Today Nikki follows up on her first blog post where she shared her very itchy pregnancy journey. In this post she shares her birth story. It's raw. It's real. And it's a story that many of us can relate to. When your birth plan... doesn't quite go to plan.
WARNING: The following blog post contains images of a cesarean birth.
If you had told me at the start of my pregnancy journey that I would be begging for my labour to start by the end of it I would have burst into laughter at that hilarious comment. I've had a very real phobia of labour since I was 17 years old and watched my sister go through the traumatic birth of my niece, however by the final weeks of my pregnancy, with my PUPPs at it's peak and my body on fire, I wanted nothing more than labour to start and to meet my son.
I think everyone who has experienced pregnancy anticipates and imagines their labour in different ways. Some are excited by the prospect of their body giving birth to precious life, feeling strong and empowered. Some are scared, worried about what can go wrong and the pain it may bring. It’s totally normal for you to go through a range of emotions when it comes to imagining or preparing for labour.
Throughout my pregnancy, I wanted to get myself into a good headspace. I felt I needed to do everything I could to have it go as smoothly as possible. I started by reading some books that talked through mindset, breathing and other techniques you could use to remain calm and be as mentally ready as possible. I hired a tens machine, I attended birthing classes, I participated in forums, and I asked my mum friends for advice. I tried to cover every aspect so I would feel in control when the time came. I started to feel like I COULD do this.
I registered with the birthing unit at my local hospital, where I would be looked after via shared care with my GP and the midwives. Labour was in the birthing unit, with midwives with you and delivering your baby. I had nothing against getting pain relief, however wanted to see how I could do without it first. After all of my books and preparation, I was still scared - but feeling more confident that I could do this.
Giant pads from Bron to help prepare me for postpartum. TMM was already churning in her brain! Lucky we've upgraded the pads since then...
As my due date drew closer, I was ready. I wanted to give birth and meet my son and for the PUPPs agony to stop. I hadn’t slept properly for weeks, my son had been measuring 3-4 weeks ahead at each scan and I was happy to get things going. The midwives discussed inducing me slightly early due to the impact PUPPs was having on me, however I really wanted to try and go into labour naturally. 3 days after my due date my contractions started at 10 minutes apart at around 11:00am on a Thursday.
I messaged Bron shortly after my labour started - nervous and excited at the same time. She replied: ‘you can do this, just breathe through the contractions and trust your instincts... It will all go well, maybe not as you planned, but exactly what is supposed to happen. There is a warrior inside us that we tap into when we give birth. You will find energy and courage and strength you never knew you had’.
Texting other mamas for support during labour... highly recommend!
We’d been told in our appointments that we should only go into the hospital when contractions are under 3 minutes apart for at least an hour, and by 11pm Thursday my contractions were only 4-5 minutes apart, and remained at 4-5 minutes apart for the next few hours. The contractions were all in my back as he was posterior, and it was so painful. I laboured at home with my contractions 5 minutes apart until 11pm on Friday (36 hours after contractions first started) and I simply couldn’t take it anymore. I understood I hadn’t reached the ‘under 3 minute’ mark, however I hadn’t slept for days, was in what felt like continuous pain and just wanted relief. My partner called the hospital and told them we were coming in and that was that.
When we got there, the midwife got us in a room and told me she would check how dilated I was. After 36 hours, I was ready for them to tell me I was just about ready to push - only to burst into tears when she told me I was 3cm dilated. THREE CENTIMETRES. I had gone through 36 hours of contractions and had dilated three whole fucking centimetres? I couldn’t believe it.
They admitted me but warned me because of my son's posterior position that I would probably continue to be in labour for a while. In the meantime I tried the bath, tried the gas - nothing was helping. The midwives told me I had a choice between the morphine or an epidural next - and I chose an epidural. It took another hour or two for them to come with the epi, and by that time I had gotten to a grand total of 5cm dilated (woohoo!)
I received the epi and can honestly say I almost asked the doctor to marry me after it kicked in. I was not in any pain for the first time in weeks - I couldn't feel my contractions, I couldn't feel my PUPPs - I was feeling AMAZING. They manually broke my waters and found that they were full of meconium (when the baby does the first poo inside the womb during labour instead of after birth) and they warned me that they would need to have more people in the room ready with a suction at the birth in case he had inhaled any whilst in the womb.
So far, my birth plan was not going as planned. I’d been in labour for days, needed the epi after all, and found out I wouldn't be able to do skin to skin immediately after birth - however I was in high spirits (thanks epidural) and was just relieved to be in hospital and feeling no pain. I managed to get 3 hours sleep, and then it was showtime!
At 6am I was fully dilated, just waiting for his head to engage more so I could start pushing. At 7:45am, I started pushing. 45 minutes later, they told me he was stuck, and unless he moved in the next 30 minutes I would need an emergency cesarean. I burst into tears. By this point, it had been around 45 hours since my contractions started. I’d gone through days of contractions, an epidural, pushing - I felt like my son should be here by now, and yet here I was about to have major surgery. This wasn’t the way I pictured it going in my head.
At 9am, they prepared me for surgery. Shortly after, they began to operate. I could feel the incisions they were making. It wasn’t just pressure, it was truly painful. They gave me gas whilst they operated to try and take some of the pain away.
So ready to meet my son.
All of a sudden, I heard a cry and the words ‘you’ve got yourself a toddler!’ and my baby was quickly shown to me before being whisked away.
And what a boy!
I got to hold him not long after they checked him over, whilst they stitched me up. I had lost a lot of blood, and was then taken to recovery on my own for quite a long time. I didn’t know about this part before giving birth - I hadn’t heard that after a cesarean you could be separated from your baby and partner and put into recovery on your own.
I was reunited with my son an hour or so later, and with my partner about an hour after that. I asked my partner about the comment they made when he was born - 'you've got yourself a toddler!’. He laughed as he told me our son was 4.355kg - he did look like a toddler next to the other babies in neighbouring rooms!
100% worth it.
If you were to ask me if I would do it all again with the same outcome, I would say yes. I would do it all 10000x over to make sure my son arrived safely. Sometimes your pregnancy and labour doesn’t go as planned, and that’s okay. I spent a lot of time struggling with the way my pregnancy and birth turned out. I felt like a failure, like my body couldn’t do what it was ‘designed’ to do. I had subsequent issues with breastfeeding which compounded this for me as well.
It took me a long time to accept that it’s OK not to love your pregnancy. It’s OK not to love your labour. It’s OK not to love your postpartum days. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your baby. It doesn’t mean your experience will be the same next time. It doesn’t mean you aren’t a good mum.
Part of our mission at TMM is to share personal experiences from ourselves and also healthcare professionals to help normalise pregnancy, labour and postpartum. If you had an experience that didn’t go the way you pictured it, whether it be conceiving, pregnancy, labour, postpartum or breastfeeding - just know you aren’t alone.
There are billions of women in the world, and I can guarantee you that no two have had the exact same pregnancy and after birth journey - but we are still all just as worthy as each other.