Those of you of a squeamish nature might want to look away now - for here comes the story of Baby J's birth.
I'll start at the very beginning - and for those of you who like to dabble in the whole - "things that bring on labour" nonesense - here is a run down of my actions in the 24hrs before I went into labour.
On Wednesday afternoon I had a "show" - if you don't know what that is you'll need to google it because there are some things I'm just not describing. It happened at Mrs Medds house and she is very cross that I didn't tell her about it. Given that Baby J had already messed me about quite a bit I didn't get too excited - but I text Mr Jones anyway.
That evening we went to the Tobie Norris. I ate a pizza topped with green pesto, goat's cheese and parma ham and I had half a glass of rose - shock horror!
In the morning I ate a mango full fat activia yogurt with some flaked almonds and a glass of freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juice - the same breakfast I've eaten for the past two months. I had another show.
Then I did some gardening. I pruned the roses, spread bark, thinned veg seedlings, and put down some gravel around the patio.
For lunch I had a cheese sandwich and some Walkers Sunbite Sweet Chilli crisps. Then I laid down for a nap. I started to have contractions every 20 minutes. Mr Jones was working from home. But I didn't tell him anything was happening for about four hours.
When I did let him in on the action he said: "Do you think I can still go to football tonight?"
So after a dinner of pasta and sauce Mr Jones went off to play football with strict instructions not to mention the contractions to anyone for fear of jinxing it all. I watched The Young Victoria on Sky (a fairly good film) and my contractions started coming every 15 minutes.
By the time Mr Jones came in from football I was having a relaxing bath - and not shaving my legs - again for fear of putting Baby J off. The contractions were coming every 10 minutes.
We got ready for bed and all of a sudden things sped up - the contractions were coming every four minutes and were lasting for 40 seconds. I was getting pretty uncomfortable so Mr Jones broke out the tens machine - and faffed around with it for a good 15 minutes trying to work out how it functioned. Meanwhile I clutched the end of the bed and tried not to get annoyed or point out the fact that I had on several occasions suggested he familiarise himself with it.
After an hour or so of this we called the hospital and were told to come in. I was surprised because although I was in pain, it wasn't unbearable. So off we went - both hoping that I'd be 8cm dilated and that it would all be over in a few hours.
Mum was beside herself with excitement and met us at the hospital. The midwife took one look at me and said - "I don't think you're ready yet". Grrr.
"Are you familiar with the stages of labour?" asks the midwife
"Yes" - says Mr Jones proudly. "We've been to NCT classes"
"Oh god NCT - aren't they all a bunch of hippies?"
Mr Jones launches into a defence of the NCT while I look at the "I'm preparing for brith with Natal Hypnotherapy" sticker on my birth plan and think that this probably isn't time for me to break out the essential oils and soothing birth music - this midwife clearly isn't a fan of the natural approach. (Not helpful).
I pee in a cup, have my blood pressure taken and then the cow of a midwife checks to see how dilated I am. 1cm. Grrrr.
We're sent home. So we go back to Mum and Dad's because it's closer. We get back into bed. The contractions are still coming every four minutes and are lasting between 40 seconds and a minute. I listen to my hypnosis cd on repeat and become attached to the boost button on the tens machine. I do this for the next four hours - and the pain steadily gets worse.
Then the vomiting starts. It seems pain makes me sick. Mr Jones and I retreat downstairs to watch tv and I slump over a footstall. At 5.30am I get in the bath and it helps me cope a bit with the pain. By now my whole stomach is clenching with each contractions and I'm in some serious agony. We call the hospital again. The cow of a midwife listens to me having a contraction over the phone (by this point I'm making a fair bit of noise!). "That sounds more like it - come on in" she says.
It's 7.30am and mercifully there is no traffic. I insist on having the air con on full. Mr Jones loses the feeling in his fingers.
We get to the hospital - I pee in yet another cup, have my blood pressure taken and am delighted to discover that after all these many hours of pain and vomiting I am a staggering 2cm dilated. The hospital usually don't let you stay until you're in established labour - 4-5cm dilated. But clearly I need pain relief so they relent and let me in.
As luck would have it (someone, somewhere was smiling on me at this point) the cow of a midwife was going off shift and was replaced by two much nicer midwives who were a lot more supportive. They hooked me up to the gas and air and before long I was quite literally, to put it politely, off my face. It was wonderful. I slumped over a bean bag and sucked on the mouthpiece as if my life depended on it. The pain ebbed and all was bearable.
Time at this point becomes a bit blurred. I remember bouncing on the birthball to try and get gravity to help the baby out. I remember peeing in lots of pots and having my blood pressure taken a lot. I remember the relaxing birth music and sniffing lavender essential oil. I remember being told after what seemed like another day that I was 3cm dilated.
Then I was sent for a walk - to get things moving. The gas and air was taken away and I was left to march the hospital corridoors with only the tens machine, Mum and Mr Jones for support. I managed half an hour before being violently sick and demanding to be taken back to the gas and air.
I asked for an epidural. "But I've seen your birth plan - you don't want one" says the midwife (who I'm now thinking is less nice). "Ahh yes - but I've changed my mind."
"I think we should try a few other things first,"
"Really, do you, well I actually don't - I'd like an epidural."
"What about a shot of meptid?" (a pethadine substitute)
"Will that take the pain away?"
"Well, no, but it'll make you care less,"
"Hmmm - and if I have that can I still have an epidural?"
"Errm - you'd have to wait longer for an epidural if you have the meptid - but you might not need an epdicural - it might be enough."
