My first pregnancy was not exactly what I had hoped for – hyperemesis, followed by whooping cough, followed by hip pain, in between two house moves! Despite all this, my husband Michael and I were ecstatic and could not wait for our 1st baby to be born. We took photos of the bump every few weeks, read weekly about its development in the pregnancy book and were delighted to see the little creature on the ultrasound scans.
We went to the NHS antenatal classes and our plan was a hospital water birth with gas and air. I am an A&E doctor and Michael is a nurse, so the hospital is not a scary place! My mum would come over from Greece to help us with the last house move (at 36 weeks!), the birth and the new baby.
The baby was due on the 11th of June and 4 days after that I had what I thought was contractions. I remember watching the football on TV (Euro 2012) and thinking “this is not bad, I have had period pains worse than this”. I was however quite frustrated that by the next morning they had gone and nothing was happening. Two days later, on the Sunday, just as I had finished the chicken roast my husband had cooked for us, I felt a sensation I had never felt before and said to Michael and mum: “oh, this does hurt…I think it is starting”. I spent a few hours in the bath with mum timing the contractions while Michael was getting everything ready. We ended up going to hospital, which is a half an hour drive away, 4-5 hours later, at around 11pm, as the contractions grew closer and became quite strong.
When I arrived, I kept dropping down on all fours on the way to the ward, and when the midwife saw me she was positive I would have a quick labour. Unfortunately, I was only 3cm dilated, so went on to get in the bathtub in my room (the pools were both being occupied), still aiming for the “gas and air water birth” I had planned for. I was very happy that my mum had been allowed to stay with me during labour, as well as my husband. They were both very good and supportive in the many hours that followed, as I was moaning in the bath…Eventually, I gave in. I needed more pain killers. I came out of the water and had an injection of Pethidine. After that, it is all a bit vague. I remember pain, pushing and I remember the music list that Michael had made playing in the background (though I only remember 2 songs of the 7+ hours of music that was playing!). At a point Michael was sent out to get a snack as he had not eaten for hours. My mum and Michael were talking to me, though I cannot remember much of what they were saying. I thought I was sleeping a lot, but they later said to me that I was only asleep a few seconds at a time between contractions. I was dreamy and happy despite the pain.
When the midwives changed shifts in the morning I was still pushing but not getting anywhere. They broke my waters in an attempt to help, but still baby would not come. They could touch the head and they were suspicious that the baby had extended the neck instead of flexing it. After 2 more internal examinations that felt worse than the contractions it was decided that baby’s neck was indeed extended and therefore he or she was stuck. In the meantime, I was attached to the monitoring belts, the baby’s heart was slowing to almost zero with every push and I was losing my contractions as I was so tired…suddenly my room filled with doctors and it was decided I would be taken to theatre for instrumental delivery or C-section. Everybody hustled around me, I was given various drugs, signed various forms and watched my poor mum, with her basic English and therefore basic understanding of what was happening, panicking inside. Then, they whizzed me off to the theatres at around 10.30am.
The spinal anaesthetic was the best thing ever and my pain was gone. I was not scared. I had spent a year of my training anaesthetising people and I was comfortable in the theatre environment. Michael was allowed in. They had 3 attempts at instrumental delivery and at 11.21am my beautiful baby boy was born via C-section, weighing 3.060 kilos (6lbs 12oz). We named him Michael Constantine as planned and we call him Mickey. Though he refused to take to the breast, much to my dismay and despite hours and hours of trying, he has grown into a beautiful boy. He just turned 2 on the 18th of June and he is absolutely lovely.
We had decided from the beginning that we would have our babies close together, but my 2nd positive test took us a bit by surprise. It was only a week after my little boy (then 8 months old) had come out of hospital after having meningitis, and only one month after starting to try to get pregnant. My second pregnancy was not different like everyone assured me. It was simply worse. This time I even got admitted to hospital for IV rehydration. And the hip was a killer! I had to stop work a week earlier than planned as I could no longer really do my job properly.
The big question of this pregnancy was – elective C-section or an attempt at vaginal delivery? We pondered for weeks. I felt that I should attempt to have the 2nd baby naturally. After all, I was so close to delivering Mickey vaginally before, surely I could do it this time. On the other hand, the info given to me by my midwife said there was a 25% risk of another emergency section if I tried to give birth naturally. That was too high for me. My professional experience did not help either. I had seen how complicated emergency operations and anaesthetics could get and I did not want to end up with a general anaesthetic in the middle of the night. Though my personal experience with the emergency C-section for Mickey was excellent (I had very little pain post-operatively and it all went well from start to finish), I had a fear that it might not be as good this time. Thinking about the whole thing made me so stressed that I decided it was not worth it. I was not going to spend the rest of my pregnancy stressing about the potential of another emergency section. So, elective section it was. I had various appointments with my consultant and her team who discussed the pros and cons with me and accepted my decision. In fact, my consultant said that because I got so close with Mickey and was unable to deliver I was at an increased risk of needing a section again. So, I was relieved that I made that choice.
Georgia Eileen (Georgie) arrived 6 days before her due date, on the 7th of November 2013 at 11.08am weighing 3.27 kilos (7lbs 3oz). That morning, we took my suitcase, got into the car and drove to the hospital. I was a bit more stressed than when I went to hospital in labour. I think that was because there was not much adrenaline going around in my body and I had no contractions to concentrate on. We waited for our turn to go to theatre and then…there she was. She had a perfect fringe when they took her out of my belly, as if she had just been to the hairdresser. She took to the breast immediately at Recovery and is a happy, gorgeous little girl.
I guess what I am trying to put across is that I went into this pregnancy/birth world with a plan – a water birth with minimal drugs. I like a plan. I usually stick to my plans. But it did not happen. Both my births were very medical. But, at the end of the day that did not matter. They were still magical. Two beautiful babies made it into this world in good health and have been developing well since. Sometimes I think that if Mickey had been born in a time before C-sections he might not have made it out at all. I might not have made it. So, I am thankful for modern medicine.