I wanted to write down Carys’ birth story a week or so ago but I have only just had the time to sit down and type… I will probably only have enough time for writing the introduction but I am going to try (full disclosure I was right, the majority of this was written when she was 4 weeks old)… this was as far as I got when she was 4 weeks old. I also have drafts from when she was 6 weeks old, 9 weeks, 2 and a half months and 3 months. I struggle with finding the time and also that I seem to write epic length blog posts. Anyway… Here it is…
I have been trying to write down Carys’ birth story for such a long time but with 3 children, c-section recovery and Christmas I just haven’t been able to sit down and do it. I really hope I have remembered it all!! The birth I planned for with Carys and the birth I got could not have been further apart. I had planned a calm, serene, pool birth at home surrounded by candles, crystals and fairy lights, with only Joe and my awesome midwife with me, I planned for no pain relief, for Dylan to cut the cord and to find out the baby’s sex and then to relax with a placenta smoothie snuggling my newborn. That was not what I got at all. It was a weird day. It was a weird birth. The weirdest thing about Carys’ birth was that nearly all of the choices I made were the exact opposite to the choices I would have thought I would have made if that makes any sense. I just want to start with a little warning, whereas I feel that this is a positive birth story I know that some people won’t. There may be a few triggers for some. But I think it is positive from the viewpoint that I felt listened to, well informed and I felt like I was in control at all times during the birth. But like I said, some people might not agree that it is a positive story. You have been warned…
My due date was 19th October, which was a Saturday. My in laws took the boys out to the farm for the day and I stayed at home and pottered about. I was having little niggly contracts in the early hours and I thought they might ramp up a bit once the boys were out, but nothing happened. Once they got home, we had dinner and put them to bed and then I went to have a rather lovely bath. I had the lights off, candles and lots of bubbles. I just chilled and thought about my hypnobirthing affirmations and willed the baby to come out already. But nothing. The following day I woke up feeling like it definitely wouldn’t be today. I think Joe took the boys to the park and at some point I had a rather yummy nap with Evan. We went to bed last night and after ages and ages, I finally dropped off to sleep.
I woke up at about 3am. It took me a while to come out of my dream and I was a bit groggy. Then I realised that I felt a bit wet. Hmm. I waddled to the loo and there was a gush of fluid, not wee it felt different. It was very weird because I had been half dreaming and expecting this to happen since I was about 35 weeks pregnant during each pregnancy because this is what happened with Dylan. I sat there for a little while to let as much of the amniotic fluid drip out and feeling excited that birth seemed to be coming soon. I was planning how to wake Joe up, what I would say to Lucy, who I would call to look after the boys… Then I wiped. Ah. There was quite obviously meconium. Oh bollocks. I then noticed that there was meconium on the pad that I had been wearing presumably from the first gush of fluid while I was asleep. I waddled back to our room and changed the pad, woke Joe up and then called Lucy. Lucy reassured me that meconium doesn’t necessarily mean anything awful and said could I photograph the pad and send it to her. She also said from then onwards to keep all the pads I was using, keep them and number them. Lucy called me after about 5 minutes. She was upbeat and said that she was happy that the amount of meconium wasn’t significant and that she’d sent the photo to her buddy midwife Becky and that she agreed. Phew. She told me to get some rest.
I was settling back into bed when I felt another big gush and thought I better change the pad again so off I waddled. Ah. More meconium. It looked different but not vastly so I ummed and ahhed about sending Lucy another photograph. I wanted to be safe but also it was 3am… I took a photo and sent it and Lucy called me straight back. She wasn’t as happy anymore. She said she wanted me to get to hospital asap as the amount of meconium was significant this time. She wanted me to get checked over and she wanted me to go now. Right. Ok. I felt panicky and in shock. This shouldn’t be happening. I had planned for a home birth. This wasn’t meant to happen. Lucy was amazing. She reassured me that everything would be fine, she calmed me down and said that she could come with us if we wanted her too. I then had to think about who would look after the boys or more accurately who could I call at 3am to ask them to look after the boys. I decided that Helen would be the best option (Dylan’s best friend Blake’s Mummy) and thankfully she answered her phone and she was surprising coherent for a 3am phone call and she said she’d be straight over. I chucked a few more things in my ill-prepared hospital bag, flapped, got dressed, flapped, tried to organise Joe, flapped some more, waited for Helen and did a little bit more flapping. Helen arrived really quickly and we set off to the hospital.
