Willow Olive: A birth story

“With you being overdue and having reduced movements we would like to induce on Friday this week…” My heart sank. I had been induced with my first baby, and things had not gone well. I’d ended up with an infected episiotomy, a painful third degree tear and a postpartum haemorrhage which caused me to need two units of blood, and my research had confirmed that things pretty much spiralled downwards from the point I was induced.

The midwife saw the concerned look on my face and sat down beside me. We talked about what happened with Rose and why I was so afraid – and I told her this was it, this was the last baby I was planning to deliver, I needed a good experience to heal the emotional wounds from last time. She reassured me that this new form of induction – a propess, which is like a SIM card they insert into your cervix – was incredibly effective and the speed of labour could be managed by removing it if necessary. She also reminded me that I knew what to expect this time round, which wasn’t all that helpful.

I went home and drank my body weight in raspberry leaf tea, but to no avail. Induction day arrived. I was excited, scared, anxious and happy all at the same time. I was six days over my due date (which was 22nd August 2015) so I was more than ready to meet Rose’s little brother or sister, I just wasn’t sure how well I would cope with the next 24-48 hours, and neither was Tom given that he missed a lot of the last experience (entirely my fault, I told them not to call and wake him up).

Nan came over from next door and we explained to Rose once again that we were going to get her baby brother or sister from the hospital and she smiled, sat down and said “Ok. I wait here for you”. If only it was going to be quick enough for her to sit in one place and wait, bless her heart!

They showed us to the exact same bed on the maternity ward where I had been with Rose – Tom sat in the same seat, looking out of the same window, at the same view and I nervously wondered if we would have the same outcome and aftermath as the last time.

I was prepared for a long wait, and after they inserted the propess at 11am we walked laps of the car park, to try and get things moving, as well as taking cankle-reducing Sudoku rest breaks (the cankles were nowhere near as epic this time, thank goodness). Nothing happened. Determined not to make unnecessary mess (ahem) during labour, I chose broccoli bake and carrots for my lunch, hoping for a good clear out before things kicked off. (My plan failed and I should have enjoyed the delicious fish and chips that Tom had ordered for himself).

We walked. I puzzled. We walked. I puzzled. Tom started making me do double laps, but I was hot (it was August 28th and sunny) and bothered so we retired to our bed on the maternity ward to cuddle up and watch some crappy day time TV and run through our boys name list once again. (We were 100% certain on our girl’s name).

We decided to take another walk about 5pm, and Tom phoned his Mum to explain that nothing was happening and he would probably be home that evening to put Rose to bed. On the second lap, I started to feel a dull period-pain sensation but nothing really came of it.

A little while later I put some clean pyjamas on, headed off to the toilet to brush my teeth and started to accept that Tom would probably be heading home soon, as it didn’t seem like anything was going to happen that night. As I waddled back to my bed there was an ear-splitting shriek and people started running around yelling ‘She’s going to give birth in the shower!’ The banshee-type wailing got louder and louder and as I pulled the curtain back on our cubicle I looked at Tom and whispered “I’m scared”. He looked back at me and said “me too!” (Apparently she made it to the labour ward, but only just).

At around 9pm the pain was building gradually – only this time it started to intensify, rather than disappearing. As it spread into my back and returned again about ten minutes later I knew… This was it. Game time.

I started to concentrate on practising some of the breathing I’d been reading up on only days before (in through the nose, out through the mouth, making the out breath as long as possible) and I was starting to feel some pain. Tom kept asking if he could do anything, but I felt I had it under control at that point in time so he carried on watching a film while I bounced like my life depended on it.

By 10pm the pain had increased so they came to examine me. I was struggling, so when the midwife told me I was 4-5cm dilated I cried tears of happiness – I was so relieved that the pain wasn’t all for nothing, and things were moving forward at a good pace. It was clear Tom was going nowhere, so he phoned home and told them to expect news of an arrival in the next few hours, all being well. The bouncing made it harder for them to monitor me, so I laid down on the bed and clutched Tom’s hand through each contraction. The contractions were about 4-5 minutes apart when I told Tom I couldn’t take it anymore, I needed some pain relief and he needed to press the buzzer. Like, NOW.

