Jonah's birth story, born 16th July 2012 (mum Tamsin)
Jonah was overdue and at 40 wks+12 the LRI wanted to book me in for an induction. I'd had 2 membrane sweeps, and both showed the baby was nowhere near ready; I always felt that my due date was a week out, and with both parents over 6ft, just a big baby, so I insisted on pushing the induction back a couple of days, on the proviso that I come in for tests that showed that both I and the baby were healthy.
For those next 2 days I tried everything to start labour off (I have never eaten so much pineapple in all my life!) and throughout Saturday I felt mild and very irregular period pains, but dismissed them as just the weight of a very heavy baby pushing down.
However, on the Sunday morning of my booked induction I woke at 3am with the same period pains, low down in my abdomen. These felt a little stronger than the day before, and were coming regularly at 10-15 minutes apart.
Elated that contractions had started naturally after all, I phoned the hospital and they told me to stay at home and update them throughout the day. I ran a bath, had some light food and bounced on my ball, practising the breath control. The contractions gradually increased in frequency, length and intensity, and by 4pm they were lasting up to 20 seconds and coming every 3-4mins, so the hospital asked us to come in.
We arrived about 5pm and I was put in an induction suite and hooked up to a heart rate monitor. The contractions were coming stronger now, and I was feeling a little dizzy with the intensity, but concentrated solely on my breathing and trying to relax my body with each outward breath. I had to go to the toilet at some point, and found that extraordinarily difficult when a contraction landed! After 90 mins on the heart monitor I was examined and the midwife determined I was 5-6cm dilated, and coping so well with the contractions that she found a room in the Kensington Birthing Suite much nicer with a rocking chair, mats and soft lighting ?- so I hobbled down the corridor with my husband.
I took a couple of paracetamol and settled into the rocking chair, just breathing through each contraction and trying not to fight it but go with the flow. It must have been about 8pm when I decided to try using the TENS machine, which, although it didn't seem to reduce the level of pain, provided a nice buzzing feeling on my lower back that felt somehow reassuring and helped to distract me.
A very nice and patient lady from Anthony Nolan came in to fill out the cord blood donation forms - warning - there are a lot of questions to answer so if you can do this before you go into labour I would advise it! I tried to answer everything as best I could but eventually she had to give up as the contractions were taking all of my concentration to manage, and promised to come back after the birth to finish.
Somewhere between 9-10pm I needed something more to cope with the pain, and transferred to the bed to be examined whilst I started gulping down the gas and air. Disappointingly I hadn't dilated much more, and Jonah was still lying on his side, which meant possible intervention to speed up labour. But I was adamant that I wanted minimal intervention, and my brilliant midwife Alice felt we could leave it another hour or so and check progress again then. I thought I should let gravity help so was helped off the bed onto the mat and tried a variety of poses on all fours, or on my knees over a beanbag and chair. I couldn't really stand up by this point, and these positions felt very natural. As each contraction started, I would take a deep breath of gas and air, then concentrate on breathing slowly out and rocking, remembering what Nerissa had said about movement during labour.
Upon my next examination Alice was happy that - although slow - my cervix was gradually dilating further. However, the amniotic sac was still intact, and Alice asked if I'd like her to break it to speed things up. Whilst I was keen to get things moving, the downside was that because Jonah was not in the right position, it would be harder for him to turn (if he was going to), and also more painful, so I decided against.
I continued practising the labour positions on my knees for several hours, but was getting very tired now, and the contractions weren?t giving me any time inbetween to rest. The gas and air was making me light-headed but no longer impacting the pain, rather I was using it as a mental tool to gear up for each contraction. My body was exhausted and I didn't think I could carry on so started asking if an epidural were possible but Alice was convinced I could do it (I think I was too far dilated by then anyway), and told me that this point - when I felt I couldn't go on anymore - meant the end was in sight.
It's a bit hazy now, but in the early hours of the morning Jonah must have turned and Alice broke my waters to help move things along. Around 4am I remember leaning over the beanbag and chair and suddenly feeling an urge to push, a bit like pooing. I transferred to a birthing stool, which looks like a potty with the front cut open, and my husband sat on a chair behind me with his legs spread to support my back, and the pushing really began. This is when I started to feel rising panic, and really had to concentrate hard to rein it in.
It must have taken 45mins for the final stage, as the head kept appearing then going back in. I remember asking Alice what he looked like, and her telling me she couldn't see the face because he was turned away, but he had pale blond hair. That must have given me a final burst of energy and one monumental push later, his head emerged (yes, there is a brief stinging sensation!) and the next push got the rest of his body out. Alice scooped him up and into my arms in one swoop and I took my first look at my gorgeous son, and felt the most incredible and overwhelming rush of love, protectiveness, amazement, relief and exhaustion all rolled into one. Jonah was born at 4.47am on 16th July weighing a very healthy 9lbs 5oz.
I was given an injection to pass the placenta more quickly and helped back onto the bed to deliver it, still holding Jonah to my chest. I had to have a couple of stitches afterwards (he was a big baby!) but because of the change in shifts, this didn't happen for a good hour or two after birth and I was more than happy to just lie there staring at my son! Amazingly he started suckling (how do they know to do that?) and I attempted my first feed using what I had learned in Nerissa's class - not wholly successful but a decent first attempt.
I found the breathing and relaxation techniques learnt from Nerissa invaluable for labour, as well as the positions for both birth and dealing with contractions. I now understand why we practised this so frequently in class - whilst in the midst of a contraction you have to hope that your body remembers because it is very easy to lose your calm! Although labour was the most difficult thing I have ever had to do, both physically and mentally, it was an incredible experience that I want to remember forever, and it really is worth all that pain and more when you finally meet get to meet your baby.