We made it
29.05.17, 5:34 pm
She's here and it's all finally over. This will take a while to write about.
Had a bloody show all day, and then in the evening, on yet another hike around the park, had my first very-mild-but-definite contraction. Went home and watched Doctor Who, then went to bed. Contractions all through the night about 15 mins apart, only the occasional stinger.
Contractions all day, becoming sore when we went for hike no. 867 to try and speed things up. Came home, went for a wee and found a
bright red clot. Freaked out a bit so went in to get it checked, and to see how far along I was. Triage was a bit grim and full of people trying not to stare at each other. They discovered that my blood pressure was too high, whilst I continued to have contractions every 12 mins or so. Was only 2cm dilated however. Took some medication but BP still not great, so was told I couldn't go home. Was a bit daunted by this but went along to the ante-labour ward and sat there awkwardly. James had to go home at 9pm, and then I spent a lonely night pacing the corridors having contractions every 12 minutes. No sleep at all.
A strange tiny Iranian doctor checked me over, didn't seem bothered about my BP but was v interested in my TENS machine, and said that they'd break my waters, as I was now 2 weeks overdue. Was nervous but happy, but then spent a miserable day waiting for some action only for nothing to occur. No available beds or midwives on the labour ward. Contractions vanished then came back at tea time. Was so sad when James had to leave again at 9pm, but put a brave face on it. Feeling unable to do another sleepless night of walking through awful contractions, I worked on a birthing ball for 3 hours until midwife, when the pain was unbearable. Rang for the midwife and asked for some pain relief, she checked me and declared I was 4cm, in active labour and allowed to go down to the labour ward. I rang James, who promptly knocked the phone off the bedside table answering. 'I've done it, I've got to 4cm. She's finally coming.' He met me in the labour ward 7 minutes later.
Had my waters broken, which didn't hurt but just felt gross. There's no dignity in labour, you basically lie on a bit of towelling and wait for it all to flood out. Contractions became regular and strong. Started off with gas and air and Arctic Monkeys, singing through the contractions as a distraction technique. At the time it felt quite intense; in hindsight, was a piece of cake compared to what was to come. Gas and air is a total swizz - I thought it'd be great but it made no difference whatsoever, just gave me something to do. As I was 42 weeks and had high BP, me and Pommy had to be monitored at all times, which was really crap. It means you're hooked up to a machine the whole time, so can't move off the bed. After 2 hours the pain was insane, so I warn for some diamorphine. Almost instant blissful release - it is such great stuff. Chatted with the midwife about total nonsense, not sure how she kept a straight face. Was checked after 4 hours - only dilated another 1cm. Not good.
Was put on the hormone drip. Contractions began to become hideous - wanted more diamorphine but doctor wasn't around to sign it off, so had a hideous hour of waiting and dying. Finally had another dose and was OK again. Checked again, no progress - baby wasn't moving down. Was made to sit so Pommy was rammed against my cervix to encourage her - so very intense contractions-wise. Diamorphine wore off and there was talk of a Caesarian if there had been no further progress. I opted for an epidural - as always with these things, the local anaesthetic hurt more than the main event. James moved to the back of the room so as not to see anything - to be honest, I was glad I couldn't see anything either. Checked again after 2 hours - still no progress. Time for a c-section.
Was wheeled into theatre and was prepped in various ways. Tried to concentrate on the anaesthetist's face upside down above me, but felt so very drugged up. James finally joined me in scrubs, and then various tugging and pushing began behind the blue curtain. James started to look v overwhelmed so I started boring on about his mum needing to go to Sainsbury's when she came down as a distraction technique. Finally the anaesthetist said, 'This is it', there was a huge tug and then we heard a baby crying. Felt a wave of crazy, relieved emotion. The wonderful midwife brought her around the curtain and we saw Pommy for the first time - dark hair, chubby cheeks, perfect - and it was incredible. We both cried a little. Finally born 9th May 2017 at 2pm, weighing 8lbs 13oz. She wouldn't fit, basically - she was too big and my pelvis too narrow.
After that it's a bit of a drug-induced haze. All of the labour team were wonderful, including the two brilliant midwifes I had during labour, and I never felt I was in danger at any time. I was wheeled various places, Pommy had her first poo on the theatre nurse (sorry), finally landed on some holding ward. I dozed on and of thanks to the drugs, and was vaguely aware of James ringing various people. Eventually he had to go home, and I was suddenly very anxious at being on my own all night with Pommy. The NCT girls on WhatsApp reassured me that it'd be fine. Lay there with Pommy, on a drip, checking how numb my legs were, endlessly bleeding into a bit of padding they put under you - there's no dignity after labour either. Finally, at 1am I was wheeled off to the post-labour ward.
Wednesday - Friday
After that, everything turned into a nightmare. My blood pressure refused to come down or even remain stable, so they wouldn't let me go home. I had to have 24 hours of stable readings below a certain pressure to be discharged. I was trapped on a boiling hot, noisy ward with Pommy in a clear plastic cot next to me, people taking my obs every 4 hours and shovelling pills down me. Everything hurt from the surgery, I was told I was also severely anaemic, and the most I could do was hobble to the shower and back. The meals were tiny. I was really bored but also stressed and anxious. Every night I didn't sleep at all, too anxious about looking after Pommy and also constantly aware of all the lights, BP checks and endless buzzers going off. It was so hot, noisy and claustrophobic.
