This month I spoke to Brenna, who told me about what happened when she gave birth to Evelyn (6) and Henry (4).Â
I went into labour bang on my due date with my first baby â€“ it was 9pm on a Friday night and I was watching Michael McIntyre. At first I thought the pains were from laughing too much, but I soon realised that it was a bit more serious than that.
I tried to go to bed at 11pm, but the pain grew worse, so I ended up walking about all night, and calling the hospital at various intervals to see whether I ought to come in. Each time they said, no â€“ you need to wait until your waters have broken. So I followed all of the advice â€“ had tea, had paracetamol, had a bath â€“ but by 5am I couldnâ€™t bear it any longer, and we phoned the ward again. Still they said I should stay at home until there was some sign of my waters, but this time I was in too much pain to wait, and they agreed to admit me.
By the time we got there, I could barely speak for the pain, but I do remember asking through my gritted teeth for drugs. The midwife passed me some gas and air (which had no effect at all) and examined me, pronouncing that I was 8cm dilated, and that she was sorry, but it was far too late for drugs. Then I was put on a monitor and laid down on the bed, which â€“ very unfortunately for me â€“ meant that my labour slowed right down.
That time is all a bit of a blur, but three hours later, I was ready to push. Which I did â€“ but my baby kept getting stuck. As soon as I relaxed from a push, all of the progress her head had made down the birth canal was undone, and she slipped backwards.
Eventually a specialist was called, and after a very painful internal examination â€“ which included my waters breaking, finally â€“ she delivered my baby using ventouse (a suction cup attached to the babyâ€™s head, which I affectionately refer to as â€œthe plungerâ€).
Evelyn was safely born and completely healthy, but I think I was in shock at this point. The pain had been so intense for so long, and the internal examination had been so traumatic, that I couldnâ€™t really speak for a couple of hours. I was helped into a bath, and apparently I spoke to my mum on the phone, but I donâ€™t really remember that either. With time and rest, it eventually passed, and I started to get to know my beautiful little girl.
When I fell pregnant the second time, I was absolutely terrified of going through it all again. I had a lovely community midwife, and I would burst into tears of fear at every appointment â€“ and it was because of her that I had a completely different birth experience with my son, Henry.
I was nine days overdue, and had had two sweeps to induce me. Eventually labour started on Saturday evening â€“ weâ€™d been to John Lewis during the day, hoping Iâ€™d give birth in there and be entitled to some of the lovely gifts you get for it, but no luck â€“ but by other good fortune, my community midwife was on duty, so I called her and she came out immediately. After examining me and calming me down, she went home for an hour, then returned; and she kept this up all night, until 5am when she suggested that we go into hospital.
But by this time, the pain had taken over, and I was rooted to the floor, and supporting myself on the kitchen sink. There was no way I was moving, and she realised that there was no point in trying, so she decided to help me give birth at home â€“ although she did ask my husband to call for an ambulance, just in case some extra help was needed. I was almost fully dilated when the crew arrived. You know how police officers seem to recruit younger and younger constables? These ambulance guys looked like teenagers, but they did have some gas and air, and it was the good stuff this time. I was high as a kite by the time I was lying on my sofa, and getting ready to push â€“ and all I remember saying, over and over, was â€œIâ€™ve still got my socks on!â€.
So Baby Henry was safely delivered on the sofa by my lovely midwife Tina, while the young paramedics waited in the hall, not knowing which way to look, and finally leaving when it became clear that everything was fine. I did end up spending a few days in hospital, as it turned out, as the house was rather cold for a newborn baby, and we couldnâ€™t get him warm; but those few days were as relaxed as his birth was, in comparison to Evelynâ€™s.
The moral of my tale, though, is this: if there is any part of you that would like to keep the option of pain relieving medication open for the last stages of your labour, donâ€™t wait for your waters to break! You could be waiting a long time, and by then it will be too lateâ€¦