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Neave’s birth (Part 2 – the actual birth)

Posted on: January 6, 2012

Continued from here.

I slept as well as I could the night before Neave’s birth. I had the usual nervous, excited, anxious thoughts doing loops in my head all night, so it was hard. But, at least I was at home in my own bed, instead of sharing a room with another about-to-give-birth mother, and being woken and poked and prodded by nurses all night long. There were also no crying babies, blaring lights or beeping machines to keep me up. Just my unborn baby kicking merrily at my ribs. This was a new experience for me – I was in hospital days before each of my other births, so being home was nice for a change. When my alarm went off (just as I was drifting into the deepest sleep I had managed all night), I hopped out of bed, woke Tom, and set about getting breakfast. Tom, Tiernan, Molly and I ate together as a family of four for the last time. We told the kids that they would have a new brother or sister by the end of the day. They were excited. Tiernan wanted a brother. Molly wanted a puppy. We said we’d see what we could do.

We called the hospital at 7am, as instructed, to find out when we should head down. They were experiencing a bit of a rush and so asked us to call back in an hour. With some extra time to kill, I had a shower and made sure I had absolutely everything I needed in both mine and the baby’s bags. The baby’s bag was chock-full of white, yellow and green clothing. Having washed baby clothes to pack was also a new experience – we were completely unprepared for both Tiernan and Molly, so both had to wear hospital clothes for their first few days.

I don’t remember what time we ended up arriving at the hospital, but I think it was around 8:30am. We walked into delivery suite, were shown to a room, and met our midwife, Rachel, and her student (whose name I have forgotten). We showed Rachel our birth plan, which was quite specific. This being my third induction, I knew exactly what I was in for, but I also now knew, thanks to some research, that there were certain things I could have a say in. My assumption for my first two induced births had been that I had no control over the situation whatsoever, and no-one, at any point, gave me any indication that this was not the case. However, after extensive reading about what induced births look like in the UK, I suddenly realised that I should be the one calling the shots. It was my baby and my body, and the midwives and doctors were there to give me their advice, but not to order me around. So, after double-checking with my obstetrician that this was actually the case (he conceded, somewhat reluctantly), I wrote my birth plan.

In my plan, I stipulated that I wanted to be given the minimum dose of Syntocinon, the artificial hormone used to induce labour. I also stated that I wanted the dose to only be increased very, very slowly. The reason I was so specific about this is because of what happened in both of my previous births. The usual procedure for induction is to break the membranes so that the baby’s head puts pressure on the cervix and helps it to slowly open. Then the Syntocinon drip is started, with a low dose at first, and is increased every half hour until labour is established, which is defined as three strong contractions in every ten minute period. However, I read a paper on the OC Support UK website, which suggested that women with OC may sometimes overreact to Syntocinon, with far stronger contractions that what would normally be expected. Now, I don’t have any ‘non-OC’ contraction experiences to compare to, but I do believe that my body did overreact to the Syntocinon I was given to start both Tiernan and Molly’s births. Both times, everything went well – I started to have light cramps that gradually got stronger and stronger and became harder to cope with, as is to be expected. The reason they slowly turn the drip up is to try to simulate the progression of a natural birth, from light contractions in the beginning to strong, pushing contractions at the end. However, in both Tiernan and Molly’s births, there came a point when suddenly the contractions were completely, overwhelmingly strong, when I felt like I was being ripped in two and that the pain was going to kill me. It was unbearable. The first time, I responded by demanding an epidural, the second time my baby was so tiny that she was expelled from my body after only 4 minutes of pushing. The third time around, I wanted to avoid these crippling contractions altogether, if possible. I wanted to give my body the chance to do its job with only a little kick-start. My obstetrician agreed that this was fair enough, given that I had responded well to induction in both my previous births. For some women, induction doesn’t work at all. Since I had a good track record with it, he agreed that I could ask for the smallest dose possible, with the drip only being turned up every hour.

My birth plan also stated that I wanted to be able to try different positions throughout the birth, rather than being stuck on the bed or in a chair, as I had been with Tiernan and Molly. I knew this would be difficult, as I had to be attached to foetal monitors to make sure the induction wasn’t upsetting the baby and that she was safe. However, I knew from my reading, that it was possible – monitors can be repositioned periodically if they need to be, and turned off for short intervals for labouring women to go to the toilet or change positions. Despite this, Rachel seemed dubious on this point. She said she was happy to go along with my first request for as long as the labour was progressing satisfactorily. But as far as trying different birthing positions went, she really just wanted me to stay on the bed or in the chair. I was a little disappointed but had to concede the point. So, we got on with things.

