I stayed at home for about four hours with severe back labour (baby was posterior) and inconsistent contractions before our doula drove us through the cobblestone streets to the Birthing Centre at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. There, the midwives checked my vitals and took blood to check my platelets at triage and finally allowed me in one of the swanky birthing centre rooms. I got in the birthing pool at about 6 centimeters and my water broke in the tub about 5am. Also, I write "labour" instead of "labor" not because I'm a pretentious ex-ex-pat, but because it was hard work, so I believe it deserves as many letters as possible. That, and I read enough British books about childbirth that leaving the "u" out just looks wrong.
I'll tell you that I absolutely loved the maternity system that the NHS offered. That said, the one thing I was hesitant about was that you generally don't get to meet the midwife who will deliver your baby unless you are having a home-birth (not uncommon). You are supposed see the same midwife throughout your pregnancy, but because our original midwife was promoted, then our second midwife went on maternity leave, we ended up seeing three different midwives.** When I was about six months pregnant, I started to get frustrated and worried. I knew I could handle birth, but I wanted to make sure I would know someone in the delivery room.
So we hired a doula.
|Our doula chills out on the couch, while I chill out|
in the birthing pool.
Nicola was fabulous. Most of the birth, she sat on a nearby couch and calmly knit a teeny baby hat for the wee boy. It was the perfect activity -- kept her busy, but mostly kept David calm. Whenever he suspected something might be wrong, or whenever he heard me make a weird animal noise, he could just look over at Nicola and she wouldn't have flinched. She'd seen hundreds of births, so she was very reassuring to my husband.
Back to the birth...
I loved being in the pool, mostly because it gave me an immediate way to tune everyone out. Despite this very public blog and my very public career, I don't actually like a lot of attention (unless I'm on stage). Being in the tub was great because I could just go underwater, float, or at least just put my ears under and not listen to anything anyone was saying.
Most of the time, I tried to float calmly, but as my back would surge, I did make a few sounds. And I said a few words. And it turns out I have a bit of a potty mouth when it comes to childbirth. Weird for a piano teacher, but then again, I'm also a publican's daughter. At one point I'm pretty sure I yelled "HYPNOBIRTHING IS A CROCK OF S***!!!!" (Oddly, I still use the Hypnobirthing App to fall asleep at night. It's very soothing.) I guess I was pretty vocal because the midwife did offer me some gas & air (half oxygen and half nitrous oxide), which I tried for a short while, but didn't seem to make much difference in my pain level. It did help me concentrate on my breathing, but I soon found out that blowing bubbles in the water was equally helpful and much easier.
David's favorite story to tell is about the shift change.
At 8am, Gillian the midwife came in to announce she was turning things over to Julie. Both women were in their early-to-mid-twenties, but Gillian seemed a bit more confident. She went over my charts with Julie and attempted an introduction while I was floating around, eyes closed, ears underwater. Allegedly, just as Gillian said, "Julie, this is Brigid," I came up above the water and shouted "MOTHERF*****!" and immediately went back underwater for a long time. I think David was embarrassed. Nicola laughed. Gillian and Julie held it together like professionals.
Julie turned out to be every bit as confident and good as Gillian, despite looking like a deer in headlights at first. She recorded my contractions in my maternity notes, and she let me push without coaching, as my birth plan had requested. I started pushing shortly after shift change, but I wasn't actually sure if I should be pushing or not. I felt the urge, but I'd read that posterior babies often make you feel the urge long before it's actually time (again -- too much reading). The midwife checked me, as I was starting to "have a bit of a show," and she agreed that it was definitely time to push.
And I pushed. And pushed. I was able to feel the baby's head (he had a lot of hair), but somehow he wasn't coming out. After each push, the midwife used a handheld monitor to check the baby's heartbeat, which she then recorded in my maternity notes.
After about 2 hours of pushing, the midwife asked if would perhaps like to get out of the tub and try some different positions. I was sad about giving up on the water birth, but I was started to get tired and wanted this baby out. So I climbed out of the tub and made good use of all the bean bags, pillows, mattresses, and chairs in the birthing room. I threw my arms around David's neck and lunged forward. I could feel the baby crowning, but couldn't quite get him out.
The midwife would chase me around with a monitor after each push, but all I wanted to do was walk around, which made monitoring the heartbeat difficult.
I was getting tired, and I needed a break. Somehow I was actually able to fight the contractions and hold back the pushes, which started to concern the midwives, thinking perhaps my labour was stalling. I told them it wasn't, I was just breathing through the contractions and not pushing as hard as they wanted. They then asked if they could do some aromatherapy, which I agreed to.
Well, whatever oils they opened up had an immediate effect. I mean, it was bizarre. One breath and I was contracting every thirty seconds or something -- back to full-on pushing.
|Newborn baby. Where'd he get that dark hair?|
The wee boy was born at 12:04pm. He weighed 8lbs8oz, was 22" long, and had a HUGE head that was shaped like a rugby ball. It wasn't the full-on water birth that I'd planned, but he was born with minimal intervention and was delivered by midwives.
I'm pretty proud to have managed twelve hours of back labour. I feel like if I were to ever actually have a proper-facing baby, it would be a piece of cake.
Next blog ... I'll talk about postnatal care because I think that's crazy-important.
**To be fair, I did see the same midwife for the last several months of my pregnancy, and if I'd had a home birth, she would have delivered the baby. She was great, so I blame my initial worry on hormones.