January 2021...it was on a Saturday morning that I bump into Candice, Kerri (her sister) and Ralph the most delicious dog ever, AHAHAHA, honestly i love that dog!
The dog community in our area is amazing and when we see other people with dogs we always stop and talk ( at least me!) Candice was in the last few weeks of pregnancy and we spent a few minutes talking about dogs and babies. The following day I bump again into the same trio and we end up changing contacts, now I was excited to meet Ralphie's new brother!
If you know Candice and her sister then you know how heartwarming, easy-going and funny they are... everything that I needed to start my year!
The weeks passed and again in another Saturday morning Kerri sent me a message with the most adorable pics of baby Jack...Jack Vincent Egan, he was born on Thursday evening and he was perfect...just perfect!
Candice birth story is the perfect example that sometimes no plan is the best plan. All births are different and the perfect birth plan doesn't exist! In doubt always go with your instincts no matter what other people tell you or whatever is written in a book.
My Birth Story
I still remember the day that I told some close friends that I was ready to be a mom. It was November 2017 and when I think back to that day now, I realise how naïve I was about actually falling pregnant – I somehow thought it was a natural process that would happen in some romantic fashion as we grow up seeing in films. Of course, the reality is very different, and it took my husband and I a good three (and a bit) years to get there. Before falling pregnant I was someone who was always on the go. I like to push myself in all areas of life and in hindsight I think this and an ongoing struggle with anxiety was partially what made my journey to falling pregnant all that more difficult (medically there was no reason I could not conceive). But anyway, cue a global pandemic and all of us being forced to slow down in a way that we had never before. We decided to get a puppy (a chocolate cockapoo called Ralph) shortly after the first lockdown and I honestly believe that the combination of a change of pace and having to care for him brought us the luck we needed. As I write this it is almost one year to the day that I found out I was pregnant – 20 May 2020. After so many failed pregnancy tests it was just the best news and as you can imagine I could not wait to tell Sean and my family.
I was very fortunate to have had a (medically) low risk pregnancy. The first trimester was tough – although I didn’t have much morning sickness, I struggled with headaches all the way through and of course lots of anxiety in the build up to the 12-week scan. The second trimester was wonderful – our scans had gone well, and I was feeling like myself again – both physically (despite growing a human) and mentally. The third trimester was, well, a bit of a slog if I’m honest. I gained almost 25kgs throughout the pregnancy and really struggled with not being as active / mobile especially as a lot of my day was spent working from the couch – lots of aches and pains. I also became impatient as I just wanted to meet the little guy! Although I am someone who loves to be organised and in control of things, I chose not to have a birth plan. I had heard so many stories of women who had a birth that didn’t quite go to plan and about the stress but also the guilt that this left them with. Knowing how anxious I would be if that were me, I decided to “go with the flow”. I was very clear on a few things. I avoided pregnancy and birth related books, didn’t allow myself to Google anything and decided early on that I would only take advice from the midwives (and/or doctors) that I would see throughout pregnancy. When it came to the actual birth, I didn’t want a home birth or to spend time in a birthing pool (the idea of floating in a pool of pooh really puts a girl off!) and I was not fussed about playlists, hypnobirthing, candles etc. I can see where those are all valuable but for me, this would have been just one more thing to “get right”. All I wanted above everything was to do what was necessary on the day to make sure that my little guy came out as safely and healthy as possible.
Thank goodness I didn’t have a plan! Tuesday 19 January 2021 (Day 40 + 1) I went to St. Georges Hospital in Tooting around 8:30pm after not feeling very much movement all day. I wasn’t certain of this as I was still working so might just not have noticed it through a busy day but as always with these things, I didn’t want to take any chances. My husband made me take my hospital bag with me and I laughed at the time, thinking I would get there, be monitored and be able to go home once I felt something. When I got to the hospital, the midwife checked me into a bed in the delivery suite. I found it strange because I had been in for some monitoring before and they just did it in one of the rooms, and I was out of there within 30 mins. Of course baby started moving pretty much as soon as they started monitoring so I text my husband (who was waiting in the car – COVID restrictions meant he couldn’t come into the suite) and my sister who was at home to let them know all was fine and I would be out / home soon. Within minutes of doing so, the midwife and the registrar came in to see me and told me that because I had been in for monitoring before and because technically I was now overdue, that I was now classed as high risk and I would therefore have to be formally checked in and induced. I feel so silly thinking about it now, but I asked if I could go home and think about it! This was not an option. Of course, I agreed to being induced but I hadn’t really thought about what that had meant before, so I was suddenly overcome with fear and anxiety and a feeling of this is it. I cried (sobbed), called Sean to bring in my hospital bag (he must have known…) and called my family back in SA to let them know things were about to get serious!
