As Amber turns One on Friday, and today (21st August) it’s a year since our Birth Story began, I thought I should share the story of her birth. Grab a brew, it’s going to be a long one!
For a little background information, I had gestational diabetes in pregnancy which means I was recording the food I ate and testing and recording my blood sugar levels 4 times a day. I also had extra scans to make sure Amber wasn’t growing too big. All was going fine, but I wasn’t able to control my blood sugar levels with just my diet (even though I was so so strict with myself) so I had to take Metformin tablets too. Amber was growing fine and there were no issues, but the consultant still didn’t want me to go over 40 weeks, so we decided on an induction. Two weeks before the induction, I was given a sweep which didn’t work, but they did allow me to try a second sweep. Again, this didn’t work so we had to go down the induction route. I had been 2cm dilated at the first sweep, but there had been no change by the second.
Tuesday 21st August 2018
Our induction was booked for 7am at Burnley Birthing Suite Induction Ward. We were taken into a private room where I got changed into a nightshirt and they gave me some sexy hospital socks to put on. The staff all made me feel at ease and helped to calm my nerves, I really didn’t want to be induced, but I’d run out of options and nothing else had worked. I didn’t know what to expect, but the process was quite straight forward.
They monitored me (and baby) for half an hour, there was hope they might be able to break my waters rather than go down the pessary route.
Half an hour later, I was still 2cm and my cervix was quite hard still so they wouldn’t be able to break my waters. The midwife inserted a pessary which would start the induction process. It was a little uncomfortable, but after having had two sweeps I was used to that. From there it was a waiting game, we decided Dan should go into work so he wouldn’t lose any wages and we would call him if anything happened. My mum stayed with me and we spent a long time just doing laps around the hospital and eating anything we could find that was diabetes-friendly. It turns out hospitals are not very well equipped for diabetic patients. After a while, I started to have pessary pains, which are like contractions but they don’t come and go in waves, they’re constant and mostly in your back. I tried to keep active by walking and bouncing on a birthing ball, but it was awful. At one point, mum and I had gone for a walk and I had to get her to push me back to the ward in a wheelchair because I couldn’t stand the pains anymore. Mum then proceeding to bash me into several doors, she’s not a great driver, haha! Sorry, Mum.
I had a nice warm bath which really helped with the pains, and by 2:30 pm I was pain-free again but fed up as it was looking like the pessary part of the induction hadn’t worked to kick start labour. I still had to wait 24 hours (from 7am) for the pessary to work so we had a long wait ahead. The worst part was it was roasting, it was still really hot this time last summer, and I’d asked for a fan but the midwife was struggling to find one for me. The woman across from me wasn’t letting hers go and she didn’t even have it on! At 4pm I threw up. The heat had got to me, and I asked mum to get me a sick bowl, she was too late and when she came back I’d thrown up all over the floor. Shortly after, they found me a fan so I felt a lot better after that.
That evening Dan came to the hospital after going home first to get changed and get some bits I needed, and my mum went home for the night. Dan was allowed to stay on the ward with me overnight, but there was only the chair or the floor for him to sleep on. He decided he would stay with me rather than try to sleep at home because he wouldn’t have been able to sleep sat at home anyway, and he wasn’t going into work the following day. We had a little cuddle on the hospital bed watching Little Britain, which can’t have been comfortable for Dan but he was being amazing and doing anything I needed and I needed that cuddle. Poor Dan then slept on the floor all night, he didn’t get much and actually ended up writing a blog: My first night in a hospital | The Bearded Dads Survival Guide
Wednesday 22nd August 2018
As Dan was shattered, and nothing was happening just yet, I sent Dan home to get some sleep for a few hours and my mum was coming to sit with me for a while again.
My pessary had fallen out in the morning but I let them know and they were reviewing me at 7am anyway. I was praying I didn’t need a second pessary!
Just after half 7 I was examined again and I was now 3cm and my cervix was softer so they could finally break my waters! However, due to gestational diabetes and me being consultant-led, I had to have 1-1 care from a midwife, so this meant I needed to wait for both a room on the birthing suite and a midwife. Just my luck the birth suite was extra busy too, and it sounded like there were some difficult births going on, from how busy they were. We didn’t ring Dan to come back to the hospital just yet, we decided to let him rest until either something happened, or I was being moved to birth suite.
Mum and I spent all day walking around and eating again. When Dan woke up he came over to the hospital and we updated him. At 7pm we were still waiting to go to the birth suite, and visiting had technically ended so I should have only had either Dan or Mum with me, not both, but as they were hoping to move me soon they let them both stay with me.
Finally, at 10pm, we had a room and a midwife! The midwife broke my waters, this took a little while as the student midwife had a go first but she couldn’t do it, so my midwife took over, she got it straight away. At this point, I was 4cm dilated, so things were moving in the right direction. I’d been practising Hypnobirthing before had, so Dan put the playlist on, we had the lights dimmed and I got into an upright position. Contractions soon started and it was back labour so 90% of the pain was in my lower back. I was in so much pain. I used gas and air to start with and then I had pethidine which did really help with the pain. I also had really bad heartburn, which made me throw up a lot. I went through so many sick bowls, so I then had an anti-sickness injection and some tablets for the heartburn, both worked fine, and I was then able to concentrate on my breathing. I used the breathing techniques I’d learned through hypnobirthing and I can honestly say this worked so well for me. I breathed through contractions, using the gas and air as well, I was calm throughout and I actually kept nodding off a bit. This also meant I kept waking up and responding to conversations I was dreaming that my mum and Dan were having. It was quite funny really. I had Dan on one side of me, holding onto the gas and air and passing it to me when I needed it, and my mum on the other side keeping me hydrated with some water. I would have liked to have been more active during labour and I did struggle to get into a comfortable position, but I had to stay on the bed as they needed to monitor Amber’s heart rate.
