Labour does not happen like it does on television, well not in my experience. My waters didn't suddenly break and a few our later, pop, baby.
I first started to feel what I could only imagine were contractions on Monday evening. I tried to ignore them, partly because I didn't want to jump to conclusions, after all when you've never been pregnant before, you have no idea what contractions will feel like. These felt like strangle dull period pains. Another reason I ignored them was because I didn't want to believe this was it and that in a few hours my life would change forever! Plus I really wanted to hold off until after Game of Thrones.
Anyway after Thrones had finished I decided to tell my other half that I thought I may be having contractions. He rang his mother to come over and he quickly went to check if the bags were packed and ticked through the list I made him for when I go into labour (sterilising the breast pump just in case, making me a sandwich etc etc). I rang the labour ward just to ask them what I should do. Advice (which became tiresome by the end) was stay at home until contractions are consistent a minute long and about 3 minutes apart. So I stayed in bed, went to sleep, woke up the next morning to nothing! Not even the memory of the type of pain I'd been experiencing.
Tuesday we spent the day trying to follow all the advice we had been given, eat plenty, drink plenty, walk, bounce on your ball and all that. Slowly and faintly the contractions began to return. We played scrabble to take my mind off it and I watched episode after episode of VEEP. By the evening the contractions were getting stronger and stronger, I'd get a batch of contractions about 3 minutes apart, then I'd have a few minutes longer break. My boyfriend kept telling me to ring the labour ward. I was sure that it was too early but understandably so, he was worried and wanted reassurance that he wouldn't want to be delivering the baby himself. I rang and we decided to go into the hospital. I was examined and I was.... 2cm dilated! After 24 hours of contractions. So we were sent home because I was 'not into established labour yet'.
Wednesday was a very similar day. The contractions were more painful and similarly to the day before they were about the same timings. In the afternoon I had an appointment with the community midwives for a sweep, which didn't happen because I'd already been examined a few hours earlier at hospital. I explained the pattern of my contractions, to which she said not every woman has text book contractions and that mine may not end up being 90 seconds long and every other minute. With this in mind and contractions getting more and more painful, we were back at the hospital on Wednesday night/Thursday morning. I was examined and found to be between 3cm and 4cm dilated, and 'not in established labour yet'. I was given some codeine to help me sleep and sent on my way home.
Thursday morning I woke up in quite a bit of pain, but not contraction pain. I'd had some sciatic pain through pregnancy when walking, this was consistent and I found it very difficult getting comfortable through the day. I noticed that I was finding it really hard to get on and off the steep step in the garden because my right leg wounding comfortable swing forward and hold my weight. So I spent the day kneeling over the ball and then trying to recline to reset and get comfortable. It wasn't much fun. Slowly, contractions built and I tried to get some rest. I kept asking my other half to rub my lower back where the sciatic pain was. He ran me a bath, I had a dip and then spent about 20 minutes struggling to get back out of the bath. I then lay on my side in bed while he massaged my lower back, then woos!! My waters broke, before I could even contemplate what had happened I began screaming in pain. Loosing the cushion between the baby and my back was absolute agony! Particularly where my sciatic pain was. I rang the hospital and said 'I'm coming in! Don't ask me any questions!'
The drive over I was in so much discomfort, especially going around round-a-bouts, transferring weight from one butt cheek to the other. We got to the hospital and I lost a lot more water. Now my back was unbearable.
Third time visiting the hospital, even the receptionist felt for me by this point! I got into the delivery suit to go through the same rigmarole of the timings of contractions. I was honest and, predictably, I was told 'you're not in established labour yet'. But she could see I was in a lot of pain with my back. She gave me some morphine and said she would see how I get on with that and see if relieves the pain at all. Through the night and into the early hours of the morning she kept coming back, asking me how I was and checking my contraction timings. If I had a penny for every time she checked the contraction timer and said 'you're not in established labour', I'd have hired a nanny already. I was using an app on my phone to count the contractions. As there is a greater risk of infection when the waters have gone, they do not like to check the progress of labour unless they are sure you are in ... established.. labour! So I started to lie and pressed the record button to fit in with what they said it should be. The morphine began to wear off and I switched to gas and air. She came back and decided to check on my progress and see if it was worth me staying in the delivery suit. I doubt they would have sent me home given the pain I was in with my back, now migrating down my leg, but I think they wanted me out of the delivery suit. I was 8cm dilated. I punched my fist in the air and say 'hooray, you can't send me home!' This was about 5am Friday morning.
At 7am the midwives changed shifts. I now had the midwife and student midwife who had sent me home on Tuesday night. My back and leg was getting worse and worse. I kept complaining about a cramping feeling down my right leg. After a while, it was suggested that I get onto my knees and lean over the back of the bed to try and move the baby. I suddenly realised that I couldn't! My leg wouldn't let me. I had three people help me to get into position, and in that position I screamed and swore more than I ever have in my life, combined. Not because of the contractions, but because of my leg. The midwife suggested we get into the pool to try and take some weight off my back and leg. I got off the bed, took one step and would have hit the floor had my boyfriend not been holding me. My leg didn't hold my weight, it had lost flection and was numb! So I wasn't allowed in the pool anymore as they were concerned I wouldn't be able to get back out. Instead they got a doctor to come in to assess me, by making me walk around the delivery suite and do some leg exercises. All I could think was, can't this wait?
My leg pain took over and I could barely notice the contractions anymore. It wasn't until one of the midwives examined me, found that I was 10cm dilated and said I should be feeling the need to push soon, that I realised, I've felt the need to push for a while but had noticed! So i started to push, but found it hard as I couldn't really feel the contractions any more as it was completely over shadowed. several times I came lose to asking for an epidural, but the rational part of my brain thought - if you have that, they'll blame any lasting problems with your leg on that!
After what felt like about 2 hours of pushing and 8 hours of "established labour", there was a very purple and confused looking baby on my tummy. I had forgotten that at the end of labour there would be a baby. The midwife said to me 'don't worry his head will go back to normal'. I think she thought I was disappointed, when really I was exhausted, bewildered and in shock!
I'd done it!
Little Alfred was finally here and weighed 6lb 5oz. And he couldn't have been more perfect, misshaped head and all. (His head, which I actually didn't think was that bad was a lovely shape before the end of the day).
My leg still isn't back to normal. I have very little flection in my ankle to raise my foot and I still have patches of numbness on my big toe, and the top of my foot and on the outside of my shin. When I walk I sort of slap my foot on the ground. Very elegant.
So anyone who's preparing for their first birth, don't worry! It's not that bad, as long as you don't have sciatica.