I am sure my birth story will add to the collection of birth stories you have all read. But one thing I know, is that no story is the same. We may compare notes but no child birth experience will be identical and that’s what makes each one unique and incredible. So here is my birth story (you may find some details a bit gory, so I apologise before hand, but I wanted to share my true experience and as most of us know, labour isn’t a simple squeeky clean process).
Due to the kidney stones I had when I was around 28 weeks pregnant, it led me to have a continuous urine infection until the end of my pregnancy. So on the Friday 18th of August 2017, I was admitted once again into hospital due to the infection that had still not gone after two rounds of antibiotics.
I couldn’t believe that my last week of pregnancy was being spent in hospital. I made me quite upset because it was my last week to pack everything up before the baby would come as we were moving into our new flat on September 1st. João was working all week so he didn’t have time to pack and with me in hospital he would come and spend his evenings with me after work. I was placed in the ante natal ward which I was starting to get too familiar with. I was in the hospital until Wednesday 23rd and had shared a room with three different women in the space of six days, all of whom had arrived in labour and left with their babies. I felt like Rachel in Friends when she’s in labour and all these women go in and out her room and have babies and she’s there still with no baby. I know I wasn’t in labour but I felt like I could still relate. Nearly a week of hospital food really gets to you. I thankfully had my family who went and took snacks for me on a daily basis to fill my pregnancy hunger. Every day I would get an update from my doctor where he would advise me if it was time to go home yet or not. And every day he would say I would need to stay in due to the bacteria in my urine and it being so close to due date.
On my last night in hospital around 3am, I woke up to pee and saw my knickers had a yellow sticky mucus so I cleaned it and called the midwife to show her asking her if it was the show already. I had previously read that the show is normally a bloody streak but it can sometimes also be clear. The midwife said it was not the show and probably just discharge due to the urine infection. I found this odd as I didn’t have any discharge throughout the urine infection, so how could I have it now when I’m on IV drip getting my antibiotic? I couldn’t let it go as all I kept thinking about was; what if I go into labour now? I know I’m close to my due date, but am I really ready? I told João about it and he told me not to stress out and that the midwife knew what she was talking about and that I should just rest. So the next day I was finally given the all clear and I told the lady in the room with me that I was finally going home but had a feeling I would be back in tomorrow to have the baby. ‘No, I’m sure your baby will come when it’s due so you still have a few days to rest.’ I was finally discharged and couldn’t wait to get home.
I had asked João to take the Thursday off so that we could use the day to pack as we had little time to do so and I also wanted to spend time with him. João suggested we go out for dinner as I’d had hospital food for a week and I deserved a proper meal. I couldn’t agree more and was craving chinese food. So we walked to our local chinese as it was a nice summer night. I was in full on waddle mode and a walk that takes about five minutes took me nearly fifteen. I kept saying that I could feel the baby was super heavy and wouldn’t stop kicking. When sitting down at dinner, I couldn’t even have my belly touch the table as the kicks were so strong. These kicks were different to fig’s usual movement. Dinner was lovely and we slowly walked back home. I was sitting down watching tv around 11pm and had my hands holding my bump from below as it just felt so heavy. I was even pulling funny faces but didn’t think these were the beginning of contractions, I was just uncomfortable.
