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Maria: My birth story

"I’d do it all again in a heartbeat."

Author Maria
Categories   Birth Stories

The Edit

It was a Friday in May when my partner Rich and I found out we were pregnant. It was my cousin’s wedding day and I’d decided to do a pregnancy test as I didn’t want to have a glass of wine at the wedding if there was a chance I was pregnant.

We were over the moon to see the positive result and couldn’t quite believe it! What made the news even more special was that it was also my mum’s 60th birthday. So, as I walked around the block at 7am that morning digesting this new information, I messaged her a ‘happy birthday’ with the image of the test – surely this had to be the best present ever?

The wedding day was wonderful even, if my thoughts were all over the place. I was quite proud of the fact I had everyone fooled by ordering pink lemonade to look like gin, or so I thought – my aunties later told me they had their suspicions. I secretly told my sister-in-law, who was herself around six months pregnant that day, as I just wanted to shout out loud, “I’m pregnant!”

After spending what felt like a month’s salary on more pregnancy tests over the next couple of weeks, our pregnancy journey felt like it had truly begun. I was very lucky not to have any severe morning sickness in the first trimester – mainly just a feeling of nausea as I drove to work. However, I was not prepared for just how worried I would feel. Every day I wondered if it would be the day I might lose my baby, and the worry never stopped throughout my whole pregnancy.

Rich and I had booked a holiday to the Algarve in the summer, and it happened to fall right around the twelve-week mark, when our first scan should have been due. Not wanting to fly to the Algarve without knowing how our baby was, we opted to book a private scan at nine weeks at a local private clinic.

I was so scared when we turned up at the clinic, but it proved to be magical! To hear and see our baby’s heartbeat was truly amazing, and it made everything so real. It really hit home that a new life was truly forming inside of me. We were in love with our little baby and wanted to protect this tiny dot.

After our holiday, we then progressed into the second trimester and again, felt very lucky – I felt healthy and enjoyed being able to get out for walks and go about my daily life. My bump started to grow, and we spread the news. People’s heart-warming congratulations made it even more special.

The worry was still always there, naturally, but also excitement too! As we moved into the autumn, nursery decorations were chosen, baby shows were attended, a pram was purchased and our spare room (and house!) began to transform.

As the pregnancy continued, we continued to have scans, opting against finding out the gender of our baby. Every scan was exciting if not nerve-wracking. I was lucky, in one respect, to get to see my baby on a few more scans than usually necessary, as my midwife felt the baby might have been a little small and so she wanted to check. However, it turned out that each time our baby was a good, healthy size.

As we entered the third trimester, I became more tired and more uncomfortable, mainly at night. But again, this was to be expected! I still felt very lucky to be able to enjoy my day-to-day life, such as enjoying work; wandering round Manchester at weekends; and being able to enjoy some slow and steady exercise. Walking a Christmas Eve Park Run with my bump will always be a favourite memory – I feel grateful that I was able to do this as I entered my final month of pregnancy.

Throughout December, Rich and I attended an NCT antenatal course over five sessions, learning lots about labour and what to expect in the early weeks after having our baby. Initially I felt clueless, kicking myself that I hadn’t learnt enough beforehand. I worried there was so much to learn, and I worried I’d left it too late. However, our minds were put at rest in the sessions.

Then the new year arrived, and we truly got ourselves into gear. We packed our hospital case, sorted out the car seat, took nesting to a whole new level and, last but not least, planned our birth, considering a water birth as an option.

This was partly due to being able to visit the wonderful birthing centre at the Royal Oldham Hospital a week before we had our baby, as part of another antenatal day (but this time with the NHS). It was a brilliant day and reinforced everything we’d learnt on the NCT course.

By the end of January our due date was getting closer, and a week after finishing work for maternity leave, just four days before my due date, the time had arrived.

Late one Thursday evening, as timing would have it, Rich had just finished building a book case for the nursery when I noticed a potential ‘show’. It seemed to make sense. I’d felt tired all day, trying to do some ironing in the morning (and declaring the iron as broken!); and then again after walking around a local reservoir with my nephew and niece with a tremendous amount of effort from myself.

Rich and I frantically got together the final pieces of our hospital bags and then went to bed at around 11:00pm. However, just two hours later I woke up in a lot of pain! The contractions had started.

I cannot lie, I found these contractions extremely painful. I paced my bedroom every time I had a contraction – the pain directly in my lower back. As the contractions became more regular, around every ten minutes, I phoned the hospital who told me to stay home and try to rest. However, by about 5am, I was finding the pain really difficult to manage, so we decided to go into hospital.

We drove to my parents’ house and my dad drove us to the hospital. However, an hour and a half later we were back at my parents’ house as I was only 1cm dilated. The midwives had sent me home and I could have cried.

