Wednesday, 24 September 2008

39 weeks, 6 days - 3 weeks, 1 day old

Stomach size: 97cm waist; 28 cm pelvic bone to bra

Well, it's Callum's due date tomorrow. He is doing so well. As of yesterday he weighed 7lb 4oz so has put on a pound and a half since being born. A lot of premature babies are meant to be quite slow to develop but Callum isn't showing any sign of this. He works hard to lift and control his own head and he is so strong. I did have to take him to the Child Health Drop-In Clinic at the doctors yesterday as he had developed a rash across his forehead and eyes. I wasn't that concerned as he was happy in himself and was feeding normally (if you can call feeding whenever and however normal but I guess at this age it is). However, I spoke to NHS Direct and they recommended just taking him along so someone could see it and confirm it was nothing. Apparently, it is called the 'Three Week Rash'. Considering he was 3 weeks old yesterday, that sounded about right. Nothing to worry about and was just colonisation spots and his skin adapting to life outside.

We still don't have any real routine. Callum still feeds and sleeps erratically (as mentioned above). He mainly feeds every 2 hours but with the odd 1 hour or three hour thrown in - usually 1 hour, especially in the early hours of the morning. Which leads me onto sleep patterns. We normally go to bed between 10pm and 10.30pm. Callum then sleeps soundly for 2-3 hours. After that, it all goes a bit chaotic. Last night, he woke up around 1am I think and then 2.30am and then he hardly slept for the remainder of the night. He kept 'snacking', taking in a little bit of food and then falling asleep. I'd try to wind him and put him down and 5 minutes later he would grizzle. I'd wind him again, and then he would be hungry. He would feed for another 5 minutes and then fall asleep, starting the cycle again. It didn't seem to make much difference whether it was from the breast or bottle.

By the time Stuart got up for work, I was desperate for a solid hour's sleep! Unfortunately, I stupidly booked a doctor's appointment for 9am - I really don't know what possessed me. This meant, I had to get up just after Stuart to ensure I got there on time.

Stuart went back to work on Tuesday of last week, after his 2 weeks of paternity leave. I was sad to see him go back. I had enjoyed the time the three of us had shared getting to know each other as a new family. Stuart saw the paternity leave different to me. I saw it as time to get to know Callum and to adjust to being parents, and an opportunity to spend time all together. Stuart saw it as a period of time to try to get back into as normal a routine as possible. He still found it hard to switch off from work. I think he has found it hard to go back to work too but because of the tiredness. His sleep is obviously disturbed too and he finds it really hard to function without good sleep.

There was a piece on The One Show on BBC1 last night that looked at sleep deprivation. Apparently, some people have a gene which means they are better able to cope with sleep deprivation. They called it the Night Owl gene (as opposed to the Lark gene). I definitely think I have this as I seem to be coping pretty well with the days despite not getting much sleep. However, Stuart is acting like me with Baby Brain.

Stuart has generally still been very supportive but this has slipped in a couple of places. Perhaps I expect too much. I want his support, both days and evenings, until some sort of good feeding-sleeping routine is established and I feel more relaxed about everything. This means, I would prefer him not to go out in the evenings unless it is something work related or it really is just for one drink (which Stuart doesn't know the meaning of as his '1 drink' usually develops into a night of drinking and getting the last train home). However, we have had one disagreement when Stuart was on Paternity Leave which was about him wanting to go out (which he didn't do in the end - we came up with a compromise) and then he got trashed last Friday on an impromptu drinking afternoon - a lunch that turned into an afternoon, then an evening, which he didn't even tell me was happening. Eventually, I called him, ended up in tears and he was put on the train home. What really upset me with this was that he had told me the day before when I was really upset about the lack of sleep I had had that it was only for one more night as the next night he would be able to do help out again. However, he was so drunk when he got home that I didn't even want him to change Callum and I did the night on my own again.