James stayed with me when he could, but he has to go home sometimes. I breastfed constantly, but was inexperienced and so soon my nipples were absolutely ruined and it was excruciatingly painful. On Wednesday night I was moved to my own room and the midwife assured me they'd let me go home the next day, but then Thursday morning the doctor arrived and said they couldn't discharge me as I'd had one rogue BP measurement. I cried, but eventually agreed to stay if James was allowed to stay with me during the night. Later, the midwife took my BP again and it was still too high and I cried again. They gave me an additional drug to take, and the 24 hour watch period started afresh. Pommy became more and more unsettled.
Overnight, James was given an armchair to sleep in. I tried to breastfeed but it hurt too much, so we tried a bit of formula in these idiotic cup things you have to use so they don't get confused. Pommy just wailed. James got a few hours sleep, I got none as we finally got Pommy to sleep on my bed, and I didn't want to risk kicking her. I developed a sore head and worried that pre-eclampsia had finally turned up.
On Friday morning, the first thing James said was, 'Right, we need to get you out of here right now, this place is making you ill.'bi don't think he could bear the thought of another night on the armchair. I spoke to the lovely midwife, who said my BP had been good overnight, and to the doctor, and said that I'd stay until the evening when the 24 hour period was up, but that I was going home either way. The midwife agreed, and the doctor came as close to agreeing as she could legally. Apparently it's very common for women with high BP to self-discharge afterwards as they're just so unhappy on the ward. Another miserable day passed, and Pommy looked really a bit unwell now, though I'd struggled to notice with the stress of everything else. Finally, the midwife told me that they were discharging me as my BP had become stable. I felt almost dizzy with relief. Finally got out after a hideous 3 hour wait that I can't be bothered to go into, bit finally got home at 8pm. Seeing the outside world felt bizarre - I'd been shut away so long.
Thought when I got home I'd feel nothing but relief and happiness, but instead I felt horribly anxious and overwhelmed. Tried to breast feed but ended up bleeding everywhere. Eventually gave in and just went to bed - before we fell asleep, James whispered that he'd missed me so much and then his voice broke. Very restless night but definitely got 2 hours sleep as had a definite dream.
The community midwife came and checked Pommy over, and also weighed her. She'd lost 12% birth weight, and the maximum they can lose is 10%. Felt devastated, like I'd let her down and failed in my most important duty: to make sure she wasn't hungry. Midwife was lovely, said not to worry as Pommy's start had been rubbish due to everything that had happened. She didn't send us straight to the hospital for 24 hours observation, thank God, but instead told us to just feed Pommy whenever she wanted for as long as she wanted. James went and bought a breast milk expressor and some formula milk, I expressed all day and we shovelled food down Pommy. She was ravenous and well up for it.
Finally got about 4 or 5 hours sleep and felt a lot more human. The midwife came again and weighed her, and she'd put on 250g in a day, and was now only 6% below birth weight. Big relief all around and midwife very happy. Pommy also looked much healthier. Realised that the reason she's been so unsettled during the hospital stay was because she was just really hungry all the time, despite my best efforts. Tried not to feel too guilty.
And Since Then
It's been insanely hard, I'm not going to lie. I had an awful case of the baby blues, which lasted a long time and I think is only just going now. At one point I thought it might be post-natal depression. For ages I worried that I wasn't bonding with Pommy, and that I didn't really feel much at all other than a huge responsibility for her. The Health Visitor came last Monday and assured me that it was OK, and that it was because the birth and everything after it had been so rubbish, and that the bond would come. And she was right, because it's definitely coming through now. At times she's totally confusing and frustrating, but I miss her when she's not around and her little random smiles and noises are the best.
Physically I've been awful, really unwell, but again better now than I was. The first 2 weeks were so bad I'd almost faint whenever I went up the stairs, and even picking Pommy up was mega sore. I'm still kind've trapped in the house now, but am slowly able to walk to a few places on the flat. It does still feel a bit of a prison though. I'm on a lot of BP medication but the threat of pre-eclampsia is gone now, so the danger has passed. And I don't have to do the grim stomach injections anymore to protect against blood clots. Still have to wear frigging flight socks for another 3 weeks though.
This whole entry feels sparse and perfunctory, but if I tried to write about everything properly I'd be here for a week. It's been one of the hardest 3 week spells ever. I've been up and down like crazy, had some really horrible, dark times, and often felt like I was going insane. And yet I'm still here, and James has been the most wonderful, supportive, incredible husband ever, and we have our beautiful baby daughter. She took so long to bake, and the last 10 months have been quite a battle at times, but I'm sure it was worth it. And I wouldn't have picked the way I gave birth at all - it was rubbish, and loads of effort for zero benefit, and I never got to push, and c-sections suck balls, but it got Pommy out safely, that's the main thing. And I know there are awful, stressful times to come - James goes back to work next week, for a start - but I think we're OK.
So here is Pommy, who we've decided to call Lara. This is who I've been writing about for the last 42 weeks, who gave me so much heartburn and backache and cardiac worries and general worries and sometimes would only deign to move after I ate a shed load of ice cream. Who we worked so hard to have, and who made us so happy when she was conceived, and whose scan pictures got us through the tough days. Who we talked about constantly, and felt the kicks and wriggles of, and tried endlessly to picture in our minds. She's perfect, even when she does two massive poos in a row whilst you're trying to change her nappy. She's perfect.