Sorry I was late, Love From Poppy.

Despite what it was starting to feel like, I was not going to stay pregnant forever. My baby had to come out some time. I was totally convinced that she would be born at 37 weeks; nice and early. Perhaps we would spend five or six hours in the hospital, then I’d get out of bed, get dressed and skip back home in one of my pre-pregnancy dresses. The labour was bound to start nice and early, so I wouldn’t get too big, so that my baby would be easier to push out, so that it would be such a surprise for our family.

Weeks 37 and 38 passed. Several mornings in a row I sat across the breakfast table and announced to Oliver “It’s today. It definitely feels like she might come today”. However, by week 39 I had stopped feeling like it was the start of the end; all twinges and niggles had stopped. My baby was stuck inside forever. I even booked to take the next stage of my dance teaching exams on 27th July, my due date!

Due date came and went, exam went fine, and my baby was not born in the dance studio (thank-you, baby Jesus), much to the examiner’s (and my) relief.

I prepared myself meticulously for the straightforward birth that a young, fitter than average, healthier than average, stronger than average mother-to-be deserves. Unfortunately, I couldn’t have been less prepared for what was to come. It was awful, disgusting and actually quite embarrassing (though I didn’t care a bit at the time).

Now, I have given the birth-part of my blog some pondering. Should I write it absolutely truthfully, with every detail? Or, should I gloss over it, and fast forward to “Congratulations, it’s a girl!”? I have decided to aim for a nice, comfy middle-ground. So, if you don’t want to know, please don’t read on.

I woke at exactly 3am on Friday morning with back ache and a lot of bleeding. I had no idea that bleeding would happen. No one pre-warned me of bleeding, I had no clue what was going on. I phoned the number for the hospital and a kind midwife reassured me that it was totally normal, that it’s labour getting started, and it just means that my baby will be arriving soon! I suddenly felt fantastic, the back ache was nothing I couldn’t deal with, and the midwife had said “soon”. That meant I would be finished by about 4 or 5 that afternoon, right? Wrong!

We decided that Oliver would go to work as normal, but that I would phone him straight away if there were any developments. I didn’t want to be like one of those poor ladies on ‘One Born Every Minute’, who jump to conclusions early on and get sent home from the hospital, so I wanted to stick it out as long as possible. Also, the Tesco delivery was coming tonight. Perhaps I would just wait for that and then we would have a nice calm drive to the hospital. I spent the day doing strange stretches, lunge-walking backwards and forwards on the landing, and bouncing on the gym ball. I started timing my contractions, which were nothing like I was expecting. Did you know that you feel them in lots of places: stomach, back, bottom, legs, sides? I definitely did not know that! We decided not to have any dinner that evening (bad decision) as I just didn’t feel hungry. For hours, I shrugged off Oliver’s advice to think about setting off, persisting with the ball and my stopwatch.

When the contractions got to four minutes apart, lasting 45 seconds, and I couldn’t speak at the same time, it was definitely time to go. My good mood had disappeared (sod off Tesco, I am going), and I was starting to feel really panicky. It was quite a task getting into the car, I couldn’t sit down. I ended up laying the seat all the way down, sitting bolt upright on the very edge. I got my seat belt on (what was the point, really?), and… the Tesco van arrived.

At the hospital we were directed to a waiting room. I was furious. I started speaking loudly about not being able to sit down and insisted we pace the corridor instead. I felt so indignant about being expected to wait with all these calm ladies who obviously were no where near the being-unable-to-sit-down stage. Didn’t they know I was probably 7cm by now?! A nurse came and took my blood pressure. She insisted I sit down to do this, didn’t she realise?!

Looking back I must have been the patient from hell. I point blank refused the waiting room, and was leaning with my hands on the wall in the corridor when the most lovely midwife came to take me to a room. She examined me (I wasn’t even close to 7cm) and gave me some gas and air. Twins were arriving in the room next door, so she had to keep popping out. The gas and air definitely worked. Suddenly I was slurring my words and blinking very slowly. It made me have flashbacks to the drunkest nights out I have had. I remembered things I had totally forgotten (let’s not go into that, I blocked them out for a reason).

