Sally found that being in “another place” was good for her during labour. She had a water-birth and found that the contractions felt entirely different in water.
I started pre-labour at 1 am on Thursday (16th) of August with diarrhoea and crampy pains. I didn’t know it was pre-labour; I really believed it was just diarrhoea, which seems ridiculous now after all that I had read before and there being specific notes written about diarrhoea as being a sign of pre-labour! Looking back I should have realised it was the beginning signs of labour, but I was sure at the time that it wasn’t. I slept until about 8 am after emptying my bowels during the night several times and I still had crampy feelings in the morning, like slight period pains, but continued the day as normal. I went shopping for things to take to the hospital to eat and drink and had lunch at a restaurant. By about 2 pm, the cramps were coming and going, but were still not uncomfortable, though by this time I had realised this probably the beginning of labour.
I went home and lied down at 3.30pm for half an hour and as I got up my waters broke, but it wasn’t a big gush as I had thought it would be, just about a cupful of water. I then saw that the mucous plug had come away when I went to the toilet and the water coming out had some white specks in it, which the midwives told me was vernix from the baby. At that point the contractions started properly, rather than just the earlier period type pain.
From the time the waters had broken, my contractions felt quite strong, coming and going at about 10 minute intervals, and feeling like an acute type of period crampy pain. This was now about 4 pm and I called the hospital and they told me to wait at home and have a bath and to call them at about 7 pm. I moved to some music during the time at home and had a bath, which I found comforting. I went into hospital at 7 pm, and the contractions felt very intense with a lot of pressure on my back passage almost from the beginning. It was this feeling that I was finding was taking the breath out of me, it was the most difficult part of the pain management. My contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes and when I was first examined, they said I was 4 cms dilated. The time seemed to go by in a dream. I hardly spoke and my midwife did not talk to me, I hardly noticed her there, except to see her sitting in a dark corner writing notes, the lights were all dimmed in the room. I seemed to go to ‘another’ place once I had started the contractions back at home and it continued to be that way the whole way through the labour. I took contraction by contraction without thinking about the next hour or next minute. That was something I did without thinking; it just seemed to be easiest way, to deal with one contraction at a time. My partner was with me during the whole labour, I used him to drape myself over him during the contractions, which was helpful. He was very supportive, he did not speak hardly at all either, except to gee me along a bit at the height of contractions. At one point though, while I was in the pool, I noticed what I thought was a change in the mood of the room and I thought it was because my partner was feeling impatient and a bit concerned. I asked him to leave for a while and to go for a walk; I needed to not be drawn to thinking about the ‘outside’ world because it made it all more difficult. When I asked him afterwards if he had been feeling concerned or impatient at that point, he said he had not, so I don’t know what the change in atmosphere was – maybe I just became more aware of his presence and needed to withdraw again. During the labour, I know that I thought to myself “this is brutal”, several times. That was the word that came to mind during it all. It was as if my body took over completely and I was just an observer to what my body was doing – an observer in a bit of a haze. The ‘brutal’ feeling came because the contractions felt like a racking of my body from inside. It was not so much a feeling of pain (although obviously it was painful!) but it was the physicality of it, actually feeling the body taking over during a contraction, other forces doing their most primal raw job of opening the body to give birth.
After hours of standing and walking and moving my hips in a figure of eight movement, which seemed to help, I asked if it would be a good time to get into the birth pool as I hadn’t thought of it before then.
The midwife said if that’s what I felt like doing then it was a good idea! This was about 10 pm. As soon as I got into the pool, the next contraction was totally different to the ones before and I felt like a fish flopping itself out onto dry land, I literally almost did. It took me completely by surprise – this must have been the beginning of the second stage but I was so taken aback, I called the midwife in and asked if it was normal! Again, after all that I had read before it should not have come as a surprise but it did. It was from this point that my body really seemed to take over. The feeling of the contractions pushing the uterus down from the top was very powerful, and it was amazing to be aware of the body completely taking over and doing its thing! I actually did not let go as much as I should have, I held on to a little bit of fear and surprise which meant that I was not breathing with the contractions very well, so I felt winded. Looking back, it was at this point that I could have really gone with it all and breathed with it and helped my body in its labour efforts but I did fight against it a little which made it a bit harder. I came out of the pool and I squatted to give birth to my daughter, Ella. At the last stages there was some concern because the monitor was showing that her heart rate was slowing down and not recovering properly after each contraction. I knew my midwife was concerned and she called the obstetrician to come and assist; there was an air of slight panic in the room. I couldn’t speak because I was on my ‘other planet’, but I, myself, was not worried because I saw that Ella’s heart rate recovered after each contraction if I breathed into each contraction and not fight it. I watched this happen on the monitor that was monitoring Ella’s heart rate. As I said earlier, I was aware that I was not breathing deeply enough and that I could have relaxed more into it and concentrated on my breathing, so I was not shocked to see it had an effect on the baby and was not worried at all by the concern in the labour room because I felt I knew it was to do with my breathing and it proved to be true as I watched the monitor and concentrated on my breath. Eventually, after a lot of pushing, she came out at 1.21 am. It was a wonderful relief. I was so tired that I could not pick her up and I have the feeling that this was also to do with my breathing not being deep enough in the last couple of hours. My partner held Ella on his chest until I brought her onto the bed to feed her after about 20 minutes.
It is amazing thinking about it again.