The Birth of Eliza

As you know on Sunday 11th (6days overdue) I had several hours of contractions that eventually went away! I then had a midwife appointment on Tuesday 13th where they offered to book me in for induction which we had already decided to decline since I felt confident that things would eventually start up again soon.
She examined me and said I was about a centimetre dilated and recommended a stretch and sweep to get things moving. I really wanted to avoid induction so I felt this was a better option to possibly start things off. I didn’t find it too uncomfortable because I was able to breathe through it and listened to an MP3. The midwife said she couldn’t believe how relaxed I was!
Because I had declined induction she had to book me in with a consultant to discuss monitoring but she said she would be very shocked if I made the appointment and thought it would be going into labour that night or the next day!
That evening I felt like things might be starting off again slowly. We went to bed as normal and at 1.30 I started timing fairly regular surges, I stayed in bed as long as I could but got up and decided to have a bath with some candles. I left James to sleep but he woke up anyway (too excited) and went downstairs to get the living room ready. The bath was really nice and relaxing and I listened to the MP3s and practiced my breathing.
By 4 am we were both downstairs with candles and music continuing to time the surges. By 7 am they had been consistently 3 in 10 minutes for about an hour so James phoned the labour ward at LGI who said we could feel free to go in. I was finding the surges very manageable at this point but I was worried about getting stuck in rush hour traffic and my sister had just had a baby and progressed very quickly so I thought we were better off going in.
When we arrived I decided to have an examination to see how far along I was and was slightly disappointed to find I was only 1-2 cm. we decided to go back home feeling that things would progress more quickly there.
Things continued as before at home with the surges being 3 in every 10 minutes and lasting around 40 seconds but they didn’t really speed up or get more intense and I was still finding them pretty manageable and I had another relaxing bath. At 11am I was my waters broke all over a kitchen chair! I went straight to the toilet and more water was coming out. James phoned the labour ward as they’d advised and they said that we should come back in as soon as possible. We decided to wait a while until the surges were getting more intense as I felt pretty relaxed at home and at 14.30 we set back off to hospital. The journey was quite uncomfortable and we had on an MP3 and my breathing definitely helped.
When we arrived I decided to be reexamined and was again disappointed to find I was only 2-3 cm. James reassured me that it was still progress and that it wasn’t an indication of how quickly things would move from here.
After speaking with the midwife we decided to stay to see if things would progress there and I had a had a bath. Unfortunately, because we were at LGI we had to be on a ward until I was 4cm. This wasn’t something I had realised and but I thought I would get to 4cm pretty quickly as it didn’t sound that far off 2/3. The bath at LGI was awful and not very warm at all – I didn’t find it relaxing and it slowed the contractions right down which was frustrating.
We ended up back on the ward which was quite busy, noisy and very brightly lit, not much space to move around and not relaxing at all. James massaged me and I had my MP3 in my ears and he kept reminding me of my breathing techniques which helped me focus and relax. Things eventually started ramping back up again at 19.00 and suddenly I was having surge after surge lasting a minute and a half and with not much of a break in between this went on for about three hours. These did get very painful and I found them quite hard to manage and I mainly put this down to the environment. There was no gas and air on the ward so I just had paracetamol. The midwife came over and said that it was positive progress and that I was clearly in active labour.
I didn’t want to be reexamined but she said that unless I was examined she wouldn’t be able to move me to a delivery room. This wasn’t something I had anticipated because we had learned that it was fine to decline an examination however obviously LGI have very strict protocols around this and were not prepared to send me to the delivery room without an examination which made me feel quite upset and annoyed.
We went ahead and found I was still only 3cm. After this I did get really upset and found it difficult to manage the surges which were still coming really frequently and lasting what felt like ages! James asked if we could go home because I was finding the ward environment so difficult to cope with. They said yes so he packed up the car and I felt relieved that I would soon be in a more relaxing environment.
However, a doctor then came to see us to say that she had just read over my notes and that since my waters had broken at 11am they would not advise that we went home because they wanted to be able to monitor baby for any sign of infection and that if I hadn’t given birth after within 12 hours after they’d broken they would want to put me on a drip to speed things up and the time for this was nearly there. I was so disappointed but I was aware that we could ignore the advice and decide to go home anyway but we questioned the doctor and weighed it up and decided that since the journey was uncomfortable before and that I was not too far off being admitted to the delivery ward we decided to stay put so James had to go back to the car and get everything out again!! We also said that we didn’t want to have the drip as things were clearly progressing with my surges and we would rather see how it went without for now which they accepted.
