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My Birth Story

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

It was the 25th May 2018, and I was minding my own business at home, four days over my due date, on maternity leave.

That morning, I’d noticed I was a little ‘damp’, but I wasn’t convinced it was anything really, but my Mam told me to just mention it to my midwife, to be safe. When I text my midwife, and described how I felt and that I’d lost a little bit of my plug, she told me to ring triage to get checked out, which I did.

I didn’t feel panicked as I thought it was nothing, so when they told me to go to my local birthing center, I asked if I could wait until the afternoon so my husband could take me.

By the time my husband got home, it was 4pm, and with my pad on ready to catch any of my potential waters, we were off.

As expected, nothing is ever simple, as we arrived at the birthing center, it had been closed due to not having enough midwives and too many pregnant mamas!

They told us we needed to go to the next hospital, which was about 20 minutes away. Like many irritated, heavily pregnant waddlers with SPD and a bad attitude, all the way back to the car I moaned and cried ‘I WAS NOT GOING’, thankfully, my husband made me. When we arrived at the second hospital of the day, we searched for the triage unit and when we found it, I was ready to go home again.

It was a narrow, long hallway, with a row of about twenty chairs on one side, full of the most miserable looking women and partners I’ve ever seen, many had been there hours and some were in a lot of pain. It was quite daunting, especially for someone who had never done this before. After about half an hour (which I still think was quick, considering), one of the health care assistants came and took us to one of the birthing suites, it was lovely. It wasn’t like a hospital room at all, it had mood lighting, a birthing sofa, and a comfy chair for Adam, it made me feel so much calmer.

Now, before I continue, it’s probably worth mentioning what my ‘plan’ for my labour and birth was. I wanted to have my baby in the local midwife led unit, the one everyone praises, but you have to meet the criteria to get in, because if anything goes wrong or you need assistance or a strong pain relief, you need to be blue lighted to the hospital about 20 minutes away. I wanted a water birth, with no pain relief, honestly, I wanted the dream birth.

Back to the lovely, calm room, the health care assistant offered us drinks, brought us biscuits and a sandwich and checked my blood pressure. Everything was spot on and then the midwife arrived. She needed to see if my waters had broke, and to do so she needed to insert a speculum and look inside with a torch to see if she can see a trickle. She asked me to cough, and guess what, I had a trickle!

It’s worth mentioning, the reason I was only damp, and it didn’t seem note worthy, was because it was my hind waters, so pregnant mamas if you are unsure, get checked! From then, everything changed, suddenly I had 24 hours to go into labour naturally or they would have to put me on the hormone drip to set me off, to avoid the risk of an infection. They told me that if my contractions started in good time, I could still have my dream birth, phew!

When we returned home, I needed to relax and prepare, because whatever happened, I was going into hospital the next day to have our baby! I waited patiently for a contraction, and every time I woke up in the night (which was a lot) I was left disappointed, until the final time I woke up around 6.30am with my very first contraction! They all say when you start having contractions, you just know, which is a cliché but it’s true.

It wasn’t agony, and I was happy to carry on without pain relief. They were lasting about 30 seconds, every 7 minutes, which is not enough to warrant going to the hospital yet, but I needed them to hurry up, as I only had until about 5.30pm before I had to go to the labour ward for the drip, which meant my dream birth, gone. By now, our bags and car seat were in the hallway and my sister had arrived to puppy, parrot and house sit for us and we were all getting impatient.

When 4pm came around, I rang the midwife led unit, and I got the first lot of news I didn’t want, I couldn’t have my baby there anymore. I was gutted, but it was because the 24 hour time limit was too close and it was no longer safe to have her there and my contractions were still not close enough or strong enough.

After the dreaded phone call, my husband decided to go to our local supermarket to get us both a meal deal, we had barely eaten with all the excitement, but in true Gemma style, as soon as he drove away my contractions came thick and fast! I rang the birth center, who told me to come in straight away, and told me I could still have my water birth, yes! But I had to sit and wait for Adam to get back first, as he had stupidly left his phone at home!

When he got back, we were straight off and I was in so much pain all the way there, but excited, my baby was coming. As soon as we arrived, they took us straight into the room I was in the day before and left us to wait for the midwife, but when she arrived, my dream birth slithered away quickly.

Unfortunately, it was way too close to the 24 hour mark, and the safest way to go forward was to be monitored in the labour ward, in a hospital bed, no birthing pool or mood lighting anymore. Yes, I cried, in fact I sobbed (hormones…), but if it was safer for my baby, then so be it.

We walked to to labour ward, to my own room and the midwife on then settled us in, we didn’t have her long though before she introduced me to the midwife I’d have for the next 12 hours, who honestly was amazing!

