On 31st December 2019 at 08:04 our lives changed completely. Our baby girl made her amazing, messy, extraordinary entrance into the world.
I recall sitting on the toilet on the morning of Wednesday 1st May 2019, looking at the positive pregnancy test, shaking my head and saying, “fuuuuck…” for a good 20 minutes. My husband and I had been trying for a baby since January so, although it wasn’t a surprise it was also a bloody BIG surprise. It’s funny, I’ve spent most of my life trying to prevent pregnancy as though just looking a penis in it’s eye could mean conception. Yet, for some it can still take ages to fall pregnant, if ever. I hadn’t realised that our marriage would automatically give people permission to ask when we would be having children. It was as though the certificate was actually a contract of exemption, making it no longer a necessity for the entire parish to mind their own fucking business.
I remember thinking at the time, that getting pregnant is one of those things that you usually don’t know if you can do, until you try. Asking that question is so risky and I often shut it down, (probably in a less mature manner than I would’ve liked- story of my life), but I feel incredibly fortunate to have been one of the lucky ones.
I revealed it to hubby later that evening by blindfolding him before presenting him with the test. He in turn, believed I had bought another guinea pig and was furiously swearing at me for 30 seconds until I took the blindfold off. Then he really swore. Obviously I filmed it, so that’s going to make a lovely keepsake for our daughter.
For the next couple of months my pregnancy was a bit like having ‘The Clap’; couldn’t really feel it but I knew it was there. Then, the exhaustion set in; like the type you get when you have flu and it’s an effort to keep your eyes open. It was as though my body was having to put all it’s energy into creating another human… weird. This stage was tricky with work, particularly when the *all times of the fucking day* sickness set in (morning sickness is an irresponsible myth). In all fairness I didn’t have it too bad; it was mostly nausea, but the relief from actually vomiting would’ve been welcome.
I grew as baby grew and soon it was time to have appointments and scans. We discovered she was a girl! I have to tell you, she didn’t behave for a single scan. At every single one she was curled up in an antisocial position. They had me running up and down flights of stairs and often sent off to eat or drink something sugary. “Come back again in 30 minutes and we’ll try again”. It was then that we first feared… god forbid… she had inherited her mother’s stubbornness.
The second trimester was a breath of fresh air! Less tired, less nausea. And if by “the glow”, they mean pale, sweaty and covered in acne, then yes I even had “the glow”. I enjoyed this break, but alas, it was short lived. By 30 weeks, my waist band had expanded considerably and I discovered the joys of many an unpleasant and surprising symptom. The stuff they don’t tell you!
Firstly, Pelvic girdle pain or Symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD). The ligaments around my joints were made more flexible by the pregnancy hormones and as my pelvis opened, the pain in my lower back and hips gradually grew worse until eventually I had difficulty doing every day things. Near the end of pregnancy, I woke one day and was completely unable to weight bear on my right leg. Just to really add to the fun, baby had made herself comfortable lying on a nerve. Luckily this only lasted a day. My TENS machine was really worth the investment at this point, but mostly I had to grin and bear it and stop doing those back flips in the garden (yeah, right.) I would be in utter denial if I didn’t add that none of this was helped by the fact that I was MASSIVE. My cravings of diet coke (which I’d never enjoyed prior) and cake, also added to the strain on my poor joints, as did the gallons of fluid that were accumulating within me. I was like an arthritic water balloon.
I also had the pleasure of repetitive UTI’s and Thrush; Mother Nature’s way of familiarizing you with the sensation of a burning vagina before birth.
Here’s one they don’t tell you- bloody Carpal Tunnel! In my 3rd trimester, I would wake up with terrible pain in my middle finger and palm and had limited movement in both hands. This has settled since birth but I felt it twinge for months after. It helped to stretch it from time to time, usually towards my husband.
My boobs started leaking quite early, at around 28 weeks; which was a real inconvenience as you’re not supposed to harvest it until 37 weeks. If my sheets weren’t sodden with sweat by morning, it was with Colostrum (aka liquid gold) and the smell of curdled porridge. Obviously, the stains were only on the left because you’re told you must ONLY sleep on your left in pregnancy. That was a hard one to get used to, as a particularly fidgety person at night with star-fishing tendencies. But, the femoral artery is on the right, so you have to avoid squashing that and lying on your back you feel like a stuck sheep, which also isn’t great for baby. Or your self esteem. Or sheep, obviously.
