All of this is precious and personal and part of me wanted to not share it and keep the whole experience secret and sacred.
But I don’t want to be part of the hushed perfect picture of birth/motherhood.
Birth is absolutely amazing and not talking about the details and process is missing out half the joy!
Yes the babe is the beautiful pot of gold at the end, but there is a whole rainbow of happinesses and struggle to talk about and celebrate too.
With that being said, here’s Marley’s birth story - as condensed a version as I could write without missing out bits.
We were planning a home birth, but the birth pool stayed up ready and waiting for a month unused. Our little babe was just too content in my 5 star womb. At 42 weeks we went in for our scheduled induction (part of me really wanted to wait longer but the risk of complications and the anxiety of not having her in our arms wasn’t worth the wait).
I had a membrane sweep and went home. The next day, after a disappointingly uneventful 24 hours we went in for a pessary, and after a further 24 hours went back to hospital, resigned that we would now need to stay in until the baby came out one way or another.
The midwife broke my waters at 1cm and my contractions naturally kicked in immediately. They were very strong and about 30 seconds apart, so I felt a bit thrown in at the deep end. I was expecting to ease into labour with more time between contractions to get my head in the game.
I laboured standing /leaning on a bar and kneeling in the shower for 3 hours.
When I was next examined I had only got to 3cm so had to be moved downstairs to a smaller room (sadly without a toilet or shower) where I laboured sitting on a birthing ball and clinging to a pillow against the back of a chair.
I desperately tried to use my hypnobirthing and it helped me adapt a routine for myself, taking a deep breath in and making a low grumbly hum as the wave of the contraction built up and passed.
I had to stay really focused because the pain was agony and now that I only had a 15/20 second gap between contractions it took about 10 seconds to recover myself from the pain of the last one and then the remaining 5-10 seconds to prepare my brain and body to go through the next wave.
Which meant I didn’t have time to eat or communicate with Dave, much less time to walk to the toilet in the hall. With the weight of the baby and a full bladder, I felt really uncomfortable, so I had to just pee in a small space on the floor next to where I was sitting and quickly get back into the position that was working for me before the next contraction began.
I often didn’t quite get back in time and then being less focused made the following contraction much more painful and out of control.
Despite spending the last few months with her spine to my side, Marley decided to turn that morning, so her spine was now against mine which meant all the pain was heavy in my lower back.
The only thing that made this bearable was having Dave rub my back constantly throughout each contraction. Because there wasn’t much space he sat cramped up on the hard floor the whole time, relentlessly rubbing ( the short time between waves, meant that he also didn’t have time to stretch his legs, eat or pee.. instead my love would quickly grab paper towels to try and mop up my wee so I didn’t end up flooding the room! and then get back to sitting on the floor, ready to rub my back again..)
We both felt anxious about the pain being more than I anticipated and not knowing how to handle the labour, and needing some reassurance and guidance.
A midwife popped her head in the room and said she’d come back in a few hours. Being in the latent phase of labour meant that it was 6.5 hours until we were checked on. By then I was 6cm and involuntarily pushing. I was completely exhausted and was screaming out in some other worldly animal type groan. I wasn’t having any breaks between contractions and forcing myself to lie down to be examined was excruciating.
The midwife offered me pain relief which I passed on, and then instantly regretted, howling and butt naked they wheeled me upstairs to a labour room and examined me again and I was at 8cm.
Pretty soon after that, I reached 10cm and they gave me the go ahead to push along with my body. I stood leaning against the bed to push, and could touch Marley’s head with my fingers which was magical . It encouraged me so much to know I would so close to meeting her! But as low down as Marley was, the midwife said she was skewed in the birth canal and not coming down easily. I always wanted to have no pain relief and was proud for getting this far without, but at this point needed something to help me hang in there, so I had some gas and air.
I didn’t reallly feel like it helped a lot with the pain but it helped me get into a good rhythm of breathing, alongside Dave coaching me amazingly when to breath in/out and when to push (and when not to).
The midwife suggested I try pushing whilst lying on my side but I hadn’t tried it for long before the midwife said it wasn’t working. Because Marley was overdue, I had the CTG on to measure her heart rate and at this point the midwife got in a doctor as my blood pressure was too high and that the baby’s heart rate was too slow (we later found out she had the cord around her neck twice) .
The doctor said it was really time to get her out and that I needed to lie down with my legs up in stirrups. I was really gutted because it just wasn’t how I imagined bringing her into the world. But I agreed. They also had to put a catheter in (very quick but more painful that I expected!) after a few contractions she said I needed to have an episiotomy.
A few pushes after the episiotomy and Marley was out and beautiful! Although I wanted delayed cord clamping they had to cut it straight away, I can’t remember why. They put her immediately on my chest so we could have skin-to skin and between cries she found comfort in my boob. Whilst I was busy being absorbed in Marley I had a post partum haemorrhage so Dave had to take Marley for skin to skin. There was about 10 midwife/doctor/healthcare assistants in the room and machines beeping, needles and wires stuck in me all over the place. The team did their amazing work busying around sorting me out and stitching me up. Dave had no idea what was going on and was scared I was in serious trouble as no one had told him what was happening... all he could see was a lot of blood, lots of people bustling around and lots of noise, but he held onto Marley and they comforted each other. (I think this precious time really cemented a bond for them because she is so relaxed with her daddy and he is head over heels for her).
As soon as I was finished up Dave brought her back onto my chest and she pooped her sticky meconium poo everywhere and had a beautiful feed. We stayed in that room for a few hours, all covered in poo and blood, shaking uncontrollably and exhausted beyond belief but swimming in other worldly happiness.. dazzled by the amazing babe we made.
I spent a lot of time mourning over the birth I didn’t have and processing the sadness, deep failure and regret I felt. I kept asking myself, would she have come out naturally if I hadn’t been induced?
Would I have been able to push her out without an episiotomy if they gave me more time? Should I have trusted my body over the doctors and midwives?
I’ll never know, and now I try to not provoke myself with those questions and to instead celebrate the birth story we have because it brought us a wonderfully healthy Marley!