At around 3am I had a natural urge to push, so I told my midwife who said I wasn’t quite dilated enough so I then had the drip form of the induction to speed things up. I was examined at 5am and I was then 10cm so I started pushing. By this time I was sick of the gas and air, it felt like it was in the way when I was trying to push and breathe so from around half 5 I had no gas and air and no other forms of pain relief. At some point, (it’s a bit of a blur) they were struggling to be able to monitor Amber’s heart rate through the monitors they attached to my bump, so the midwife attached a different type of monitor to her head. This meant I had a piece of string hanging out of my vagina which with every push would come out a bit more, and then after each push, it would go straight back in. I remember the midwife, mum and Dan all telling me I was doing well and the Midwife would say “You’re nearly there”. She must have said this over 25 times and after a while, I was starting to think she was lying.
At 8am it was decided that Amber was not co-operating, and we were going to have to go to plan B. Although Amber was ready to come out, and I was pushing, her head was at a slight angle. They were hoping that me pushing would get her into a better position but she was being too awkward for that. The consultant decided a forceps delivery was the best course of action and they talked me through all of this. The consultant explained that although they were hoping to be able to move her into a better position with forceps, there was a chance this wouldn’t work and I may need a c-section. For this reason, I had to have a spinal, which is a bit like an epidural, but not as long-lasting.
I signed some paperwork, took off my jewellery and changed into a hospital gown. (I’d been naked for most of the night haha). They wheeled me down to theatre and Dan was taken to put some scrubs on. The pethidine had worn off a long time ago, and my lower back was in a lot of pain again. I was still having contractions and each contraction brought so much back pain with it. In theatre, the staff were lovely. I had one particular nurse who talked to me, held my hand and helped me breathe through contractions while I sat on the end of the bed, as the anaesthetist was trying to stick a needle into my spine for the spinal. It took ages for them to get it in because of my contractions, but they got there in the end, and it didn’t hurt as much as I’d expected, just a short sharp stabbing pain. Apparently, I had the spinal and morphine, which I don’t remember the morphine, but I remember the effects. As soon as the spinal and morphine started to work the pain of contractions were gone. I was in zero pain. Within a few minutes, I went from unbearable pain to pain-free complete joy. I was suddenly much much happier. They asked if I wanted some music on, and said they had Spotify so I could request anything. Of course, I picked Disney songs, and they immediately put on ‘The circle of life’ from The Lion King. The perfect song to give birth to! We had a laugh and a joke and they all made me feel so at ease. I’d been very nervous for the spinal and the thought of a c-section, but they really helped to keep me calm.
Dan came in in his scrubs and we were ready to get started. The consultant used the forceps to turn Amber’s head and then they encouraged me to push. I couldn’t feel a thing so I’m not sure how much pushing I contributed but within a couple of mins she was out! Dan was able to watch the birth still, and one of the nurses took photos on his phone so we’d have photos but Dan wouldn’t miss anything. Dan managed to not pass out! We all thought he would but the adrenaline seemed to be keeping him upright.
So Amber was born on 23rd August 2018 at 09:41am. She was immediately placed on my chest for some skin to skin and she had a tiny little cry. I’m not sure what song was playing at the point she was born, but when she was placed on my chest ‘Do you want to build a snowman?’ started playing, so that song now makes me cry every time I hear it.
She was taken over to the side of the room to be weighed and measured, and they had cut the cord but left it long so Dan could cut it too. She weighed 7lb 6oz and was 49cm long.
While Dan was doing that they gave me the injection to help me birth the placenta and stitched me up as I’d had an episiotomy. They then did something to contract my womb, the doctor told me about it but I didn’t really understand (or care) what she was talking about at that point. I found out after I’d lost 800ml of blood so I’m guessing whatever she did, it was something to do with that. All I remember is what looked like the doctor moving both arms elbow deep, in and out of my vagina. Is this possible? I’m not sure, but that’s what it looked like. I was numb from the waist down and too interested in my new baby girl to care.
We were taken to the aftercare bit outside of theatre and Amber was put back on my chest again. She latched onto my boob immediately, and I was so happy that part was easy. My mum hadn’t been allowed in theatre obviously, so she had been nervously waiting outside, once in aftercare she was able to come and see us, along with my dad. Mum walked straight past Amber (who Dan was holding out for her to hold) and came straight to me to give me a hug. She was crying because she had been so worried about me having to go to theatre. It made me laugh because I was so relaxed. She then, of course, grabbed Amber for a quick cuddle before going home.
We then were moved to the postnatal ward, where we had a little rest and then Dan started to inform the family of her birth. We were both just so happy in our little newborn bubble.
Reading it all back, it sounds like quite a traumatic birth, a lot didn’t go to plan and there were some scary moments, but in all honesty, it didn’t feel traumatic for me. I was calm throughout, especially once I’d had the spinal, and it could have been a lot worse. Lots of other women go through much harder, more traumatic births than mine, and I honestly feel grateful for the experience we had. I’m grateful that Amber arrived safely into the world, I’m grateful I had such amazing support around me, I’m grateful Dan still got to cut the cord and be there to watch the birth, I’m grateful I got immediate skin to skin and that she latched on so easily. I love that our birth story has funny moments, Disney songs, and bits that make me cry. It was a beautiful experience, and I still can’t believe it was a whole year ago.
If you’ve got to the end of this blog, well done, and thanks for reading.
Em, Dan & Amber x