I wasn’t sure how much detail to go in to with the labour as from an epilepsy point of view things couldn’t have gone better but there were complications as any birth can have and I suppose that is why I decided to include it. I hope it doesn’t scare anyone as we were both fine, but I hope it shows things don’t always go as anyone planned, in fact very rarely is it that perfect birth some books describe, but likewise it is very rarely the drama of one born every minute (so my midwife told me, I was too petrified to watch it!) Most births are somewhere in between, as mine was…
The funeral had been an emotionally draining day and Rich and me spent the next day quietly at home and this is where the theory of stress having an impact on when a baby arrives, suddenly all the stress was over, I was suddenly able to grieve, to relax and think about everything.
On the day after the funeral at 6pm I started to feel something, I couldn’t say they were definitely contractions, I can’t really describe what I felt but I knew it was happening for about 30seconds every 5-10minutes or so… after an hour or so I mentioned it to Rich. We didn’t really know what to do as I couldn’t be sure that’s what they were so we carried on normally. By bed time I was pretty sure I was in the early stages of labour, the contractions were now painful, not excruciating but definitely pain not just discomfort. By midnight I had put my TENS machine on which was managing the pain quite well. But by 4am I was struggling a little and because the doctor had said to get to hospital before the pain became unbearable we headed off to the hospital. I rang Emma to say we were heading in, afterwards she said she knew it wasn’t imminent because I was able to talk to her myself! When I got to hospital the contractions almost stopped and they checked me over and said I was only 1cm dilated. When the midwife said things probably wouldn’t really start moving along until that evening and I could go to the ward or go home I decided I would rather be at home.
We returned home about 5.30am and I headed up to bed to try to sleep. There was no way I could sleep, the boost button on the TENS machine was hardly touching the pain so after about an hour I came downstairs to tell Rich exactly how much pain I was in. I felt really pathetic, why couldn’t I deal with this pain if I was so early on in labour? But by 7.30am I was in too much pain to stay at home, Rich rang the hospital for advice, it was handover time and as I had only left a little while before they suggested I have some breakfast and then head to the hospital. So there was me trying to force down toast in the 2minutes between contractions that I could barely breath through, looking back it was quite funny. Rich had rung my Mum for some moral support and she was about 5minutes away when I told Rich I needed to go to the hospital NOW, I couldn’t wait 5minutes even for my wonderful Mum. So we went in, I couldn’t even walk from the car to the ward without stopping multiple times just to breathe through the contractions, I was feeling really pathetic… when I got there I saw a different midwife who turned out to be amazing and also Emma’s supervisor. They gave me gas and air straight away as I was desperate for something more than TENS, it’s strange stuff gas and air, takes the pain away to some extent so I could think straight but I also felt pretty light headed after each breath!
They then examined me and found I was 9cm dilated! That’s almost enough to start pushing. They couldn’t believe how quickly I had dilated and said if I have another baby they wouldn’t be letting me go home if I came in at 1cm! I was then not feeling so bad about not being able to deal with the pain at home. They straight away put an IV line in and had IV diazepam prepared, I took the 10mg Clobazam which seemed to chill me out a bit. It then had to be decided whether to put an epidural in, as my waters hadn’t broken there was still time and the plan had always been to put one in… but it would slow everything down, and because I had progressed so fast it was possible I could have the baby pretty quickly with just gas and air. However there was also the possibility it could take longer and there wouldn’t be the option of an epidural and I could seizure and end up needing an emergency caesarean under general anaesthetic which was what everyone wanted to avoid. Its times like that when a crystal ball would be useful.
We decided on the epidural, the doctor came and got me to sit over the edge of the bed. My contractions at that point were lasting about 2minutes with a 2minute break between them. Between each contraction the doctor was saying stay still and relax!!! Well I wasn’t about to move knowing they were sticking a huge needle into my spine but likewise it was difficult to relax when every 2minutes I was in absolute agony and I had to give them warning of when the contraction was coming on so they didn’t stick it in the wrong place! Luckily it was at this point Emma walked in. Rich had rung her when we were leaving home; she knew it was real this time as I couldn’t talk to her, so she’d left straight away and a train and decent walk later on a bank holiday Sunday she’d got there! It was the one moment in the whole process Rich had to sit down and Emma stepped in for moral support and I had the benefit of not seeing the needle and if I was having to watch a doctor take 6 attempts to get a big needle into Rich’s spine I’d probably want to sit down too. My back looked a bit like a pin cushion!