I'm feeling a little bit down today. The awareness of being tied to Callum all the time is sinking in. I think this is what Stuart doesn't understand (actually, he understands but I just don't think he considers it) and what I find so difficult. He can go out after work, stay out late, do what he likes with relative freedom, whereas, I can't be away from Callum for more time than I've got expressed bottles for. Of course, I love him and want to be with him but I get no escape - it is 24/7. Constant feeding, nappy changes and coping with the crying demands during the day and then again all through the night. Even if Stuart does help out and takes one or two of the feeds (which he did last Saturday to make up for the night before), I'm often still needed. Stuart had fed him both bottles I had prepared and he had to wake me up to feed him from the breast, and it was only the first feed. I then had to do the other feeds and change him despite that it was meant to be a complete night off where I could catch up with sleep.

What I've never wanted once I had children, was for my husband to just tell me when he is going out or to just expect to go out when he pleases and for me to feel like I need to ask permission to go out. This is what I've seen happen to others and it is completely unfair. The responsibility of looking after the children should be shared and each parent should treat the other as they would wish to be treated. I hope the former doesn't happen to us.

I've also been in the wrong too. One thing I swore I would do and that I think is really important for the mother to do is to involve Stuart in decisions to ensure he feels involved.

The next goal post for me and breastfeeding was 25 September. This had been suggested by Stuart, though what he didn't tell me is that he hadn't prepared himself for me actually giving up breastfeeding at this time and fully expected me to continue to the next goal post, whatever that would be. I had decided that I was going to start the weening process on 25 September as I really want to stop the breastfeeding now. I am so proud of myself for lasting this long considering I was originally not going to breastfeed at all. Unfortunately, I didn't discuss this decision with Stuart so he was disappointed in my decision and disappointed to not have been involved in this decision.

I'm sure these are the first of many disagreements and learning curves we are going to go through but when you are both lacking in sleep, it is hard not to get emotional about things.

Breastfeeding is just adding to my stress. Having to wash two breast pumps constantly as well as doing the expressing every other feed (including at night) is draining. Also, when it is a breast feed (as opposed to an express feed), Callum tends to feed for 10-15 mins, break for 10, feed for 10, break for 10 for about an hour. I then don't know when the next feed will be and why he is stop-starting. I appear to be producing enough milk but he keeps coming back for more. At least when I feed him the express milk, I can see how much he is feeding and he tends to go down better afterwards.

I've got into a bit of routine of expressing two extra bottles during the day that I put in the fridge and then use them to feed during the night. I then only express once at some point during the night when Callum is sleeping. For the rest of the night feeds he is breastfed.

Of course, the downside to feeding by bottle is that you need to warm the bottle if it has been in the fridge before giving it to Callum, so you have to deal with Callum screaming as if he is being murdered until the bottle is ready.

These are, of course, the days/weeks that everyone warned me about and that I've been expecting. Strangely, they are slightly easier than I thought they would be despite all this and I know it wont last forever but I wish I could see some sort of routine developing so I could see a light at the end of the tunnel. This is another reason why I am keen to move to formula - babies tend to sleep longer when formula-fed so I might actually get some sleep at night even if I still have to make 3 feeds during the night and it might help us get that sought after routine.

The best night I've had in the last week was actually on the Friday night (the night Stuart was meant to be helping with). I slept in the spare room while Stuart was in our room. This is also something I said I never wanted to do - I thought it was very unsuportive of the husband to want to sleep in separate rooms. However, it has been my decision to do so and I actually prefer to sleep in separate rooms at the moment. I hate sleeping apart from Stuart but not having to worry about disturbing Stuart so much when Callum wakes means I feel more relaxed. This probably helps both Callum and me get through the night. Sleeping in the spare room also means I can have the moses basket beside me next to the bed rather than at the end of the bed. For the last couple of nights, Stuart has slept in the spare room with me but both nights have been quite bad and I am wondering whether it is because I am stressing about keeping Stuart awake.

God, what a moan this has been. We are managing and Callum is still gorgeous and I know this is to be expected.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow as I'm meeting the NCT girls for our first Yummy Mummy meet. Should give me a bit of a break, even if I have Callum with me. At least I will have some adult chatter and feel like I'm socialising.