In the car I rang my Mum to ask her if she’d make her way to our gaff once it was morning. Then the real panic started. I was trying to remember if the baby had been moving much. I knew that meconium in the amniotic fluid wasn’t necessarily bad (Evan had pooped in his water too but they only broke the push before he came out and he was absolutely fine). But I also know that it can be really bad. What if something was really wrong? What if baby was really poorly? What if baby was dead? What if? Of course, I said nothing of this to Joe. I was quiet. Stoic. Very unlike me. I felt sad. Sad that something might be wrong. Sad that I wouldn’t be having a homebirth. Sad that I was having to go to hospital. Contractions had started at some point. They were infrequent and very mild but were ramping up slowly. We had called the labour ward before we left the house and they were waiting for us, sort of. It is a busy place so we had to wait to be let in and then we had to wait to be seen. By this point I was nearly 100% convinced that something terrible had happened and I was preparing for the worst. I was hooked up to a monitor and they found a heartbeat and the Midwife said that baby seemed very happy, phew! She said that I needed to be monitored for at least 20mins and then we could decide what we wanted to do next. I think I called Lucy at this point and she said that a homebirth was definitely out but that I was still in control etc. She was very calming and made me feel like I could be more assertive. I felt ready to be assertive.
After the monitoring the midwife came back in for a chat. I felt ready to fight for my rights, to fight for as much of the birth I wanted as I could get. The midwife said that due to the meconium that they would want me in a high-risk room. I said that I didn’t want that. I said that I wanted a pool birth. I said that I wanted a hands-off birth with as little medical intervention as possible. I said that I wanted to be on the Midwife Led Unit. To my surprise she said that I would be able to do that if I wanted to. She said that at the moment the High-Risk room with a birth pool was free but that there was only 1. Hmm. We had a bit of a chat about monitoring. She said that in the high-risk room I would be monitored constantly and that I could have the wireless monitor so that I could walk around freely and that I could use it in the pool too. She said that on the MLU there wouldn’t be much monitoring at all, it would be very hands off. She also said that they would prefer if I was induced asap due to the meconium, I said no, explaining that I was having contractions and that they were getting stronger and that we could reassess the situation in a few hours or if anything changed. So which room would I like? And in the first of quite a few very odd decisions made by me this day I decided to go for the High-Risk Room with the birth pool. So, we were shown to our room.
The room itself was very medical, obviously. The baby resuscitation table was ready, the lights were really bright and it was all just not what I wanted. We were soon joined by my assigned midwife, Martine. We clicked really quickly. She started by saying how sorry she was that I couldn’t have the homebirth I had planned. She was sincere and kind and not patronising. She asked if we had a birth plan, I did not but I knew that I wanted certain things. She said that we should make a quick birth plan so that I got the things that I wanted and that were important. I said I wanted the lights as low as possible, I wanted people to talk to Joe rather than me if I was in my “zone”, I said I was hypnobirthing, I explained that we wanted to find out the sex ourselves and that we wanted the cord to be left uncut if possible so that Dylan could cut it at a later time. I said that I wanted to walk around as much as I could, I said that I didn’t consent to any sweeps, I said I didn’t want to be induced, I said that we want talking to be minimal, I said that I wanted to bring the baby to the surface after he/she was born, I wanted uninterrupted time with the baby after they were born for as long as I wanted, we wanted no hats on the baby when it was born, that we didn’t want the injection to get the placenta out, I said that I wanted to be left alone as much as possible and that I wanted as few people in the room as possible at all times. Our midwife was really lovely and so supportive of all our wishes. I started to get the room how I wanted it. I dimmed the lights, I closed the blinds, I turned on some nice ceiling lights, I requested a birth ball and I got acquainted with how the bed could go up and down. We got our bags in from the car and got settled. I got chatting with the midwife. She apologised that she would find the “not talking too much” bit of hypnobrithing hard and I said that I would also struggle with it and not to worry. She was really interested in how we had ended up with a private midwife. We talked about one to one. We talked about my previous births. We chatted about our families. We talked about the positive birth movement, about the book I’d just read called “How to give birth like a feminist”. We talked about home births etc etc. She got it. I felt very much like she was on my side and that she supported all my decisions.