The epidural took the pain away completely and gave me the chance to recover and rest, and they also set up some IV fluids to keep me well hydrated. However like they said the epidural also slowed everything down. They burst my waters, which is a very strange sensation! They had to top the epidural up a couple of times and one of the negatives of an epidural came apparent, I couldn’t go to the toilet so had to have a cannula put in, I think that was the start of becoming less concerned about the awkwardness of the whole situation… I wasn’t allowed to eat anything in case I needed an anaesthetic so I was starving! A couple of hours later I had dilated enough to start pushing. The epidural makes it harder to push as you can’t feel the contractions and don’t have a natural urge to push. They monitor your contractions (and the baby’s heart beat) with a monitor strapped to your tummy and they tell you when to push. Emma was now playing a more active role as I wanted if possible for her to deliver the baby and by this point all inhabitions had gone out the window, people had told me this would happen over and over but I never believed it would happen, but now I can believe them!
I have never been given so many pills and injections before in my life and it got to the point where I didn’t know what they were giving me anymore… looking back I think maybe I should have asked more, I am the ultimate in needing to know exactly what and why medical professions are doing something but at that point I didn’t care anymore!
After an hour or so things weren’t going anywhere and the baby hadn’t turned so it was decided to try forceps. However an emergency casaerean had just gone into theatre so I had to wait until they were finished. My Mum, Nikki and Dan had been waiting in the waiting room all day and by this point Nikki and Dan had had to leave for a gig they were going to and Nikki had got a bit upset about having to leave which is quite touching as she is not one for showing her emotions too much! Because we had to wait for a space in theatre the time between Rich telling them things weren’t going so well and that we were both alright was a good 3hours, Mum was worried something had gone terribly wrong which I feel really bad about, it was only 2 days before she had been at her Father’s funeral, it was all a bit much.
My temperature had increased and my heart rate was quite high, also the baby seemed a bit stressed so it became a bit more urgent to get the baby out. I was taken into theatre and Rich disappeared, I kept thinking where’s he gone, he’s going to miss our baby being born, however they take father’s away while they prep and get consent from the mother although they apparently didn’t tell Rich that! Emma told me after the event everything was prepped for a caesarean as they didn’t think forceps would work. Everyone in the theatre introduced themselves and I then had to sign my life away, it’s hard to sign your name lying down with the paper held above you! Then Rich came back, I was so relieved. It’s hard to tell what happened next as I had been given a strong epidural so couldn’t feel anything from the waist down. All I know is I was linked up to lots of monitors, started off at one end of the bed and ended up at the other while being told to push and then had a baby plonked on my tummy briefly before they passed her to the paediatrician, which is a horrible feeling, like something’s really wrong with her, all I’d heard is the cord was round her neck… it was an intense feeling of joy and fear. Her breathing rate was up but she was soon placed in my arms so there couldn’t have been too much wrong with her! They thought she was 10lb but when they weighed her she wasn’t that much.
Riley Elizabeth Cobbold was born Sunday 3rd June 2012 at 18:00 weighing 8lb8oz
They then stitched me up as they had had to cut me which apparently is better than it tearing! I was then taken to recovery, it was all a bit of a blur and I was given injections, IVs given oral medication and had no idea what I was taking. I could hear them saying they couldn’t stop the bleeding. It was unfortunate that by the time I was in recovery it was 8pm which was handover time so it was a new set of midwives. I was in so much pain, like nothing I had experienced before, even though labour, and I couldn’t help but scream, I hadn’t made a fuss through the whole labour but this was unbearable, they were doing internal examinations and I was just screaming and gripping Emma’s hand, Rich had gone with Riley so Emma stayed with me. The midwives were just saying she’s just in pain because she’s had a baby, Emma was telling them she had known me since I was 2 and I had never made a fuss about pain, I finished a Netball match with a broken finger! She was telling them I must be in a huge amount of pain and to give me some pain relief. In the end they gave me ora morph which didn’t help so Emma eventually managed to convince them to give me tramadol which seemed to take most of the pain away. They gave me some toast which was the first thing I had eaten since the few mouthfuls of toast that morning, and some water which they gave me some oxygen tubing to use as a straw which I found quite funny, think they thought I wouldn’t know what it was… obviously didn’t know where I work!
