It’s been very quiet here these last few weeks and there’s a good reason for it – our beautiful baby boy, Orlando, arrived on 30th October, and I’ve been lapping up every moment ever since. Orlando is now 8 weeks old, I feel like it’s time to reflect and share his arrival.
Fair warning, this will be a long post as I document Orlando’s arrival.
Labour begun with my waters breaking whilst I was lying on the couch. I heard a, ‘pop,’ and had immediate, severe pains in my abdomen. At the time, I didn’t realise it was my waters breaking; I thought the couch had shifted, and that I suddenly just had my intense Braxton Hicks, but in hindsight, I realise it was my waters.
The pain was worse than any Braxton Hick I had felt to date, so I hopped on my fit ball and did what I had been doing for the last 3-4 weeks of my pregnancy; hip circles, figure of 8’s, pelvic tilts, and bouncing on the fit ball in order to get Coco into the optimal position. The pain didn’t subside, and I could feel the pains coming and going with a certain regularity, but at the time, I was in a bit of disbelief that I could be in labour.
Mr A asked if he could head to the shops as there was a big sale at a hardware store on, and I remembering saying, ‘yep all good, I’m sure it’s nothing.’ After he left, I hopped into a warm shower to try and see if the pains would subside. They did a little, bit once I hopped out of the shower, I noticed some discharge and thought I had better call the maternity unit just in case. I gave them a call and they asked us to come, just to make sure everything was going okay. I called Mr A and said to him, ‘can you come home please?’ and then immediately hung up – in hindsight I should’ve given him more information, because he dropped everything he had and then sped home haha!
Whilst waiting for Mr A to get home, I was packing our prepared bags, just in case we ended up being admitted. At this stage I thought it was still a false alarm, so wasn’t packing the final items with any urgency. I went to the bathroom and had a big gush of fluid, which was a murky colour. I remembered from our antenatal classes that we had to go to hospital if we had any fluid that wasn’t clear, but I didn’t call the hospital again as I figured they were already expecting us. I popped a pad in to contain the fluid, as I also remembered the midwives recommending this so they could test the fluid at the hospital.
I started packing with more urgency then; the colour of the fluid had me a little concerned. Once Mr A got home, he popped a bin bag on his car seat (typical bloke, worried about his car haha), and we headed to the hospital. About 2 hours had passed between me feeling the first pop and arriving at the hospital.
Arriving at the Hospital
We arrived at the maternity ward and were immediately greeted by a midwife who had been expecting us thanks to my phone call – luckily it seemed pretty quiet on the maternity and labour ward, so the midwives weren’t run off their feet. The admitting midwife asked me some questions and I gave her the pad to test. She asked me to go the bathroom, and whilst I was in there, I heard the midwife say to Mr A, ‘you guys are having a baby today!’ I walked out of the bathroom and asked them both if I had heard correctly, and when she said yes, I said, ‘I’m not sure I’m ready to have a baby today!’ – the reality of labour came crashing down and I was suddenly feeling very overwhelmed. The admitting midwife told us that we had to stay, because they had tested the fluid and found it to be meconium, which meant Coco had a bowel movement. The midwife advised this was common for overdue babies, as Coco was 3 days overdue at this stage.
Labour Ward Admission
We were moved to the labour ward, where only 1 other woman was labouring. Our first midwife was Cat, and ironically she was the first midwife I had seen for my antenatal appointments – she remembered me and was excited to be our labour midwife. Cat told us that they would be inducing my contractions with Syntocin due to the meconium in my waters; meconium increases the risk of infection and other complications, so the hospital’s policy is to try and get baby out as quickly as possible.
Once I heard they would be inducing my contractions, I felt very deflated. Whilst we didn’t have a birth “plan,” we had birth “preferences,” one of which included not having any pain medication. I had practiced prenatal yoga and really wanted to labour without any intervention if possible, as a natural birth was my highest priority.
Cat performed an examination to determine how dilated I was, and she advised I was 2cm. I was very surprised, as whilst the pain at home had been intense, it had been manageable, and I was still quite surprised to hear I was in labour!
I told Cat I wanted to avoid pain medication, that I wanted a natural birth, and I felt like none of this would be possible to the Synotcin, but she was amazing and said to me, “if those of things you want, then we’re going to work together to give you the best shot at getting them. It’s mind over matter – you can do this!” Whilst I appreciated her support and enthusiasm for our preferences, I still felt very deflated. Mr A could tell, and started giving me a pep talk. We told Cat that I wanted to actively labour; using a fit ball, walking, hip rocking, and stretching and changing positions .. I basically wanted to avoid lying on the bed at all during labour, as my prenatal yoga course taught me that working with gravity and staying upright was the best thing to do whilst in labour.
