Annika's Birth Story

It's been almost three whole months since Annika was born and I've been totally remiss at updating my blog. I've been far too busy with important tasks like pulling faces at my daughter to make her giggle, having lovely snuggly lie ins and covering her with kisses. I am SO not sorry. 

But it might be time for me to tell all about the birth. 

So...Annika's birth story. Despite my attempts to induce labour naturally (sex, bouncing on a ball, mainlining raspberry leaf tea) and a second sweep, nothing at all was happening so we packed our bags and took the tube up to Chelsea and Westminster hospital for our 1.30pm appointment. Here I am, last photo of pregnant me, about to head off to the hospital: 

I was admitted, equipped with my cool ID bracelet lest I forget my name (or die, I guess - is that why you get one? Ok, now I've freaked myself out) and taken to the Josephine Barnes antenatal ward. I'd been told at my last sweep on the Tuesday that I was already 3-4cm dilated and wouldn't need the pessary so could go straight to having my waters broken, a fact I proudly shared with the midwives who sent me on down to the labour ward for some membrane-rupturing funzies. 

Down the corridor on the labour ward, I was assigned a midwife and a room with an unnecessarily enormous bathroom. It was the size of our bedroom, no exaggeration. I can't remember the midwife's name, so we'll call her Susie. Susie was kinda new and kinda... not as competent as I'd have liked. Let's leave it at that. Anyway, so Susie's first job was to cannulate me, one of my biggest fears. I hate the idea of a needle in the papery skin on the back of my hand, so I asked Susie if she could place it somewhere else. So it was probably my fault. Susie attempted to put it in the inside of my wrist, poked around for what felt like FOREVER and caused a lot of ouch. She called in another midwife, we'll call him Barry, and there was lots of flushing of the cannula, leaking, soreness and watery blood. It transpired my vein had collapsed so they removed the offending cannula, and Barry re-sited it, with much less faff and pain, in the back of my wrist. 

As well as hating the idea of a needle in the back of my hand, I also hate seeing blood. So I asked Susie to fetch a bandage to cover up my car crash of a wrist. She tootled off, to return with the news that there were no bandages. No bandages. In a hospital. I think Susie may have been telling some porky pies to shut me up, but I called her bluff and made her fashion me one out of a pair of disposable knickers instead. Like so: 

Only then did anyone examine me. Yep, you guessed it, I was not 3-4cm. I was only 1-2cm dilated. Susie didn't actually tell me this until she had attempted to break my waters, got confused about whether or not she had broken them (clue: she hadn't), and fetched a doctor to check. On the plus side, I enjoyed some gas and air while all this was going on - SO good. So then we were sent back down the hall to Josephine Barnes, this time with a pessary inserted in my foof. So long, Susie. 

It was after 6pm by this point, and our sojourn to the labour ward meant I'd missed the delights of hospital dinner, so Matt was dispatched over the road to get me Carluccios for dinner, and then I sent him to get some rest. I tried to do the same, but a combination of the woman in the cubicle next to me going from 1cm to 9cm dilated in ten minutes, with the accompanying understandable screams, and being woken every 2 hours for obs and monitoring, meant sleep was not forthcoming. I was put on the monitor at 4.15am by the night midwife to monitor the baby's heartbeat, and kept on it until 5am as I was beginning to contract. By 5am I could definitely feel the contractions, so at about 5.30 I called Matt and told him he might want to come back to the hospital. Matt arrived about 7.30am, by which point the contractions had ramped up pretty quickly and I was stamping my feet on the ground through the contractions to distract myself from the pain that was coming about every two minutes. I asked Matt to fetch a birthing ball and I tried a bit of bouncing on it to try to encourage the baby to descend but the hassle of getting off it every time I had a contraction got too annoying (I had to stand to cope with the pain) so I ditched it in favour of squatting and groaning and repeatedly asking Matt if I was allowed a caesarean. I wasn't. 

I lasted until about lunchtime when the midwife on duty asked if I wanted some pethidine. I wanted to do without, and so asked to be examined to see how far along I was. I'd made it to 3-4cm (finally! But...only 3-4?!) and admitted to myself this might take a while. So I agreed to the pethidine and the midwife gave me the shot. It was great - it allowed me to rest, and I could get back on the bed and lie down - an impossibility up until that point due to the pain of the contractions. I chatted away to Matt for a couple of hours until the pethidine started to wear off, when I remembered the pain of the contractions and decided I did not want to go back to that so asked if I could have an epidural stat. 

I was examined and found to be 4-5cm in the afternoon (times are a bit hazy!) and was sent to the labour ward where I was allocated the loveliest pair of midwives, Sarah and Hannah, a student midwife. I know some people are funny about having a student but it was great. It meant I was never left alone so I always had someone to prattle on to, and they've gotta learn somehow, right? The only slightly awks part was when they asked if she could examine me after Sarah had and I had to say no on account of loathing the VEs. Sorry, Hannah, no amount of gas and air is going to get me to voluntarily have that done. 

So I reiterated my request for an epidural and, luckily, there was a lovely anaesthetist who wasn't too busy who came and put one in for me. It was FAB. I didn't feel it go in at all, could still wiggle my legs and feel pressure in my lady parts and none of the nasty pain part. I had my waters broken (weird tugging, hacking sensation followed by a gush of warm liquid between my legs) - successfully this time - and was put on the drip to get the contractions coming more quickly. 

I spent the next few hours chatting away to Matt and the midwives, apologising profusely every two minutes for the farts that kept escaping from my too-relaxed body*. The only slightly hairy moment was when I suddenly felt all weird, my BP dropped and my temperature shot up, but it was nothing a bag of IV paracetamol and a recline of the bed didn't sort. 

The midwives were adamant that baby girl wouldn't make her appearance before the end of their shift (8.30pm) but I kept saying I felt pressure and asked to be examined. Lo and behold Sarah could feel the baby's head sitting only a couple of inches away from the opening. Whoop! Pushing time! Sarah also announced that my little one had hair, and I did a mini fist pump to celebrate (have I ever told you about my weirdness about bald babies?)

My fantastic midwives directed me to push; unfortunately, after about 20 minutes it transpired that Annika was facing sideways so wasn't coming around the bend as well as she should. Tricksy baby. The doctor was called in and he guided her out with a kiwi suction cup and me pushing. He was a superstar - as soon as he got in the room he told me he didn't like giving episiotomies (double whoop!) and didn't want me to tear. His direction was excellent and escaped with only a small first degree internal tear, which only needed a couple of stitches. Triple whoop! I will honestly never forget the moment when the doctor said "hold out your hands and get ready to catch your baby". Pure magic. Annika was born at 19.38 weighing 7lb 10oz and plonked straight onto my chest for some skin-to-skin and a feed (interrupted only briefly by my need to barf into a cardboard bowl while holding her - hopefully she will forgive me!). The doc stitched me up after he, according to Matt, "pushed it all back in". I still have no idea what that means and no desire to find out. 

This is already the longest birth story in the history of the world so I'll skip over the recovery (mine: swift, Annika's: a bit slower), my five days on the post-natal ward (sleepless) and my Day 8 post-partum haemorrhage (grim) and maybe save those for another day! But I will say that I loved Annika's birth. Yes, it hurt and no, it wasn't the perfect serene water birth I'd wanted, but I wouldn't change it for a second. And massive thanks to the utterly fantastic midwives and doctors who looked after us at C&W - they were wonderful. I'd do it all again tomorrow in a heart beat. 

*And yes, I pooped. 

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