From the title of my previous post about the arrival of Ziggy (here), you probably twigged he was born on Christmas Day. Just.
This is the post where I'm going to go into a lot more detail of the labour and birth. If that doesn't interest you, here's a photo of the Cat. If you are interested, carry on reading below.
He was due on a Sunday. I had my 28 week appointment at 28+2, the Tuesday after the 28 week mark based on the due date. That afternoon, I developed Braxton Hicks 'practice contractions'. They'd build up until we thought labour was starting, then stop for 8-12 hours. This continued until the Saturday 6 days after he was due, when I felt a big shift in his position. He'd been beautifully head down and was close to engaged, back slightly to the side of perfect, so I was hopeful this was him (or it, as he still was at the time) getting fully engaged ready for labour. Contractions were 7 minutes apart for an hour. We kicked our roleplay group out and started clearing things ready to call the midwife. The contractions stopped.
Something was different when I woke the next morning. No contractions yet, but I knew this was the day labour would start. It was my big sister's birthday and I was a bit concerned it wasn't the most diplomatic day to arrive (though she would have been delighted). We met my younger siblings at a pub for lunch, then wandered back to brother's house for tea and chatting. Sister handed me niece, who was nearly 7 months at this point, and i sat and sniffed her head (sniffing the head of a newborn is said to help people go into labour. Of the old wives' tales on the subject, this is the only one I know anyone to have had any success with). Slowly, I became more confident that the contractions weren't Braxton Hicks any more, and Husbit and I headed home once more.
The midwife at the end of the line wasn't my midwife, and (given my niblings arrived in quick labours and based on what I described) she suspected I would have the baby if not that Sunday then certainly early enough on the Monday she'd be the one delivering it rather than my midwife. I was to call back as things progressed.
She didn't come out until the Monday morning. My contractions still weren't fully regular, but the intensity was such she came to check. I was 2cm dilated, though she could already stretch me all the way to 10 (I gather this is unusual and suspect relates to my hypermobility). She checked and found he'd gone back to back, and did a membrane sweep (which I was due to have that day anyway). When the contractions started making me throw up, she reassured us that this was normal for some women, something about the muscles helping push on the baby. She advised feeding me teaspoons of honey, as the sugars are absorbed through the gums so even if I ended up unable to keep anything down, at least I'd have some energy going in. I became very grateful for this advice. The midwife then left, saying mine would come along as soon as her shift started, which she did.
My stepmum had stayed over the Sunday night, and my sister came to relieve her on the Monday. I remember asking Husbit for a back rub, and the Cat, clearly concerned hopping onto my back and kneading the exact area. I remember my midwife making me lie on my side during contractions to help him back to the right position, only once she'd said I could labour how I felt comfortable again (labouring on you side is painful) I went back on all fours and he went back to the wrong position. I remember the gas and air making me feel even more nauseated and high and slightly out of control. I remember the birthing pool was the only place I had any comfort or relief. I remember squatting in it with Husbit pouring new water in close enough to my lower back to soothe it, but ont so close as to scald me, and staring at my sister saying "I can't do this" with her holding my gaze and very calmly repeating "you can do this. You are doing this. This is what doing this feels like." She doesn't remember what she said, but it was the combination of her calm tone and the focussed eye contact as much as the words that helped me through.
Progress was so slow. I was barely 4cm dilated by the afternoon, my contractions weren't coming at sufficiently regular intervals, and weren't consistent strengths. It was real labour, but it wasn't a good one. My midwife broke my waters and said she'd check dilation again a bit later, but if I still wasn't far enough we'd need to go to hospital. Bang went my secret dream of him arriving in his sac, but I was too exhausted to regret it for more than a few seconds. It was a weird experience, and I had a brief panic that the shower curtain we'd laid over the sofa wasn't waterproof enough before deciding I didn't care (turns out it was fine). I remember finding it a surreal experience, and that the waters were really warm, but I don't remember much else until we got to the time my midwife had said she'd do her next examination. She started to say that she'd take a look, but as I turned my exhausted face to her she said she wouldn't bother: I wanted to go to hospital either way. I could barely nod agreement, then had the panic that I couldn't have gas and air in the car. Even though I'd hated it, I felt like I couldn't cope without. My sister had to leave at the same time, but fortunately my stepmum arrived just intime to accompany us. She sat in the back of our car with Husbit driving and me desperately sucking on the mouthpiece (unconnected, I actually found it gave more relief because I could breathe deeply with it without worrying about the side effects) beside her. It's a 15min drive down nice, wide roads, but I don't think a drive has ever been so frightening for Husbit.
