Thursday 22nd June started off just like any other day while being 34 weeks pregnant: A workout, 6 mile walk, a few hours of work before getting ready to meet my friend Chyaz to review a food place in town.
As I was about to leave the flat, the weirdest sensation happened without any warning: a gush of water came out of nowhere. Oh god, have I wet myself?! Surely not. I quickly jumped in the shower to rinse off but more came – it wasn’t wee, my waters had broke!
In a bit of a daze, I rang Saint Mary’s hospital who advised me to come in so we got an Uber over there and met James, who came straight from work armed with my half-packed hospital bag (well I wasn’t expecting to come in any time soon!).
LET THE PAIN BEGIN
After a couple of hours waiting, I started to get mild contractions which continued to become more frequent and intense – ladies, let me tell you, I wasn’t expecting them to hurt half as much and I personally found this to be the most painful part! At this point the thought of actually going into labour hadn’t crossed my mind…
…Then we were told: It’s likely that labour has started. HOLY SH*T. Hours passed as the contractions grew more frequent and excruciating by the minute. Thank god for James helping me get through them with breathing exercises. I reluctantly agreed to shot of diamorphine to help with the pain (I wasn’t against drugs and knew I didn’t want an epidural so this was my compromise), which helped for about 45 minutes. Time for the gas and air.
Next thing I knew (about 3am on Friday) I had the sudden urge to push. Because my waters had broke earlier the midwives didn’t want to do any unnecessary examinations due to risk of infection but I knew my body was telling me something was happening. So far they thought I wasn’t too far on so you can imagine the surprise when they announced, “You’re 9cm dilated”. GOOD LORD I’M READY TO GIVE BIRTH!
TIME TO PUSH!
The next couple of hours (to me it felt like 45 minutes) went by in a bit of a blur as the gas and air went to my head; a small army of midwives, doctors and other people (I don’t know the technical terms!) entered the room as I was told to “push from the bottom like you’re having a poo.” Erm ok then.
I tried the position we were advised in the antenatal classes- squat kneeling down. However baby wasn’t happy so laid on my back, feet in the air in stirrups, legs spread, all dignity gone. At first I was shouting as I pushed but was told this wasn’t doing anything; instead, concentrate on pushing down through my body and less noise. This helped as I felt like something was happening so I focused on continuing this action.
Gripping the handles of my bed with all my might (and James’ hand, which I nearly broke) all of a sudden something dropped out – OUR BABY WAS HERE! Overwhelmed while still being in a daze, our little boy was placed straight into my arms at 5.13am as James cuddled me with tears in his eyes. What a moment.
Thomas was taken to a cot in front of me to be weighed (a decent 5lb 5oz) and cleaned up while I waited for the afterbirth to happen. Having just pushed a baby out the last thing I wanted to hear was that I had to push out the placenta, which finally made its bloody appearance (nice). I was filled with horror as I was told I needed a few stitches – this was something I’d feared but just had to accept it.
At last, we were able to cuddle our little bundle of joy, who now looked slightly less like an alien as the shape of his head had calmed down after being pulled out with the help of a ventouse. I still can’t really describe the feeling other than a mixture of surreal, incredible love and happiness, baffled, accomplished.
THE FIRST 7 DAYS
For next week we stayed on the postnatal ward as Thomas had jaundice, which is common in pre-term babies. Although he passed all his other tests, he needed a few 24 – 36 hour sessions under a UV light with a 12 hour gap in between to see how his body coped. We plotted his progress on a chart which showed his levels fluctuated a lot. It was tough, as all we wanted to do was cuddle our baby but the longer he was kept under the light with a mask (other than taking him out to feed and nappy change), the better.
During that time (it felt like an eternity), we were seen by nurses, midwives and ‘baby doctors’ regularly as well as visits from family and friends. Being in a ward with three other beds meant it was hard to sleep with other babies crying but it was actually quite nice having company as a new mum. As the days passed my stitches down there healed, allowing me to shuffle around and take little walks outside (I needed fresh air and a change of scenery for my own sanity).
James came every day from 8am – 10pm and we made our own entertainment thanks to the help of the genius Monopoly card game – hours and hours of fun and “the best £8 we’ve ever spent”. The food was pretty abysmal (very little nutrition which surely should be a priority for recovering mums) so James cooked up some healthy meals and brought them in, bless him! At least we were able to pick up SO MANY tips from the midwives while we were there – everything from how to change a nappy to giving him his first bath!
BOOBS AND FEEDING
From the word go I knew I wanted to give Thomas my milk but wasn’t against formula milk; I know there’s a lot of stigma surrounding this but I don’t give a sh*t – whatever is best for my baby. The first day went by in such a blur plus he needed his blood sugar levels so we fed him bottled milk; the day after, my boobs were rock solid and absolutely bulging to the point where a midwife asked if I’d a boob job. Although I was keen to get Thomas straight on the boob we needed to monitor how much he was consuming so I agreed to use a double electric breast pump – what a saviour. Although I felt like a cow being milked, it relieved my boobs and allowed them do their thing.
Since then I’ve invested in a machine at home (managed to find one in Boots for £130 – ouch, but so worth it) which I’ve been using a few times a day to produce about 40ml per boob each time; we top it up with formula milk to ensure Tom has about 60ml per feed every few hours. That boy is hungry! While Tom is able to latch on fine (usually in the night for comfort), by expressing into a bottle it means James can take over feeding and it’s a bit more flexible when out and about. We’ll see over time if this changes…
MORE TIME IN HOSPITAL
At last, a week after being born our little man had reached a point where his jaundice levels were ok without the need for treatment. HOORAY! Home time. However after a test taken by the community midwife the next day, as James and I were out on a walk enjoying life as a family, we were called to go back into hospital – his levels had gone up. We were gutted.
This time staying in the Children’s Ward at North Manchester, it was quieter, we had our own room and the food was slightly better (I lived off jacket potatoes, omelettes, cooked veg and sugar-free jelly). We went through the same process – under the light for 24-36 hours, off it for 12, check where Tom’s levels were at. Another routine of playing Monopoly, going out for walks, feeding and changing nappies.
Despite being discharged after 36 hours and getting back into home life, the same thing happened again – while out we got a call from the midwife who had come earlier to do a test showing he needed MORE UV light treatment. Back into hospital we went. I was so upset and frustrated at this point, it felt like we were never going to get home and settled.
HOME AT LAST
On Friday 7th July at 2 weeks old, another midwife visit and test FINALLY confirmed our boy had stayed stable on the jaundice chart – no more hospital! I can’t tell you how happy and relieved we were. It was mentally and emotionally draining time but it obviously helped Thomas and that was our priority.
Since then we’ve been enjoying plenty of cuddles, walks in his pram, visits from family and friends, I’ve been able to get back into work and blogging and even went to an event for a few hours! It will be interesting to see how we get on when James goes back to work next week and I’ll be looking after Tom around my work…
In terms of how I’m feeling in myself, I feel empowered, proud and I have so much more respect for my body – it carried and has given birth to our gorgeous little boy. I’m quite pleased that it has almost gone back to how to was pre-pregnancy (my tummy is gradually going down) but I can’t wait to be given the all-clear so I can workout again as I feel like I’ve lost some of my strength and tone. For now I’m getting back into plenty of walking, eating well and trying to get as much sleep as possible.
I still can’t believe he’s here, our tiny little monkey who is already developing his own personality and loves looking around when he’s awake. I am so excited and intrigued how he’s going to change over the next few weeks – never mind months – and as people have told me, to embrace and enjoy every second.