The week before Christmas the twinges started; mild cramps and Braxton Hicks, all preparing my body for the big finale. Note: My due date was 04.01.20
24.12.19 Christmas Eve, we said hello to my mucus plug! Which is absolutely as gross as it sounds and is basically the bath plug to everything being held inside you. A merry christmas to you too.
25.12.19 On Christmas Day contractions started! 01:30 on the dot. Hubby and I were so bloody excited! We immediately started timing them on our mobile app, I jumped in the bath for a well needed shave (“No, Chewbacca isn’t her father, that’s all me…”), put on my pre- labour outfit- the outfit to wear to the hospital before I changed into my labour outfit. Duh. And we started planning the day ahead. I have a good laugh at this now, thinking back.
By 04:00, the contractions had stopped. They stopped/ started on and off all day, even through bloody Christmas lunch! Fuming. Baby wasn’t coming any time soon. Bed time routine from this day forward became- Paracetemol, birth ball, hot water bottle and TENS.
26.12.19 Boxing Day- 01:30 Contractions started again… weird. On and off again, same as the day before- going nowhere. Unable to sit down properly due to carrying the baby IN MY ARSE, or at least that’s how it felt.
27.12.19- Guess what? Contractions LITERALLY start at 01:30 again. By this day, I was contracting at least once every ten minutes, all bloody day. Manageable, but annoying more than anything. Midwife comes, I’m 2cm dilated! At least the pain had been doing something useful after all! However, the bad news was, baby’s “back to back”. This meant that she had gone from being in the ideal position for the entire pregnancy, only to have turned in the last week. Bloody typical! She now had her spine running along mine, hence the labour being all in my back side. People took great joy in telling me how painful “back labour” would be, which is just what you want to hear. The bastards.
28.12.19- You know the drill. 01:30, things kick off. This time, it was getting difficult to breathe through and I couldn’t sit down. FML, I thought and definitely said. Cracked on with some Codeine and the saga continued…
29.12.19- Same fucking routine- you can imagine how frustrating this was, can’t you? But lo and behold, discovered that PGP pain was much more tolerable with ice packs, rather than heat! Worth noting. Still no baby. Vagina starting to resemble Chewbacca’s elderly, slightly balding uncle. Damnit. Realised I should probably change out of (and wash) the pre- labour outfit.
30.12.19- 01:30 bla bla… by 18:00, back pain was terrible. We took a trip down to the labour ward for more Codeine and was told following examination (which by the way, to observe probably is not too dissimilar to calving) that I was 4cm! At this point, they wanted to keep me in but I decided that, given my track record over the past week, it could take another four years and I would rather see what happens from the comfort of my own home. Plus, I still wasn’t in established labour, even at 4cm- which I didn’t even know was possible!
We spent that day relaxing at home, waddling around the local area and doing ridiculous crab walking up steps, to open up my pelvis. We went to bed and in the early hours, things properly kicked off and the contractions I was having became much more intense. I had a bath and contractions got worse- a good sign! The drive down to the hospital was unbearable and it’s actually only a foggy memory to me now. But, I do remember holding my backside off the seat with my hands, because I felt like I was sitting on baby’s head. Let me tell you, I felt EVERY SINGLE BUMP. We arrived at the labour ward at 5am and I was 5cm. Still not contracting regularly though, I should add. I was given IV antibiotics for Group B Strep- a bacteria that lives harmlessly in the birth canal of some women, but can cause baby problems if they contract it during birth. Fortunately I arrived in enough time that baby wouldn’t need IV antibiotics too, as they have to be administered to mama a few hours before baby is born.
Unfortunately the midwife didn’t warn me that 1. It would be cold and 2. It would sting a little going in to the canula in my hand. In shock, I pulled my hand away and it sprayed back at her. My bad.
It was then decided that we would go to the birthing center, which I was relieved about. It felt less medical than the labour ward and we had the option of dimming the lights. I brought my DAB radio, so that we could listen to Smooth Radio- as I had throughout the pregnancy. We also had some fairy lights which we dotted around. Then I snuggled up on the bed with my nursing pillow and tried to get comfy. My hypnobirthing practice came into it’s own at that point. I used a fantastic company called the Positive Birth Company, who I urge any expectant mothers to consider joining. I used my breathing techniques and repositioned a few times on and off the bed.
