For those who do not already know the details, I achieved mummy status at 9:45 pm on Monday night. The baby that had been known as Ruprecht throughout his gestation sprang into the world and became officially known as James. He is now 5 days old and appears to have got over his lengthy ordeal of a birth, which culminated in him being delivered by caesarian.
This being the internet and all, it is only proper to start with ‘pics or it didn’t happen’…
So… it’s been a crazy, emotional week. I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the onset of slushy, hardcore baby-love that kicked in with a vengeance around day two or three. It’s really quite surprising to find oneself suddenly moved to tears just by looking down at a tiny, warm little head on your chest. There are these crazy waves of happiness and adulation that coincide with a terrible hormone drop that turns you into a leaky tap of depair, where every problem and fear becomes desperate and keeps you up at night. But I believe the plummet usually only lasts a few days, so hopefully I might be a bit less mental by next week.
For anyone curious about the birth story and why I had a caesarian, I have elaborated below. (It’s a bit of a lengthy saga, but I wanted to record it here for my own benefit and memories.)
Things started around 8am last Saturday when my waters broke rather dramatically and I went into the antenatal clinic to find out what to do next. The answer was to go home and wait for my contractions to become 3 mins apart… so G and I went out to lunch and waited! The contractions started mildly that afternoon and by dinner time were severe enough for me to be rocking around with my TENS machine on its top setting. They carried on all through a sleepless night but were still about 10 mins apart, which meant it was too early to go into hospital.
The next morning I was dismayed to find them slowing down to every 20 mins and realised I was in for one of those long slow labours that takes ages to get to the next stage. (The internet informed me that some women can endure up to 5 days of early labour at home before they hit stage 2!) However, because my waters had already broken, I’d been given a maximum of 36 hours to reach stage two of labour before the hospital would have to induce me. So – after another day of slow contractions I was booked in for induction on Sunday evening.
All I can say of this middle bit is that it was the most miserable part of the labour experience. We arrived at 8pm and found the hospital practically deserted with only a skeleton staff on duty. After a while I was taken to a ward for examination and given a hideously painful sweep by a midwife, who told me I was already 4cm dilated and would therefore not need the first part of the induction – however Rup’s head was still higher than it should be. Also there was no room currently available to administer the next stage of induction, so we’d have to wait.
G and I spent the next 6 hours or so trying to stay awake by killing time in a waiting room, with me having painful contractions every 5-8 mins and finding the TENS machine not much cop by this stage. Eventually, at around 3am, the midwife told us to go back to the ward and try to sleep, as I was likely to be waiting a good deal longer for my induction to start. So, after another couple of hours of me groaning and writhing on the bed, a room finally became free and we were whisked into it for induction.
From here on I really could not fault anything that came next. I have long been a big fan of the NHS and after my birth experience I’m now even more so. I consider it a privilege to live in a country where so much care, attention and medical sophistication is available to anyone.
The second stage of induction involves going on a hormone drip that brings on much stronger and faster contractions. The midwife noted that I had asked for a water birth, but advised me strongly to reconsider epidural as this stage of induction was known to bring on a lot of intense pain that most women would not cope with. By this time I was so pained out from two nights of contractions that I said “yes please” without hesitation. Dear god, ladies, it was the best decision I ever made. I swear the next 12 hours would have been INTOLERABLE without it. I was so tired I could barely function, but thanks to the anaesthetic I was able to sit up in bed being all serene and occasionally dozing off, with only a mild awareness of the contractions getting faster and stronger. (Meanwhile G and I could hear a succession of god-awful screaming coming from other rooms).
The procedure lasted for the entire day, until the contractions became pretty much constant with only 30 second gaps between them – and I reached 10cm dilation. Every now and then the epidural started to wear off, and I got a taste of what the contractions would have felt like without it (!!!) Eventually I got good at knowing when it was running low and alerted the midwife without waiting for the full pain to kick in.
