I have given birth.
The majority of you will know this already due to my social media updates, but if you’re an occasional blog reader, you may have been wondering why it’s all gone a bit quiet about these parts of late.
Life has changed.
Four weeks old today, Master Frank William Hemsley is entirely responsible for my radio silence. I’ve been attempting to write this blog post since the week after his arrival but have just managed a paragraph here and there before he’s required my attention again, or I’ve chosen sleep instead, or more visitors have arrived, or I’ve just decided to stare at his face in total and utter shell shock.
I want to talk and talk. I want to go in to vivid detail about the first few days, about our feeding dramas, the baby blues, the devastation that is severe sleep deprivation, the endless googling, and, of course, the moments of stupendous awe and wonder that wash over me when he’s asleep on my chest, or clasping my finger, or gurgling away happily in his daddy’s arms. And I will… in time. Hence why I’ve started The Frank Diaries. Entries might be super short- just a little snippet of life with Frank I feel compelled to share in a spare moment. Or they might be a little longer, written over a few days or weeks as this post has.
Many of you may not be interested in baby stuff, but life with a newborn is all-consuming so I’m afraid I’m finding it rather hard to focus on anything else at the moment! I have wedding updates from Jennie and Paris to share, as well as Part 2 of my Utterly Wow 2015 Season post… but I’m hoping for now you will indulge me and my need to talk baby.
But first… his birth story.
At my 39 week midwife appointment I asked for a membrane sweep. I wasn’t desperate to have him then and there but I really didn’t want to be two weeks late and hoped the sweep would just move things along a little bit. After 2 minutes of painful prodding and poking up there, my nice midwife peeled off her gloves with a shake of her head. My cervix was high and to the side- which meant it didn’t look like labour was imminent. I thanked her anyway for inflicting such pain upon me unnecessarily (although I had noone to blame but myself), and gingerly went about my day.
At 1.30am that night I woke up in some discomfort. After going for a wee, I got back in to bed and the back ache began. Two hours of ouch ouch OUCH surges that felt almost on top of each other and had me lying awake wondering if this was the start of something. At 3.30am I downloaded a contractions app, crept downstairs to a dark living room and began timing. They were roughly every 8 or 9 minutes lasting about 40 seconds each. Painful, but bearable. At around 6.45am I took my oblivious husband a coffee and informed him that I believed I was in early labour. Ever the gallant knight, he leapt out of bed to get me some paracetamol, propped me up in bed with supportive pillows, and finished packing the hospital bag in preparation for our imminent departure.
Ah, who am I kidding? Bleary-eyed and just a little bit dubious, he questioned my claims, thanked me sarcastically for having an early sweep when he’d wanted me to wait it out, and asked if he could go in to work still as he had an important meeting. Of course, I knew from friends’ experiences and reading too many online birth stories that early labour can take hours and even days, so I allowed him to leave me on the condition that he’d come home immediately if things ramped up. As such he didn’t need to. The contractions continued steadily all day and he arrived home at 5pm to find me bent over the birthing ball with a TENS machine attached to my back like a total cliché. By this point the contractions were every 2-4 minutes lasting a minute each, so on my third pleading phone call to the hospital, they allowed us to make our way in to be assessed.
After a lengthy wait in triage due to a lady giving birth in the corridor toilet outside our room (!), a nice but somewhat distracted midwife told me I was 2-3cm dilated- not enough to stay at the hospital, much to my despair. Back home we went in a car journey from hell, with the instruction to have some dinner and a bath and they would see me back at the hospital later on that night, they were sure. Contractions had really ramped up by this point, and after managing a couple of mouthfuls of rice whilst bent over the birthing ball (I avoided the chilli as really didn’t want to see it make an unwelcome reappearance later on), I waddled to the loo only to discover I had begun bleeding quite heavily. We were back at the hospital within an hour and a half.
The bleeding was a concern so at 3-4cm dilated they allowed me to stay, this time hooked up to a machine so they could monitor baby’s heart rate and the contractions which, by now, were excruciating. It’s worth pointing out that Paul had truly stepped into his gallant knight shoes by this point and upon my very un lady-like commands was leaping up to furiously knead my lower back as each surge swept in. Birth partner brownie points to him.
