written by his father
We went to bed on Friday 27th April with a full weekend of preparations planned. With a due date of 15th of May, we were adamant that L would, at the very least, be born in May. Shortly after midnight, C awoke to discover her waters had broken.
We called the hospital, and were told that we could go in immediately, or wait until 6.30 in the morning. We’d always thought we’d want to rush to the hospital as soon as they would admit us, but we surprised ourselves by taking their advice to try and get some sleep. At least, I did. C spent most of the night repacking the hospital bag and planning for whatever lay ahead. I’m not sure whether she’d slept at all when we got up at 5am. In keeping with a long held plan, C made herself a large bowl of pasta and pesto, which she ate while I loaded up the car.
At around 7am we arrived on Southmead hospital’s assessment ward. We’d been there previously when it had been full to capacity, but on this occasion we were the only ones . In fact, our arrival seemed like a major event at the end of what had been a dull night shift for the midwives on duty. C was strapped into the trace machine and it was established that everything was fine with L, but that contractions had not yet commenced. We were told to go home and return to be induced at midnight if labour didn’t start in the mean time. Again, we were advised to get as much sleep as possible, because as one midwife put it, “that’s it for the next five years.” So naturally, we went shopping.
Laden with energy foods we returned home and again I went to sleep. I suspect C slept a little too, but not much. The day passed extremely quickly, and although she did experience a few mild contractions, C still did not go into labour. At 11pm on Saturday we called the hospital again, and were told to come in at 1am for induction.
Very early on Sunday 29th April, around 24 hours after C’s waters had broken, we returned to Southmead. We were seen by a student midwife called Abigail, and at 2.30, C was given a Propess pessary to start the induction. The process was very painful, and not helped by the fact that Abigail had particularly stubby fingers, ill-suited to inserting pessaries next to the cervix. Propess slowly releases dinoprostone, a drug which causes the cervix to relax and dilate, thus initiating labour. We were moved to the Quantock ward in order to await this effect.
C had always imagined L being born on a beautiful summer day; a day which couldn’t seem further away as the rain hammered on the glass roof of the Quantock ward and a fierce gale raged outside. I was given a folding bed and again we were advised to sleep a few hours. In-keeping with our established pattern, I slept, but C didn’t. By 5 in the morning, she was finally starting to have painful contractions. Despite hardly having slept for 2 days, she found that she was unable to sit down. We tried the TENS machine, which helped a little, and later we convinced her to try gas and air, which she thought was amazing. By 9am she was having fairly frequent contractions and biting hard on the entonox inhaler. “Has anyone ever broken the mouthpiece?” C asked the midwife. “Oh no,” she replied, “although I’ve seen a few broken teeth.” It was around this time that we were told we’d soon be moved to the Central Delivery Suite.
This did not happen for another 3 or 4 hours, by which time C was in quite a desperate state and thinking about an epidural. She was sobbing with pain when we arrived on the delivery ward, where the howls of birthing mothers rang out from all sides. An examination by our new midwife, Tracy, established that C was open 4cm.
Most of the NCT-endorsed pain management products and techniques went unused. The electric tea lights stayed in their box, unopened. The carefully selected playlist of calming tunes remained in the suitcase. The birthball was deflated and stuffed in a bag full of cereal bars because we were sick of carrying the thing from ward to ward. All C wanted was an epidural. Unfortunately, the two anaesthetists on duty were both in theatre dealing with emergencies, so we had to wait long after the point where C had been saying she could bear it no more. She did bear it, however, through many cycles of exhaustion and agony. Finally, around 3pm, the anaesthetist arrived and a curious thing happened. C had a period of lucidity, and despite having been climbing the walls minutes before, stopped contracting and chatted to the anaesthetist quite rationally. I think a couple did occur, but she rode through them with a strange tai chi technique she’d invented somewhere along the way; a sort of zen howling punctuated by the rasp of entoxin. Explanations done, decision made, soon after the epidural was administered. The effect was immediate and a relief for everyone.
C was quite disappointed she’d had to have an epidural, but I think it’s a wonderful invention. The transformation was extraordinary. We even cracked open the CD wallet and listened to some Bill Evans. The catch; another examination established that she was still only 4cm open, and the contractions were coming more infrequently. It was decided she would need a Syntocinon drip, a synthetic form of oxytocin that encourages contractions. We were beginning to doubt that L would be born the same day.
8pm, and the shift change brought us a fresh midwife, Helen, a brisk, tell-it-like-it-is Yorkshire woman with 40 years of midwifery under her belt. “I’ll ‘ave this baby out by end of my shift” she promised, which meant by 8am the following morning. In fact, he was out just before midnight. Around 10.30, C was ready to start pushing and after one last hour of hard work, L was born, with a little help from a miniature sink plunger. L was placed on his mummy’s chest for the skin-to-skin, whereupon she broke into song, a Hungarian children’s melody that encapsulated her and child in a bubble whilst the team busied themselves delivering the placenta, which seemed to follow in seconds, and stitching up, which took somewhat longer.
At 11.34pm on April 29th, LDH was born, weighing 3.085kg.
We had had a long weekend, entirely consumed by the process of giving birth. Difficult though some of it was, we look back on it as a positive experience. C lost a litre of blood during the birth, and over the next three days she had to have 2 blood transfusions. The cannulae in her hands made feeding difficult in those first few days in the hospital, and by Wednesday we were desperate to go home. Looking back to the first 24 hours from induction through to birth, we feel happy about what we endured, but more than anything else, there is the indescribable delight at finally meeting our son after what has been an incredibly long and tiring journey.