On the 2nd of November we welcomed our little one to our family. Jack was born at 1:18 am and boy have I never felt my heart filled with so much love and glee. David and I are so incredibly happy and over the moon to have our first child and he is such a pleasure to be around. Since Jack was born during the COVID pandemic, my birth had added complications of fear and lonliness before we even got to the hospital. In Spain, if you test positive for the virus (at least when and where I gave birth) you are sperated from your partner and have to give birth alone and stay in isolation until you are COVID free. The idea of this happening drew fear in the final months of my pregnancy and it made the idea of giving birth absolutely terrifying. My actual birth experience was far from perfect and I am still recovering and I will be for many months to come but I am so in love with my son that I have almost forgotten all of the pain.
They say that only 5% of babies are born on their due date – Jack was one of those babies! My due date was technically the 1st of November and my labour started in the morning of the 1st. They also say your first is the most painful – and oh boy are they right.
So on the morning of the 1st I felt a different kind of pain and I just knew labour was around the corner. The feeling wasn’t like what I had read online and when I felt what I thought were contractions, I was waiting for the feeling of them being like “waves” and the strong pains people so often describe in their back. It was more like sharp stabbings in my stomach that would make my back curl from the pain. After not getting much sleep, we decided to head to the hospital in the morning to see if I was actually dialated and if I was actually in labour. After going to the hospital, I was 3 cm dialated at that point but not enough to stay in hospital. We decided to go back home and I tried to relax and take a long warm bath. Since the nurse at the hospital did a membrane sweep, I was sure that active labour would come on the same day.
After leaving the hospital, David and I decided to stop by at one of our favourite bakeries and take a hot chocolate and a coffee and our favourite pastries to go since we knew we had a long day ahead of us. At this point, I was around a 4 on the pain scale since I was able to move around and speak for the most part. After arriving home, I took a long warm bath as the nurse had advised me that it would encourage the baby to drop. After taking my bath and using my vapour machine with my favourite calming scent (this machine helped me stay calm SO much throughout my pregnancy), I got into comfortable clothing and lay down.
In the matter of two hours the pain increased to a 6 and I was starting to feel that we would be soon heading back to the hospital. I told David that I didn’t want to rush since I wanted to do a large part of my labouring in the comfort of our home. David’s parents invited us over for lunch so we wouldn’t have to cook which we initially accepted but closer to 1’oclock it looked like I wouldn’t be able to be around people comfortably from the amount of pain I was in. I started to find it difficult to sit down and half way through eating our lunch, it came apparent that I was definitely further than 3cm dialated at that point.
Since the nurse had told us that it looked like active labour would either start on the first or second, we took all of our bags and headed to the hospital with the high hopes that this time we would be returing home as three. When we arrived a group of young nurses that were most likley training as a part of their university course tried to seperate me and David and told him that he couldn’t be in the hospital with me. I understand the COVID restrictions but surely the Father is allowed to be present at the birth of his child? Well, luckily the previous nurse that had seen us earlier came in at the right time and saved the day! I was in so much pain I was finding it difficult to walk and finally, she checked on me and told us that I was almost 5 cm. This was such a relief to hear as it brought comfort knowing that this pain was actually the result of something!
The first thing that my nurse reccomended was taking a warm bath which I am so so so glad she did. If your hospital has this option, please try it! Although I had a warm bath hours earlier at home, taking a warm bath when I was in that much pain really did help. We had arrived at the hospital around 3 o’oclock and by 4 o’clock I was lying in the bath in the room I would give birth in. This is where the pain really did start to kick in and I was in an incredible amount of pain. The entire time I was trying to remind myself to breathe through the contractions and not panic or waste my energy screaming out from the pain. All I can describe it as is such a stong pressure on your stomach and back. Standing, sitting, lying down simply does not make it go away or help. After being in the bath for an hour and attempting to bounce on the yoga ball that they had offered me, it was time for some drugs. I tried as best as I could to wait it out until as far as I could go naturally so the drugs wouldn’t ware off towards the end of my labour.