We settled into the room. I tried to keep mobile, going between bouncing on the birth ball, doing hip circles on it and walking around the room. I was hooked up to the monitor and mostly it was working really well. Our midwife went to get us some breakfast (best toast ever) and tea (in fact she kept us full of food and brews all day). I contacted away happily. Things were definitely getting stronger and more frequent. Joe bobbed back home at some point to grab some bits and pieces that we’d forgotten (crystals and blessingway bracelet amongst them). I felt happy(ish) and in control.
Then it was the Doctor’s ward rounds and there were about 4 maybe 5 new people in the room. They introduced themselves to me. There were 2 consultants and some Junior Doctors. The Doctors and Midwife talked about me but not really to me. For some reason I showed them the photos of my meconium-soaked pads (don’t worry, I won’t add them in here haha). The female consultant seemed very confused as to why I wasn’t induced, I explained that at the moment I felt that I was doing ok, baby was happy and labour was progressing. How many centimetres was I? Well, I am not being vaginally examined so who knows. I felt like she was very dismissive and kind of rude but I was assertive and felt really in control and informed. I had asked the midwife if I could go for a walk earlier and she said she wasn’t really sure if that was a good idea. The midwife asked the Doctors if they thought me going for a walk was a good idea and the look I got was as if I had asked to play pop up pirates with myself and a load of knives. The female consultant basically said “no” because I couldn’t be monitored. But I said that I could have been on the MLU right now, not being monitored at all so being off the monitor for 20 minutes would probably be just fine. She didn’t roll her eyes but I could feel that she really wanted to. I said that I just wanted to get out of the room for a few minutes to walk down to the café, get Joe a coffee and come back again. I wasn’t rude but I was clear that I wasn’t really asking. After they went, me and Joe decided that we would go for a walk.
It was nice to be out of the room. We had a slow walk to the café; I think we both got a coffee and something to nibble and then we made our way back. We weren’t gone for very long at all. My tightenings were getting closer together and a lot stronger. The walk back was uncomfortable and I had to keep stopping to breath through the surge. My midwife gave me a bit of a check over and felt my tummy. She thought that maybe baby had turned and was breech again. Uh. Great. So off we went for a scan and guess who was doing it?! Yes, grumpy consultant! Luckily baby wasn’t breech, phew! And we went back to our room. The walk back to the room was really painful. It really felt like things were happening! Exciting!
Back at the room and things were progressing to the point where it was time to fill the pool up! Eek! I was getting really uncomfortable and Martine offered me some Entonox (best idea ever). Once the pool was filled the surges seemed to have died down again. I didn’t feel like I should get in. I bounced on the ball some more. Annoyed Joe some more. Chatted to Martine some more. Then the surges ramped up again. I felt like I was getting ready to push, the feeling of pressure was immense. So the pool got filled up again. But again when it was full I felt like the surges eased and that I shouldn’t get in. I can’t really explain why either. I knew the water would help with the pain but something inside kept stopping me from getting in. I just felt like it wasn’t the right thing to do. I used the gas and air more and more and got a little bit drunk on it at one point and bought myself some presents on etsy which I thought was really funny at the time. After about another hour had past I asked if we could fill the pool up. It felt right. I felt ready. So it was filled again.
