As we gently tiptoe across the three week old mark, I finally feel ready to write about my experience of labour and how our precious boy Rory Fitzsimons arrived into the world.
I want to start by praising the NHS and every one who had an involvement in my care at Great Western Hospital in Swindon. The care I received was outstanding and each and everyone of the members of staff I came into contact with seemed to go above and beyond to make my journey and stay at GWH as best as it could be under the circumstances I faced. I find people are all too quick to complain about our health service but are too shy to praise – They saved us and helped us get through a very difficult journey and that I will always be grateful for.
*PLEASE BE AWARE Some details in this blog may make for distressing reading so please bear this in mind*
It hit 9:45pm on Friday 17th and this wave of pain surged through my lower back forcing me to sit down. As ‘damn what the hell was that’ flew out my mouth, of which my other half reassured me that it was probably pain related to the weight of my bump. Within 10 minutes the pain arrived again – this was no regular back pain. As the pains were irregular and at this point and not unmanageable, I took myself off to bed with a hot wheat bag and put a film on for distraction. Within just 2 hours the pain had intensified and I was keeled over in the bathroom uncontrollably shaking reaching for the phone. By 1:30am I was lying on a bed waiting to be assessed in the delivery suite. With each pulse of my contractions feeling stronger and stronger I was assessed and at 2cm – next move was a 3am referral to the antenatal ward. Clinging on to my phone to press ‘start’ on my contraction counter, I continued to pace the maternity ward for 13 hours until I was finally at 4 cm and ready to be taken through to the delivery suite. Shaking profusely, it had suddenly dawned on me that after growing a baby for 9 months, he could be in my arms within hours – a terrifying but exciting thought!
In the end I decided against having a birth plan however in a moment’s pain I took the plunge and went straight in for the epidural without a second thought. Full of nerves and exhaustion, no one argued with my decision and the boyfriend was my rock and so incredibly supportive throughout. In less than 20 minutes the anaesthetist was explaining the process and the risks whilst I moved to the edge of the bed and hunched over. The epidural was the least painful and most stress-free part of my labour experience which took me completely by surprise – for some reason I had worked myself up into thinking it was going to be painful. At this point I was still in a state and became worked up as the fear of the unknown and complete and utter exhaustion collided. From here on out it was a waiting game. My body was doing its thing, just very very slowly. By 3am and I reached 7 cms and things were still going slow and I was given a hormone drip to speed things up… this didn’t really work too well.
Fast forward to 5:30am – 10cms had finally been reached! The sudden feeling of ‘OMG YES my body is actually doing this all on its own – and I can’t feel a thing!’ had arrived with the words ‘I think you’re ready to start pushing now’. For a split second time stood still. It was like looking at the finish line from a distance and not knowing if you were hurtling towards it or it was getting further away! Unaware of the strain my body was feeling, this continued for 4 hours with a hormone drip. As the sun began shining on Sunday morning I was greeted by my third change of midwife, 2 doctors, my anaesthetist and a surgeon… Yup you guessed – after 4 hours of pushing and getting no further, the word ‘caesarean’ surfaced. I had a tonne of drugs being pumped through my system so wasn’t really 100% sure of what was going on but as the midwife handed the boyfriend his very own pair of blue scrubs I figured that surgery had become my only option. Turns out our little man had turned to be back against my back and there was a chance the cord was now under his arm being squeezed every time a contraction came around – not ideal! Before I knew it I was being wheeled down to theatre and being rubbed with iodine and pumped with more drugs. I was terrified at this stage but these are professionals whose jobs are to deliver babies safely – I had to trust them. I had no preconceived ideas of what a c-section would entail even after watching the NHS ‘Guide To’ video online months back, I honestly naively believed it wouldn’t happen to me. As the room filled with around 8 to 10 people, all with their own individual jobs, my surgery began. Completely petrified as my dear boyfriend coached me through my tears and fears, it barely seemed like 5 minutes before someone commented ‘your baby is about to be born’…
… And there he was! Perfect, all pink and screaming – the midwives whisked him over to the scales to be weighed and put a knitted hat on his little round head. Our little son was posted down the top of my gown for our first bit of skin to skin. Tears began to stream down my face as I looked across to his daddy with face beaming – our baby had arrived and all safe and sound! It’s no secret that what people say is true; the moment you lay eyes on your baby you’ll wonder how you ever lived not knowing their face, that one look at them creates this unconditional love. He was 8lb and 3 ounces of beautiful.