Cat went to get the GP would be inserting the cannula into my hand for the Syntocin drip. Cat then came back and said the GP was in an emergency and wouldn’t be available for 2 hours, so they were going to let me labour naturally until he was available. Mr A and I settled in; we set up my labour playlist that I had created in Spotify and told Cat she wasn’t allowed to judge my music choices haha – my playlist had a huge range of music from George, to Bloc Party, to Eminem, to Mariah Carey and Snoop Dogg. Cat put a wireless fetal heart rate monitor on me, and a wireless contractions monitor which charted the frequency, duration and intensity of my contractions.
I started walking and bouncing on the fit ball. Mr A let our close friends and family know that we were in labour, and called my best friend Caitlin to let her know too – she was my additional support person, and we wanted to let her know early as she had a half an hr drive ahead of her to the hospital. We also told our birth photographer, Cat (yes, another one!) what was going on, as she also had to arrange care for her kids and drive to the hospital. At this stage, I could happily talk and laugh and interact with people.
Early & Active Labour
About an hr and a half passed and midwife Cat performed another examination to find out how much I had progressed. She said that because my contractions had naturally been quite intense and regular, we might be able to skip the Syntocin provided I had dilated well. That was music to my ears, and during the examination I had really hoped I had dilated. Cat advised I had only dilated 0.5cm during my natural labouring, and again, I felt very deflated and defeated as she advised they would have no choice but to start the Syntocin.
The GP came in an insert the cannula just above my wrist. I started crying at this stage, as reality hit home that I’d have my contractions induced and I thought I’d more than likely need pain relief due to the intensity and regularity of contractions – everything I had ever heard said Syntocin contractions were hard, because your body doesn’t get a change to gear up to the contractions; instead with the artificial induction they come hot and heavy, and generally women request pain relief because of the intensity. Mr A was amazing though – he told me just to take it one contraction at a time, and that my body was made to do this even if my contractions were induced. He said he believed in me, and was proud of how well I’d done already, and his words had a huge impact on my state of mind; I went from feeling defeated, to feeling like I wanted to give labour a red hot crack without any pain relief. The Syntocin drip started, and Cat said she had started it on the lowest dose and would increase it every 45 mins. Cat advised they’d let the Syntocin run for 4 hours, and would then perform another examination to check the progress of my dilation. My Syntocin drip started at about 6:30pm.
I could feel the difference in pain immediately; my contractions were harder, and faster straight away, even on the lowest setting. The Syntocin drip was placed on wheels to allow me to move, but it made walking harder so I basically spent time on my knees hip rocking and circling, and on the fit ball in various positions to encourage Coco to be in the optimal position for labour. I have no idea how long I went labouring with the fit ball, but I eventually moved into the shower as I felt the warm water would help. My contractions were so hard and so fast, and at this stage I wasn’t really talking; Mr A and Caitlin had both started to try and talk to me but because I wasn’t responding, they changed to just giving me words of encouragement without really expecting any reply.
Moving to the shower was the best decision. Whilst preparing for labour, I knew I wanted to use the shower and warm water as a natural method of pain relief, as warm water had always helped my period pain in the past. Mr A and my new midwife, Sarah (a shift change occured whilst I was labouring), moved the fit ball into the shower for me, but by this stage, I changed to staying on my knees and using foam mats to support myself. I often changed positions in the shower, between being on my knees, and standing with the water directly on my back, to bent over against the wall rocking my hips, and leaning on Mr A for support.
All of a sudden I had an overwhelming urge to use the toilet. I told Mr A who told Sarah, and she seemed quite surprised as it had only been 2.5 hours at this stage. She said to try and use the toilet, but I couldn’t really concentrate as the contractions were so painful. I went back to standing in the shower and told Sarah nothing happened, but my next few contractions I had the overwhelming urge again and told Sarah. She said it was a good sign, as this meant Coco was moving into position, and said she could do an examination just to see how far dilated I was. I was very hesitant to do this, as so far I hadn’t had any medicated pain relief and the contractions were hard, fast and super painful. I said to Mr A, ‘if we have the examination and I’ve barely dilated, I will have to ask for pain relief because I’m not sure how much longer I can do this for.’ Mr A and I decided to wait another half a hour and then have an examination performed.
Once the half an hour had passed, Sarah performed another examination. It was excruciating; the worst pain yet which made sense, as Sarah suddenly exclaimed, “you’re 9 cms dilated and baby’s head is right there – you can start pushing soon!” I was amazed. I hadn’t expected to dilate so quickly, and I hadn’t expected to be able to labour with Syntocin contractions without needing pain relief. I felt like the end was near. Sarah said I had to wait for just a few more contractions before pushing, as there was still a tiny lip of my cervix in the way. I went back into the shower to wait out the contractions.