About 9.30pm we were told a room was ready for me in Delivery Suite and I waddled round, clinging on to Paul for dear life. “And this is the room you’ll be having your baby”, declared a young, smiley midwife, as she showed us in to a vast, clinical and totally unremarkable hospital room. I thanked her anyway (I was half expecting her to reveal the ‘room rate’ next, Four In A Bed stylee), and veered straight for the nearest piece of furniture I could bend over.
My birthing midwife arrived and introduced herself at this point, and I found myself begging for pain relief, to which she completely flummoxed me by saying “Sure, what would you like? Epidural? Pethadine? Gas and air?”. For some reason I thought an epidural would only be offered when I was in the throes of active labour or when I’d exhausted every other possibility, but my ability to think rationally or decisively had, by this point, completely vanished. I looked bewilderedly at Paul who suggested I start with gas and air which the midwife proceeded to get ready for me.
Still standing (I think- it all becomes a bit of a blur at this point), with the next contraction came an extreme pressure down below. Having watched way too many episodes of One Born Every Minute, I knew this was something I should make the midwife aware of, who seemed intrigued by this announcement and told me to get on the bed so she could assess me. “Do you want the good news?” she asked, after a few seconds of poking and stretching, “you’re 10cm dilated.”
I genuinely don’t think I have ever been as shocked in my entire life, and my response (something along the lines of: “SHUT THE F**K UP”) I suspect conveyed this. To have gone from 4cm to 10cm in around 40 minutes went some way to explaining why I’d been bleeding so heavily, but having glanced at the clock when we came in the room and thinking I would most likely be labouring all night, I couldn’t believe that it was time to push and that it was very possible I’d be giving birth THAT DAY.
The next and final half an hour is a little more difficult to recollect, as by now I was sucking furiously on the gas and air and speaking mainly gobbledygook. What I do know is as follows:
- The midwife briefly disappeared (presumably to get ready for the pushing stage) and whilst Paul tried to understand my attempts at gas and air fuelled communication, we became aware of an alarm sound that was coming from the heart rate machine and steadily getting louder.
- Paul popped his head out in to the corridor to alert someone, and within minutes a swarm of doctors, nurses and whoever else was passing by (or so it felt like) were in the room, wheeling in various bits of machinery and talking at me urgently.
- I heard “baby’s heart rate” and “forceps delivery”. I also heard my name lots. One woman raised the stirrups next to the bed and put my legs in them; another callously ripped the tube from my mouth that was feeding me the blissful high and told me to hold on to the bed handles instead.
- I briefly caught glimpse of the ginormous forceps and instantly wished I hadn’t.
- When it was time to push- “In to your bottom, Sama, like you’re doing a big poo“- I got way too het up about the technicalities. “Like I’m actually trying to push out a poo? What if I do poo? I don’t want to poo!”
- My fear of unwittingly releasing my bowels in front of an entire medical team meant the first three pushes I did were pathetic. I knew they were pathetic at the time, and yet I did them anyway. I effectively just tensed my stomach and groaned for effect. The doctors weren’t impressed and at this point starting shouting at me.
- Realising it was actually quite urgent, and with the numbing effects of the gas and air fading away, I pushed properly and I pushed long and hard. With shouts of encouragement from everyone around me, and a doctor pulling on the forceps as hard as she could (I swear she was pushing against the bed with her foot), his head crowned and a baby’s cry filled the air which was simultaneously surreal, terrifying and wonderful.
- Cue a very surreal minute as we waited for the next and final contraction: me, so grateful and relieved the hard part was over, Paul, glancing down to look at his first borne’s head and seeing a view of his wife he would never be able to unsee.
And with a final push this little purple alien was pulled out of me and plonked on my chest, crying as loud and as hard as he possibly could. Due to the forceps and the speed in which he must have been forced down my birth canal, he looked completely bashed up. I’d like to say I felt instant love but it wasn’t like that. I felt a connection, no doubt about that, but the main feeling I had was that of shock and bewilderment. He was here. This was my son. This was Frank.
‘Til the next time I make it to the laptop…