So, it's official I am a parent to a newborn.
Today is my first day 'going solo' as Neil has had to return to work. So far I've successfully managed to change nappies, get dressed, feed our little one and myself and even take a trip to the post office! Yesterday I wondered if I would have enough time or energy to even get out of bed but here I am surviving for another day in what has so far been a peaceful and relaxed day.
I think I have been a bit spoilt for the last week as we were incredibly fortunate that due to my extended stay in Hospital Neil's school extended his leave and really I don't know what I would have done without him these last few days. He's allowed me to vegetate on the sofa and sleep whilst my body tries to slowly get back to normal. All the time I'm watching and reading and listening to single parents or teenage mums and I'm thinking I cannot imagine what it would be like to not have such a doting husband. Needless to say I've gradually found my feet and sitting here now with my son deep in sleep to my left has me feeling pretty empowered. Dare I say it Neil was right yesterday telling me how much I'd enjoy it once I got used to it, and I have.
Talking about the Labour and getting to grips with looking after a baby seems so personal, as if I am opening myself up to so many comments, but at the same time, it has been reading other peoples blogs and forum posts on the same things that have kept me sane. And in that light I am hoping that maybe writing about it will let me move on and may be useful to one person who is feeling low.
I think it all started with the pregnancy, I wanted to be perfect. I never ate anything I shouldn't, I was constantly cautious, worrying about starting as I meant to go on, de-cluttering my life and making way for a precious new arrival. This included reading up on natural births and refusing to even consider that I would need any intervention during labour. Neil used to try and lightly coax me into considering other options but he could have said it a million times and it wouldn't have made a blind bit of difference. I tried to mentally prepare myself for the pain that was to come and to learn to be a more patient person. I was dreaming of a water birth at Lewisham Birthing Centre, however before I even had the chance to set the wheels in motion, life threw a curve ball my way, my waters broke on the 11th January (my due date was on the 25th January) and 48 hours later with two trips for monitoring at Kings Maternal Assessment Unit there were no contractions.
I did everything I could to bring the contractions on, long long walks, hours bouncing on my birthing ball, the hottest Thai food available, raw pineapple, raspberry leaf tea... You name it, I tried it, yet my body was silent (although my baby was kicking). I remember the first night, lying in bed crying thinking I was already a terrible mother because I couldn't even go into Labour properly. Needless to say I've had this feeling at the back of my mind ever since on and off occupied by what I think is misplaced concern. I read in my birthing book that often one intervention leads to another and although I know mine were necessary and unavoidable you can't help but think, why me!? I held out as long as my mind and body could take but in the end I was back at Hospital on Friday the 13th, had my waters broken with a metal hook and Prostin inserted to start the inducing process. This was done because hospitals like to induce labour after 24hours of the waters breaking (if there have been no contractions.) Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, I had to wait a while longer as the maternity ward at Kings was so full. For us I think it was lucky, it gave us extra time to prepare ourselves for the onset of the baby. (We spent every moment cleaning and enjoying each others company.)
And how naive I was to think that our baby could be born the same day that we went into hospital, we came in at lunch time once we received the call to say that there was now space, were then told to go and get some lunch and then later in the evening I had a membrane sweep and the Prostin inserted. And even after all that, when the midwife from my antenatal classes dropped by I still thought it could be a Friday 13th baby.
After the Prostin was in, Neil and I tried again to do everything we could to bring on labour, I walked several times around and around the hospital, up and down all the sets of stairs, exhausting myself in the vain hope that I could go into labour naturally. And although I was having pains that seemed to emulate contractions they would come and go and get more difficult to bare and then become more manageable again. We eventually gave up at about 3am and tried to get some sleep and then at 7am the next morning after intermittent sleep we were taken to our very own delivery suite where we were informed they were going to put me on the Syntocinon drip. Yet, by lunchtime, which was 2 examinations later I had dilated by 2cm in what I considered to be 2 days. 2 days and 2 cm I thought, well the baby should be with us in 8 days time at this rate then, it was more than I could bear. I hated my body, I didn't understand why it was taking so long. I had spent hours on a drip that was supposed to make my contractions more painful and intense and yet I could barely feel anything. I was hooked up to a machine the entire time to monitor my heart beat and that of the babies, it also detects contractions (I have no idea how). However, it was at that second examination on the 12th that the midwife queried whether my waters were still intact, the doctor then inspected and agreed and attempted to break them for a 3rd time! A few minutes later, surrounded in yet more water and a lot more disgusting other fluid it appeared that this was it. Finally the entirety of my waters had gone, and then within a few minutes it hit me. Hard, heavy and fast contractions came over me in agonising waves, the Syntocinon which had up until this point had little effect on me hit me like a tonne of bricks. I cannot remember what the pain felt like, only that I tried to concentrate on my breathing but I can remember this overwhelming feeling of not knowing what to do with myself but trying as hard as I could to try and concentrate on getting over each contraction as it came with Neil holding my hand and rubbing my back. Feeling guilty to ask for any pain relief, I eventually succumbed to Gas and Air with the thought in my mind that if this is what it felt like a 4cm could I really get through to 10.
I think by this point I had become more realistic about the progress of my dilation, whereas before I would overestimate I now tried to underestimate, and asked each midwife for a 'worse case scenario' idea of how much I might have moved by. But at the back of my mind, after being in and out of hospital since the 11th it was beginning to feel like I would be there forever. Or at least that I would go through all this waiting, all this pain, and still at the end of it I would end up with my worst case scenario, which in my mind was having a Caesarean. I suppose I can look back on it all now, knowing that this wasn't my fate and that all of the pushing, waiting and pain was worth it because in the end I had my baby naturally. Even if it did take 3 days in hospital, 3hours of pushing, 2 days on a drip, an epidural, fever, antibiotics, Episiotomy and then Ventouse for the final 3 pushes.
And sitting here, 11 days later it is amazing to think that all of this happened to me, I remember it like a dream or a story I have read, not an experience that I went through. Because after all that, I have my baby now and he was worth it.