Around midnight we went to bed. I’m laying there in my own bed after nearly a week and instead of feeling comfortable I couldn’t have been further from that. I was laying there on my left, with my eyes wide open and couldn’t fall asleep at all. I needed to pee. So I get up to go and pee and went up to the first floor. (I was staying at my parents house in their spare room till our place was ready). I got up the stairs, peed, came back down and was up there again about 30m later. This went on repeatedly until about 2am. I just couldn’t sleep and couldn’t stop thinking if these were contractions. They say you know when you are in labour because well you just know as the pain is very different. And although I was in pain, I couldn’t identify the pain as contractions. I didn’t wake anybody up as I didn’t want to worry anyone. It got to a point where I was tired of going up and down the stairs from every 30m to 15m, so I just stayed in the toilet. I then realised that I was in fact in early labour but still didn’t have the courage to wake anyone up. From 5am I started noting down how long each contraction would last. They were coming about every 6 minutes and lasting an average of 40 seconds. At around 7am my mum came to see if I was ok and I told her I thought I was in early labour. She got too excited and was like oh my gosh, are you counting, how you feeling, have you told João and I hadn’t yet as he was still sleeping. I went down and woke João up and told him I was in labour. He was like ok and I was surprised with his calm reaction as he’s in general quite a nervous person. His boss’ wife had recently had a baby and she was in labour for a week so he didn’t think it was ‘anything to be too concerned about’. My contractions began to intensify and I remember the midwife in the ante natal class saying that if you are less than 5cm and go to hospital they will tell you to go back home and only return once they really intensify. So I knew I was potentially still going to be home for a while. But either way I got my mum to call the ward. They asked how often the contractions were coming and they said it was still too early to come in. So I did what they said and took a paracetamol and had a warm bath to help with the pain. They told me to use the tens machine only after being in the bath and only if I found that the pain had worsened. By this point João was in full taking notes mode and was tracking all my contractions. He had the timer open on the phone and I would tell him when they would begin and end and if they were really strong as per my facial reaction he decided to put an exlamation mark next to it. My sister got home just after lunch and we hadn’t told her anything yet as she was at work in the morning. She walked in and my mum told her I was in labour, which she didn’t believe until she saw me in the bath. She said she couldn’t even be in there for long because I was moaning quite loud with the pain I was in and she couldn’t handle it. As soon as I got out the bath I got João to stick the tens machine on me. And oh my gosh was that thing a god send. I am so thankful that these exist and can genuinely say I found it to be a life saver. It says to only use the maximum level when the pain is really strong but I was already on high level before reaching the hospital. We called the ward again and told them how often the contractions now were and they said I was ready to come in. I couldn’t believe I was going to be on my way to the hospital to have my baby. I was so happy João had taken the day off as he was by my side the entire time. I called an uber and João, my sister and I would be the ones to go to the hospital first and everyone else would follow. I don’t think I have mentioned this yet but I had always said that João would be my birthing partner along with my Uncle Nuno. He had arrived to London that morning from Madrid and had booked an Air bnb right next to Kingston Hospital, so that he could be nearby the entire time. No one knew he was coming apart from me and João as it was a surprise to everyone. João had been texting him all morning keeping him updated and once we knew we were going to the hospital I made sure João had let him know to just meet us there. But then like in a movie scene as the uber is pulling out of the driveway my uncle is running down the road with his boyfriend waving for the car to stop. My sister sitting in the front starts screaming like ‘Oh my god, it’s Nuno!’ The uber driver was genuinely like who’s Nuno?? I told the driver to park up on the side to let them in and my sister stayed behind. She knocked on the front door frantically just so that my mum could see him. My mum rushed out and cried when she saw her baby brother. My family are all very close and live all over the place so we get very emosh when we see each other. They both got in the car and the driver was the sweetest thing and rushed us to the hospital. Each time a contraction came along he was telling me to breath and would ask if I wanted him to drive slower to help with the pain, but no, I just wanted to get there as fast as possible.
We got to the hospital around 6pm and the midwife said I was 5cm and ready to go to the delivery suite.