We went through the usual procedure. I had a cannula inserted into my hand, through which I was given antibiotics for GBS. I then had my waters broken by an obstetrician, and the Syntocinon drip was started, on a low dose. Then the waiting began. As with both Tiernan and Molly’s births, I experienced period-like cramps to begin with. These showed up on the monitor, but barely registered. But they were there, and at least they proved that something was happening. This was enough to convince Rachel that we could indeed leave the drip at the lowest level for an hour before turning it up a notch. When going into a birth for the third time, most people would expect to be in and out of the delivery suite faster than ever before. However, since we were taking a new approach this time, I felt sure that this birth would actually take longer than Molly’s (about an hour and a half after labour was ‘established’), and possibly even longer than Tiernan’s (six and a half hours). I really thought Molly’s size was the biggest factor contributing to her fast birth, so I was quite dismissive of having this third baby quicker. The labour certainly took a lot longer to establish, which was to be expected, but  that didn’t concern me at all. I was happy to take my time. It was pretty boring though! At around lunch time, the delivery suite shift changed, and we were assigned a new midwife, Beth. I remembered seeing Beth around the hospital after both Tiernan and Molly’s births, so I felt very comfortable with her. It also helped that she was so lovely. I didn’t bother mentioning my birth plan to her, having already resigned myself to the task ahead, in my chair. However, Beth took the time to read it from my folder, and she came in to let me know that if I wanted to move around and try different things, she was all for it. I was so happy. By this stage, things were getting a little bit uncomfortable. The drip was still being turned up very gradually, and Beth was happy that we were making enough progress to continue taking it slow. After being unhooked to visit the toilet, I decided I wanted to stand up for a while, just because I could(!), so Beth set the monitors up with me standing. She also raised the bed right up so I could lean on it during contractions. I still wasn’t quite in established labour, but we were getting close.

This position worked for about an hour or so (I’m a bit hazy on the details), but I eventually got tired of standing / leaning up, so asked to try something different. We lowered the bed and I knelt on the floor with my arms on it, resting my head on my arms in between contractions. I’m not sure at which point I crossed over into ‘proper’ labour, but I think things started to feel a bit more serious at this stage, so maybe it was then. However, after a while on the floor, my knees started to hurt and I wanted to move again. I apologised to Beth for the inconvenience, but she laughed and said that this was exactly what she was here for, to make me comfortable. I felt really lucky to have her as my midwife this time around. We did more tricks with the bed, this time lowering the end so I could kneel on it, and raising the head to give me something to lean on. I found it hard to get comfortable there, probably because I had a baby coming out of me (slowly), so nothing was really going to be ‘comfy’. Beth brought me a ball to lean on instead of the bed head, but I just couldn’t relax between contractions in that way, so I asked to go back to the floor. Sorry Beth! Once back in my original leaning position, Beth brought a mat to put under my knees (covered in a sheet), and some extra pillows to make it easier for me to kneel. I decided I was much happier there. Beth also started getting various ‘baby’ things ready, which let me know that we weren’t too far away. She asked if there was anything else she could do for me at that point, but I said I was fine. It was getting to the point where I was finding communication a little tough. Tom was great throughout all of this, too. He was patient. He held my hand, rubbed my back, passed me water. Waited. There wasn’t really anything else for him to do.

As I’m writing this, I’m surprised at how ‘fuzzy’ Neave’s birth is in my memory. It is the most recent, but the hardest to recall. I think this is because it was the ‘nicest’ – I won’t say easiest because it wasn’t easy, but it was the one where everything went right and where I felt the most respected and in control. Tiernan and Molly’s births were both so jarring and, indeed, traumatic, that they have imprinted themselves so much more clearly in my mind.

So, some vague amount of time after returning to the floor, the contractions were stronger. I was getting through the pain by breathing slowly in through my nose, and out harder through my mouth. I found that when I concentrated on doing this, it was enough to distract me from the pain and it didn’t seem as acute. It was still there, and it hurt a lot, but I was coping. As the pain got worse, I think I moaned a little when I was breathing out. It seemed like the thing to do, and it helped a little. Maybe I was just trying to let Tom and Beth know that it was really hurting! Eventually, I started to consider pushing. I asked Beth whether I should and she said I should go with whatever my body wanted to do. So, next contraction I did push. I pushed out a poo. I can’t believe I’m actually including this detail, because it’s so embarrassing, but my aim in sharing my birth story is to tell the truth, and truthfully, this is what happened. Apparently it happens often. So there you go. After that I decided not to push any more for a while, and this worked fine. Until my body decided that it really was time to push and have this baby now. As with my previous births, when it was time to go, it was really time to go. Only, these pushing contractions were nowhere near as powerful or scary as the last two times. I attribute this to the Syntocinon drip being kept at the lowest dose necessary.

