Nicholas was born a week ago, at 1.27 on Sunday morning.
Since my last post, another week went past without any sign of labour starting. As a precaution, I was booked in for an induction on the 20th, at which point the baby would have been officially two weeks late. I was told that I’d be offered a full health check before they went ahead and if the baby was still fine, they’d be open to the idea of holding off for a little longer, which was a relief to me as I wasn't keen on induction - partly because J and I were not convinced that our official due date was really correct. It was revised from the 16th to the 6th after our first ultrasound, so going by the old date, the baby wasn't even late yet. I was also worried about the higher risk of having to have a caesarean section if induction failed. As I may have mentioned, I've got a phobia about surgery and anaesthesia which I'd been doing my best to deal with, but I was still hoping to have as few interventions as possible.
As the weekend approached I was beginning to come round to the idea of going ahead, though, if the baby really wasn’t here by then.
However, I woke up at 5am on the 16th with contractions that were about 30 seconds long and 7 minutes apart. I lay there for a bit trying to decide whether to wake J up, and eventually I did. We’d been told at our ante-natal classes to phone the hospital when contractions were 7 to 5 minutes apart, so they’d know to expect us later, so we did. They said not to come in until contractions were 60 seconds long and three minutes apart or less.
It was a long wait for that to happen, though. For a long time the contractions didn’t get any closer together. This did give me a chance to finish putting the binding on the cot quilt I was making (perhaps Nicholas was waiting for me to get that finished?)
Mum came over mid-morning, since she was going to drive us to hospital and it seemed as though we'd be needing her services soon. But the contractions never did form a regular pattern, much to everyone's frustration - sometimes they’d be 5 minutes apart, sometimes 10. They stayed closer together but mild if I was on my feet and moving around, but if I sat down on the sofa or on my exercise ball, there was often a slowdown followed by a really intense one when I stood up. Not being able to predict the next one made it hard for me to distract myself with anything else! At this point they weren't hugely painful, though.
J was also there throughout and was great - he and Mum both helped with timing contractions and talked to me to keep me occupied. His parents live 350 miles away, but as it was a Saturday they drove up. Unfortunately they arrived in mid-afternoon, at which point labour wasn't speeding up at all - so much so that I was able to go to bed for a nap, and when I got up the contractions were more than 15 minutes apart again. I wondered if they’d driven for six hours for nothing!
At about 6pm, things started to move again. I had some intense contractions with 2-minute gaps, began to have some back pain which didn’t fade between contractions, and started to use the TENS machine which a kind friend had lent us. At this point I was mostly dealing with the contractions by getting on to hands and knees on the floor or sofa.
We called the hospital again and were told to come in, and got there about 8pm. We had to wait a bit to be assessed and get into our labour room but it wasn’t as bad as waiting at home; by this stage it no longer felt as though everything might just stop. I was examined and told that I was 6cm dilated, so things were definitely happening, but that I would need to labour on a ward rather than a birthing suite, because they had some concerns about my phobia of anaesthesia. I think this was just so that if I did need anything they would be able to provide it without moving me very far and upsetting me.
However, apart from not having a birthing pool available, I don’t really know what more would have been available in a labour suite - there was a bath, an exercise ball and some big beanbags, and I was free to move about and be in whatever position I wanted. In the end, that was mostly on the bed, though not lying down - I had the end raised and used it to support me as I knelt up, which was certainly easier on the knees than the floor. I used the TENS throughout and started to use Entonox after a bit.
During this stage, the contractions were fairly intense and I lost all track of time. I think I spent a long time just leaning over the end of the bed clutching the TENS control and asking J to pass me the Entonox inhaler at intervals!
The midwife told me that they’d check my cervix again at 2am but to say if I felt the urge to push any earlier, and at about 12.30 I did feel it. So they checked and I was fully dilated. Another midwife came in and they helped me to get into a sort of semi-squatting position against the raised end of the bed, and we got on with it. At this point I found it quite hard to feel when the contractions were happening because I felt pressure all the time, but the midwives helped with that. (J asked me afterwards if I’d noticed their “good cop, bad cop” routine, and he’s right - one of them was telling me how well I was doing while the other was saying “You have to push hard NOW, you’re wasting this contraction!”)
After around an hour of pushing, I had a small episiotomy because there was just not quite enough room for the baby’s head - it had looked as if it was going to appear several times but no progress was happening. At that point I was so ready for him to be born that I didn’t care. Nicholas was born a couple of minutes after that, beautiful and remarkably un-squashed looking. I had him on my chest right away and he breastfed four times before morning. We were really elated although poor J had only had 4 hours’ sleep since the previous evening.
The next day, Nicholas was very, very tired and slept for long periods without demanding any milk. This was a bit worrying, especially as when woken up he didn’t latch on very well. He was also a little jaundiced. However, I had plenty of colostrum and was able to express some to give to him by syringe, and that woke him up enough for him to feed on his own. He continued to have difficulty latching on when he was tired or fretful, especially at night when he seemed to want to feed constantly. We stayed in for three days in the end so that we could have one-to-one help from the midwives, but on Wednesday his jaundice was disappearing, he had had all his tests and was passed as feeding well - he’d only lost 5% of his birthweight - so we came home.
I feel very lucky that the delivery went so well, and almost nothing that I was worried about happened. I seem to have recovered remarkably well.
J and I are now engaged in learning to be parents (we've mastered changing disposable nappies and are getting better at cloth ones). J has taken some leave and is getting very adept at cheering N up by singing to him. N is so lovely and we are so glad to have him here.