My second baby, Edward, was due on Friday 16th November 2018. When I had told my Mum about my pregnancy, she was obviously pleased to learn that she was soon to have another grandchild, but she was slightly disappointed that the due date fell smack in the middle of the two week holiday that she and my Dad had planned in the Caribbean (obviously before they knew I was pregnant). She came to stay with me for a couple of weeks before she went abroad when I had got to 38 weeks pregnant and of course, she wanted the baby to arrive early so that she could be there for the birth (I can’t blame her for this).
Throughout her stay, she recommended several “tricks” that she had been told about that were rumoured to kickstart labour. Needless to say, I wasn’t about to try any of them (especially the one that involved trying to express milk to initiate uterine contractions and therefore labour- as far as I was concerned, the less time I spent pumping milk, the better and so I was not about to start before the baby was even born!) Neither was I going to indulge in any spicy meals with her whilst she was staying because I remember eating a mild curry at 35 weeks pregnant with Henry (not to try and bring on labour, just because we happened to eat curry that night) and it made me feel so grim. As a result, I did not delegate any of the cooking to her during her stay (even if I did want a break from this) whereas usually when she comes to stay I take complete advantage of her and force her to slave away in my kitchen (!) I have always felt that it is better to try and stay as relaxed about the whole due date thing as possible (after all, it is only an estimated due date and, within reason, giving birth anywhere between 37-42 weeks is considered normal and acceptable). This can be easier said than done, especially when all you are getting asked is “have you had the baby yet?” (see my blog post about this!) but getting stressed out really doesn’t help things. That said, I am not in to testing out any of these so called “labour inducing tricks” and I have always tried to just relax and let things happen when they are ready to happen.
When I declined an early sweep at my 39 week midwife appointment, both my Mum and the midwife looked at me as though I had lost my mind (my Mum’s eyes had temporarily lit up when the sweep was offered because she thought perhaps she would be on the same continent as me when I went into labour after all!) “Ok, I’ll see you next week when you’ll be thoroughly fed up with being pregnant” said the midwife, struggling to hide her surprise. My Mum was obviously a bit irritated that I hadn’t accepted the sweep as well, because one sweep had sent me into labour the next day when I was pregnant with Henry. Little did either party know, I had declined the sweep and ignored any tips for inducing labour deliberately, because I had an ulterior motive (sorry Mum).
At this time, my husband was a smoker. He had been smoking since at least his early twenties, possibly even his teens. For years he had refused to quit because he openly admitted that he really enjoyed smoking and had no desire to stop. This seriously irritated me. Not only do I dislike smoking as a habit, but I was more annoyed that he continued to smoke despite the fact that we had a young child and were about to welcome another. My husband is also a doctor, so he is fully aware of all the risks to himself and to the children posed by smoking. However, a couple of weeks earlier, there had been a breakthrough. He had suddenly decided that he was ready to give up smoking and he had been referred to a stop smoking service by his GP. He had been attending regular reviews and had been put on a medication called Varenicline (trade name Champix in the UK) in order to aid his mission to quit. The medication seemed to be working (so he said) and he had his final review scheduled for…….you guessed it……Friday 16th November…..my due date.
Now, after having tried for many moons to persuade him to stop smoking, there was no way I was going to miss his final review. I wanted to be sure that he really had quit and I was not going to believe it until I saw it. Consequently, there was no chance I was going to allow myself to go in to labour until after this meeting. So, on the morning of Friday the 16th, I saw the midwife and accepted a sweep. I was pleased to learn that I was already slightly dilated and that Edward’s head was fully engaged. When I got home, my husband and I got in the car and travelled to his meeting (by the way I hadn’t been to any of his other appointments before this, I just wanted to see for myself that he had actually quit like he claimed he had. I’m not some sort of psycho wife before you get any ideas- honest!)
