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.