Having suffered from M.E. / C.F.S. for 17 years I was well aware of my body’s weaknesses but in the late hours of Friday 20th February 2015 I learnt a valuable lesson about it’s strengths. I had always been nervous that I would not be able to cope with labour, had insisted that I would only consider a hospital birth and, despite reservations, had accepted to myself that I would probably require an epidural and consequently further intervention. At my antenatal class I idealised that I would have a water birth, gas and air and any other natural method that was available, but I was in a minority when I admitted I fully expected to meet my limitations and would be asking for an epidural. Due to my health I knew that the drugs would have a negative effect on my body but I also knew that mentally I needed to keep my options open. After a labour which lasted approximately 48 hours I am still stunned to realise that the gas cylinder that was wheeled into the room remained untouched.
I can only give myself a small amount of the credit. Without Sarah and Meg this story might have been very different. When I first found out I was pregnant the elation was incomparable, this was something that I had been hoping and trying for months, and so started the inevitable round of doctor’s consultations and NHS midwife appointments. The reaction to my general health was conclusive: I must not consider even the birth centre, I was heading straight for the labour ward intervention would be inevitable. Initially I wasn’t even aware that independent midwives existed, and when I was introduced to the concept I was simply relieved that I would no longer have to travel back and forth to antenatal appointments and numerous blood tests that were being requested. This proved to be such a minute part of the role that Sarah and Meg played I blush with my ignorance. At our first meeting I knew that I had two very special people and suddenly the whole pregnancy journey became something to enjoy, take pleasure in and confidence in my capabilities soared.
Inevitably I was overdue although in the days leading up to was eventually The Day I had had a few mild contractions that unfortunately kept stopping just as I was getting excited. Going to bed on the 18th February I was really uncomfortable and ached all night, this time I had definitely started. I couldn’t wait to get on the phone to Sarah to tell her things were finally happening, and 30 mins later she was on the doorstep with a big hug and the ‘can do ‘ attitude, and a large bag of knitting that was to see us all through the next two days!
What I hoped was going to be a sprint finish became a marathon, the first day passed in a haze of concentration – anytime now I was going to have my baby, keep breathing and it will be alright. This remained my strategy throughout. Having taken Mindfullness Meditation classes years earlier, they suddenly came into there own. For the greater part I was able to zone out and let my body take over. My clearest memories are of walking around with the tens machine and gradually leaving it on boost all the time, all the pain seemed to be centred in my lower back , I was surprised how little I could feel things in the front, although by this time my bump felt like it could easily just explode outwards! The absolute saving grace that afternoon were hot towels. Crouching on all fours on my bed with Meg and Sarah behind me they rubbed towels soaked in boiling water onto the base of my spine, massaging in between each one. I had very little concept of time by now but I know that this is what saved me from demanding immediate hospital transfer for pain relief. It had the dual effect of relaxation and pain relief while being in the only position that was at all comfy.
All this time my contractions seemed to have been building steadily, although very very slowly.By 6pm we discussed moving to the JR and Sarah telephoned them to check the availability in the Spires. There was no space, if we went in now I would have to go onto the Labour Ward. In retrospect this was a critical moment, if Gav and I had been on our own we would have been too unsure to remain at home overnight, but discussing it with Meg and Sarah and knowing that Sarah would stay with us I plugged myself into my IPod for relaxation and actually managed to doze off for a few hours.
By morning things had clearly progressed and we headed off to the Spires Unit, baby by lunchtime? No problem!
Once again time ceased to exist and I remember asking if all the clocks could be turned away! Four things stand out from that day regarding my labour: The utter relaxation of the birthing pool, and the relief I had from the support of the water; feeling like my lower back was in a metal vice every time I moved out of the pool (contractions were still all centred in my back, something all the birthing books only covered in about a page so it caught me by surprise); sitting on the loo backwards (sounds crazy, works a treat but I still can’t look at a toilet in the same way, oh so comfy!) and what I can only describe as the worse form of torture: Sarah making me walk up and down a stone staircase which in my condition felt like climbing the Matterhorn only to be told I had to go to the bottom and climb Everest as well!) Under normal circumstances I might have well have gone off Sarah at this point (sorry Sarah!) but this got Bubba moving and prevented the powers that be suggesting I needed medication to get the contractions to quicken – Thank You Sarah!
I don’t think that at any time during my labour I was consciously not going to accept pain relief I simply kept my head in the zone and focused on the moment, relying on the Pool for any time out that I needed. I remember a Gas and Air Cylinder being wheeled in towards the end, and it was comforting to know it was there but I didn’t actually need it. By this time the hospital midwife had broken my waters (possibly the oddest part of the whole experience) and I was on the Birthing Stool with Sarah taking all my weight behind me and my little Chloe was finally, properly, on her way.
Whatever people tell you about forgetting labour, I will never forget the sensation I had of her coming down the birthing canal. I could literally feel her moving, pushing, stopping, moving again until everyone was saying she was crowning and all I wanted was for someone to yank her out there and then, I felt my body was about to give up, unfortunately I still had some pushing to do.
Up until this point I had been so positive, constantly telling myself ‘you can do this’, ‘come on Chloe, we can do this’ that it had become almost a mantra in the haze of focus that I had willed myself in. At this point the haze had dissipated and all I could think of is, ‘ I have to do this’ and that ‘the harder I push the quicker it will be over’. And then it was. Chloe Lois was born 8lbs 3oz at 10.51pm on Friday 20th February. We had done it, without drugs, but with the help of two amazing people – Meg and Sarah. Thank you.