Just reading this back, I do feel like I need to reiterate that most of the time Stuart is supportive. He is happy to do nappy changes when he gets home from work and his fair share at weekends, and will stand in and cook dinner if I need him to because I need to feed Callum. He would probably cook dinner every night if I needed him to but I do try to do it ready for when he gets home if I can. Stuart did also look after Callum for the whole day on Saturday to make up for Friday which meant I could go out for a couple of hours without him. He did all the changes throughout the day and all but one during the night.

Monday, 15 September 2008

38 weeks, 4 days - 1 week, 6 days old

So, life since the birth...

Week One

Most of the first week was spent in the hospital. We had to stay in the hospital until Friday because Callum was early. I found this time invaluable despite not getting any sleep while there. The ward was too light for me to sleep, plus everyone else's babies kept you awake - that is when you weren't being woken up by your baby or the midwife to feed! The cheek of it! I did wasn't to go in a private room (despite the expense - £130 a night. Personally, I'd expect it to be similar to a 4* hotel for that price!). However, because they had closed the ward, they were using the private rooms for delivery rooms.

Anyway, despite this, I needed a lot of help and support for the breastfeeding. The first night he didn't feed so I had to give him formula to bring his blood sugar level up. The second day, I thought he was feeding but he was just holding onto my nipple but not sucking. The second night was horrid. I was up all night and he wouldn't latch on. I asked for some help and the midwives were really nice and supportive and spent lots of time with me but I still struggled and resigned myself to formula feeding - I was so tired and tearful. The next day, I told one of the midwives that I had decided to formula feed and she persuaded me to continue trying for that day with the help of the midwives and then, if by the end of the day I hadn't had any luck and I still wanted to go onto formula, I would. With help, I managed to feed that day so I thought I would try the night. I got help again throughout the night and was a lot more successful. Callum didn't like attaching to the right boob (the one with the more inverted nipple) so I expressed instead and the midwives fed him from a cup. I got upset again on the last day as I really needed help but I had to wait ages for the midwife to come and help me. Stuart was trying to help me and kept going up to the reception to see when she would come but this was stressing me out more so I kept breaking down and crying. Eventually, she did come and help. I was meant to go home the next day and I knew that this could depend on my success at breastfeeding.

That night (Thursday), I had help for the first feed and then managed the next two on my own, including managing to get Callum to latch onto my problem right nipple! I was so relieved and proud of myself.

When the midwife responsible for discharging me came round the next morning, she checked me out and said she was happy for me to leave but she said she had to come and see me feeding before discharging me. She saw me and she was happy but noticed Callum had some jaundice. She wanted the Paediatrician to see him before she let us go. This was about 9am in the morning. It wasn't until about 3pm that I was finally seen and allowed to go home. Stuart and I were going out of our mind.

The Paediatrician performed a heel prick test (where they take a sample of blood from his heel - he had had to have several of these for regular blood sugar level tests already - his poor heels were so bruised she struggled to find a clear spot) to check his level of jaundice. Thankfully, he was just under the limit where they would have to give him light treatment. Yay - we were given the all clear to go home :o)

We then had to wait ages again for the midwife to complete my notes and print everything off before I left. She finally gave me all my completed notes but I reminded her I was on medication for high blood pressure which I had been told I would need to continue taking once I had been sent home. She then had to go and check this more waiting. Eventually, she found my prescription and finally discharged me.

We left so fast that it wasn't until I had got down to the hospital lobby that I realised I was still wearing my slippers!!!! Oh well, I didn't care anymore, and just went to the car in my slippers. As we left the car park with Callum strapped in his car seat in the back (looking very tiny), I really felt like someone was going to come running after us for stealing a baby!! It was such a strange feeling.

Thankfully, no one came chasing after us and we got home without incident - no flashing blue lights!!

Week Two

Throughout the week, Stuart has been really helpful. He has been doing all the cooking and helping with jobs. He even put something on eBay that I've been waiting for him to do since February...and ventured into the garden to pick up half of the rotting apples that have fallen off the tree.

