I can’t believe Hugo has been here for five months. The time is flying by and I wanted to post about his arrival while it’s still fresh in my mind. I hope to post about Ruby’s birth story at some point too.
A little bit of background for you. I’m no good at labour. I have the pain threshold of a gnat. Maybe you’re guessing how this blog is going to progress!
When I was near to my due date with Ruby, I had a few false alarms and was back and forth to the hospital getting checked out, only to be told I was 2cms dilated. That lasted a week! So, when we found out I was pregnant at the end of summer last year, the topic of labour was at the forefront of my mind. I wanted David to be aware of my low pain threshold and that I was actually the worst woman in labour, ever. Now he wishes he’d taken me seriously…
David’s lovely sister had recently had two boys and recommend I use her tens machine. I ordered the electro-pads in plenty of time and tried it out while I was off work as my maternity leave started. You can find it here. I was determined to relax and enjoy the experience this time round, unlike Ruby’s labour, where I found myself petrified of what was happening and felt completely out of control.
I’d been researching breathing techniques and had read a host of blogs about natural births. The birthing suite at Cardiff’s Heath Hospital is so lovely and if you give birth on the midwife-led unit, there are double rooms for your partner to stay overnight with you and your new baby. This was definitely what I wanted. You can see it here.
I’d spent the whole of Hugo’s pregnancy looking like a whale. I’m only 5ft 1 and to say I was big is an understatement; I was huge. “You’ll be going early,” everyone said, except I didn’t. I went two weeks overdue, by which point I was waddling like Jemima Puddleduck.
As this was David’s first baby, I was keen to make the labour and birth an enjoyable and memorable experience for him too. (Which it was, but not in the right sort of way!) So at fourteen days overdue, we were visiting my Mum when I felt some pangs. After an hour or two, I was certain this was the start of labour. Ruby’s labour lasted twelve hours and so by four hours in I was thinking I should say something to David.
By this time, we were at home in the lounge. After four hours I told David I’d been having contractions, which he said he already knew. He started putting his shoes on but I said it was fine and I wanted to stay at home as long as possible. (But he kept his shoes on the whole time, bless him) I put the tens machine on and sat back, ready to enjoy this labour. We were actually watching back-to-back episodes of ‘One Born Every Minute’ with me rocking back and forth on the birthing ball. It was so exciting to think we’d have our baby soon too.
After eight hours of contractions and two hours timing them, I thought we should go to the hospital. The contractions were anywhere from two minutes to five minutes apart but were definitely getting stronger. I was sure my second baby would just whizz out and I didn’t want to be caught short, so we packed my hospital bag into the car and set off.
In the midwife-led suite, the midwife who greeted us was so kind and gentle. We had telephoned to let her know we were on our way and she had prepared the room, which was L-shaped and spacious, with a birthing bed, pool and large wet-room, complete with various sized birthing balls and dimmer lighting. How lovely, I thought.
The midwife examined me and asked me to rate the pain on a scale of 1-10. I said eight. She took off her gloves and explained I was only 2-3cms dilated. In that moment I began to feel out of control. Again. After eight hours of contractions (and I haven’t mentioned the four ‘sweeps’ I’d had in the week running up to Hugo’s birth), plus having been awake all day and now for half the night, tears welled up in my eyes. The midwife reassured me that if I went home, had a bath and took some paracetamol I could come back in when things had progressed a little further. I think I knew then that something wasn’t right.
So that’s what we did. She did say she could admit me and give me a shot of Pethidine but that would mean I would need to go to the consultant-led ward upstairs, I couldn’t use the birthing pool and David wouldn’t be able to stay in the double room overnight too. I don’t know why this was so important to me, but it was. I think it’s a wonderful idea.
Back at home, David ran me a bath and by now, it was about 2am. I told him to try to get some sleep and got into the bath. No sooner had David got his pyjamas on, than I was shouting for him to come and help me out of the bath. Taking the tens machine off was not a good idea and the contractions were really painful. I dried off and put the pads back on.
