annmarie's birth story
I found out I was pregnant 6 weeks after being told I had a very low chance of becoming pregnant by a top London clinic so the thought of birth never scared me - I just wanted to embrace it all.
At my 20 week scan I was told that baby had IUGR and had intermittent cord flow. This meant that baby was closely monitored and in total I had 16 scans and for the last 4 weeks of pregnancy I was monitored 2-3 times a week.
Due to the complications, I was consultant led and I would need to be induced at 37 weeks. At 36 weeks, I was told that baby was breach and I would need a caesarean. However, I asked if we could wait a couple days longer as it was my preference to try for a natural birth and I had a feeling that baby would turn. Luckily, the next time I was checked, he had and we could go ahead with the induction.
I had a lovely pregnancy (despite the many hospital trips). I didn’t have any sickness or nausea, no tiredness or cravings. I even ran a half marathon at 17 weeks and travelled most weekends (until Covid-19 hit us). I had a huge bump which I was so proud of. Plus, I got to experience the uniqueness of a socially distanced baby shower.
As the big day got nearer, I decided that I’d like to try and give birth without a birth partner. I was going to be a single mum and it felt like it was going to be me and baby against the world, so it just seemed fitting that it would be the two of us at the birth. It also filled me with strength and independence. However, my mum was on standby incase I changed my mind.
At 37 weeks exactly, I was booked in to be induced at 6am. The early start worried me more than the birth! I finished packing my hospital bag the night before (I’ve always been a bit last minute) and my dad picked me up and drove me to the hospital. He had to drop me at the front door and his last words to me were “the next time I’ll see you, you’ll be a mum”. I nearly cried with excitement!
At 7am I was examined and had the pessary inserted. As expected, I had a closed cervix so that little tablet had a lot of work to do! I was moved from maternity assessment to the pre-labour ward at 8am.
Then, I waited. I watched Netflix, ate my snacks, read my WhatsApp messages (the words of encouragement from my friends and family were amazing) and played word games on my phone. It was all very lovely and I joked that I felt like I was in a hotel.
By 4pm I started to get mild period-like cramps. Nothing major and they weren’t being picked up on the machine when I was monitored but I could feel them and I wondered if things were progressing along. At 6pm, they were getting a little stronger and I started walking around the ward a little bit and bouncing on the birth ball.
At 9pm, the period like cramping were getting stronger and felt like they were coming in waves. I was offered two co-codemol which I took and then I changed into my pjs and went to sleep. I slept through until 1am which is when things really got going.
When I woke up, I immediately started walking around and gently swaying on the side of the bed as I felt the urge to move about. I requested more co-codemol but wasn’t able to have any until 3am after 6 hours had passed since the last lot.
So, I carried on moving, singing songs in my head (not calming music like I think it should be, but more Adele and Beyoncé) and generally walking around and trying to take my mind off the increasing pain. The midwives later said they didn’t even realise I was in latent labour as I was so calm.
At 2:30am I had a bloody show and we discussed that perhaps at 5am when I was due to be monitored next that I could move to the labour ward. However, my move to the labour ward came a lot sooner!
Just half an hour later at 3am, that famous saying of ‘you’ll just know when you are in labour’ proved to be true. It hadn’t occurred to me that the pain I was feeling up until then were actual contractions but they were and now they had really gone up a notch and they were starting to take all of my focus. I finally got my next two co-codemol but things starting moving really fast!
I remembered my best friend telling me that a really good position for labour was on all fours - so there I was on the hospital bed grunting and shouting into pillows on all fours. It was July and very warm and I rather strangely put my head out of the tiny gap in the window at times. I also began ‘moo-ing’ and wanting to grip or hit the pillows very hard! I started to get the feeling of wanting to push and I explained that by doing so relieved some of the pressure.
Labour was well on its way. I was very quickly examined at this stage and was told I was at least 6cms dilated but the midwives could tell from my sounds and actions that things were progressing very quickly.
The midwives were now trying to move me from the pre labour ward to the labour ward but I felt like I wasn’t up for moving just yet. I also asked (begged) for an epidural but was told that things were moving too quickly and I needed to concentrate on moving to the labour ward.
A wheelchair was brought to me along with some gas and air. I took one gasp of gas and air and dramatically and confidently told the midwives “that one isn’t working, I don’t want it” and refused to take anymore.. that was the last I saw of that it and indeed any further pain relief.
With a lot of coaxing from the midwives - mainly due to my stubbornness and partly due to the pain I was in - I got in the wheelchair. I was rushed to the labour ward. I remember the doors being flung open and lots of hurried conversations and supportive words of encouragement from everyone. I also remembering joking saying I felt like I was in Casualty and that I loved a bit of drama. But I still felt safe and ready for him to be born.
It was 4am when I was moved to the labour ward. Just before being moved, I called my mum and asked her to come to the hospital as I was having the baby. She said the 20second phone call was the calmest she’d ever heard me and she had no idea the baby was so close to being born. In between the contractions I felt calm and strong and trusted my body and I kept thinking how it wouldn’t be long until I was holding my little miracle baby.
Once in the labour room, I climbed onto the bed and I just listened to the midwives and did exactly what they said. The pain was still there but I just wanted to concentrate on their instructions as I knew focusing on something would get me through. I told them “the stinging hurts” and they agreed but they reassured me I would be able to breathe through the pain and gave me lots of encouragement. When the baby was crowning, I classically exclaimed that “I can’t do this!”, I was reassured that I could. I was asked if I wanted to touch baby’s head and I declined because I wanted to concentrate on pushing and getting past the sting. That’s my only regret of the whole labour.
I felt a pop and just knew that his head was out and I carried on listening to the midwives and gave a few long pushes and waited for the joyous first cry, which came soon after.
At 4:36am on the 16th July, a tiny 5lb 3oz Theodore was placed in my arms. I’d done it! “Hello, baby. I’m your mama” on repeat, I was so in love. I cut the cord myself. I’d always wanted to do that and it was amazing, I felt so strong.
I only had grazes which a doctor gave me stitches for and by 5am when my mum arrived I was sitting up and cuddling my baby. My lovely midwife told me that I was a natural at giving birth and I was so proud of myself. She also mentioned that we even had a bit of a joke and a laugh during labour which I loved as it proved to me that labour wasn’t scary.
After the birth, we had to stay in the hospital for a week because Theodore had low birth weight, erratic blood sugar and jaundice but we were well looked after and I managed a combination of expressing, breastfeeding and formula feeding. Two weeks later, we had to go back into hospital for a few days because Theodore was losing weight. After switching to formula and expressing, the issue was thankfully resolved. He is now a chatty, happy and smiling 4 and a half month old.
I love my birth story. It was perfect and I wouldn’t change any of it. It made me feel strong and empowered and so accomplished - it is one of my greatest achievements.
*Birth story and pictures kindly shared with consent*