"No, no - I just want the epidural"
It all goes quiet and I'm left to retreat back into my gas and air haze.
Next up we try a bath. Someone else is in the birth pool - I can hear her screaming (soooo not helpful) - but apparently she's at the pushing stage. Lucky sod. When the bath is suggested I agree on the proviso that the gas and air comes with me. They get me a portable tank of the stuff.
Mr Jones gives me his hand and splashes my bump with the warm water. It helps to make things bearable. I crush his fingers with every contraction and in the few pain free moments in between each one he feeds me tiny bits of cheese roll. By this time I've been in labour for 24hours - but not in the sort of labour that counts (apparently!).
The gas and air canister is nearly empty - much to the shock of the midwives. It's no longer taking the edge off the pain. I burst into tears and start to beg. "I'm sorry, I wanted to be brave and do this all naturally, but I think I have a really crappy pain threshold. I just can't take anymore. I'm so tired. I just want the pain to go away. Please let me have an epidural."
The begging works. After another check I'm 4cm dilated and I'm finally allowed an epidural. I remember walking from the midwife led unit to the delivery ward, held up by my mum. "How did you do this twice?" I ask through tears. "I promise you it'll all be worth it when you have that baby in your arms." she says.
All along, before and throughout my pregnancy, I steadfastly told anyone who would listen that I didn't want an epidural. The whole procedure terrified me. I hated the idea of not being able to feel my legs, I hated the idea of having things injected into my spine. But I will say this - it was the single most wonderful thing in the entire world at that moment. I felt a coolness spread down my back and it was gone, every little bit of pain wiped from my body. It was blissful. And I slept. - after asking the anaesthetist to marry me - he said his wife probably wouldn't be too happy about it.
And then my contractions stopped. I think my body was just too tired to keep on going. But after a short sleep things started up again. By now I was hooked up to various monitors to keep track of my contractions and the baby. I was lying on my left side with the monitors all behind me, looking at Mr Jones and my mum. Each time I had a contraction the baby's heart rate would drop - I could hear it on the monitor - but I could also see the panic in their faces. They did well to hide it, but I could still see it. The midwife called the consultant.
I was still between 4-5cm dilated (depending on who was doing the checking!), we weren't getting anywhere fast. The consultant mentioned a c-section. Mr Jones looked at me with concern. Along with the epidural - c-sections were on my - "er - no way, I really, really don't want one of those" list.
However - in my gas and air and exhaustion addled brain I started to process all the information. A c-section - major surgery yes - but over in under an hour. No more contractions, no pushing the baby out. And IF - and it's a big IF - we're ever to have another baby that doesn't come in the box from some third world country - I could then elect to have another c-section - at 39 weeks. There would be no waiting for the baby to arrive on it's own, no sweeps, no mind games and no God Awful painful hours of labour to endure first. "Fine by me" - I say.
But the midwives want to try and get me there naturally first. "Really - truly - you want to keep this going?" I think to myself. They give me a dose of Syntocinon - an oxytocin substitute which helps to speed up contractions. It worked and I started to have three contractions every 10 minutes. But the baby didn't like it. It's heart rate kept dropping everytime my stomach started clenching.
They left it half an hour before calling in the consultant again. The next thing I know Mr Jones is getting gowned up for surgery and another anaesthetist has arrived to top up my epidural. The surgeon gives her five minutes. If it doesn't work in that time I have to have a general anaesthetic and I won't be awake when my baby is born. This is something I really don't want. The anaesthetist boost the epidural and then starts spraying my stomach with ice cold water and asking me where I can feel it. It's terrifying - if I misjudge the feeling I will either feel the surgeon cutting me open or end up being put under. Luckily I get it right.
The whole c-section is painless - I just feel my tummy being jiggled about a lot. Mr Jones can see everything and is quite shocked at the effort required to get the baby out. (See 20 stone surgeon on one side of my stomach and his assistant on the other - both pulling in opposite directions with all their weight - nice). I hear crying. There's a bit more pulling and the surgeon holds up the baby for Mr Jones to tell me the sex. "Come on" - he laughs - "It's not that difficult".
Mr Jones is just staring at the baby - "It's a boy" he says "And it has an enormous willy and really big balls!" We all laugh. Mr JOnes admits to a moment of panic because the baby looked black when it was first pulled out of my tummy - and he was conceived in Zanzibar! But a quick clean up reveals him to be white and my virtue remains intact!!
He's handed to us and we gaze at him, both in tears. He's so perfect. He's not squished and funny looking because he hasn't had to travel down the birth canal - he's just gorgeous. We spend the next 10 minutes debating which of the two boy names we should choose. We finally settle on Rufus Anthony Jones. Anthony for Mr Jones' dad who sadly isn't here to see him.
Granny Sue is given Rufus to look after while I'm stitched up, checked over and wheeled into recovery. She is beyond chuffed and even gets to put on his first nappy. I can't move from the chest down and I'm so dosed up with pain killers that I can't really move my arms either. With some help from mum and Mr Jones I manage to wriggle onto my side so that I can feed Rufua for the first time and give him a cuddle.
Unfortunately for me and Rufus the cow of a midwife is back on shift - we're left in her "care" until we're transferred to the ward. But we survived despite her lack of bedside manner - and thanks to the power of arnica capsules (I'm sure they've helped me recover faster - I had to cling onto something natural) we only had to spend two nights in the very hot and noisy ward before we escaped to the refuge of home. To start being a family.
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