Lotte is slowly gaining confidence with Callum. The first few days she pretty much stayed outside, just coming in for meals. Now, she still looks at Callum with distrusting eyes but is brave enough to sit on Stuart's lap while I am sat next to him with Callum in my arms.

I have continued with the breastfeeding but now only feeding directly from my left boob and then expressing from my right. This has meant Stuart has been able to get involved with feeding and has been doing one of the night feeds.

Callum's sleep pattern has been erratic. We seem to have alternate good and bad nights. The night before last was a good night - Stuart feeding at 1pm with me finishing the feed as Callum was fussing. Then sleeping through until 5am, putting him down again at 5.30am. Then sleeping through to 8.45am. Last night was a bad night. Feeding at 2.30am but not going back down until 4.30 am, only to wake up at 5.30am, down at 6am, then up again at 7.30am. If only he wasn't s cute when he is awake, looking around with his little beady eyes - I can't help but forgive him for my sleep deprivation.

I have had 3 mw visits. The first being on the Saturday (day after getting home). She came right when I was breastfeeding and Stuart was out shopping. She was happy to see us relaxed (Stuart came home shortly after she arrived) with Stuart looking after me. When she was happy, she said the next mw would visit on Monday. This was Deana (sp?) who I had met before at the doctors. She weighed Callum and, due to an error in my notes, thought he had lost just short of the allowed 10% until Stuart noticed the mistake and corrected her. It turned out he had only lost 40g which is great. This meant that, despite only breastfeeding from the one side, he wasn't losing weight. Again, she was happy with our progress and said my next mw visit would be on the Friday. This was Claire - again I had met her at the surgery. She weighed Callum again and he had put on weight and was now more than his birth weight at 6lb 2oz (he had weighed 5lb 150z at birth). Great news. She gave me more advice for breastfeeding and said to make sure I was expressing my right boob for every other feed to ensure I kept making milk and to do so for one of the night feeds. She also cleared up a worry Stuart and I had regarding swaddling. We had been worried that, by swaddling him, he was overheating. Overheating could lead to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) so we obviously didn't want to risk this. However, he didn't sleep as well when he wasn't swaddled. She reassured us that it was fine to do so and to perhaps lessen his other layers (i.e. remove the sleepsuit and keep him in just a body suit and blanket). She advised us to check the back of his neck and, if it was clammy, he was too hot. This advice was a big relief. Claire then signed us off with a reminder to register Callum before 46 days were up.

Stuart and I have both had some 'fun' nappy changes. Callum likes to wait until your concentration is elsewhere (i.e. finding the nappy) and then weeing over himself. His trick with me is to wait until I'm preparing his nappy, thinking I have got away without any weeing incidents and then projectile pooing everywhere. In my haste to get a nappy to catch it and while my concentration is on trying to clean up the mess, he wees all over himself - very not funny!!!! I can sit there for ages with the nappy in place waiting for him to go for a wee or a poo but then, as soon as I risk replacing the old nappy with the new one, he picks his moment to go!!!

We have received some lovely presents from people. Lots of clothes and toys for Callum, flowers, chocolates and cooking books for me. Lots and lots of cards too. We have been thoroughly spoilt and I thank all our family and friends for the lovely cards and gifts.

One thing I would like to add is how surprisingly natural we have found the adjustment to parenthood. We have found an unexpected confidence with Callum which is missing when you are looking after or handling other people's children - even with my experience of babysitting etc.

I would also like to add that I fall in love with Callum a little more each day - every time I look at him, he makes me smile and proud to be his mummy.

The happy family (day 2)

Ready to go home (looking tanned due to jaundice)

Monday, 8 September 2008

37 weeks, 4 days (6 days old)

Stomach size: 102cm waist; 33cm pelvic bone to bra

Erm...well, quite a lot has happened since the last post. As you see from my stomach size I have shrunk. Let me start from the beginning.

WARNING: Do not read if you are squeamish about labour details!

On Friday, 5 September, Stuart's brother Steven and his Fiancee Victoria came to stay for the weekend. Victoria is also pregnant - 27 weeks. On the Friday, I just cooked us all dinner and we had a quiet night in as we all had busy days the next day. Steve and Victoria were going to an REM concert and Stuart and I were going to our first NCT antenatal class.