Back in my childhood bedroom, now the guest room, I continued to pace the room, my mum trying to help me in any way she could. But the pain continued to be excruciating every time I had a contraction, and by 8:30am they were coming in thick and fast.

I didn’t want to stay at home any longer. Therefore, we decided to go back in. This time, I felt like I almost crawled from the main reception to the labour department and pretty much cried at the midwives to let me stay.

This time I was 3cm dilated, and the midwives said I could stay. I couldn’t go to the birth centre as there wasn’t enough midwives, so we went to the labour ward.

I’d always thought I would have had a high tolerance for pain, but it turned out this was not the case. All the things I had learnt about breathing and birth positions on my course seemed to go out of the window – I started to panic. My birth plan was also changing by the minute.

Due to the fact I was getting quite upset and anxious, the midwife asked if I’d like to take opioid drugs. Before labour, I hadn’t really considered these due to reading about the side-effects on the baby, such as the baby being born drowsy. However, at this point of labour, I did decide to take them as I felt they would help me to calm down. They did just that, but did make me quite drowsy too. However, I didn’t mind as they also helped me to breathe through the contractions much more, keeping me calm.

In between each contraction I laid on the bed, much calmer and settled. However, the pain of the contractions was still strong, so much so that I kept jumping off the bed and sometimes accidentally knocking of the strapping that was monitoring the baby. I was offered an epidural, but I put off making the decision as it was something I really didn’t want to have – although I was tempted by this point.

As we approached midday, the midwife felt that the contractions were slowing down. However, a doctor came to examine me, and it turned out I was now already 8cm dilated. It was too late to have an epidural, but in hindsight, for me, I’m glad the decision was no longer in my hands.

Everything then seemed to progress quite quickly, and it was soon time to push. I remember pushing and shouting that I couldn’t do it, even though I could. I remember yelling that the gas and air was broken when it wasn’t. I remember asking our student midwife why she would put herself through all this six times with six children, when once felt enough at this point!

I remember telling Rich to brush his teeth as he smelt of digestive biscuits and it was making me feel sick, something my midwife had told me she’d never heard before! Yet Rich was amazing, telling me I was doing brilliant, even if I didn’t feel like it at that moment in time.

To help get our baby out, I had to have an episiotomy and then a vacuum extraction. The whole process passed by in a big whirl and the next moment, I was handed our baby!

Straight away, my heart was full. Rich was beaming and we were both stunned by this little beauty in our arms. I knew I was still drowsy as I just kept shouting, “Aw, baby!” even when the midwife was hinting at me to check the gender.

A girl! We had a beautiful baby girl and immediately named her Charlotte. She was simply perfect. We couldn’t believe she was ours. The first few hours after her birth were simply magical. Our midwives left us to enjoy her, and it was such a heart-warming time to see this little girl who had been my bump for so long! We had plenty of skin-on-skin time, learning to breastfeed and just simply cradling this little wonder.

Charlotte and I were then transferred to a postnatal ward where we had an evening bonding together with Rich. My parents spent some of the evening with us, besotted with their grandchild, and then the following day, Rich’s dad and brother did the same.

We left the hospital after four days. Charlotte had to have antibiotics in case she had picked up an infection, but luckily she hadn’t. But she also had jaundice which was monitored until it started to clear. In a way, living in a hospital bubble for four days gave Rich and I time to really enjoy Charlotte without thinking about the real world.

It gave me time to learn how to breastfeed and take on points from the lovely midwives and brilliant hospital staff, who I certainly admired in these four days. Everybody was so helpful and wonderful to us; and looking back it gave us a good start to her little life.

Now, a few weeks on, I write this with Charlotte next to me. She’s simply wonderful… and so is being a mother.

Part of the reason I jumped at writing this article is because I wanted to show, that even with the very best intentions, it’s not always possible to know everything before having a baby. I certainly didn’t, and I got myself into a muddle sometimes thinking that I should have done.

I want to reassure others that you do learn how to be a mother, and learning is all part of the fun when the baby is born. I also felt I wanted to show other women in pregnancy that it’s not always possible to stick to a birth plan, and you really don’t need to worry if you can’t do what is on your plan. Mine changed completely from the minute I started labour, but I wouldn’t have changed anything about what happened during that magical day.

And it’s true what they say… you do forget the pain afterwards. I already know I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

Author Maria

Maria lives in Greater Manchester with her partner Rich and baby Charlotte. A primary school teacher currently on maternity leave, she has always had a passion for helping children to learn and develop; but as she says herself, bringing up her newborn is a whole different type of education, for herself and for Charlotte! Maria loves to spend time with her family and is also a keen sports enthusiast, both in running and walking. She is very much enjoying her whole new world of motherhood, soaking up every little bit of her daughter in their new little bubble.

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