You can find Part I of my birth story here.
Birth stories don’t usually have parts, I am aware of this, but I am writing this out as a form of therapy so I feel it is important to be thorough.
After being admitted to Stepping Hill Hospital on the Monday, my plan was to go into labour naturally. This is pretty much impossible in a hospital setting. You know what helps with labour? Dim lights, calm, quiet, feeling safe, privacy. None of these things exist in a hospital setting. I was staying in a ward with four beds and though there were moments when I had the room to myself, it was usually a pretty busy place. I spent part of the week in a bed next to somebody trying to give up cannabis, her phone conversations were always pretty dramatic and it wasn’t exactly a peaceful setting for spontaneous labour.
Every morning, a doctor would do the rounds. My first morning there, I saw the consultant who had wanted to induce the day before. She still wanted to induce and I still didn’t want to be induced. She felt my stomach and said the fluid didn’t feel overly excessive and that there was probably a sizable baby in there. After she left, a midwife came to put me on the fetal heart monitor. She asked what my problem with induction was. Apparently, she was ‘playing devil’s advocate’. I get the impression that it’s unusual for women to want to avoid induction. I explained that intervention leads to more interventions and unnecessary risks and I didn’t feel like it was medically necessary. The risk of cord prolapse was still small. Terrifying, but small. And being induced wouldn’t reduce the risk.
At the end of the day, the midwife asked me if I wanted to be induced the next day. I told her I didn’t. She said she’d put a question mark down, so the option was there. She implied that this would be useful to me because it would stop people hassling me.
The next morning, a midwife turned up to say they had a private room for me which might help me to go into labour by myself ahead of my scheduled induction at 6pm. So the midwife from the night before had clearly scheduled me in for an induction I hadn’t agreed to. I immediately went into panic mode. The midwife turned out to be a Supervisor of Midwives (these are the most useful people ever if your birth isn’t going to plan, they are completely on your side and will help you problem solve until you find a solution you’re happy with). She said I could take the room and decline the induction and then ran off to the delivery ward to double check. While I waited for her to come back, I packed up all my bags, piled them on the bed and sat in the chair waiting to move. Nothing like looking keen, is there?
When she returned, she said she’d had a change of heart. She had decided that if I went to delivery, then there would be doctors knocking at my door all day trying to get me to induce and she felt that would actually be more stressful for me than being on a shared ward. She looked sadly at my packed bags and then sat down to talk to me about my birth plan. She was really supportive and understanding and I found talking to her really helpful.
I saw a registrar that day (this is a type of doctor, I did not know this) and she sat down on my bed whilst saying, “This is your baby and your body and nobody is going to make you do anything you don’t want to do.” I liked her a lot. As long as me and the baby were both fine, they were happy to let me wait for labour to start naturally. Though I did get the impression the pressure to induce would build as time went on. I was originally admitted because of polyhydramnios, but by the Wednesday I was 42 weeks pregnant and I have learnt that this makes medical professionals very nervous. Midwives kept hopefully asking me whether my dates could be out, but I don’t think they could have been really not by more than a few days.
The baby was monitored once a day on the fetal heart monitor and by the Friday this was increased to twice daily. The baby was perfectly happy each time. The baby was very active and nobody seemed to have any concerns about the baby’s health other than the risk of polyhydramnios. The doctors seemed to be in disagreement over whether more scans were needed and with seeing a different doctor each day this got confusing. A couple of doctors felt additional scans were necessary, but others disagreed because the placenta, blood flow in the cord and amniotic fluid levels were all good last time. Well, the fluid levels weren’t good, they were too high, but the risk with a prolonged pregnancy is reduced waters and clearly I wasn’t suffering from that. Internal examinations were performed and each one concluded that there would be no labour anytime soon. Eventually, I saw a doctor who said that I shouldn’t have internal examinations, that I should give my body a break. I liked her a lot.