James had spoken to the doctor about how difficult I was finding it to progress in the ward environment so the doctor turned the ward lights off and got me a birthing ball which helped. When the lights were off James got on the bed with me and I felt way more relaxed even though the contractions were still really intense.
Although things were taking a while time seemed to go really fast as I wasn’t looking at the clock and James just kept a note of what time things were happening. I found it really helpful not to look at my phone or social media at all.  The midwife came round again at 3am to see if I had progressed and finally I was at 4cm! I could have cried with relief! By 3.30 we were in a delivery room and I asked if I could get in the pool and started using the gas and air. James put my music on and got the electric tea lights out so the room felt way more relaxing!!
However by this time I was absolutely exhausted having lost so much sleep. I could hardly keep the gas and air in my mouth and kept dropping it and my head kept almost dipping below the water in between surges. The midwife and James were talking to me but I couldn’t hear or understand what they were saying at all. I came round after a while and told James that I felt like I had had enough and if we could discuss other options for pain relief as I couldn’t manage the gas and air properly. The strange thing was that the pain wasn’t the thing I was struggling with it was the exhaustion and not being able to focus on what was going on anymore and I really felt like I needed some respite. The midwife mentioned an epidural and we asked her a few questions about it and what the draw back for me would be. She advised that one of the main draw backs was that it can slow things right down but we felt things had progressed so slowly already that I would rather have one and be able to rest and hopefully be in a better position to push a baby out afterwards!
It took an hour for them to find an anaesthetist and we had to move rooms which was a massive pain and felt like the longest hour of the whole thing! Finally he came and I had the epidural (sitting on my bum to have it was really uncomfortable) but within 15 mins I couldn’t feel any pain, only sensations and I felt so much more relaxed. I had a lovely new midwife who was so helpful and I was able to close my eyes and sleep for a while which was exactly what I needed!
At 8am I was examined and found to be at 6cm so I was really happy that things hadn’t slowed down and I felt super calm and relaxed, we even managed to have some toast and tea for breakfast! I think moving from the ward and having the epidural made a massive difference to how relaxed I felt and that’s why things carried on moving.
At 10am I was being examined again due to the length of time it had been since my waters broke and them wanting to intervene again and the midwife couldn’t believe it when she could see the babies head! She said I was at 10cm but that due to the epidural they would only recommend pushing for an hour before they would want to intervene so they recommended waiting for two hours for the baby to move as far down the birth canal as possible so I didn’t wear myself out. The two hours went by really fast, we were both so excited and couldn’t believe we’d be meeting our baby soon! After two hours the midwife explained that she would need to give me a catheter to empty my bladder and clear the way for pushing. I asked why I couldn’t just go for a wee and she explained that they epidural would make it almost impossible (she was right!). I had a slight panic and asked how I’d be able to push a baby out if I couldn’t even wee or feel anything (also I was sat up with them holding my legs – not a position I had really imagined) but she assured me that it was possible. I did some affirmations and really got into the zone and I suddenly got a big surge of energy and felt really confident that I’d be able to do it.
At 12.42 the midwife told me to wait for the next surge and then put my chin on my chest and push. The surge came and I squeezed James’ hand and pushed hard as I could and they shouted that they could see the baby’s head. I thought they were joking! The next surge and the whole head was out! They told me to reach down and I could feel the babies hair – I honestly couldn’t believe it. The next surge and she shot out completely at 12.48! They put her straight on my chest and she soon started feeding. James and I were both in total shock that it had happened so quickly (so were the midwifes!!) and in floods of tears! It was the most surreal and amazing feeling – I’m still on a high.
One thing I would say is that I would never birth at LGI again and I really regret not looking more closely at other options. We live only ten minutes away so thought that was the best choice but I’d definitely go further a field next time. The staff were great but the facilities were rubbish and I found it really old fashioned. Almost as soon as I’d given birth we were back on an awful and very busy ward with bright lights and loads of people – not really what you want when you’re trying to learn to breastfeed and feeling a bit exhausted. We had a few visitors but there was hardly room for anyone around the bed.
Eliza had to be observed for 12 hours after the birth due to the waters breaking and as soon as that was done we discharged ourselves at 2.30 am. I spoke to some of the midwifes about it and they urged me to put in a complaint because they’re also frustrated by the lack of facilities and that Leeds is one of only three trusts in the country and by far the largest without a midwife led birth unit. I think this is a real shame and something I’ll definitely keep in mind for next time! In spite of this I think hypnobirthing did really help and having the tools to remain calm as much as possible and make decisions that felt right for us was empowering. James felt it especially helped him to know how to keep me calm and focused and how to ask the right questions and not just accept what we were being told so thank you for everything!
Grace and James, Leeds