I had never been to hospital before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect but not a lot happened for a very long time, just lots of waiting well into the night. I was induced (by pessary) at 4:30am on Wednesday 20 January 2021 and told that typically women wouldn’t feel much with the first pessary and it usually took another – 24 hours later – for things to start happening. Well, an hour later I started experiencing what felt like intense period pain – coming and going. This lasted pretty much throughout the day but it was manageable, so I spent the day eating, watching RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix and pretty much chilling in my little cubicle. Because I had been working up until the day, I was it was actually quite a nice rest (despite the pain). Sean was able to spend visiting hours with me so was there all day until 6pm. I settled in for the night and decided to watch a movie (As good as it gets, super cute story!). By 8:30pm, I felt the most intense back and stomach pain I have ever felt before. It was crippling. I couldn’t stand, sit or even lie down. Nothing seemed to make it go away and as you can expect, it came in waves. I waddled over to the midwife station and asked for some pain relief. They gave me paracetamol and I almost laughed, thinking that they were never going to help. They didn’t and I went back 10 minutes later asking “what else?”. The midwife suggested Pethidine would help take the edge off and could help me sleep so I agreed. By this point I was in agony and just could not get comfortable at all. The Pethidine didn’t take the edge off. It only made me feel drowsy which was not helpful on top of the pain. The midwife told me that they would continue to monitor me every four hours and that if active labour hadn’t started within the 24-hour period of receiving the pessary then they would give me another. Five hours passed and the thought of enduring that pain for another 24 hours was terrifying. When the midwife suggested gas and air, I shouted it “get this baby out of me” – it was all very dramatic and I laugh thinking about it now. At 1:50am on Thursday 21 January I started bleeding and observation confirmed that I was (finally) in active labour and 5cm dilated. I called Sean and told him our little guy was on his way and that he was able to now come to the hospital to be with me. Things obviously didn’t go as quickly as that!
By the time Sean arrived I was in a new private room and the Anaesthetist was administering the epidural. It took longer than I thought it would because I was contracting throughout, and I never realised that they must wait for a contraction to finish each time. By around 2:45am the pain started easing up and I was feeling sane again, although exhausted. I felt very fortunate to have had some amazing midwives support me throughout my labour and birth. The level of care was incredible, and they were all wonderfully warm and reassuring. One was a student who happened to be there for a seminar over lunch and she ended up staying with me throughout the day and the delivery of our little man. The epidural didn’t work well, so I needed regular top-ups each hour but I generally felt pretty good throughout the day on Thursday and the four-hourly monitoring confirmed that I was dilating and things were progressing as to be expected. My waters didn’t break on their own so at around lunchtime, they did this for me. Again, things were going well, and I was around 8cm dilated at this point. We agreed that I would start pushing around 4:30/5:00pm as I was expected to be 10cm dilated by this point. I wasn’t sure what pushing was supposed to feel like, but the midwife explained how to do it and when the time eventually came, I felt strangely ready. At 5pm we started – breathing out and pushing at the top of each contraction. I could do it, I felt strong and in control and so determined at this point to just go for it. I was so excited at the thought of meeting him. The midwives kept me updated throughout and we tried so many different positions to keep things moving along. After an hour of pushing, the little guy was not quite far enough along, and the midwives confirmed that his head was swelling. I was in agony at this point too as we agreed to stop the top-ups of the epidural so that I could feel the contractions a little more. I was exhausted. One of the consultants came in and explained that procedurally because I was not able to deliver or get far enough along at that point and with the swelling, I would need to go into theatre. I panicked and I was so upset at the thought of having got this far and not being able to finish the way I started. He explained the various stages / options that they would consider once I was in theatre – suction, forceps, C section – and I was just so upset at the time that I begged him to give me another 30 minutes. They didn’t agree but whilst they were setting up the theatre and getting ready to move me, I continued pushing. I don’t know what came over me!
I got into the theatre and was given a spinal (since the epidural hadn’t worked well). The team of around 10 in there including the midwives who had been with me throughout were honestly amazing. The speed at which everything happened didn’t leave any time for fear or nerves and within 10 minutes, two contractions later and by the sheer force of the forceps, our little boy was born at 7:33pm on Thursday 21 January. Labour was recorded as 17 hours and 50 minutes. I couldn’t believe we had got there. Meeting Jack for the first time was incredibly overwhelming. I felt so humbled by the whole experience, in awe of what I had been through and so grateful to the midwives and the theatre team that all pulled together to safely deliver him to us.
Motherhood is incredibly challenging but it is a blessing and I will never take the experience of growing, birthing and now raising a little human for granted.