My first born has just turned 18 and I thought, what better time to revisit my first birth.
Wednesday, 25th October 2000 at 17:18 was the moment life changed forever. I gave birth to my first born, a daughter who I named Grace. 7lb 10oz of loveliness that I had spent 9 months eagerly waiting for. But before I go into more detail, I'd like to go back a bit, to a time before Grace was born, when the future seemed so unsure.
That little blue line on the pregnancy test was never so yearned for, so wanted and so damn fucking frightening all at the same time! I'd wanted children for as long as I could remember and this was the moment I had waited for - a positive pregnancy test. I had been in a relationship with Grace's father for about 18 months; we were living together, engaged and I thought we were happy. Looking back I was naive. Or perhaps I was just ignoring the parts I didn't want to see. My sole focus was having a family and at that point I was prepared to turn a blind eye to what I realise now was a very dysfunctional relationship - one deemed to fail and definitely not one to bring a child in to.
So I guess it was no surprise when at around about 4 months pregnant Grace's father left following the revelation that he didn't love me anymore and didn't want 'this life'. Gutted. No, that isn't an accurate description - fucking devastated! Like my whole damn life had ended, my happily-ever-after bubble well and truly popped. So, what now?
I'm not ashamed to say that I did consider an abortion and even made a phone call and appointment at the Mary Stokes clinic as I was past the point of medical termination by the NHS and I would have had to pay for the 'procedure' and probably have to 'give birth'. I did feel ashamed at the time but I had to go there, I had to consider ALL the options. But at the end of the day, my baby was NOT a mistake, she WAS very much wanted, at least by me. And, ironically, it was a conversation with her father that made my mind up to keep my baby and that I could do it on my own. My devastation and desperation had turned to anger and determination. How dare he tell me that I should 'get rid' of OUR baby? What sort of person is he to quite happily offer to pay for the 'procedure'? No. This is MY baby. And I DO want it, very much.
So there it is. The background to my birth story. Not ideal, not fairytale and definitely not what I had planned.
Fast forward a couple of months and I'm around 38-39 weeks, feeling fat and uncomfortable and oh, wouldn't you know? High blood pressure and protein in my urine. Those of you that have been pregnant will know that this can be a sign of pre-eclampsia. Big red flags are flying high, I'm told to put my feet up and relax (yeah, right!) and there's talk of an induction...
The next part of my story comes with a disclaimer: to all my past clients, current clients and future potential clients - I know SO much more now, about birth, about my rights. I know a lot more than I did at age 24. And so please don't crucify me as I tell you what happened because I guarantee you it will be what I tell you or have told you NOT to do!
Continued high blood pressure and protein in my urine meant I was to be induced just before my due date. Two stretch and sweeps were unsuccessful in getting labour started so I was admitted on to Robert Watson ward of Northampton General Hospital on the evening of Sunday 22nd October. Back then, would you believe, if you were being induced you were kept on the postnatal ward where there were women who had already had their babies. It was like a kind of torture - listening to babies crying when you're sitting there waiting for yours to arrive.
Between the Sunday evening and Tuesday I had several pessaries inserted into my vagina to try and get labour started. I say that quite matter-of-factly, however it was anything but as easy as it sounds. Vaginal examinations are not the most comfortable things to endure, I'll be honest with you, but add to that a posterior cervix (difficult to reach), several pessaries increasing sensitivity in the vagina every time and a vicious, heavy-handed midwife with absolutely no compassion and it was honestly quite traumatic.
"If you just relax it won't hurt!" She said harshly as she rammed two fingers up my fanny with such force it brought tears to my eyes. "There you go, it wasn't that bad, was it." It fucking was, I though to myself. I was SO pleased when I was next visited by a petite, gentle Chinese midwife with very small hands.
So FINALLY at lunchtime on the Tuesday ANOTHER internal examination confirmed my cervix was a whopping 1/2 cm dilated - whoop!! Only 9 1/2 cm to go! Not a lot, but enough to be taken to the delivery ward to have my waters broken.
Before, I go into full birthy details, I want to say a bit about my birth partners. My clients and colleagues will know that I talk about how important it is to choose your birth partners wisely as the dynamics in the birth room can affect your birth experience. Well, I didn't do this. My best friend at the time, who had been incredibly supportive, invited herself along and I didn't argue - after all, who else was I going to have? Ah yes, that would be my mother. I love my mum so much and she does me, too much probably, but I wasn't sure she'd be the best birth partner either.
So I finally get on labour ward and the midwife breaks my waters. I'm then advised to go for a walk around labour ward, which i do, with my friend, in an effort to get things going. After a good hour, not much is going on and so they decide it might be a good idea to get me on the hormone drip. So this means being put on a bed, hooked up to a drip and fluids whilst labour ramps up quickly and rather intensely. Gas and air soon becomes my very best friend. If it wasn't for the gas and air I would have punched my mum when she said during every contraction "ooh, are you ok?"
The rest is a bit of a blur, to be honest, and I'm not entirely sure on the exact order of events but here are the highlights:
As my pain increased my birth partners got more and more annoying so when they left the room during a vaginal examination I told the midwife not to let them back in.
I had pethidine - I did NOT enjoy this! Although it obviously reduced the pain quite dramatically, it felt a little bit like an out of body experience - it was scary to hear what was going on around me but not be able to respond.
I had an epidural... followed by a little sleep :-)
I had a lovely student midwife stay with me the whole time whilst my birth partners were probably going stir crazy with boredom waiting in the family room.
My best friend re-entered at one point, crying, saying how she couldn't handle it and was going home. That she couldn't bear to listen to my mum going on about what a complete bastard my ex was. Poor her...
So, to cut a long story short, the labour was long and painful and I vaguely remember being threatened with a cesarean at one point, but I progressed slowly and finally got to fully dilated when my midwife told me I could start pushing. She told me this because, with the epidural, I had no urge to push. I remember pushing as directed for a fair while but with not much happening. At this point the Doctor came in and explained that I may need an assisted delivery.
At this point, A LOT of people started to come in and out of the room -trolleys were wheeled in, gloves were put on and the panic started to kick in. I remember seeing the Doctor unpacking one of the instrumental packs on the trolley and seeing a glimpse of a pair of shiny forceps being taken out....'WHERE'S MY MUM?!'
Poor mum, bless her, she had been outside of the delivery room for HOURS just waiting and worrying, worrying and waiting. She rushed in and was by my side ready to support me through the birth of her first grandchild.
And within no time at all, there she was, a daughter, born under the sign of Scorpio at dinner time on a Wednesday. I'll always remember that moment, it was amazing. I had a beautiful daughter! Ironically, I hadn't found a girls name that I liked. There had been a few banded about over the months but nothing had stuck. So I spent what seemed like an age, gazing at my daughter and discussing with my mum what name she looked like, whilst being vaguely aware of the Doctor's hands between my legs, rhythmically moving up and down as she carefully stitched me back together following an episiotomy and forceps delivery.
"Grace" I said out of nowhere. "Perfect" said mum, smiling with a tear in her eye. It didn't need explaining, we both knew why this was the perfect name. I lost my grandad on Christmas Day when I was 18 years old, my nan lost her husband and my mum lost her dad. He was more like a dad to me, especially after my own father left when I was 13, and we were all devastated. One of my fondest memories was going to his house and playing on his massive electric organ. He was by no means an expert player but there was one tune he loved to play and played often... Amazing Grace x