During the meeting, my husband was asked how he was getting on. He said that the medication had worked and that when he had smoked it had tasted bad and that all of his cravings had gone. He claimed he hadn’t had a cigarette for weeks. The moment of truth arrived- they were about to test his carbon monoxide levels. This is done by asking the patient to blow into a small tube. A digital screen then displays the carbon monoxide level for all to see. If you have been pregnant then you will most likely have had this measured as part of your antenatal care. Carbon monoxide levels are much higher in smokers than non-smokers. Therefore, if someone is fibbing about having stopped smoking, this is one way in which to catch them out. To my utter amazement, his level was…….ZERO! (lower than mine actually when I had it checked during my antenatal appointments- FYI car fumes etc can make the level slightly elevated and that is normal in this day and age. So blowing a zero is actually not very common at all). I couldn’t believe that he had actually stopped smoking finally and I was very happy about it. I told myself that it was ok to relax and go into labour now. We headed back to the car, and on the journey home I started to get some mild stomach cramps.
The cramps continued throughout that evening, but I couldn’t be sure whether this was actually labour starting or whether it was just a bit of cramping as a result of the sweep. Once we had put Henry to bed, I decided to get an early night just incase the cramps materialised. Amazingly, I slept quite well and I woke at about 7 am- with regular contractions. I realised that I was probably in early labour and so I had a shower and got dressed (obviously I was wearing my usual birthing outfit- Jon Snow T-shirt). I hooked myself up to a TENS machine and made sure my hospital bag was in order. My husband started stirring and when he saw my outfit he said “are you that sure you are in labour?! Jon Snow T-shirt and everything?!” By this time I was fairly sure and so we called James’s mum who came round with breakfast (bacon sandwiches- yum!) I was sat on the sofa watching films and trying, rather unsuccessfully, to crochet a granny square. Henry was with me, playing with his toys. After a little while, Nanny took Henry with her so that he wouldn’t be around when things escalated (I didn’t want him to get frightened or upset when the pain started to get more severe). I called my aunt and asked her if she had any plans that day. She told me she didn’t and so I asked her if she fancied coming over and spending the afternoon with her labouring niece. Of course I said she could come with us to the hospital and be there for the birth since my Mum was abroad and James’s mum was looking after Henry. Luckily, she agreed and came round to our house shortly after that.
We spent the afternoon watching films and the rugby. It was about 6pm when things really started to escalate. The contractions became much longer, more frequent and more intense and so my husband called the hospital to say that I would be coming in shortly. However, the labour ward where I was booked to give birth was full and was diverting patients elsewhere and so we were going to have to go to the other main hospital in Leeds instead. I looked at which anaesthetists were on duty (I am an anaesthetist and so I had access to the rota and knew most of the people on it). I saw my friend was down to be working and so I messaged her saying that I was probably coming in later and of course I was hoping to have nothing to do with any anaesthetists but just in case…..She replied saying that she had swapped her shift a few weeks back and so it must be an old rota that I was looking at. She later told me she panicked slightly and checked that she hadn’t made an error there (she hadn’t luckily!) Shortly after this, my husband started to insist that we set off, but I didn’t feel ready to go yet. With Henry my water broke on the way to the hospital and this time, my waters hadn’t gone yet. This made me worried that I wasn’t that close to actually giving birth and that I would get sent away. However, my aunt then sided with my husband and they told me it was definitely time to “get in the car and go.” Reluctantly, I obeyed and climbed into the front seat of my husband’s car.
The journey to the hospital mostly consisted of me yelling various profanities either in a prolonged manner through gritted teeth (“FFFFFFFFFFFF**************************************CCCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKK!) or in a rapidly repeating sequence (f*ck, f*ck, f*ck, f*ck, f*ck) periodically through the contractions. When we arrived at the hospital entrance, I disembarked the vehicle along with my aunt and we began our walk to the labour ward whilst my husband went to park the car. I had to stop every-so-often during said journey as the contractions came (the mirror in the lift proved a very useful surface to lean against and curse as we travelled up several floors to our destination). When we arrived I was sent to the maternity assessment bay so that a midwife could assess my case and see what was occurring and where I needed to be. I was ushered towards a bed and a curtain was drawn round me. A midwife came and explained that they were just in the process of handing over between the day team and the night team and that when this was complete someone would be over to review me. At this point I was trying to be brave, but all I wanted was gas and air. A student midwife came to see me and felt my belly. She remarked at how strong my contractions were (you’re not kidding I was thinking!) and she asked me if I could bring her a urine sample for testing. To this day, I have no idea exactly what they were looking for in my urine (even if I showed signs of anything like pre-eclampsia I was about to deliver the baby anyway so it was probably somewhat irrelevant at that stage) but I tend to do as I’m told and so I agreed.
