Our lovely daughter, M, was born on Sunday evening. A simple sentence but it encapsulates so much more than that!
R had mild contractions throughout Friday night. By Saturday afternoon they were much stronger so we started to use all the hypnobirthing and relaxation techniques we'd learnt. R did a wonderful job of managing the surges when they came. After about four hours of this we went to the birth centre, a lovely midwife led unit on the edge of the city, with a focus on natural births and water births. We stayed for about an hour but were then advised to get some rest at home for a few hours because there was still quite a long way to go.
Several hours later we were back and things were definitely moving along. R's cervix was dilating slowly. By 9am she had progressed into 'active labour' and was able to get in the pool, which helped enormously with managing the surges when they came. A good friend came to help out and I managed to get a 30 minute nap. I'm glad I did.
A few hours later progress wasn't as good as it should be, so the midwife suggested breaking R's waters. She felt a bit reluctant at first, because it was an intervention that she hoped to avoid. However, we wanted to avoid R and the baby getting too tired, so we went for it. That was the moment when everything changed. When the midwife said to her colleague: "grade three meconium" my heart sank. This means that the baby had done a poo inside R, which can be a sign that the baby isn't very happy and might be distressed.
R was put into an ambulance to the hospital, which is just three miles away. I had to drive there myself, alone, in my car with its empty car seat. I immediately reversed into a bollard at the birth centre, such was my worry and general state. I wept on the drive there, hoping to get my tears out before R arrived. I knew I needed to be calm and strong for her sake.
Once at the hospital, I called our friend back to offer us a bit of moral support. R was now in quite intense discomfort. The staff were wonderful and totally supported her wish for a natural birth but soon it became clear she needed more help. She had now been in labour for more than 24 hours and was exhausted. Progress was still very slow and the doctors wanted to put up a drip to bring them on. After a long discussion, she decided to have an epidural. It would allow her to sleep for a while the drip took effect. For a few hours after that we had some rest. It was a good decision in more ways than one because suddenly the baby's heartbeat started to drop. It didn't recover very quickly, so quickly we were surrounded by about eight people in blue scrubs doing lots of tests and asking questions. The baby was clearly in distress, and after a quick blood test they were able to do on her head (clever huh?) they discover her oxygen levels were a little low.
It was then that R was recommended to have a caesarian section. Once she'd said yes - and really for both her safety and that of our daughter it was the only answer - she was whisked away to surgery. I had a little cry and was then myself taken to get into scrubs. Because she already had her epidural she was able to stay awake during the procedure which was great. As I waited outside the theatre for her to be prepared, I prayed out loud. I'm not sure I've ever done that before. I was terrified, but also knew that I had to hold it together. Whatever I was going through, it was much tougher for R and the baby.
Within just a minute or two of me entering the theatre and sitting by R's head on the other side of the blue barrier, I heard my daughter cry. The relief was a physical experience. I cried yet again. She was put straight into R's chest for skin to skin and I just sat there with my two girls, glad that the nightmare of the last few hours was over. It had been truly terrifying.
Soon the three of us were in the recovery area. We spent an hour, just the three of us, only interrupted occasionally by staff checking on R and M. It was the first bit of peace and quiet we'd had for hours and was just incredible. We had come through almost 48 hours of labour and emerged with a healthy, happy baby. She even managed to breast feed for 40 minutes which was a massive achievement!
By about 11.30pm it was time for me to go. R and M were taken to the ward and I once again returned to my car. I was exhausted, emotional and relieved. I drove home very slowly, almost blinded by the tears. Home felt oddly empty and it was strange thinking of my wife and daughter in a hospital ward. I rang my dad and told him all about what had happened, although I'm not sure I was speaking in full sentences.
I was now a Mama.