I popped on my swimsuit thing and then thought I might need a poo (sorry, oversharing) … I think the midwife thought that I would have the baby on the loo so she insisted that I put the cardboard pirate hat of dignity in the loo (haha). I went to the toilet and disposed of the contents of the cardboard thingy and then I could hear that the monitor wasn’t picking up the baby anymore. Martine ushered me on the bed to reposition it. Nothing. She tried again. Nothing. I could see the panic on Joe’s face as Martine rang the “everyone get in here now” button. Suddenly the room was full of people. Someone was asking me to sign a C-section Form, someone else was asking me to get into a gown, a few people were trying to get the baby on the monitor, someone was trying to get a monitor on baby’s head. It felt so quick and so scary. I was agreeing to things left right and centre. Until everything calmed. They got a clip monitor on baby’s head and baby seemed to be fine. Everyone chilled out and we had a little chat. The head-clip-monitor putter-onner person said that I was only 1cm dilate. WHAT!? How on earth could that be?! I felt like I was ready to push not 5 minutes before. My midwife was surprised too. She felt birth was imminent. I was making all the right noises and doing all the right things. I was so confused. After all that I agreed to being induced with the oxytocin drip to get things moving. I was really freaked out and scared. The whole thing was weird. I felt as if the baby could be born at any minute. I felt like I needed to push at times. But 1cm dilated, what the actual fuck.
I was then prepped for the Oxytocin drip. My midwife called in a Junior Doctor to do it. A rather skittish bloke appeared and attempted to put the cannula into the top of my left hand, then tried the other hand… he looked a bit worried that he couldn’t do it. He was looking for another site and decided that my elbow pit (wtf is that bit called? The crook of your arm, who knows?). It was at this point where I stopped him. “erm, if you put it there I won’t be able to do anything with that arm!” I said, a little alarmed that he was going to attempt it. He admitted defeat and said that he would go and get the anaesthetist to do it instead. Phew. Yet again, I felt like that surges were ramping up. I felt a lot of pressure. The surges were bad enough that I wasn’t able to talk through them and that the gas and air wasn’t really doing very much. They were coming about every 2mins or so. It took the anaesthetist a while to get to me but when she turned up, I felt so much better, she was really lovely and very kind. She sorted out the cannula really quickly and chatted to me between surges. Internally I was feeling quite defeated. This was not what I had planned. This was not what I wanted. I felt worried about the baby and worried about my choices. Joe was being really positive and supportive; he was making me smile and keeping me going. I was texting and calling Lucy who was being positive and caring, telling me to keep going and that everything was fine. I was in contact with a few friends who were keeping me going via text. But it just felt like something wasn’t right. I don’t know why or in what way but I felt like my body wasn’t doing what it should be doing, I didn’t know why and I had lost trust in myself.
Before they attached the canula to the drip Martine wanted to check my progress because she thought that maybe things were progressing faster again. She said that my mood had switched a bit and that she thought that maybe I was starting to transition. I was feeling so defeated that I thought it might make me feel better to know that things were moving along so I agreed to a vaginal examination. She got gloved up and had a look in-between surges. Vaginal examinations are horrible, ugh. So uncomfortable! When she finished, she said “still at 1cm and I gave you a little sweep just to hopefully move things along a little bit”. At the time, I thought nothing of this comment until a day or 2 later when Joe mentioned it and then I was livid. I had not consented to a “little sweep” in fact I had been fairly vocal against having one. Why do women get subjected to this during labour? Anyway, back to the labour… 1 cm dilated. Still. STILL! It had been about an hour since my last examination (well, since the clip went on baby). Something inside me broke. I had lost confidence in my body. I had lost trust in it too. I was scared. I had spent so long building myself up to another lovely birth like Evan’s and it felt like it was all going wrong. I was scared that something terrible would happen. I was scared that baby wouldn’t make it. I wanted to have the baby now.
I asked that the midwife left us alone and I said to Joe that I wanted a C-Section. I couldn’t do this anymore. This didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel safe. I felt in safe hands and everyone who I had come into contact with had listened to me and gone along with my choices. But I felt like there was something going on. Baby’s heart-rate would dip a bit during each surge. I just wanted it to be over. Joe was amazing and so supportive. I was very upset and he looked after me. When Martine came back, I said that I wanted a C-Section as soon as possible. We talked about it, she tried to get me to continue with getting the drip going and she tried to make me feel more positive but like I said, something had broken in me, I just couldn’t do it. After a chat she was totally on my side and she went to get the ball rolling. Again, people came in to talk to me. They were all trying to convince me to keep going down the natural route but something felt wrong. I stood my ground. I was scared but I felt really responsible and I felt like I needed that responsibility to be lifted from me, if that makes sense. I was exhausted emotionally and physically, I was in a lot of pain and the pain was doing nothing to move the labour along, I was scared that something would go wrong and we would lose the baby. My intuition was just telling me something was wrong. Eventually they agreed, I signed the forms and we got gowned up. As we got ready and were left alone, I got upset again and Joe pointed out that I had never even considered a C-section before and the fact that I was pushing for one spoke volumes. I was scared. Really scared.