My midwife met us at the hospital, helped me into a chair and I was wheeled to the delivery suite. I could tell we were there by the grunts, cries and screams behind the closed doors around us. They quickly found me a room and my midwife handed me over to a stranger. Somehow, I hadn't realised that coming to hospital meant giving up the midwife I'd built a relationship with, and part of me wanted to change my mind and try again at home. I knew I couldn't, but I didn't want Marghuerita to go.
Among the other benefits of a homebirth is that my birthplan was pretty loose: I'd like to give birth at home, in the birthing pool. I don't want pethadine (family history of issues). I would like delayed cord clamping (default option for our local homebirth team). As for the injection to speed placenta delivery, we'll see how I feel when we get there. When the first of the hospital midwives took charge of me, she wrote down the ones still relevant: no pethadine and delayed cord clamping. She also asked us about cord cutting, and we offered that to my stepmum (as Husbit didn't want to do it), which she was delighted by. Husbit went to buy me some energy drink (something pink, either raspberry powerade or pink lucozade. I drank a lot of both over the next week). The anaesthesiologist arrived to talk me through the epidural, but she went faint and dizzy as she went to start the procedure so went home sick, meaning we had to wait for another to come over from the main hospital. This took so long and I was in so much clear distress that the midwife now in charge of me had talked me round on pethadine and had the needle in her hand when the replacement arrived. He went through all the spiel about the dangers etc, then very quickly fixed me up. He sprayed me with a cold spray to check it had worked - clearly had, because I remember giggling where it tickled my sides, though I couldn't tell the difference in where it should have taken effect, something the midwife noticed so she re-sprayed me more slowly after he'd left. She felt that the epidural wasn't quite even but not to worry about. I could still barely feel a difference between the affected and non-affected area, but it was enough. They examined me and found he'd swung into the correct position and I'd jumped to fully dilated in the time it had taken to give me the epidural, so while I was still in huge amounts of pain for 2 out of 3 contractions it had clearly worked.
I was now in the active, push push push stage. So I push push pushed. After an hour or so, he hadn't budged so they gave me an oxitocin drip. This switched up my contractions: the third weak contraction dropped away entirely, and one of the other 2 increased in strength, but he still wasn't moving. They upped my epidural a couple of times, though never so much I couldn't move my legs. They kept checking my pushing, telling me to push "like I was doing a poo" until I doubted my ability to defecate under normal circumstances (Husbit says he thought they were expecting me to actually poo - a common occurance in childbirth - and kept trying to explain to them I hadn't been able to keep any food down for over 24 hours so was unlikely to do so). Eventually, they got in a doctor, who checked, confirmed my contractions were still all over the place and that I was pushing correctly, he was just stuck. She said she'd be able to use forceps in the room and to call her back once I was prepped... I don't think it took long (though by this point I was so out of it I was sleeping through some contractions), but she'd been called into surgery when they went for her. I'd been anxious about being in stirrups, thinking I'd be working against gravity but the bed could be adjusted so that wasn't the case. I was in that active, push push push labour for 3 hours 56 minutes.
The consultant did eventually return. Very quickly, my epidural dose was increased (I heard the doctor tell me to do this, but was too tired so a midwife kindly did it for me) and I was snipped, the forceps inserted and I was instructed to push as they pulled. I was too exhausted. I had nothing left. The midwife pushed down on my bump for me. I must have dozed off immediately, because they'd told me to do nothing on the next contraction, but my experience was that that next contraction was the one where he arrived.
The floomph of his body leaving mine was intoxicating.
They switched off the epidural immediately. I heard Husbit and my stepmum's voices, but not the words. I heard someone - the doctor or a midwife, not sure - say he was a boy and I had enough time to think "but I wanted a girl! What if I can't bond with him?" before he was shoved up the hospital gown to land on my chest in a puddle of goo. I had two concurrent thoughts then. One at the weight of him: "That's not what a newborn feels like! No wonder I had trouble.".
The other thought, at the feel of him, the smell of him, the sight of him, was overwhelming, so powerful it must have deafened receiving telepaths and given all psychics a headache this county and the next one over.