed in theatre for another 20 minutes while the doctor stitched me up and the nurses cleaned me a bit. I dread to think what I must have looked like, but I got a bit of an idea when I saw the doctor stand up with his arms soaked in blood up to the elbows. In that moment though, I couldn't have cared less. I was on a hormone high from everything that had happened, totally overwhelmed with happiness and exhaustion. I remember having a chat with one of the nurses while I was being stitched up, like we had just met in a coffee shop. All very surreal! The midwife asked me if I wanted to do skin to skin with Rory right away, but I decided to let Gav take her to recovery ahead of me. I didn't want the first moment I held her to be while I was flat on my back being stitched up and all the hospital staff were fussing around me. It seemed too chaotic, and I could barely move any of my body. Once the theatre staff had finished with me, I was wheeled into recovery where Gav and Rory were waiting for me. I did skin to skin with Rory right away, and fed her for the first time. I can't tell you the relief I felt that my very long labour at finally come to an end, and with a healthy and safe baby at the end of it. And the hunger, wow the hunger. Gav had made a bag of food for me to have after the birth, and I must have eaten about three sandwiches and two packets of crisps in under ten minutes.

I stayed in hospital that night, but sent Gav home around midnight to get some sleep. My memories of that night are pretty hazy, but I remember being exhausted and a little bit in shock that I had this tiny sleeping baby next to me that I had to keep alive. I put a podcast on and tried to get some sleep, and I think I managed a little during the night in between waking for feeds and the general noise of the hospital. Gav arrived back at the hospital around 6.30am, and we spent the rest of the day in the hospital. They have to check a few things when you've had an epidural, like making sure you can walk properly and that your bladder works okay after having a catheter in. They also wanted to keep an eye on Rory because she'd been born with forceps, and was at risk of developing jaundice. I took a shower around midday, but was so weak that I couldn't stand and could barely get myself showered. It was hard to walk, and I pretty much only managed a shuffle around the ward. By 4pm we were getting pretty fed up of being in the hospital. The ward was loud, hot and busy and I just wanted to get home. They weren't keen on us leaving until the next day, but as we only lived around the corner they decided to let us go. At 10pm we finally got our discharge papers, and we left. I shuffled out of the hospital in my slippers, clinging to this tiny blanket-wrapped baby for dear life.