We went down to the Operating Theatre to get my spinal block put in. The surges were still strong and coming fairly closely together, I was so uncomfortable. When we reached the pre-op room, I was introduced to everyone and then the anaesthetist was going to put the block in. The anaesthetist who put in my cannula a few hours earlier was the one putting it in with an assistant called Jack. In my head I thought that this was a sign that the baby was going to be a boy because Jack was our boy name…. Jack was really lovely, very calm. He gave me some gas and air to help steady me as the spinal went in. To be honest, this was the thing that I was always most worried about birth. One of the first people I knew from school who had a baby had a spinal block that went wrong and left her with some pretty horrible symptoms so it was always something that I was scared of having and yet here I was wearing an open back gown, lent forwards on the side of a bed trying to stay still as a needle was being put in my spine… What a weird turn of events. The gas and air was a lot stronger but it was making me feel really out of it. The pain was awful and staying still was really hard. I felt like I was wobbling and spinning. I was aware that there were a lot of people in the room. I was aware that Joe must be worried. The midwife was with him. Everyone seemed upbeat and positive. Internally I was in a panic. Everyone’s voices were muddled together but I could hear exactly what each person was saying too. It was so weird. The pain kept coming. I found it so hard to keep steady. They tried to get the block in once. I wasn’t still enough. They tried again. Still not still enough. The pain was worse. I kept screaming from the pain. They tried again. Not still enough. Please keep as still as you can. The pain. More screams. Crying. Pain. They tried again. And still they couldn’t get it in. Putting the spinal in was uncomfortable. I was already in so much discomfort. I didn’t want them to try again. I didn’t want this pain. I couldn’t stay any stiller. So, I asked for a general anaesthetic. Yes, I understood that I would be asleep for the surgery. Yes, I understood that Joe wouldn’t be able to be in the room with me. Martine said she would stay with Joe until I was out of surgery and they took him out of the room to get me ready. At this point, I felt so sad. I couldn’t do anything right.
…Just a side note. I said that I was screaming during this bit of the labour and I really felt like I was losing control and screaming my head off. I remember screaming with each surge. I remember thinking that Joe must be freaking out seeing me like this. When we talked about this part of the labour a few days later and he said that I didn’t make a sound. Er, what? I asked him again. He said that I made no noises at all. In fact, I was eerily silent. Hypnobirthing works people!… anyway, back to the story…
With Joe out of the room and me lying on the bed someone suggested that maybe the baby was going to come out due to how I was acting so I was asked if I would give consent for another internal. Yes, just do it…. “only 3cm” (seriously, the word “only” should be banned from the birth room). I felt panicky. Worried. I started being a little bit nuts. I said to anyone close to me that I needed to survive this, I have 2 boys at home, we’ve already had a daughter die, Joe and Dylan can’t go through it again… And then I was counting down from 10….