So, the antenatal class was great. Everyone we met was really nice and I needn't had feared (as I did) that there wouldn't be anyone there we could see being friends with. We either worked in small groups or in plenary. First we were asked to separate into groups by location - Godalming and then everyone else - to introduce ourselves, where we live and what we wanted to cover in the two antenatal classes. Later, we were separated by gender. The boys had to look in a bag of items that are commonly found in a hospital bag and discuss what they thought we would want to help us through possible stages of labour where as the girls had to do the latter and see if they matched up with the boys. We also watched two videos of deliveries. One water birth and one active birth. Never going to be pleasant!! As a group, we also looked at massage and different tools for massage. There were other bits and discussions too but these were the main things. After the class, most of us went to the pub for a quick drink which was a really nice opportunity to relax and chat.

After that, Stuart and I went to another pub for dinner and to enjoy the last sunny day of summer a little bit longer.

On the Sunday, the weather was awful so the four of us went to play pool in Guildford for a couple of hours. We then went out for dinner in the evening.

For the Monday, Stuart had the day off and, as Victoria had never been to London before, everyone wanted to go and do the touristy bit. I was a little hesitant about whether I would be able to manage a day walking around London but, on the promise I could have lots of opportunities to sit down, agreed. It would have been such a shame for Victoria to not make the most of them being so close to London and to not go.

So, we took the train to Waterloo and walked to the London Eye. Went round the London Eye with Stuart and I pointing out the various sites. After we had a pizza on South Bank (a spicy pizza, by the way). Following the pizza we walked all the way to Holborn. I thought we were going via Covent Garden so we could have a break on the way but Stuart had decided to go straight to his work to show Steven. After this, we walked to Covent Garden and watched a couple of street entertainers before heading towards Leicester Square to get some ice cream. Had a lovely ice-cream in the Hagan Daaz cafe. After ice-cream we walked to Regent Street to go to Hamleys. We wondered around every floor of Hamleys and then on route to Oxford Circus tube stopped off in Mama's and Papa's. By the time we had got to M&Ps, I was well and truly knackered. I found a place to sit and stayed there. Feet were swollen, legs and back ached...!!! We finally got the tube back to Waterloo Station to make our way home. We got back quite late and decided to get Chinese for dinner. I was sooo knackered but, because Stuart had had a couple of beers I had to drive to the Chinese to pick up dinner (annoyingly, the only good one in the area, doesn't deliver!). We didn't eat until about 9.30pm. After dinner, we headed up to bed - it was about 11.40pm. I said to Stuart as I got into bed that I had done too much.

Shortly after getting into bed, I felt a feeling like I had started my period. I went to the toilet in fear that I had lost control of my bladder :-o and noticed a very small wet patch in my pyjama bottoms. I went to the toilet and stood up and felt another 'period' movement and managed to sit down on the loo again as I 'leaked'. Sorry if this is getting a bit graphic but just telling you how it was! Stuart asked if I was OK and I explained what had happened. He told me to go and look it up on the laptop and he was going to try to get some sleep, just in case it was anything (looking back at this comment, it sounds charming doesn't it!!!). I got downstairs and opened up the laptop then had to run back up to the loo as I had leaked again. I decided to ring the antenatal ward at the hospital to see what they said while Stuart got up to check out the laptop. I started leaking more and more and was sitting on a towel. As I got through to the hospital and explained the situation, I had to wait for the midwife to come to the phone. I started to feel very nervous at this point and had to fight back the emotion and tears. Just as the midwife came to the phone, the phone died!!! Ahhhhh. I had to ring back but thankfully the midwife picked up. She asked me a number of questions regarding how much liquid there was, what it looked like, how far gone in my pregnancy I was etc etc. She said, as I was only 36 weeks and 4 days, I should come into the hospital to get checked out to see if it was my waters that had broke. I said I could be there in 15-20 minutes and she said to bring an overnight bag. Stuart had come in after finding stuff on the laptop but, not having read anything positive, I think he wished he hadn't gone looking. I explained what had happened and then asked for a cuddle and cried as the shock of what could be happening hit me. We grabbed my pre-prepared hospital bags with me making a few adjustments between the bags so one was more just an overnight bag for me and the others were to leave in the car but to bring in if there were developments.