The toilet was a short walk from the assessment bay and I had to stop a few times on the way. Eventually I made it to the cubicle and I went in and locked the door behind me. As I attempted to produce the aforementioned sample, I was suddenly gripped by an intense contraction and a feeling of pressure. I screamed through it and as it wore off I thought I would probably have time to finish in the toilet and start on my way back to the assessment bay. However, almost as soon as the first contraction wore off, another started, and so I was essentially screaming repeatedly inside the small cubicle. The next thing I knew, the door was being broken down by a herd of midwives, concerned about the hullabaloo I was making. “Is everything ok?!” they exclaimed, almost in unison. I replied with something along the lines of “oh sh*t, yes, but I think the baby is actually about to come……also soz I didn’t quite manage the urine sample.” They escorted me back to the assessment bay and one of the other midwives broke off from handover to examine me. My husband had arrived by this time after having parked the car. It transpired that they had thought that this was my first baby rather than my second and so they thought that things would take a little bit longer to progress than they appeared to have done. She examined me and said “you’re fully dilated and I can feel a rim where the baby’s head is starting to descend into the birth canal. We need to get you round to delivery suite straight away!” Before I knew it I had been transferred to a wheelchair and I was being wheeled rapidly round to a delivery room.
When I got to the delivery room, I was more than a bit relieved to receive some gas and air. I spent a brief period of time thinking that I was going to be incredibly sympathetic to everyone next time I worked a shift on labour ward because I felt like I was in Hell with the amount of pain I was in. Luckily, before much longer, the gas and air had taken the edge off things and made me feel rather drunk. Soon enough I was laughing about how much pain I was in (gas and air is the same sort of thing as laughing gas). Then came the dreaded pushing sensation. When I was giving birth to Henry I was pushing for almost three hours and it was utterly exhausting and, to be honest, thoroughly unpleasant. So when this started with Edward I thought “great, now I’m really in for it.” However, I had only pushed about twice when my husband said “I can see the head!” Honestly I was so surprised and relieved that I could have jumped up and kissed him (I managed to suppress the urge to do so because I didn’t think that that was the best idea given the circumstances). On the third push, Edward’s head was out, and on the fourth he was fully born. He officially entered the world at 20.25 on 17th November 2018. My waters didn’t break until he was actually being born this time so it’s a good job I didn’t wait at home until they went! As they dried him, wrapped him and handed him to me, they all commented on “what a good size” he was. “Yeah, yeah” I thought (I mean, every baby looks big when they’ve just emerged from your nether regions!) However, they were right and he weighed in at 8lb14.5 (compared with Henry’s 7lb9). I texted everyone pictures of the new addition straight away and was delighted to receive a cup of tea and some toast as a reward. I received a response from my anaesthetist friend whom I mentioned earlier and she said she was very impressed because all she’d done since we last spoke was lie on her sofa eating crisps and I had had a baby! I only sustained a very small tear this time, but I still needed a little stitch. This didn’t take long and afterwards I was able to have a bath. Once all the paperwork was complete and Edward had had his initial baby check done the midwife gave me two options- because it was the early hours of the morning I could either stay until later in the morning and then go home or, if I preferred, they were happy to discharge me there and then as this was my second baby and there hadn’t been any complications thus far. My husband and I opted to go home right away. We departed the hospital with my aunt and we arrived home at about 03.30 am. We said goodbye to my aunt who went home to get some rest. We then ordered a MacDonald’s (as you do) and reflected on our eventful day. This mostly involved us laughing about the fact that our son was almost born down a toilet whilst his mother was trying to take a p*ss.
You can read about my birth story with Henry here.