…I could hear muffled sounds. People talking. Something on my arm. Someone touching my leg. My eyes felt heavy still but I wanted to open them. I opened them a little bit. I was in a very grey lit room with a few people quietly doing things around me. I opened my eyes fully and tried to talk. Ouch, my throat was dry. The pain from surges had gone but there was something dull hurting instead. Everything felt heavy. And then I could see Joe, he was the other side of the room to the left of me with his back to me. I can’t remember if I said something or if the midwife did but he started coming towards me holding a big bundle of something. The baby. Until then I had completely forgotten about the baby. It was all so surreal. I thought I would feel awful but I felt ok. Then I was holding her. We’d had a girl. A girl! Little Carys. She was looking at me and she was perfect. Everything felt better. Joe relaxed; I would see all the tension leave him. It felt like I had been out of it for a few seconds but it must have been longer because Carys was here! After a while I wanted to call people to tell them and I was shocked that it was about 2am… It was 6pm when I had last looked at the clock in the pre-op room. What the hell happened to the time. It wasn’t until the surgeon came to talk to me and then when me and Lucy read through my notes that I found out what had gone on…
With Joe out of the room and me drugged into a lovely sleep they started the C-Section. Carys came out quickly and with no drama. She was perfect and scored top marks on her Apgar Test. She was cleaned up, wrapped up and taken to Joe. Meanwhile they couldn’t stop me from bleeding. For some reason my uterus didn’t contract properly. After a while, they called a consultant to take over. The bleeding wouldn’t stop. They called another consultant. In my notes it says that a “major obstetric haemorrhage triggered” meaning that because I had lost so much blood (2000ml ish) that they needed to alert all local blood banks and all other teams that there is an escalating emergency going on. At some point I had an arterial line put in, 2 blood transfusions and they filled me with oxytocin. This all sounds really scary and it freaked me out a lot when we first went through my notes. The surgeon said to me afterwards that they might have had to do a hysterectomy if they couldn’t halt the bleeding when they did. The worst thing about all of this is that Joe could hear all the phone calls that were made to call the 2 consultants and the blood banks. I cannot even begin to imagine how he must have felt. It makes me feel a bit sick thinking about it. They got the bleeding under control, closed up and I woke up oblivious a while later. A normal C-section takes about 45 minutes but mine took over 2½ hours. Joe left me at 8pm and didn’t see me until after 1am. I have apologised to him a lot for putting him through that.
After going over what had happened during the C-section I felt really vulnerable for a long time. I think I still do a little bit. I felt as if I had dodged a bullet. It was such a weird feeling. I woke up feeling fine, obviously a little bit bruised and battered but mentally I was chirpy and so happy. I was off my tits on oxytocin I think. Oh and the morphine! I felt an immediate bond with Carys. I got that crazy rush of love and connection that I am embarrassed to admit that I just didn’t get with the other 3 babies (I did get those feelings but it took a few days each time). Breastfeeding started off well and continues to be lovely. It was just the birth that went tits up.
I started this tale (and well done for sticking with me for this long) by saying that I feel that this is a positive birth story and I really mean that. Yes, it wasn’t at all what I had planned and it really couldn’t have got any further from the serene homebirth that I wanted but I felt good about the birth. I felt like I was always in control. I was calling the shots. With the exception of the Doctors doing their ward rounds, I felt listened to the whole time, I felt respected and I felt like I was in safe hands. My wishes were taken into account and accommodated. Actually they left Carys’ umbilical cord very long so that Dylan could cut it! As it turned out as we were in hospital for a couple of days after and then Dylan was at school and we kept not doing it, by the time we did cut her cord it was a very dry and very hard twig of skin and we had to use some very heavy duty wire cutters to do it! During my births with Dylan and Eilys I felt very much like decisions were made for me, I felt traumatised afterwards due to things being out of my control and feeling like I wasn’t being heard. Evan’s birth was just perfect. Carys birth was positive in all the ways it could have been under the circumstances.
I don’t think I have completely come to terms with having a C-section. Now that I am fully recovered it feels as if it didn’t happen at all. It feels like it was all just a crazy dream. It was just that on the day something was going wrong. There was something that meant that labour wasn’t progressing as it should have done. Carys’ heart-rate was dipping with each surge and I had lost faith that I could do it. I think that if I had continued with the “natural” birth then Carys would have been compromised. But instead, I was compromised. I have talked about the birth a lot with Joe, family and friends, I feel like sharing my experience and talking to other people about theirs have really helped. I don’t feel like I failed at giving birth because I knew that the c-section needed to happen for whatever reason. I am happy with all the decisions I made on the day even thought they were almost all the exact opposite to what I would have thought I would choose! But if I had chosen differently on the day, maybe I wouldn’t be here to tell his tale or worse maybe Carys wouldn’t be here….
Thank you for reading this birth tale and I will update the blog with everything else asap!
Well done for getting to the end!
Thanks for reading