I was at 6 cm when they issued the epidural and it kicked in pretty quickly. I could definitely still feel the pressure but I was not in pain at all. I decided to not have the maximum amount with the hope that I would have a smoother birth since I would feel the pressure and be able to push with the contractions. I felt so much relief for about two hours and then things took a turn for the worst. The nurses started to give me oxytocin to relax my body and encourage stronger contractions to help with my progression. Unforuntately I had a bad reaction to the oxytocin and started to shake and pass out. Luckily they were able to turn me on my side and put a cloth of alcohol over my mouth to wake me up. The next time I was checked, I was 7cm and not long after I felt a huge gush of blood. When I say a huge gush of blood, I mean at least half a cup full. I was so nervous and shouted for the nurses and they reassured me that it was completely normal and it meant that I was progressing. For some reason I had no idea that this was something that happens during labour. The next time I shouted for the nurse was because I felt a sudden burst of liquid and this time it was my water that had broken!
The nurses cleaned me up and emptied my bladder (quite uncomfortable when they attach a tube to where your pee comes out and three nurses are stood over watching you pee into a pot) and told me they were going to let me rest for an hour to see my progress. After 30 minutes, they came back in and put more oxytocin into my system and again I had the same reaction. When they checked me 30 minutes later, I was 9cm dialated!! I was so surprised that it happened so quickly and it was around 9.30 pm. I started to think perhaps I will have him on my due date afterall!
Boy was I wrong… I didn’t know what was about to happen in the next few hours. Now I want to reiterate what I said at the beginning of this post – I know that the birth of your first born is no plain sailing. It is supposed to be difficult and I went into labour with that mentality. When the nurse told me it was time to start pushing I suddenly felt nervous. But I was excited. So excited at the thought of finally meeting our baby son. I squeezed onto my husbands hand and tried my hardest to digest everything the nurses were telling me and take in all of their advice. Here’s where it started to take a turn for the worst. Suddenly I started to feel a LOT of pain in my lower back. When I say a lot, I mean as much (if not more) pain as I was in before I had the epidural. It was clear that something was wrong. We stopped and asked for the anesthesiologist to come back in and give me another injection since it seemed to not be working or had worn off. Even with the second time around, I was in the exact same amount of pain. They started to issue medication through the tube that was attached in my arm and the pain started to decrease but certainly not to an extent that was durable.
We decided that it was time to push regardless of the pain. The nurses suggested that by pushing whilst lying on my side, it would take a lot of pressure from my back. This seemed to work but after an hour, it was clear that it wasn’t helping Jack progress down. Again, the nurses suggested to leave me an hour to see if Jack would naturally start to come down more without putting too much pressure on my back. After an hour, they came and we continued pushing. This time we tried pushing with my legs wide open and I was holding onto a bar to push. This really seemed to help progress but again, the pain was so intense. It was suddenly 1.00 am and the nurses began to become concerned and so they called in a doctor. The doctor suddenly presented us with some bad news. The doctor was concerned that Jack may be running out of oxygen and he may be in danger if he isn’t delievered soon.
This is where I started to really feel like I was so out of control. Even though I felt a lot of pain before, I felt like I was in control of the situation and I was content with that feeling. Hearing this news felt like alarm bells ringing in my ears because suddenly the reality hit me that I had absolutely no control over my little baby and how he was doing. I wasn’t able to help him in that situation and I suddenly felt so helpless and guilty. I burst into tears and told them to do what ever they needed to make sure he was safe. They inserted a needle inside of me to his head to test his oxygen levels. That’s when the doctor said he has a matter of minutes and in the blink of an eye, I had seven doctors at my feet with tools that I can only describe as something I have seen my husband use from his tool box. This is when my husband started to shake and ask what was going on. All I remember is the doctor telling him that he should stand at my side and not go near where the baby will be devliered incase something goes wrong. I held my husbands hand so tight and we cried together as they cut me down there and pulled our son out in the matter of a minute with their grotesque tools.
Suddenly we could see our son and they quickly put him to the oxygen machine to check his breathing. David and I must have asked ten times if he was OK before we got our answer (or what felt like ten times) since all of the doctors were inspecting him and talking amongst themselves. Whilst all of this was happening, one of the nurses was starting on my stitches (third degree tearing, you mama’s know how that goes). Finally, they placed our son on my chest and I got to hold him for the first time. Suddenly the pain in my back and the feeling of the nurse doing my stitches (yes I felt it all) went away and I felt calm again. There he was. After all of those months of waiting. He was finally with us, safe in our arms.