She hooked me up to the monitor and examined me, I was about 3cm and my front waters were still there. Before she did anything else, she had to monitor the baby, so she kept an eye on her heartbeat and I had to press a little button every time I felt her move, but all was ok, so it was time to pop my front waters.

Now I tell you no lie, as soon as she broke them, I went from pain level 5/10, still manageable and no pain relief, to 9/10 and begging for the gas and air!

From my experience, the gas and air doesn’t really reduce the pain, but somehow the feeling it gives you really helps and it gives you something to concentrate on.

Eventually, I was begging for an epidural, because in all honesty, the only way I could describe the pain was 11/10 and like someone was trying to rip a hole inside me.

I’m not trying to scare anyone, but it was horrible!

By the time they’d finally got round to me having the epidural put in (many told me it was painful having it put in, but I honestly felt nothing, I was just so happy to be closer to the pain going away), I had pretty much got myself to 8cm and the atmosphere changed, I was so much more relaxed after the epidural, I could still feel contractions and used the gas and air, so you’re not completely numbed, but I preferred that, it let me keep control.

I’m going to quickly go over the next eight hours, the first four was relaxing, and we were just waiting to be examined, and the second four hours I had a midwife change and was being told I’m still only 8cm and being put on the drip to get the last 2cm moving a bit quicker. The last 2cm never happened. On my final examination, when she told me I was still 8cm, even after the drip, she went to speak to a doctor, and honestly I knew what was coming. When she returned, she told me the doctor was coming to speak to me and she reckoned I was going to be offered a Caesarean section, I sobbed again. The doctor was actually the surgeon, and he was great. He explained that although my baby was not distressed, he didn’t want to wait another four hours and risk any problems arising, he would rather get her out healthy and safely, plus, she had done a pop inside me, lovely.

I agreed, and was then given forms of consent to sign, and everything explained to me.

Within 5-10 minutes, I was being wheeled down and having a spinal block administered. I was terrified laid on that table, so many people around me, talking as if nothing was happening. The anaesthetist and the two surgeons were so kind, the anaesthetist stayed by my head stroking my hair and reassuring me, and Adam doing the same at the other side.

Unfortunately for me, the pain relief didn’t work, which I believe is rare, but I was in pain, I could feel everything!

I ended up with a gas mask on, and all my pain relief topped up, but it didn’t have the time to kick in. Then the anaesthetist must’ve forgot he was holding the mask to my face and I was literally choking, thankfully my husband saw me distressed and stopped him.

It was the most traumatic moment in my life, I was terrified, whilst being the strongest I’ve ever been.

What I do remember, is hearing my daughter cry, and all my pain disappearing. I was in shock, and I had joy running through every vein in my body. It was the best moment of my life.

My beautiful daughter, Phoebe Rose, was born on the 27th May 2018 at 1.51pm.

I didn’t get to hold her first, but I loved watching my husband beam whilst holding our daughter, but I did get her as soon as I was back on the bed getting wheeled to recovery, (after the hunky surgeon gave my number a good run to keep my blood flowing!)

Phoebe was as good as gold, she never moaned or cried, passed all her checks and we had the bond you hope for immediately.

The recovery ward, for me, was hell. I was in a daze, and at the time you would usually get the chance to try and breastfeed, I had five or six members of staff around me all at once, one changing the bedding, one giving me a bed bath, two trying to take some blood and another injecting me with my blood thinner and trying to tell me how I’ll do it for the next ten days.

I begged them to give me a minute, as I suffer with anxiety and it was all getting too much, but they ignored me and told my husband to feed my daughter.

From all the stress I ended up throwing up and feeling overwhelmed by them all.

The one good thing about the recovery ward? Tea and toast! I did throw up my first slice, but it was still amazing!

Eventually I got moved out of the recovery ward to another ward where the bay was much bigger and I had the corner one with a window (a big thumbs up as it was boiling!), it was so much better. I stayed overnight, unfortunately my husband wasn’t allowed to stay, but the midwives really cared for me.

I was on my feet the next morning, catheter out (that had been dragging on the floor all night) and ready for home, to start our journey as a family. Although, trying to leave was a nightmare, and I had to shower myself hobbling and remove my own dressings as no one was around.

Although I’ve struggled for a while with the fact that I had to have a section, I healed perfectly, had no infections or problems and was out and about pretty quickly.

I will say this, the pain is hard afterwards, especially the trapped wind throughout your body from the surgery, but it does get better every single day.

It wasn’t my dream birth, it was the exact opposite, but you don’t care, you go into fight mode and power through it all, us women are strong! The end result? My beautiful, clever, healthy little girl and having a gorgeous little family.

It was worth it.

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