We kept being told they would be coming to take us down to the labour ward “soon”, but it seemed theirs was the kind of “soon” you tell a Christmas-loving kid in October, and it was an absolute age until someone appeared with a wheelchair for me. By the time we reached the labour ward, where I knew there would be gas and air on tap, I was contracting every two minutes.

We had to wait while they mopped the floor (as I yelled “MOP QUICKLY!!”) and after an agonising few minutes, and a few more contractions, they wheeled me in to – you’ve guessed it – the SAME delivery room where I’d had Rose 26 months earlier.

I clambered onto the bed and found it really difficult to get into a comfortable position – I wanted gravity on my side but my SPD (horrid pelvic pain caused by my pregnancy) wasn’t allowing me to stay upright, and I had to give in to laying on my back, one of the hardest positions to give birth in, or so I had read.

The gas and air was taking the edge off the contractions, but it was the grasp I had on Tom’s hand which really got me through them – if I had needed to let go of one of them it wouldn’t have been him! At 1am I started to push. It was the most intense, overwhelming pain I had ever known – I had an epidural in full, working order by this stage with Rose, so it was all new to me, and it was almost unbearable. I asked Tom a couple of times if I was going to die – I know how dramatic that sounds now, but in the moment I couldn’t quite understand how something natural could be that painful.

Several unexpected (some unpleasant, some amusing) things happened during the pushing stage – I made the mess I was hoping to avoid, and of course it was a broccoli-based mess, so that was a delight for me, Tom and the poor midwife who had the job of wiping my arse for me (they really aren’t paid enough). My waters broke during one particularly large PUUUSH and went ‘splat’ up the wall and I started to make unusual braying-type sounds, often at a very high volume. At one point I looked at Tom and said “I know that noise is ridiculous, but it really helps” and he nodded, stifled a laugh and told me to “Just keep doing it then!”

The contractions were relentless. I literally only got to snatch my breath in between them and another would crash over me like a tidal wave, until finally the midwife announced that our baby was almost here and she could see that he or she had hair. Because I was lied to during labour with Rose, I told Tom I didn’t believe her (the poor woman had to wipe my backside and then I called her a liar – I bet I’m right at the top of her Christmas card list) so he was forced to check, and sure enough, we were getting there at last! In hindsight I do feel bad I made him look ‘down there’, it was never his intention to get a birds-eye view and I have heard that, for a man, the sight of their partner’s lady bits during labour can be likened to watching his favourite pub burn to the ground. Eek. I hope he can forgive, and more importantly forget, in time. Anyway, we were almost at the finish line.

The last few pushes were accompanied by a bizarre sensation as our baby moved their head from side to side while still inside me and then I heard a phrase I had prayed I would never hear again… “I’m going to have to give you a small cut to get the head out”. Urgh. Not another episiotomy to recover from, and this time it would be done with no epidural (as was the stitching afterwards. Yikes). Thankfully they aren’t barbarians and did their best to numb the area first, and with the next contraction our baby’s head was born. It turns out the cord had been around her neck, making the head hard to deliver.

It felt like I had to wait about three days for the next contraction, although it was only about a minute later. In that minute I felt elated – we were about to meet our baby, to find out if Rose had a brother or a sister, and to see his/her little face for the first time. The pain built and I pushed with all that I had left and as the midwife lifted our baby up, Tom announced to me “It’s Willow! It’s a girl!” and I felt joy racing through my veins. She was here. She was here, and I did it.

Willow Olive weighed 8lb 6oz when she was born, just like her big sister. She was born in the same room, we had waited in the same cubicle, at the same hospital, but despite all the coincidences she proved that no two labours are the same – and at 2.03am on Saturday 29th August 2015, she made us a family of four.

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