I got dressed and grabbed my towel. You will remember that Stuart had had a couple of drinks. Now, he had literally only had a couple over the space of a number of hours (since London) so was unlikely to be over limit but it was still a worrying drive to hospital. I could hardly drive myself though. By the time we had got to the hospital, I had well and truly looked like I had wet myself and was waddling through the entrance with a towel between my legs. Stuart had dropped me at the entrance while he went and parked. We then made our way to the antenatal ward.

After a short wait, I was shown into a day assessment room where I was checked out. While I was waiting, I could hear someone else in the room (we were curtained off) in labour. It wasn't particularly pleasant hearing it, though the noises she made did sound mildly erotic. I couldn't imagine making those kind of noises while in labour - I was perhaps expecting clearer groans of pain rather than these strange noises.

The doctor attached a couple of devices to my bump which monitored the baby's heart rate and I was told to click a button every time the baby moved - which, thankfully, it did quite a bit. I was told reassuringly that baby was very happy and had a good heart beat.

They took a urine sample to check for protein and swabs of my cervix to check for infection. They also took some blood tests. Can't remember what they were for.

After my examination, they midwife and doctor couldn't tell whether it was in fact my waters which had broken or not but they judged by the wetness of my trousers that it probably was. They told me I had to stay in overnight and then they would decide whether to induce me in the morning. Stuart had to go home but could come back at 9am the next day.

I was then put on the antenatal ward. After the tour of the maternity unit, I had said that I really didn't want to stay on the antenatal ward hearing women in labour come and go. But, here I was! I didn't sleep a wink. The ward was too light so it felt like dawn, someone was yawning and sighing very loudly, someone was snoring, and two women in labour came and went - making sighing/groaning noises similar to the first woman I heard. Did everyone have orgasmic labours????

In addition, I noticed that I had started to get mild back ache on and off. I couldn't tell if there was a pattern to them or how regular the pain was because I didn't think I had a watch on me - however, I later found Stuart's watch. I wasn't sure whether these were contractions or just the result of me marching round half of London the previous day.

In the morning at 9am, the midwife came to see me and said they were moving me to the delivery suite. Stuart arrived just as they were about to call him to come in. They checked my blood pressure which was very very high. I think it was 148/100. I had to give another urine sample too which was still clear of protein. I had started measuring the back pain with Stuart and was pretty sure that I was having contractions 4-5 minutes apart and lasting 45 seconds to a minute long. I mentioned these to the midwife who attached me to the baby heart rate monitor again which also measured the contractions.

The midwife explained that they would monitor me for the next couple of hours to check baby was ok and to see whether the contractions progressed and would then decide about 12 noon whether to induce me or not. At about 11am, the midwife examined me internally and said she 'thought' she could see some waters so believed only my hind waters had broke. She then got out this long needle which she explained had a small blade attached to the end of it which she was going to use to try to break the waters. I wish she hadn't explained about the blade - it is hard to stay relaxed knowing someone is putting a blade up your watsit!!! The whole experience was very unpleasant and painful. She couldn't break the waters but did a quick sweep of the area. This seem to halt the contractions for a while and made me bleed. When the midwife saw the blood she said, ooh, looks like you have had a 'show' that could be good news. Was she surprised there was blood after what she had done!!!!

At this stage I was 1 cm dilated and my cervix was about 1/2 cm thick but that my cervix was still facing the back - apparently it gradually moves forward. She said she would check me again at 12 but, as I had found it so painful, they would give me gas and air next time. She gave me some medication for the blood pressure. They kept monitoring my blood pressure throughout the day.

At 12, they didn't examine me again but she said that they had decided to induce me anyway because of my blood pressure and because my contractions hadn't really progressed on their own.