My water broke while I was sat on the loo (convenient), and there was a moment that now seems really funny, where Oliver was sat on the edge of the bath with his face in shock (I had just made a noise like a champagne bottle uncorking, followed by a WHOOSH of water), and the midwife was looking to try and see what colour the water was. All the while I was wondering why on earth I was suddenly totally naked (I had forgot that I went in the bath…).

The pain got a lot worse after this. I asked for the epidural several times. A different midwife examined me and said of course I can have an epidural, but I need to wait for a doctor to be available to come and administer it. I also would need to move to another room at the other end of the corridor. I tried to focus on the fact that I had been promised to soon not feel anything at all, but by this point I was beside myself. The gas and air didn’t seem to be working anymore (I was told after that I was doing it wrong, you need to take four big breaths and I was only taking one, damn it), and I desperately wanted this pain to stop.

In the new room, the poor midwife started to explain the risks, and that I would have to sign a form. I remember rudely cutting her off with “I KNOW WHAT THE RISKS ARE”, and focussing my eyes very hard on a clear plastic bag that said ‘EPIDURAL’ on it. Any second that plastic bag would be linked up to me and I would feel nothing… and it would be perfect… and I don’t remember anything after this until everyone in the room seemed to stop what they were doing because I had said that I was going to push, and push I did. The next day I had a huge bruise on my arm. Oliver explained that I was told it was too late for the epidural after all, because I felt the need to push, and that I had ripped the drip needle out of my arm in rage, causing the bruise. I really should have kept my mouth shut.

I pushed for the next three and a half hours. She just was not moving. This is the best workout I have ever done; for a week after I felt every single muscle in my body, even my face was aching. My baby was not coming out, and I informed the midwife of this, several times. Eventually she told me that I need to think hard about if I could carry on on my own or if I needed help. I said I was too tired, wishing for a C-section.

Next thing, a doctor came and said that he was going to do a ‘Ventouse delivery’, as several more people came into the room. He went on to say that I need to put the gas and air down as I need to concentrate really hard and listen to what he was saying. The effects wore off within seconds and I was well aware that the two paracetamol I had were over 24 hours ago. I absolutely tried my hardest to concentrate and listen to the doctor. Unfortunately though, I kept waking up. I must have fainted at least three times, but no one seemed to notice as each time I woke up someone was part way through explaining something to me.

I have forgotten all this middle part, except that there was a lady in a flowery top with a clipboard (did she even work here?!), two extra midwives holding my legs (one of which kept calling me Kay-Leigh, instead of Kayleigh), and some nurses who were busying themselves with blue roll. By this point I was not thinking about a baby at all. I had forgotten why I was there, all I could think about was how painful it was. I do remember asking the doctor if he would amputate me from the waist down. He laughed, but I wasn’t joking.

I think I fainted again, because I was jerked back to consciousness by five people telling me to “stop pushing stop pushing stop pushing”. Now, that was a big ask. If I could have saved the Earth by stopping the pushing, I still wouldn’t have been able to, so I pushed anyway.

I was genuinely surprised the doctor handed a baby to me. I was genuinely surprised when the doctor put the anesthetic in the wrong place and I felt every single one of my stitches. I was genuinely surprised when the doctor said “I just need to check if you will be able to pass a stool…”.

I hope I never see that man again.

My baby had finally arrived, and it was perfect. Oliver’s reaction was just what I had hoped for, and it was all over. I phoned my mum and managed to tell her through my crying what had happened. The past 28 hours were finished. My perfect big baby was born at 06:48 on 2nd August weighing 8lb 4oz. My first words to her were “Hello Baby”. I was delighted with Poppy Elizabeth Leaver-Smith.

The following night was awful. I was kept in as, because of the delivery, they needed to check Poppy and I after 24 hours. Oliver wasn’t allowed to stay with us. The ward we stayed on was totally empty, except for my bed and the tiny plastic cot next to me. I daren’t stand up for fear of fainting, and how on Earth could I look after her alone? Two days of no food or sleep had taken its toll. What if I picked her up, and fainted? Again, I don’t remember much of this part, but written on my notes when I got home was: “Patient tearful / Patient asking for partner to come in to assist her, explained visiting hours / Patient not slept”. Baby Poppy looked at me through the clear plastic and just blinked at me for hours. I had a button that would fetch a nurse if I needed help, but I didn’t want to press a button so that someone else could come and look after my baby.

Eventually, Poppy closed her eyes and I cried and cried and cried.