Pushing & Delivery
Sarah did another quick check and told me I could start pushing. Whilst it felt natural, I didn’t start pushing very effectively as I didn’t use my contractions to really bear down. Sarah, Mr A and Caitlin were all in the shower with me, and I was still on all fours. I switched between being on all fours, to going into a semi squat / lunge position to push. It took SO long – I honestly had no idea how hard pushing would be, as I thought the early, active, and transition phases of labour were the hardest part. Everyone kept encouraging me and saying, ‘you’re doing so well, only a few more pushes to go.’ I was pushing and straining so hard I had quite a few nose bleeds along the way. My back and legs were absolutely killing me from the straining. I’d get through a large push and Sarah would say to me, ‘keep going!’ but I just had no energy. At this stage a second midwife was in the room to monitor just the baby’s heartbeat, and because I was pushing in the shower, the monitor lost contact quite a few times which caused concern for the midwife.
My support team were amazing; they kept encouraging me to push, that I was close, and that I was making progress. In hindsight, they were telling me white lies in saying that Coco was close, because the pushing phase took me about an hour and a half. I felt the ring of fire and knew I was close to having our baby, and I kept saying to Mr A that I just couldn’t do it anymore. Anytime he heard me say this, he’d grab my face and tell me, ‘you absolutely can do this – you’re doing amazing! We’re so close to finding out if we have a boy or girl, just keep pushing.’ Sarah encouraged me by asking if I wanted to feel Coco’s head, because it was right there and I only needed another few pushes to deliver the head. I reached down and felt Coco’s head which was both exciting, scary, and kinda gross haha!
I delivered the head, and Sarah told me to wait and only do half a push. At the time I didn’t understand why, but I found out later that Orlando had his umbilical cord around his head, so Sarah needed me to stop pushing so she could unloop the cord. I delivered the rest of Coco whilst semi squatting, and was rewarded with seeing Coco straight away and finding out we had a son!!!!!
I was so amazed; I thought Coco was a girl throughout my whole pregnancy.He took about 10 seconds to cry which felt like a lifetime, but Mr A cut the cord, and he was put straight onto my chest. I was given an active management shot to deliver the placenta, which came about 5 minutes after he was out. My placenta was intact, with no chunks or membranes missing. I had no tearing or stitches which was amazing news – it turned out my slow pushing phase really helped in ensuring everything had time to stretch slowly.
Mr A and I were still coming to terms with the fact we had a son and were tossing up between 2 names, so he was still known as Coco at this stage. It seems strange to refer to him as Coco now, so I’m calling him Orlando for the rest of this post. Orlando was born at 11:07pm on 30th October 2016 weighting 7.7 pounds (3.49kg), and 51cm long with a 35cm head circumference.
Orlando and I immediately had skin to skin, and all measuring was delayed. I had in my birth preference that he and I not be separated until after we had our first feed; I had read this was a significant factor in successful breastfeeding, so he was put onto my chest and Sarah helped me breastfeed him. We had skin to skin for about an hour, with him suckling on both breasts on and off. Once he fell asleep, he was taken to be weighed and measured. Sarah wrapped him up and passed him to Mr A for snuggles.
I went to get up and have a shower and felt very, very light headed. I had to use the chair in the shower, and Mr A had to help me with everything including putting my pants on. I felt like I had run a marathon – I had actively laboured for over 10 hours, and my body and muscles felt every single thing.. My whole body, especially my back and legs were so drained and tired. I thought this was the reason that I felt light headed.
About an hour passed of Mr A cuddling him and me getting checked over by the GP and Sarah mentioned we were going to be discharged from the labour ward and taken to maternity. She asked if I had used the bathroom yet, which I hadn’t, and suggested I try go as she got the paperwork together. The bed was slightly reclined, and I mentioned to Sarah that I felt really light headed and dizzy still, so she put the bed up and she and Mr A were helping me to get off the bed. That’s all that I remember.
The next memory I have is waking up flat on my back, with a new midwife above me asking me if I was back with them. Apparently my response was, ‘that was the best nap I’ve ever had!’ before realising something wasn’t right. It wasn’t until several hours afterwards that I found out I passed out whilst going to stand up from the bed. I went backwards and thankfully Mr A and Sarah had me, otherwise I’d have ended up on the floor. Mr A had to push the yellow emergency button – when we were admitted Cat told us the yellow button was for life or death situations, so when Mr A told me he had to push it I knew things were pretty bad.