Although I didn’t feel ready, I mean it was happening but I don’t know if my body was ready for this. It’s like I felt I just needed a few more days to take this all in and then I’d be ready. But there was no stopping little fig. I went into the delivery suite and they connected baby to the monitor where they can see each time a contraction happens and the intensity of it. I informed the midwife straight away that I wanted try to give birth naturally and that I would like it to be in water. Whatever would happen I did not want any epidural. I am not at all against epidural, I simply have this paranoid fear that should I ever decide to take an epidural I would be in that very tiny percentage of women where something goes wrong. I mean you have to sign a waiver when you get one and I know it’s silly and probably wouldn’t happen but I am so afraid it can. Luckily I have met other people with the same fear, so I know I’m not alone on this one. So I said I only wanted to use gas and air. And oh the buzzing feeling it gives your body is perfect. I still had my tens machine on and was told I could have it on until I would get into water. It was a really hot day so I got all hot and sweaty pretty quickly. I asked the midwife what would be the latest stage to have pethadine and she told me that if it was with her she would let me take it at 9cm but with newer midwives they are taught not to give it so late so they would only give it to me around 7cm. I was a bit surprised with the answer especially because she had told me another midwife would be taking over as her shift was ending 30m after I’d arrived. I had my right hand holding the gas and air and my left hand hitting the bed in a fist shape each time I’d have a contraction. I kept asking when the pool would be ready but one was occupied and the other had only just become free so it would still take a while to clean up and get ready for me. I remember looking at João at one point and he was on his phone and once a contraction was over I took the gas and air out and told him to get off his phone. I also realised in that instance how deep my voice had gone and how I sounded like a demon speaking. At least it worked to get him off his phone even though I knew he was just updating everyone. But I then also knew not to talk straight after getting gas and air out of your mouth. My uncle eventually joined us. He is a reiki master so both his and João’s roles had been defined as soon as he walked in. My uncle would be there by my side to keep me calm and do reiki on me and João would be my support by getting me anything I needed and to also hold my other hand. Nuno had noticed how I kept banging my fist on the bed or grabbing the sheets so decided to hold my hand down so I wouldn’t keep banging away and to help me with my breathing. I just kept asking and asking when was the pool going to be ready as I needed to feel more relaxed. Eventually the good news came that it was ready and I was taken to the new suite in a wheelchair. I was in pain and found myself shouting in the middle corridor whilst being transferred. I felt horrible, because I was now one of those women that all the women in ante natal would hear and be scared of before they’ve even had a baby.
I got to the suite and took my clothes off, and got straight into the bath tub. It was great to go in although I had mentioned that I felt the water was a bit too hot. It seemed to work for the first five minutes. It was summer time and in general whether you were indoors or outdoors it was hot. So with the general climate heat, I then had four people in a room and a tub filled with hot water so I really felt the heat getting to me. I started to tear up and ask for cold water because I couldn’t take it. João got me cold water to drink and cold paper towels to place on my head. I felt like I was in a steam room. It got to a point where I went to the tap and turned on the cold water. I then placed my hand under the tap to spray myself with the water to feel more refreshed. And it was all just getting too much. I was losing my strength and energy and kept saying I couldn’t do it anymore. I’d lost the will to put up with the pain and asked for pethadine. But it was too late. ‘You can’t have pethadine now you are too far dilated’. Those were not the words I wanted to hear. It then got worse when I really felt like I needed to push. The midwife placed the mirror in the tub to see what was going on and asked me again if I was sure I needed to. I kept screaming ‘Yes, yes! I have to push it’s making push!’. And so I pushed and pushed and just pooped in the pool. Yes ladies it happens, it sucks but it’s true. I had always said I knew it would happen it to me and I was right. But at that point you really don’t care and you have no choice but to carry on. Just before this happened I kept saying I wanted to get out the pool because the temperature was too high for me and it was making me dizzy. So there was no hesitation to get me out quickly after I’d filled it up with poop. It made be a bit sad that I didn’t get to fulfill my birthing plan of a water birth, but heyho labour is like that, unexpected. João and Nuno both helped me out the pool and I felt like a puppet and they were my strings holding me up. I was so exhausted and just wanted the baby to come out already. I sat on the delivery chair with my legs wide opened. First thing the midwife did was break my waters as they hadn’t broken yet. As soon as I got on the chair, the pushing stage came about quite quickly. She explained to me how I had to push from my bum and I remember hearing that in the ante natal class and not understanding how that was possible, but then at that moment in time I knew exactly what she meant. When baby was crowning the midwife commented on how much hair baby had and if I wanted to feel it. I just thought the last thing I want to do right now is stroke my babies head, I kind of just want it