When I finally reached 10cm, it was time to switch off the epidural and push. I had been warned that Rup’s head still seemed higher than it should be at this stage and I might be in for a long and arduous pushing stage. But, as it turns out, if pushing were an Olympic sport, I could be a gold medallist. Who knew? Salt n Pepa would be proud of me. I went great guns for 2 hours on hidden reserves of stamina and I do firmly believe that, had it not been for an unexpected complication with Rup, I could have had a fairly easy unassisted vaginal birth with the epidural just by pushing when told to. However – throughout the process – the midwives were becoming increasingly puzzled by the failure of Rup’s head to pass through the birth canal. With every push they could see the head making fast progress towards them… but each time it looked like it was about to come through it got yanked back up inside at the end of the contraction.
Eventually they deduced that Rup must simply be too big for my birth canal (an assessment based largely on my size 3 feet) and called a doctor in to assess the options. The doctor advised for C Section but offered me an alternative of trying to pull him out via forceps & ventouse if I preferred, which may not succeed given how high up he still was. By this time I was knackered beyond belief and suffering from the epidural being turned off and said “yes please” to the C. (This turned out to be the other best decision I ever made… )
The C section took place almost immediately, once the epidural had been cranked back up, and we were whisked off to theatre. (Incidentally G looked really cute in his scrubs). A lot of people introduced themselves to me and a screen was put up… and the baby was out in ten minutes. Through a fug of drugs and tiredness I was aware of the surgeon informing me that the reason Rup had not been able to deliver vaginally (and presumably the reason his head had never descended fully) was that he had become tangled up in the umbilical cord, which was wrapped twice around his neck. He had spent the entire labour effectively being bungeed up and down the birth canal with every contraction – my body trying to push him down, while a garotte was pulling him back up. I can only imagine what a stressful time that was for the poor little thing. I suppose it was just a freak entanglement that nobody could have seen until I was opened up… but I fear it could have ended in tragedy if I’d gone for the forceps option.
Anyway all ended well and I got a fleeting glimpse of him as he was whisked over my head for assessment and I was a bit teary by this stage. A few minutes later we heard him cry and he was brought over to Glen to hold, but I wasn’t able to see him easily by turning my head and I had to endure a 40 minute wait while everything was stitched back up before I could see him properly. Eventually we were taken to the recovery room where I could get a proper look and hold the baby, who was perfect, and I blubbed a bit more and G and I decided to call him James. Then I was taken to the post-natal ward where I fell almost instantly into a deep sleep with James next to me in his crib, and G was sent home.
The next two days in hospital were really quite stressful for reasons I can’t be bothered to elaborate on now (a combination of hormones, tiredness, being barely able to move, confined to a bed, missing Glen during the long night time hours and having difficulty feeding James). I yearned to go home with a passion. Thankfully I was was lucky enough to be let out early – mainly because the hospital ward was being redecorated and there were workmen everywhere, and it was clearly better to recover at home than be amid the chaos.
Now I’m home and trying in vain to follow instructions to be sedentary and to avoid lifting James. This is nigh impossible, but I suspect that I may have overdone things a bit and given myself pains, so I plan to try and be less active in the next few days. I’ve been feelng quite a lot of stress this week over some breastfeeding difficulties and how little James seems to eat… he was weighed on Wed and had lost more of his birth weight than the midwife was comfortable with. He has a frustrating habit of latching onto a breast, sucking for only five minutes, and then falling asleep with a look of beatific serenity on his face. But thankfully today, after an obsessive fattening-up programme and some expressing into bottles to measure what he’s eating, he was found to have put some weight back on and seems to be upping his appetite a bit. Tomorrow I’m hopng for a less anxious day, spending a few sunny hours with Rup in the heatwave – perhaps even sitting outside for a bit (in the shade, obv).
Some of you have asked how the furry kit-babies have reacted to the new arrival. I’m conscious that they’re suffering a little from a sudden drop in attention from me, and becoming persona non grata in all of the places where James is stowed for safety… but I think it’s a short lived phase that we need to go through while he is tiny and everyone will be used to each other soon. I do still sneak them some cuddles when I can – and thankfully our good friend Sara Lou has also been on hand to give them some surrogate love. Most of the time they seem happy enough scampering around together, so I don’t think there is much harm done.
Well… I suppose that’s been quite a long ramble so I will refrain from saying any more for now. I should just mention that I’m hugely thankful to everyone for the good wishes and cards and gifts that we’ve had, which includes many of you – so thank you!