Then the midwife tried to find a vein to put the Syntocin drip (induction drip) into. The midwife struggled to find a good vein that she felt confident with. There was a possible one on my right arm but she wanted to get another midwife to check it or do it for her. She left the room and came back a short while later saying they had told her not to be such a wimp and to just get on with it (eeek! wish she hadn't told me that). It hurt quite a bit putting the needle in my arm but I could push the pain to the back of mind and could manage it ok. But it did sting and felt really uncomfortable. She was then not confident that she had put it in correctly so did go and get someone to check it. They said it looked fine but to start the drip and they would soon know if it had been put in wrong when my arm started swelling up like a balloon. None of this was filling me with reassurance!!! They then started the drip at 1ml an hour. Thankfully, there was no sign of my arm swelling like a balloon. However, it was still stinging a fair bit.

Thankfully, the midwives changed and I had someone different monitoring for the next part of the day (throughout the day, I think I saw about 6 midwives from beginning to end). After they had started the drip they had to check my BP several times in the space of about 45 minutes. The heart rate monitor continued to monitor baby and my contractions and every once in a while, when I hadn't gone into full labour, they upped the drip 1 mil and hour at a time.

What I was really fearful about being induced was the contractions coming on with full force with no let up (as I had heard this had happened to others). I therefore asked straight away, when could I get my epidural - I didn't want to be suffering any pain unnecessarily here! They told me that I would have the baby by midnight and that I would probably need the epidural about 10pm.

Thankfully, the contractions increased really gradually. This part of the labour was mostly quite boring. I found myself wishing I had packed cards and/or games or even a book to while away the time. I had to make do with completing a Sudoku puzzle in the paper with my left hand (it was difficult to move my right arm because of the drip).

I put on the TENS machine and started testing it out with the contractions. Not sure how much it actually helped through the labour. I also started on the gas and air. The midwife suggested trying it now to work out how many breaths I needed to take and when. I took about 6 deep breaths and thought not a lot was happening, and then a few seconds later, my head when light and I got the giggles. Stuart tried to have a go with a couple of breaths and nearly got caught by the midwife coming back into the room. It was difficult to time the gas and air with the contractions. I'm not sure if I ever did it effectively. Later, when the contractions were getting more painful and closer together, the gas and air made me very sick. I stopped using it then.

As I said, most of the labour was quite boring and, as the contractions started getting stronger, I found myself curled up in the fetal position on my side with my leg jigging through each pain and Stuart had nodded off in the chair. I woke him up and told him I was in quite a bit of pain and at that point the midwife came in. The time was 4.30pm and I was worried I had to go on with the pain getting worse until 10pm when the midwife said I would be able to have the epidural. Thankfully, the midwife suggested we think about the epidural now. She said it would take about 15 minutes to set up and 15 minutes to take effect so I told her I was happy to go ahead, worrying how I would make it through the next 30 minutes, and the midwife went to find the anesthetist.

I was lucky enough to get one of the top consultants at the hospital who decided to do this one more epidural before the end of his shift and actually stayed late to do it.

The contractions were coming really close together and I had to stay very still in between contractions while the anesthetist put in the needle. I'm glad I didn't see the needle. Stuart held my hand and informed the anesthetist when I was having a contraction so he could wait for it to pass. You have an injection first to numb the area and then they put in the epidural needle. The first injection was about as painful as a blood test needle. The epidural for most part didn't hurt until the end when it felt really weird, like it was touching a nerve but once it was in, it was fine. When the needle was in, he gradually started squeezing in the epidural through a syringe. He said I would start to notice the effect within 10 minutes. The contractions would appear to shorten and then would get less painful. I think this happened quicker than 10 minutes and before I know it I was relaxed and dancing my feet to the music (I had been listening to a couple of CD's I had bought in throughout the labour). Epidural truly is a wonder drug and I can't recommend it enough. I have full respect for anyone that goes through labour with no pain relief or with anything less than an epidural! It was a mobile epidural so I was able to move around, go to toilet etc etc. I could still feel my legs etc but the pain had eased to almost nothing. A side effect of the epidural though, which many but not all of women suffer, is that your skin gets really, really itchy.