out of me and I can’t even reach there anyway. She said with just three more pushes baby would be out. She had called the pediatrician ready for little fig’s arrival and the senior midwife too. Three pushes later and still no baby. The senior midwife said that I was going to have to have an episiotomy as baby could get stressed if not out soon. My face dropped as I really didn’t want that and Nuno saw my reaction. ‘Can we just try one more time?’ he asked. I know it’s the better option to have an episiotomy than tear naturally but oh gosh I was just scared I guess and didn’t want to be cut like that. ‘One more push otherwise it will have to happen’. I was exhausted but knew I was nearly there. João grabbed my hand, looked at me and gave me the strength for that final push ‘You can do this baby, it’s going to happen now’. And it did, with that one more push my baby came out of me. The umbilical cord was wrapped twice around babies neck and baby was born with her hand on her cheeck so that’s why I was having a bit of difficulty getting fig out. They placed baby straight on me and João and Nuno were both crying their eyes out. As soon as I felt baby come out of me and placed on my chest, the crazy person I had been for the past few hours who was shouting at the top of her lungs had disappeared and I was me again, more me than I had ever felt with baby right there. They placed baby on me but didn’t tell me the sex straight away, I had to ask and lifted her up myself to check. I looked at her and just smiled with teary eyes. I am a very emotional person so suprised myself by not full on gushing out with tears but the exhaustion had really hit me. But I had my baby in my arms and I couldn’t care for anything else in the world. I had her so close to me and just couldn’t stop kissing her and hugging her softly. The midwife then said I still had to push for the placenta to come out and I actually laughed and was like ‘Do you actually think I have any energy at all to push some more after all the pushing I’ve done?’. We both laughed but I knew it had to be. After the placenta came out, it was time for baby to get all the attention and then I would later need to get stitched up. João cut the umbilical cord whilst she was still on me. As soon as they took her off me, I missed her already. Even though she was only a few steps away, I felt like I needed to be with her all the time. After being cleaned, weighed and measured João changed her first nappy and it was his first ever nappy changing in his life too. Nuno recorded it all and it’s pretty funny to be honest. She is placed back on my chest and we are having our moment of bonding. The stitching in the meanwhile begins. Half way through stitching I told the midwife she didn’t need to carry on and it was fine the way it was. My vagina was already sore as it is and the stitching wasn’t helping. The senior midwife said I had a second degree tear, so not too bad apparently and complimented my midwife on her great stitching skills, which I was very thankful for and of course let her finish the job.
A different midwife came in to show me how to breastfeed the baby as I wanted someone by my side to guide me to make sure I was doing it right. Little fig didn’t latch on on the first attempt but then she seemed to have got the swing of it.
My Uncle Nuno then left the room soon after and I had my parents and sister in the maternity reception hoping to meet little fig but unfortunately no visitors were allowed at that time and they would only meet her the day after. My other two brothers and sister were all away and were only to return back to London on her original due date.
I got up from the chair and I could feel my body was just so fragile. When I looked back at the chair, it seemed like I needed to place police tape around the area. There was so much blood that I couldn’t believe that it had all come from just me. I had a shower in the bathroom of the suite and João had his first alone time with baby. One thing that I really liked was that our baby never left our sight. She was never taken out of the room and was always kept near us. We were then transferred to our room around 3am. There was another bed in our room but luckily it was empty so we got to spend our first night as just us three. I called the midwife maybe twice during the night to help me with breastfeeding as it definitely is a lot harder than it seems. I decided to leave the hospital only on the Saturday as I really wanted to make sure I was feeding well and correctly before heading home, so wanted to use all the support I had access to. On the Friday morning I had to feed her through the small syringes they provide as she had decided to stop latching on. Luckily it only happened twice before both her and I felt comfortable with breastfeeding.
I was thankful to have had such a calm and lovely midwife to help me bring my baby to the world. I really admire their work. How they deal with crazy women like me shouting at them and they keep their serenity to me incredible. I found the service in general at Kingston Hospital in both ante and post natal wards to be very good and am glad I had my baby there.
I was also very lucky to have João and my Unlce Nuno with me during the entire adventure. João was such a rock for me during the that time. He slept with me both nights in the hospital and was a natural when holding our baby girl in his arms. It filled my heart with joy seeing them together.
I still couldn’t believe it. That I had become a mother. That I had made this tiny human being. That this beautiful girl was mine and João’s. All the pain and hours in labour seemed like it had happened a million years ago, like it was all a blur. This was the beginning of a new chapter in my life and the one I had been most looking forward to. I was the happiest I could ever be.
Maria João was born at 23:11 on Thursday, 24th August 2017. She weighed 2.635kg and measured 47cm.