By Sara Madderson of Madderson London who create Luxury Maternity Wear
I was very lucky with the births of my two children. Both were born early, quickly, safely, and in the very comfortable surroundings of the private Kensington Wing of Chelsea and Westminster, thanks to my former firm’s generous health insurance. But despite having had a relatively easy time of it, my advice would be: be bossy, and be vocal! You know your body and you and your birthing partner need to fight to get the labour that you want!
My son was born on Valentine’s day, 2011, 5 days early. His timing was perfection. The night before, my husband and I went to bed having just read through all my antenatal class notes and having undertaken a ‘test drive’ to the hospital earlier that day. My husband remarked that it didn’t look as though we were going to have a Valentine’s day baby. At 9.30pm, 15 minutes after we turned out the lights, I felt wet and went to the loo to find blood everywhere. It was pouring out of me and I called the hospital in a wild panic. My amazing husband got me there in 7 minutes and I was told that my waters had broken and I had just had an extremely bloody ‘show’. Given I hadn’t started contracting, we were told we could go home.
3 hours after my waters broke I started contracting, and it got bad pretty quickly despite TENS machine, hot water bottle and Mad Men. I am very wimpy with pain so assumed I was not doing a very good job of dealing with early labour. We went back into hospital at 3.30am and I was 4cm dilated at 4am. What I didn’t know was that I was dilating at great speed! An hour later I was 9cm (I believe the usual rate is 1cm/hour). My number one objective on my birth plan was NO PAIN, so I had asked for an epidural as soon as I was first measured. One of the many perks of private maternity wards is the much greater availability of an anaesthetist. Unfortunately that night the on-call anaesthetist had an emergency C section to deal with so I was offered the option of them getting a colleague in from home or getting a registrar from the hospital to administer one immediately. Clearly I went for the latter!
I found the labour pains to be hideous and very difficult to bear. At one point my husband noticed that our baby’s heart-rate had suddenly halved and there was a flurry of panic in the room. To be honest, all I could focus on was the next contraction. I was very very happy to see my obstetrician and the registrar turn up. Because of the speed and the pain I was given almost a total spinal block (I didn’t realize this till birth #2, when my regular epidural was a lot less effective!!!). This unfortunately slowed everything down to a standstill so I spent an hour standing up (I was still able to stand) to jiggle my son downwards. Because of his fluctuating heart rate, my obstetrician was keen to make the pushing part of the labour as quick as possible. I was a bit woozy, so I slow-danced with my husband while he held me up.
Of the 2 births, my son’s was far more invasive than my daughter’s. However, because I had much greater pain relief I enjoyed it much more. I started pushing as the sun came up over the roofs of Chelsea. It was a magical morning. Because I had so little feeling, I couldn’t push very well and my obstetrician ended up ventousing him out. I remember when she told the midwife that it was time to call the paediatrician. There was such an expectant hum in the air that a little child was about to arrive! When my son came out he was delicious (and a surprise, as we didn’t know what we were having). Thanks to the wonders of modern pain-relief, I really enjoyed his arrival into the world.
My tiny daughter Tilly came into the world 3 weeks early (as I had been absolutely convinced she would) and the labour took 1hr 45mins! My waters broke at 1pm while I was helping my son on a climbing frame (no coincidence?!) and I went straight into hospital as my obstetrician and I had discussed that this was likely to be an extremely fast labour. Chelsea were playing at home right down the road, and with the accompanying traffic chaos, staying in seemed like the sensible thing to do.
By 6.30pm I was getting cocky and called my husband to say I would come home. He said that he would instead come in and stay the night. We were tucked up in bed (him on the pull-down) after Homeland, when I woke to go to the loo at 1.25am. I instantly had one strong contraction and another 5 minutes later. I called the midwife in and she said ‘relax dear, and let’s give it an hour’. I said, ‘this baby will be born in an hour. I need to be measured now!’ We got into the delivery room and she kindly offered me a cup of tea. I said, ‘I don’t want tea, I need to be measured NOW and have an anaesthetist!’ The pain was immediately sickening and exhausting.
The amazing thing was that in a private wing, with an anaesthetist on standby and 5 people in the room to get the epidural in, and with my having gone into the delivery suite within 10 minutes of starting labour, I was already crowning when the epidural started to feed in. I’m thrilled that it took the edge off the ‘ring of fire’ but the fact was that the bulk of the labour was done on gas and air. For me, the best thing about gas and air is having a mouthpiece to bite down on really hard; it was the only relief I could find!
Tiny 6lb 4oz Tilly came out at 3.15am. I was shattered and immediately started vomiting. For the first couple of hours I was too dizzy and sick to really enjoy her. Ironically Paddy’s labour had been much more relaxing despite Tilly’s textbook delivery. They do say that a very fast labour can be quite traumatic. Happily I had plenty of time to enjoy my beautiful little daughter later that morning, and the physical recovery was almost non-existent – no stitches, no pain.
My obstetrician came to see me the next day (she had not been on duty when Tilly was born as it was a weekend) and she laughed at my notes. She said that she was very glad that I had been so bossy as the midwives had completely underestimated the speed of my labour. I do think that 2nd time around it is easier to be assertive and have more confidence in what your body is telling you.
I’m not sure I am brave enough for a 3rd … after a sub-2hr labour at 37 weeks, I do worry that the 3rd baby would be born in the playground!!!
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