The epidural lasted about 1.5 hours before it started to wear off and the contractions were getting more painful again so they examined me (I was now 4cms and on track for their 1cm an hour target, yay!) and then topped up the epidural. Unfortunately, the pain had moved from my back to the front left of my pelvis. It felt like I needed to go to the loo desperately and that my bladder was going to explode if I didn't, despite not long having gone. After 10-15 minutes, this pain hadn't subsided at all and I was still having contractions one on top of the other. At this point, they informed me that, due to staff shortages, they had to close the ward (turning new people away) and so I had to move rooms to keep everyone closer together. I said about feeling like I needed the toilet. They said it was probably just the contraction feeling like that but let me try to go to the toilet and at the same time they would move me to the new room. I didn't succeed - not a drop, just lots of pain. They wondered whether there was in fact some urine trapped in my bladder and explained that this sometimes stopped the epidural being effective. In addition, they said the top up wasn't directed to where the pain now was but instead to my back where it was before so they decided to give me another top up directed to the front and they were going to try to drain my bladder with a catheter. I'm not sure if this is how they do it but it felt like they put a needle up my wee hole - it was very very painful. Stuart said it was a straw. There was indeed a bit of urine which could have been why I was still in pain. Having had the second top up and urine drained, the pain of the contractions eased ever so slightly but I was still in lots of pain. I was now starting to feel pressure in my bottom like I was constipated.

Finally, at 9pm they said that, if I wanted, I could try pushing or I could have another epidural and try waiting another hour. By this stage, I just wanted it to be over so I opted to try pushing.

If you have ever heard that it is like pushing the biggest poo of your life out your bum then that is absolutely true!!! It felt exactly like this. There was the slight fear in the back of my mind that this was in fact what I was doing (especially as I hadn't been for over 24 hours) but by this point, I didn't really care if I did! Thankfully, as far as I know, this didn't happen. Anyway, to miss out on the gory details, I pushed, I moved position, I pushed some more, I roared but was advised not to do this as I would end up with a sore throat, so I stopped the roaring, I nearly cried with the pain and I did say I couldn't do it anymore, I wanted them to find another way for them to get this baby out - Stuart and the midwife either intentionally ignored me or misunderstood what I was saying but they didn't let me find another way and told me to just move position again and push some more. Then the head started to come and I was told to pant or breath and to stop pushing - were they crazy??? I wanted this thing out not to stop. However, breath and pant I did. Then give a little push, breath and pant some more, then another little push and hoorah, the head was out. I was so relieved as that meant the worst was over. I then had to give one more push that I didn't think was in me for the rest of the body. He came out screaming and pink.

The midwife informed me I had a baby boy and tried to put him on my chest/stomach. I'm ashamed to say, I did try to push them and him away from me. I found it hard at that point to find love for something that hurt me so much. Thankfully, they perseveered and didn't let me push him away so I eventually looked down and saw our son. I cuddled him exhausted while they said they were giving me the injection for the placenta. I then had to give a couple of coughs to get the placenta out.

I tried to breastfeed but they said, because he was effectively premature, it was normal for him not to suck at this point and to keep trying later if we didn't succeed now. We were then left to bond with out new son for a few minutes. The midwife eventually weighed him (5lb, 15oz) and wrapped him on a towel.

I asked her what he was on the apgar scale and she said well 10 and 10 - because he was very vocal and pink from the start.

Wow! That was quite an epic - will write another post in a day or two to tell you what happened next and bring you up to date to today.

I love our little son Callum, he is so cute :o)

ETA - I forgot to say, one strange side effect of labour, my scalp became really sensitive. All my hair folicles stood on end whenever I ran my fingers through my hair. It still hasn't really gone away. I thought it might have been the blood pressure tablets (which I guess it could still be as I am still getting it now) but it could also be the hormones running through my body - either way very odd! I wonder if anyone else has had this.

Me on Tuesday morning with monitors attached
The monitor - the line on the left is the baby's heartrate and the line far right is my contractions
probably about 10 minutes after being born