I spent my days bouncing on a giant birth ball, listening to music on headphones and walking around the hospital. I walked from the maternity building to the ambulance bay and back over and over again. I clocked up miles just walking between the two hospital destinations I felt I would be safest if my waters went. My parents came over to help with Ebony so that Laurie could spend the day with me at the hospital. These days were depressing and I mostly spent them crying and saying I wanted to go home. One day my parents came and we walked to the ambulance bay many times in the rain. Laurie brought Ebony to visit me every morning and then again for bedtime stories at night. We ate our dinner together, huddled over the table above my bed. Ebony and Laurie both looked exhausted by the end of the week. It was so heartbreaking not to be able to spend those last days as a family of three together. I wanted nothing more than to cuddle Ebony to sleep at night, have a bath and then go to sleep in my own bed.
Staying in hospital isn’t fun at all. This was the first time I’d stayed overnight in hospital since I was a newborn baby. I was waking up at 6am every day, my body clock tuned into my early rises daughter, the day stretching out ahead of me. It’s not easy to fill your time in hospital. The days and nights are broken by the inevitable interruptions of observations, monitoring and the drugs trolley. I spent most of my time out of the room, either sitting on the sofas at the entrance to the ward or soaking up some sunshine on a bench outside the hospital. I tried to feel calm, to focus on the birth and to trust my body to do what it had done once before.
The supervisor of midwives told me to think of a date at which I might consider induction. I spent the day googling on my phone. I was 42+2 by this point. Though medical professionals seem uneasy letting women stay pregnant past 42 weeks, I couldn’t really find much in the way of modern research explaining why. I found some articles about increased risk at 43 weeks. Not hugely increased risks, but potentially scary sounding outcomes. I thought maybe I would accept induction at 43 weeks. But knowing that this meant an increased risk of pretty much every intervention going including c-section, I didn’t commit to the idea and just left it floating at the back of my mind.
Though the hospital had told us Ebony would be allowed into the birth centre with us, this was only if we could find somebody to come and stay nearby so they could take her away if necessary. We had a few trusted people who were happy to help out with this, but it was difficult knowing who would take her on what day. I wanted to be able to tell Ebony what would happen but there were too many ifs and buts. My parents were due to go to Greece the next morning and I was feeling really nervous about them not being there. In the end, I asked them how they would feel about delaying their holiday so they could be there to look after Ebony during the birth. My mum said she was happy to do that and I cannot tell you how relieved I was. I’d spent all week hoping I’d have the baby before they left and now I could finally stop worrying about it.
By the Friday, I had been in hospital for four days. I was 42+2 and truly fed up. Laurie and Ebony came in the morning and we had a chippy lunch sat on the benches outside the hospital. Ebony did some dancing for us and made Laurie join in too. My parents came over to take Ebony out to Bramhall Hall for the day. Ebony was pretty emotional, it had been a long week, but I knew she was in safe hands. Laurie and I spent the day walking between from the maternity ward to the ambulance bay (most boring walk ever). We watched a movie in my ward and then went for another walk. My parents brought Ebony back late afternoon and we shared dinner together in my ward. We read bedtime stories, we did some colouring in and then it was time for Ebony and Laurie to go home.
My ward was empty that evening. I spent the evening talking to my family on the phone, bouncing on my birthing ball and watching television. I felt calm and hopeful that perhaps labour would start soon. I was watching Friday Night Dinners when I noticed that I was having pretty regular tightenings. I was due to have another monitoring so I asked the midwives if they could do it soon. I was strapped up to the monitor and I watched with excitement as the contractions made little hills on the printed graph. A woman was brought onto my ward and we chatted a little while I was being monitored. I knew that this was the start of labour and I was really hoping that the contractions wouldn’t teeter off.
When the midwife came to check the monitor, she told me that the tightenings were a good sign. She wasn’t quite as excited as I was, but then she hadn’t been pregnant for 42 weeks. I knew this was the start of things and that I needed to try and keep the contractions going. I couldn’t sleep so I decided to go for a walk to help things along.