When I started really pushing, Beth knew because I also started yelling. A lot. She asked me to kneel on just one knee so that the baby would actually have room to come out. I somehow managed to do this, despite my legs feeling incredibly tired and weak – there is a down side to standing and kneeling during labour, you have to use muscles to support yourself! Through the next few contractions, Beth encouraged me by telling me my baby would be in my arms very soon. I concentrated on her words while I breathed and cried. I also squeezed the crap out of Tom’s hand. When my baby’s head was out, Beth told me to reach down and hold it so that I could be the one to catch her when she came out. This was another point on my birth plan, only, by this stage I had completely forgotten about it. But Beth remembered, and she made sure I did it. I will forever be grateful to her for that. With one last contraction, Neave’s body left mine, and I pulled her into my arms. She was slippery and warm, and quite heavy, I thought. Nice and pudgy, but just a little bit blue! And after a quick check, I also noticed she was a girl! She didn’t cry right away, which had me a little concerned, but Beth gave her a quick suction to unclog her nose, and she let out a quiet little wail.

Beth and another midwife (who joined us at some point in the proceedings without me really noticing), then helped me onto the bed so that I could hold my baby on my chest. They put a blanket over us, and got me ready to deliver the placenta. I was so distracted by my gorgeous, red-haired girl that I barely registered this going on. I held my baby in my arms, and drank her in. She had a cute little, round face, and dark blue eyes. I knew they were dark blue because they were wide open and staring back at me. After a little while, we had our first try at breastfeeding. To my amazement, Neave actually attached pretty well, and stayed attached for at least half an hour. It was slightly painful, so I did try taking her off and re-attaching her a couple of times, but this didn’t really seem to help much. In the end I decided that I wasn’t too bothered by the small amount of pain – it was worth it just to have her straight on the breast like a proper baby, instead of it taking months of hard work. Sitting there with my baby in my arms for such a long time after her birth, was like a dream come true to me. It was another ‘tick’ for the birth plan – I got to deliver Neave and was the only one who held her for the first hour of her life. Again, this was thanks to Beth, who did the usual measurements (length, head circumference) while Neave was feeding, and she waited until she was finished before weighing her (3065g, or about 6 pounds, 12 ounces).

It’s amazing how quickly after birth everything returns to normal. One minute, I’m in the ‘zone’, with almost no verbal skills beyond crying and yelling, unable to concentrate on anything other than giving birth. The minute the baby is out, all pain is forgotten, the fog lifts, and I’m able to carry out a conversation as if nothing happened. Only, something huge did happen – I gave birth to a baby! This is when the little details, that were totally ignored before, start to register. “What time was she born?” 4:58pm. “So that means the labour was how long?” 1 hour and 25 minutes. “What?” 1 hour and 25 minutes. “Are you kidding me?” No. You pushed for three minutes. “What?” And then, “Oh my God, did I really do a poo?” (For comparison, Molly’s birth was 1 hour and 15 minutes long, with a pushing stage of 4 minutes… so Neave’s birth was surprisingly quick, once we got going!)

Tom did eventually get to give Neave a cuddle, while I had a shower. Then we called his Mum and Dad, who had Tiernan and Molly, to come and see her. We had prepared some presents to give Tiernan and Molly, from the baby. They went down a treat. They were more interested in their new toys than they were in their new sibling, although Neave did get plenty of love, too. Tiernan didn’t seem to mind too much that he had another sister and not a brother. Nanny and Poppy were also quite chuffed with their second granddaughter. So everyone was happy.

The kids didn’t stay happy for very long, however, so Nanny and Poppy took them home after a quick visit. By this stage, it was time for the baby and I to move upstairs to the maternity ward. We were visited there by my sister, Kate and her partner, Mitch. Neave was sound asleep, and I really wanted to be, too. But I was happy to give Aunty Kate her first cuddle with her newest niece before turning in. As luck would have it, Neave and I were given a single room, yay us! After Kate, Mitch, and Tom all left, I eventually climbed into bed, exhausted, and tried to think of suitable names for our darling girl.

1 Response to "Neave’s birth (Part 2 – the actual birth)"

Thank you for sharing your story Anna (especially the poo bit! Why don’t people mention that more! It was a bit issue for me!)

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