With a warm gush, my waters finally broke and soon after, I heard myself mooing… Honestly, like a heifer just calving away on a hospital bed. And I heard myself pushing. I realised then that I had transitioned and baby was close to arriving. I didn’t find the birthing as painful as the contractions, though saying that, I had such a grip on the gas and air that Eddie Hall wouldn’t have got it back off me. But I do recall feeling that it was just impossible. And just when I felt that I couldn’t do it- there she was. Hermione Grace was born, weighing 6lbs 4.
Our lives had completely changed. She was tiny and purple-ish, with dark hair. She let out a couple of high pitched cries and then looked around at us, as if she was entirely inconvenienced by the whole thing. I opted to have the hormone injection and within half hour, her placenta was born. We chose to have delayed cord clamping, to give the placenta time to pass some of the blood it contains to baby- it can hold up to 30% more! The midwife gave us a tour of the placenta, showing us the different compartments. Bit gross, but absolutely fascinating!
I made the mistake of looking down at my bits before I got off the bed… Sheesh. I don’t recommend it. Also, it does feel a bit like your insides are going to fall out of you when you first stand up.
They advise you to do your first pee in the shower, which is great advice, and though it still stings like a knife to the vag, it does take the edge off. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is, to be showered and clean, sat on a tower of maternity pads in your pants (because you do bleed a lot after birth, which surprised me although it seems obvious?), with a cup of tea and toast, holding your brand new baby. It’s just fucking amazing.
Hermione didn’t take to nursing right away, and eventually we used nipple shields. The maternity support workers were brilliant, if a little forceful, but we were pleased to accept their help and baby needed that liquid gold! Fun fact: If you suffer from Raynaud’s, as I do, you can also get it in your nipples, which can affect your milk flow. Have to keep the girls warm!
We spent the rest of the day getting to know each other, in our euphoric, surreal little bubble. We hadn’t even realised it was new years eve until later that evening. We watched the fireworks from the hospital window and talked about how she would always have a birthday party to go to, somewhere.
So, things that I might say to another expectant mummy (if they ask my opinion, because I’m not a fucking expert, Karen).
- The general rule of being admitted to a labour ward, is for mama to be having four contractions lasting at least a minute, within ten minutes. Honestly, I didn’t reach that until the hour before she arrived.
- The other general rule of being admitted to a labour ward, is for mama to be in “active labour”, usually around 4cm. Again, my contractions still weren’t regular enough, even at 5cm.
- Latent labour can go on for friggin AGESSSSSSS.
- Keep active! Crab walk up stairs and bounce on that exercise ball! Gravity is our friend.
- Buy plenty of maternity pads, as you might need to wear two at once.
- Hypnobirthing really worked for me, as somebody who has always suffered with anxiety. It is possible to have a positive birth experience, even if it doesn’t go quite to plan- prepare for change. Can’t believe I’m saying that. But you might find that everyone is keen to tell you the horror stories, but never the positive stuff. Take a look at the Positive Birthing Company.
- Personally, pregnancy improved my anxiety SO much, but towards the end my mood took a dip. After doing some research and speaking to a consultant, I decided to increase my antidepressant and felt much better for it. Don’t be scared to ask for help.
- Ask for support from a breast feeding expert if baby’s struggling to latch, don’t suffer in silence. It’s OK to use nipple shields. And it’s also OK to give baby formula. Being a mummy is tough enough without other pissy, judgey mums telling you you’re not doing it right.
- To other members of the ‘barely- there boobies’ crew, I can tell you that when your milk comes in, you will have the best boobs you have ever had in your life. Literally, over night double D’s. Not that you can do much else with them, as they’re usually too painful and leaky. They also automatically let down when you hear any baby cry within a 100 mile radius.
- I was very fortunate to not need any stitches, but did have some grazes. Over the next few months, they healed a bit too well and needed to be cauterized. This is a medic will take, what looks like an incense stick, containing silver and touches it onto the internal areas that need to be burned away a little, to help them heal again properly. You don’t feel it immediately, but it does start to sting a bit. Absolutely bearable though- don’t fret.
- If you have any kind of autoimmune/ inflammatory illness such as rheumatoid arthritis, prepare for it to improve during pregnancy but potentially flare up in the weeks after.
- We are literally all winging it… so we might as well bloody wing it together!
- Say it with me: PEL. VIC. FLOOR.