I always wanted a written version of my birth story to reflect back on. Throughout my pregnancy when asking friends and family about their experience, most of them had forgotten a lot of what happened and when. That’s completely understandable when so much goes on during it, and then your mind goes to mush once you become a parent. So, during the early stages of labour I made a conscious effort to note down timings, sensations and my progress on my phone whenever I remembered. When looking back at these notes, it helped to jog my memory and fit the pieces together to then write my full birth story: from the first signs of early labour, through to that precious Golden Hour post-birth.
Some trigger words mentioned below are: reduced movements, contractions, pain, episiotomy, forceps, blood loss and second degree tear. These aren’t triggers for me, but I know they may be for others, so I want to give the heads up now.
My birth story
I went to bed on 15th Jan 2023 with no signs that labour was imminent – we’d had a fairly normal day, enjoyed a 3-course Sunday lunch with my in-laws. The only thing we did differently that evening was go for a long 40 minute walk which I hadn’t managed to do in months due to pelvic girdle pain. I believe that’s what set labour off early the next morning…
On 16th Jan 2023, I woke up at 2am with mild period cramps. I went to the toilet thinking it was a bad stomach, but it wasn’t, then went back to bed. However, these cramps didn’t shift once and after 30 mins I felt my first contraction.
By 3am I’d had a couple more mild contractions and decided to move downstairs to have the freedom to move around. Although contractions weren’t painful at this point, just uncomfortable, lying down was not the position for me and I knew a UFO position would be more beneficial. This all goes back to what I learned during my hypnobirthing research which was what got me through my whole labour without pain relief (spoiler alert).
By 4am, my contractions were quite strong and frequent, which seemed odd that it was progressing fast (or so it felt) as a first time mum. I took paracetamol and my husband made up a hot water bottle and I remained on all fours on the floor hanging over a large footstool. My husband sat on the sofa behind me to apply counter pressure to my lower back and hips during contractions, which really did help to take the edge off.
At 5.30am I rang the Midwife Led Unit (MLU) where I planned to give birth (as shared in my birth plan) as by this point my contractions were every 3-3.5 minutes, lasting 45-55 seconds long for the past 1.5 hours. I’d purchased the Freya app by The Positive Birth Company for £2.49 to record all my contractions, but to also listen to their guided meditation to keep me calm throughout. The MLU advised to continue at home, take paracetamol and call back when the contractions were every 2.5 minutes apart.
At 6am I got in the bath which was a huge pain relief, highly recommended for keeping you relaxed also. I placed a towel on my bump and kept pouring water over it during contractions as the weight of the towel was comforting during each contraction.
By 7am, 1.5 hours after first calling the MLU, I’d taken paracetamol (which did nothing for me) and had been in the bath as my two forms of ‘pain relief’ and management, all whilst doing my up breathing (inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds) as per the hypnobirthing book. By this point my contractions had moved to every 2.5 minutes apart and lasted 50-60 seconds. So, I called the MLU and they said things are definitely progressing and it’s now up to me what I do: go in to be examined with the risk of being sent back home, or continue at home. I decided I was managing the pain well on my own, so I laboured at home for another hour before we both got to the point where we were concerned I could end up giving birth at home if I left things any longer (even if by this point labour had only been going for 5 hours).
At 8am I rang the MLU to tell them we were coming in. The car journey was horrible as it was timed with peak traffic, and there was no way to get comfortable. By time we were parked up and taken through to the assessment room it was 8.30am. Our midwife took the usual blood pressure, heart rate and urine sample from me and advised me to take some codeine and try a tens machine – no internal examination had been done yet. I just knew they were going to send me home based on the assumption I wasn’t 4cm due to me coping fairly well, which I was starting to feel frustrated by. I tried the tens machine and did not like it at all. I think it was just another sensation to handle which was over-stimulating for me. But also, trying to learn how to use it whilst going through contractions that were coming every 2-3 minutes was not ideal! I took the codeine under their supervision, but I was sick 5 minutes later, so of course had no chance to see if that would’ve worked for me.
Around 9am my husband helped me off the assessment bed and heard a big pop – my waters broke! The contractions got intense immediately after that and it changed everything – they didn’t send me home. Instead I was allowed in the birthing suite and jumped (not literally, of course) in the birthing pool where I stayed for two hours. I didn’t find the water helped my contractions too much at this stage, instead it just helped me stay really relaxed in between contractions so that once one came along, I was ready to handle it.
Around 11am I had to empty my bladder and then had an internal examination to see where I was. I was happy to do this as it was my first one and I was keen to know where I was – I should add that I had no idea of where I could be as I knew I was coping with the pain, but also aware my contractions were intense and very frequent. But to my own, my husband’s and my midwife’s shock, I was 9cm! My husband reminds me of the shock on my face when I was told this, and I was so bloody proud and happy! At this point I had been offered gas and air which was on my birth plan, but I wasn’t using it correctly and therefore felt no benefits. But also, using gas and air the proper way (once I found out how to actually use it later on in my birth story) would’ve meant I couldn’t use my up breathing technique which had already got me this far.
I spent another hour in the water after my examination and started to feel that pressure down below that you read and hear about, so I just let my body push on its own to see what happened. Shortly after 12pm though, I was asked to empty my bladder and if I could have another examination which I agreed to and was told I was fully dilated so to now start working with my body to guide the baby down.
This is when things started to get tough as I was pushing in all sorts of positions. I no longer wanted to be in the water (which in hindsight I wish I went back in as I think the birth would’ve ended on a more positive note), so from here on it was all on dry land. I pushed through contractions on the bean bags, on my back, on all fours and even backwards on the toilet. Baby’s heartbeat was monitored after every contraction and she was so content – no ups or downs at any point! So midwives were happy for me to keep trying on my own. However, the baby did keep moving around after every other contraction, going from back to front to back to back, which was causing a lot of lower back pain and difficulty in her moving down.
By this point I’d been pushing for 2.5 hours and very clearly had no more energy to push. I’d had 3 hours sleep given I was up since 2am with early signs of labour, and had no food due to being sick a lot during early labour, so my energy levels reached 0. So from here I was transferred to the Labour Ward to see what the next steps should be.
After a couple more contractions and a total of 3 hours of pushing, the doctors decided an episiotomy and forceps delivery was best, as my contractions were getting weaker along with me. The actual experience of being numbed down there and forceps delivery honestly was not bad, nor painful – I was not traumatised by it and IF I were to have another baby and it ended up this way again, I would not be scared.
I was guided through every step and once the forceps were in the head was born after one contraction, then on the second contraction our beautiful daughter was born at 3.08pm on 16th January 2023, weighing a healthy 8lb 2oz and measuring 49cm. I was 39 weeks and 5 days – 2 days early!
She passed straight to my chest, gave a cough straight away and the biggest cry, followed by coughing up some bloody mucus which was normal for the delivery type. It really is the most surreal feeling and still hasn’t sunk in. I was put on a drip for an hour for antibiotics due to forceps, and we were left to it for our golden hour where she latched on perfectly for her first breastfeed.
I had the Oxytocin injection in my thigh straight away and the placenta was delivered within 5 minutes all in tact
During the after-checks I’d lost a little more blood than they wanted, but I wasn’t too affected by this as my iron levels came back normal the day after and I wasn’t faint at any stage. I was just quite pale for a couple days Postpartum and they struggled to do additional blood tests the next day. The episiotomy also resulted in a second degree tear, but the recovery with this has not been bad. The first wee stung, but as long as I’m hydrated then every wee has been fine afterwards.
I’d love to know your positive birth stories!