I decided to try and get some sleep too but there was no way I could. We must have been at home for less than an hour before which time I was hanging onto the bed frame every time a contraction came. David’s sister had recently had an unplanned home birth and poor David was so worried this would happen, he bundled me into the car again.
It’s amazing how many different stories you hear about birth and labour. Some women love staying at home for as long as possible and for the entire thing, but I’m not one of them. I just want to know that we’re in safe hands and being told to stay at home as long as possible is just such a scary concept for some people, including me.
The 3am car journey to the hospital was like a comedy sketch. The road we had to drive along had numerous speed bumps which honestly made the contractions so much worse. We had to stop every time a contraction came, me hanging onto the door handle. I could see David was getting really worried and I was too. The hospital is only ten minutes away, but then the unthinkable happened. Who on earth has milk delivered by a milk float anymore? Some people in Cardiff, that’s who. With cars parked either side of the road and not really expecting many people to be out and about at that time, the milkman had casually left his milk float in the middle of the road, lit up like a Christmas tree! You can’t exactly beep your horn at 3 o’clock in the morning, so David was flashing his lights, revving the engine and waving his arms frantically. That poor milkman!
We finally made it to the maternity suite again but it took us about fifteen minutes to walk the 100 yards from the security entrance to the ward itself as my contractions were so painful we had to keep stopping.
The midwife examined me again and annoyingly, I was still 2-3cms dilated. We decided I would stay and try the birthing pool. I was really looking forward to getting into it and I felt a sense of calm as the water was running and the midwife filled out the paperwork. I was sure I’d have my baby in my arms by daybreak. However, my dip in the birthing pool lasted all of five minutes, the contractions unbearable without the tens machine. I was given a shot of Pethidine and transferred to the consultant-led ward upstairs.
The next two days passed by in a blur. I can remember bits and other parts I only know because David was there. After nearly 24 hours of labour, I opted for an epidural, which was wonderful when it worked. For two hours, I was able to get some sleep. I was still only 4cms dilated after all that time. Then I began feeling the contractions again on my right side. The anaesthetist came and told me sometimes this happens and we tried lying on my side so that some of the epidural drained across to the painful side. Eventually, I was getting no relief from the epidural at all. A few hours later, they tried putting another spinal block in, re-siting it in case that was the problem, but the same thing happened again. The only explanation they could give was that my body was producing so much adrenaline, which was counteracting the pain relief.
Throughout this whole time, David stayed next to me and in lucid moments, I can remember seeing him resting his head on the bed. At other times, I was just screaming at him to pass the gas and air. Midwife number three took it off me, you see. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without David there. He was just so supportive.
It was the fourth midwife who eventually asked if anyone had commented on the size of my bump. But they hadn’t. I was huge throughout my pregnancy, with a visible bump at 9 weeks but not one medical person had suggested it could be a problem, until now. I was 10cms dilated after 39 hours of labour but there was no sign of Hugo’s head descending into the birth canal.
I’ll remember the relief of seeing the consultants and anaesthetists entering the room forever. Finally, someone was agreeing that this wasn’t working. They prepped us for theatre and tried to pull Hugo into the birth canal with forceps, but that didn’t work.
And so, at 8.30am on April 14th, 2017, Hugo James Hale came into the world via caesarean section, weighing a whopping 9lb 11ozs and measuring on the 99th centile for his head circumference (That’s why he was stuck!) and for his length and weight too.
We are so thrilled with him; he’s really completed our little family and has filled a little hole we didn’t realise was there. And seeing David with Hugo is honestly the best thing ever. He’s just so gentle with him, it melts my heart. And then there’s Ruby. This little boy couldn’t wish for more in a daddy and big sister. They are everything.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read. Hopefully I haven’t put anyone off having a baby; this is just a really honest account of what happened to me. It wasn’t the candles and whale music I’d planned but we got there in the end, and that’s all that matters.