As a warning, this is a very long post and contains details of birth, so if that's not your thing feel free to skip it. I found it cathartic to write it all down, but you are not obliged to read it!
My last pregnancy ended with an incredibly rapid labour that resulted in Emma being delivered by her daddy in the kitchen before the ambulance arrived. The whole labour lasted all of half an hour, with Emma arriving less than ten minutes after my waters broke. Given this rapid onset of labour, we had planned a home birth this time, thinking, not unreasonably, that I probably wouldn't make it to the hospital in time. I was really concerned that if it happened that quickly again that I would end up giving birth on my own, or, worse, that I'd end up on my own with the other children home! Every scenario I played in my head involved a rapid birth. Alexander's birth story just goes to prove that the only thing you can predict about labour is that it is entirely unpredictable!
About four o'clock on Sunday morning (three days before my due date) I got up to use the bathroom. As I stood up in the bathroom I felt my waters go. I went back to the bedroom and woke Mark and got him to take Emma back to her own bed (she had crept into our bed in the night). I got back into bed and confidently expected everything to start kicking off fairly quickly. We waited until six o'clock to ring Mark's parents as they had to come from Derby, with a journey of 75 minutes. Although I hadn't felt any contractions, I still expected that when I stood up it would all start.
Mark's parents arrived in due course and still nothing! We rang the labour ward, who told us to come in so they could check that my waters really had gone and to make sure the baby was okay. I actually rather wanted to have the baby in hospital, so I was quite pleased to think that I was heading in and was going to make it without giving birth in the car! We went in and got checked over and were given our options. Because my waters had gone and the baby was now open to infection, I was told that if I hadn't gone into labour naturally within 24 hours they would induce me. I was also given the option of being induced that day, but the midwife was clearly leading us away from this. We were told that 80% of women naturally go into labour within 24 hours of their waters breaking, were booked in for an induction the next day and were sent on our merry way. I was rather disappointed! I had made it to the hospital, where I wanted to have the baby, and was basically being sent home again. I had been told that given my history of quick labours that it would all happen fairly quickly once it got going, so I thought I wouldn't make it back in again once I got home. Mark and I decided to hang around the hospital for a while in case the twinges I was feeling turned into contractions, but they didn't and we eventually went home.
Sunday was such a surreal day. Having been confidently expecting a rapid labour, here I was with the hours ticking by since my waters broke and nothing was happening. I felt quite unsettled and couldn't eat anything. I went to bed that night, still half expecting to have a home birth sometime in the night. My twinges turned into irregular contractions during the night. They weren't very painful and were quite far apart, but it was enough to disturb my sleep. I could feel a gush of fluid with every contraction and assumed it was my waters. When the contractions were about ten minutes apart we rang the labour ward for advice. Given my previous rapid labours, they decided to send a midwife out to me. After we got off the phone, I pulled back the duvet and prepared to stand up only to find that I was lying in a pool of blood. The absorbent mat I was lying on was completely soaked in it and I have to say it was rather shocking. I was immediately terrified I was losing the baby! We rang the labour ward back and they sent out an ambulance. Unfortunately during this time Lily woke up, but thankfully Mark's Mum and Dad were spending the night, so my mother-in-law went in and sat with Lily. Thankfully I had been able to hide the blood when Lily came into our room, so she didn't see anything.
The ambulance arrived fairly quickly and I was incredibly relieved to feel the baby move whilst I was talking to the paramedic. At least I knew it was alive at that point! I was strapped into a chair and waved to Lily as I was carried downstairs and out into the spring dawn. Mark grabbed my hospital bags and we were rushed into hospital under the blue light. I was so worried about the baby, but I have to say how lovely I thought the two paramedics were.
As soon as they got me into hospital I was immediately surrounded by numerous people who set about checking for the baby's heartbeat, putting in a cannula, putting on surgical stockings and basically being very busy. It was a little overwhelming! I was so worried when the initial heartbeat they picked up was obviously much slower than a baby's heartbeat should be, but they quickly realised that it was my heartbeat they were picking up and were able to then find the baby's. The baby was in an awkward position, so they eventually clipped a monitor on his head so they could monitor him constantly. I was given fluids by IV and exchanged my blood-soaked nightdress for a hospital gown. I was examined and found to be only 2cm dilated. Not exactly the birth I had expected!
They monitored the baby for half an hour or so. The baby was doing well, so they decided to send me up to delivery ward, with the proviso that if I hadn't progressed in two hours time they would induce me. All I wanted was the baby out by this point, just so I could make sure it was alright. Everyone still seemed confident that because I have had such quick labours before, that it was going to happen quickly once labour started properly. As I stood up to get into the wheelchair I had the most overpowering contraction and I hoped that finally things were going to happen.
When I got upstairs they hooked me back up to the monitor and had to reattach the clip to the baby's head, which had come off. It was very reassuring to be able to hear the baby's heartbeat constantly, but the downside to being monitored constantly was that I was stuck labouring on my back. I find contractions considerably more painful in that position, that coupled with the shock of the morning meant that I wasn't coping as well with the pain as I have done in my previous labours. The contractions were still varying considerably in intensity and were very irregular. When they checked me two hours later and I was only 3cm dilated, my heart sank! At about this point my contractions started being back to back with no break between. I thought there was no way I could cope with this for several more hours so I asked for pethidine.
The midwife injected the pethidine and told me it would take about fifteen to twenty minutes to start working. The contractions were very intense by this point and shortly after I felt the need to push. It took a few pushes this time (I think because I was on my back instead of upright as I was with Emma), but my little baby boy made his way into the world at 9.45am, just before the pethidine started working. I had gone from 3cm to 10cm and wanting to push in around half an hour. They were all right...once labour started properly it was all over very quickly! I was so relieved to have my little baby safely in my arms as it had been a rather traumatic morning. To know he was healthy was an indescribable relief and I was so happy to finally be able to hold him. Mark was amazingly supportive throughout the entire thing and I couldn't have got through it without him. The father doesn't usually get much mention in birth stories, but I cannot express enough how much it means to have such a wonderful husband to support me. I am very lucky.
The scare of waking in a pool of blood certainly made Alexander's birth my most traumatic and it was also the most painful, but at the end of it all I have another wonderful son and I am grateful to God for a safe delivery and a healthy baby. I'd do it all again in a heartbeat to get my beautiful baby boy.