Above me, I saw 7 or 8 people in the room; they were all talking very quickly and loudly and I distinctly remember Sarah telling someone else that she had just taken my temperature and it was normal, so she didn’t understand how it had gone up by 2 degrees in just 5 minutes. The GP came back into the room, and I only remember him palpitating my uterus; he pressed down SO hard, and SO many times – the pain of this was far far worse than any contraction, or the delivery of our baby. I remember feeling several gushes, and then being overtaken by whole body shakes that I couldn’t control. The more I tried to control them, the worse they got, and it felt like my muscles and bones were going to snapped because everything was so tight. I felt desert hot and arctic cold all in the space of a minute or so. I had 7 blankets laid on top of me trying to keep my body temperature under control. I remember looking to my right and realising that Mr A had a death grip on my hand; his face was chalk white and he had tears streaming down his face. I had an oxygen mask put over my face, and a midwife stroke my face telling me everything was okay, and to just keep breathing. It was one of the scariest moments of my life.
Mr A and I later learned that I had several hemorrhages in my uterus. The first clot the GP got out was 500g or so, which is why I felt such a large gush along with the excruciating pain. The GP then got out 2 additional clots with his next palpitations. In total I lost over 1.5L of blood which is why I had whole body shakes that lasted over an hour. My haemoglobin levels went from 148 to 71 due to the blood loss, and I had to have 2 blood transfusions to get me out of the danger zone. The midwives and GP put another cannula in my arm, which had more Syntocin in it to quickly contract my uterus. I was attached to drips for 6 hours waiting for the blood transfusions and Syntocin to complete their cycles. I had a catheter inserted because I wasn’t allowed to get off the bed, and I laid on my back for over 12 hours whilst they assessed me to make sure I was okay. I remember thinking I couldn’t wait to move, because my muscles has all seized and I felt like I had been hit by a truck. Whilst I was on the bed, I continued to learn to breastfeed Orlando. Midwives had to help me position him, as both my arms were basically immobile due to the number of drips and monitoring I had attached. I didn’t sleep at all that night / morning. Orlando slept basically the entire night in my arms whilst Mr A slept.
The next morning I had additional bloods taken, with another shift change and a new midwife who along with the GP, made sure I understood what had happened. They’re unsure what caused the clots and why I lost so much blood, because my placenta was all intact and my natural delivery went really well. It’s one of those things that we’ll never know why, and is just something to be conscious of if we have another baby. My care team were incredible – they constantly checked in to make sure I was both physically and mentally okay. I told one of the midwives to make sure Mr A was okay, because as traumatic as it had been for me, I thought it was far more traumatic for him; he saw the amount of blood I lost in a matter of seconds, and saw all the needles they inserted, he saw me uncontrollably shake and scream in pain whilst the GP palpitated my uterus. He saw someone he loved in immense pain and danger, and I wanted to make sure he was okay as I was worried about post natal depression affecting him.
Once I was cleared, I was transferred to the maternity ward and advised that I would be staying another night to monitor my health. Mr A wasn’t allowed to stay as only women and their babies can stay overnight, and it was so hard saying goodbye to him – he had been my rock, and it was our second night together as a family, so to be separated was very hard. I won’t go into the details of the next few days / weeks here – I’ll be writing another post about our first month together as a family. This post is simply about Orlando’s arrival, and everything that went along with that.
In hindsight, I am immensely lucky with how things happened. If my clots and hemorrhages hadn’t been discovered, I would’ve been very, very sick. If I hadn’t passed out in the labour ward, it would’ve taken longer for the midwives and GP’s to react. If it had happened when I was transferred to the maternity ward, Mr A would’ve been at home and nobody would’ve been with Orlando had he needed something. I am immensely lucky that everything happened when it did, as Orlando and I had already had skin to skin and our first breastfeed, and he was blissfully unaware that anything had happened to me.
Writing this post is quite therapeutic. Mr A and I have talked several times about what happened. Thankfully both he and I are okay with things; we both know the midwives and GP did what they had to do in order to keep my safe and well. But writing this is still therapeutic because it helps me remember and re-process everything that happened.
Whilst it was very traumatic, I would change nothing, because everything happened in order to bring our beautiful son into this world. Mr A and I were smitten with Orlando from our very first sight of him, and I can no longer imagine our life without him in it.
I’ll be writing another post about our first weeks together, because again, I think it will be therapeutic for me.
If you’ve read this far, thank you for sharing in our labour and birthing journey. We had a birth photographer attend in order to capture all the moments that we would forget, or the moments that we would want to see from another perspective, and Cat Fancote’s work will be forever cherished. You can see a slideshow of our labour and birthing journey here.