After living in that new family bubble, the biggest reality check followed the return of feeling in my body: there is no way in hell a c-section is ever the ‘easy option‘. Having read 101 blogs, forums and Q&A’s c-sections always seem to be a taboo subject, there was an unbelievable amount of shame pushed upon women who didn’t give birth naturally – something I just could not get my head around. HOW could surgery be the easy way out!? I can tell you for free it absolutely was not. My recovery felt and still feels nothing short of a million marathons. I was discharged after just 2 days with an extensive list of drugs to take looking completely swollen much like a party balloon. I couldn’t get in and out of chairs or my bed without assistance and couldn’t stand up straight without a 10 minute slow motion stretch. I slept on the sofa for the first 4 nights as lying down caused me too much pain. Every time I tried to do anything physical – walk to the toilet, take a drink, lift Rory to feed – tears streamed down my face. Even eating became a challenge as utter exhaustion has taken control of my body and mind. BUT luckily for me this started to subside after the first week with the help of my incredible family and support system. The boyfriend along with my parents helped bath me, feed me, do the laundry and dishes along with food shopping all whilst I was sofa bound. Cabin fever is the worst when you’re physically in pain and mentally exhausted but I can promise you that if you are going through this right now, that each day gets a little bit better – I promise. Now 23 days on from the birth of Rory, I can get up and out of bed, cook, bath myself and Rory, go for short walks and just about make it around a (small) supermarket shop without any issues. I did struggle when the boyfriend went back to work a week ago but having my own mother just next door working from home, if I ever have any struggles she’s always there for me – something I will never be able to thank her enough for. Our families have been the best and we can’t thank them enough for all they’ve done for us already.
It’s no secret that my experience of birth was a difficult and traumatic one and I’m no longer afraid to admit that. All through my pregnancy I had prepared myself for the possibility of a long labour but never as long as 36 hours long or for it to end in emergency surgery. This journey has taught me so much and when looking back at how far we’ve come it’s so easy to get overwhelmed so to finish off my story I want to share with you all five things I have learnt along the road to recovery:
- You should never doubt the power of a woman’s body and mind. Even in the toughest of situations, your body will do its job, it will do what it has to do, you will make some of the hardest decisions and you will overcome extreme unexpected situations and you will thrive! Surgery is seriously tough, no matter what it’s for. Give your body some credit for its hard work and look after yourself.
- Don’t give yourself a hard time if things don’t go to plan! Life can spring the unexpected on you at any moment and sometimes you have to be brave and embrace it.
- Your support system is one of your most valuable things. In your darkest hour having close family or friends is completely invaluable. They will bring you back to earth and hold your hand the entire time.
- It’s OK to cry – and yes at absolutely everything. Whether it’s because you can’t reach to tie your shoes or you’re exhausted from breastfeeding just let it all out, no one is going to judge you.
- You won’t look like you – but it won’t always be that way. You might not recognise yourself, you won’t fit back into your old clothes straight away and you’ll still be ‘puffy’ for a little while but it’s not permanent, it’s all part of the journey to the new normal.
Now halfway to my 6 week appointment I feel like a totally different person already – something I would never have believed in the days following Rory’s birth. We are slowly finding our way to the new normal and you will too. My best advice is that you just have to be patient and kind to yourself. You’ll be back on track to finding your new normal before you know it. It really won’t be long before you’ll be enjoying your favourite activities again – PROMISE!
I’m glad I’ve finally been able to share my journey with you. We are totally in love and can’t imagine life without our little Rory! Thank you for coming back for a read!
One Curious Mother x