Then I got to see Riley properly they lay her next to me, she was beautiful. Then Emma helped me breast fed her, I was so tired it didn’t really go in but I found overnight I had to learn even if I was exhausted, Riley needed me, which was a pretty scary thought… for some reason they kept doing blood sugar level checks before and after feeds so she kept being stabbed in her toe, it was horrible to see her cry.
It got to almost mid night and Emma said she had to go to get the last train home, she was really apologetic and said she could stay overnight to support me, I said not to be silly, she’d been there since 9am, supported us all the way through, done so much for us, she needed to go home and rest. Emma had been my friend since we were 2, we had been through a lot together and now she had been there on such a life changing day of my life, I couldn’t thank her enough, she was amazing.
We got to stay on the recovery ward until the early hours of Monday which was the first chance we had to be as a family, and as I couldn’t get out of bed it was a relief to have Rich there. But I was then taken to post natal ward, where partner visiting hours were 9am – 9pm so Rich had to leave. It was very difficult to look after her that night, I was not allowed out of bed due to the epidural, I was bleeding quite heavily and had a high temperature but luckily Riley was quite sleepy due to the trauma of the whole thing, but still getting to grips with breast feeding in that situation was not easily. All the tape came off my IV at one point so I was sitting there holding my IV in myself!!! I found it hard to know when to buzz for help, I wanted to be able to look after her myself, didn’t want it to seem like I’ve failed, but looking back I probably should have asked for more help from the midwives.
The next day the doctor came to review me, he said I could get out of bed so I straight away asked to have my catheter out and was out of bed literally within minutes, putting on some proper clothes and making myself feel like a human being again! In the light of day Riley was beautiful, I couldn’t believe we’d made her, I just wanted her to wake up so I could cuddle her properly. She was a little bit battered and bruised from the forceps and had blood plastered in her hair but to me she was beautiful.
I was so relieved when Rich arrived at 9am, it gave me a chance just to rest, have a proper shower and just having him there, we were a proper little family. My Mum, Dad, Nikki and Dan visited that afternoon which was lovely. One of the anaesthetists came round to get some feedback, I explained about the lack of pain relief after the epidural, he apologised and seemed to take it on board which was really positive. That evening was the lighting of the Jubilee Beacon which my Grandad had built, I was a bit sad to miss it, Rich said he wouldn’t go but I said Grandad would want him there and he couldn’t stay in the hospital past 9pm anyway! I saw the pictures later on, it looked amazing.
The second night in hospital was very hard, Riley was extremely unsettled, and couldn’t blame her, she probably had a head ache being pulled out by her head! She cried and cried, all the midwife said was she wanted feeding, all night long. They did take her away from me for 2hours and I felt awful the next day, I wasn’t upset about her being taken away, I was relieved, I was exhausted and needed to rest. When they brought her back she was still crying, she would only stop if she was feeding so they put her in bed with me, I explained about my epilepsy and that I had been advised not to share a bed with her as my medication made me sleep deeply and I could role on her. But I was exhausted and it seemed like the only way to settle Riley and I didn’t want her to be so distressed either so she stayed in bed with me and the midwives checked on me every 15minutes. One of the midwives took her early in the morning when she had finally settled with me walking up and down the ward, she was really kind and said not to feel like I’ve failed, she said she won’t stay asleep as she could smell my milk, it’s like a roast dinner to us! The next day when Rich arrived I was exhausted and desperate to get home; I couldn’t do another night in hospital on my own. They put up my last IV antibiotics so then there was no medical reason to stay. I asked for some advice on breast feeding and they sent round a specialist care assistant who helped me so I felt pretty confident to go home from that point of view.
While we were waiting to be discharged the hospital photographer came round with an album of a beautiful baby, all dressed up and clean. I looked at Riley, while I thought she was beautiful she had bruises all over her face and blood plastered in her hair, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be sending pictures of her at this point to the family so paying £50 for a set of photos would be a waste of money. She then said she could take a hand print and put it onto a ceramic tile, that seemed perfect, something truly special you could never get back. As the bruises faded over the next few days we found she had “stork bites”, red birth marks on her left eye, forehead and back of her neck, they will fade over time but I think they are quite appealing and make Riley, Riley.
I was discharged late morning, they gave me lots of useful information. We then had to wait a little while for a doctor to check Riley so she could be discharged too, she was fine other than they found she had a slight clicky hip which was scanned 6weeks later and found to be totally fine, which is usually the case. I stayed for lunch as I had ordered chocolate mousse… yum yum, didn’t want to miss out!!!