At 8am the next morning I was desperate for the bathroom. I hadn’t eaten since a few bites of toast at 7am the day before. I couldn’t wait any longer so I bravely picked her up and looked outside the ward for someone to help me. I handed my baby to a smiley lady who promised to cuddle her for two minutes while went to the loo. I was washing my hands when my blood suddenly went cold: WHO had I just given my baby to? Was she even in uniform? Oh my God I am going to be on the news. All I could remember was that she had a smile on her face and Crocs on her feet. Thankfully, Poppy was safe and sound with a nurse.

I have never been so pleased to see Oliver as I was when visitor time started at 9am. I still hadn’t slept (how could I, what if she needed me?), and needed a cuddle. At 2pm we were allowed home. We tucked Poppy into her new car seat and drove her home.

People say that knowing how to take care of your baby comes naturally, but I honestly do not believe that it did for me. We had to get to know each other, and I had to learn some lessons the hard way. The first week home I cried more than she did. I nearly fainted when her belly-button came off. I didn’t want visitors to come and see that I didn’t really know how to look after my baby yet, and no, you can’t just text your neighbour and invite her round too. But following a few days of persistent reassurance from Oliver, my confidence grew. I know exactly what my baby needs before she cries and we seem to have fitted into our new life perfectly.

I don’t know what else to say except that I am having the best time.

 

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37 Weeks: Dear 37-Weeks-Pregnant-Me.

First of all, I am writing this in hindsight. Poppy is twelve days old today! (14th August 2014) I am going to try my best to write up what I was doing and feeling back at week 37, but I have the added bonus of knowing exactly what is going to happen.

So second of all, Hello 37-Weeks-Pregnant-Me! Now, please pay attention:

1. Stop wasting your life drinking Raspberry Leaf Tea. You have given Holland & Barrett quite enough money. Don’t go back and buy those Raspberry Leaf Capsules, they smell like pets and are more trouble to swallow than they are worth.
2. Stop worrying about the size of your baby. She is actually on the large side. Your tummy is normal sized and the different midwifes must have different measure tapes, it has not shrunk!
3. Don’t kill yourself eating pineapples. They don’t encourage your baby to arrive; they will only give you heartburn and make a stain on the settee.
4. Your baby will not be early, she will be late. Prepare yourself for the long haul. Eat dinner on Friday 1st August; don’t settle for those snacks you think will suffice at the time. Put some energy drinks in the hospital bag.
5. For Goodness Sake, cancel the Tesco delivery that is due at 10pm Friday 1st August.
6. Stop applying the St Tropez. Get on the sunbed. All the blood later on will make your skin take on a tye-dye effect. You wont be able to get it off until 11th August.
7. Bottle-feed from the get-go.
8. Ask for the epidural on the way in the door. Don’t brave it out. You have been too confident up to now. It’s going to be hard, sweaty and long. Get your notes and fill in that ‘birth plan’ page. Don’t leave them blank and breeze about with the “as long as she gets out safely” attitude. Yes you have done every exercise recommended, plus more, you have eaten like a saint and practised all kinds of relaxation. It probably did (a bit) help, but…just ask for the epidural (straight away).

At 37 weeks I was feeling fantastic. Full of energy, convinced that baby would be arriving at any second. After all, I had had a bit of tummy ache. I’m sure that these funny feelings was what they’ve been calling ‘lightening’, and she felt like she might just fall out at any second. I cancelled plans, got my haircut and did a hundred ‘last-minute’ tasks.

I followed every textbook. I spent hours bouncing on my ball; I’d barely sat on a normal seat for about five weeks. I unpacked and re-packed my hospital bag every few days, decorated the living room, noted down every feeling/twinge/ache I had that may have indicated the start of something. I would stand at the sink cleaning my teeth, and add in 50 squats (this will get definitely get her started). I learnt the next stage of the ballet for my teaching exams (surely those Grande Plies will fetch her out?). I looked after myself as if training for the Olympics. In all honesty I expected my baby to arrive on the Tour De France day. I printed off maps and planned routes to the hospital should she make a move on this particular Sunday. She didn’t.

So, 37-Weeks-Pregnant-Me, go to sleep, watch TV and eat normally. Stop setting alarms for when you nap, stop walking for miles and miles, and for heavens sake, stop forcing down ten of your 5 a day. It feels like she is stuck inside forever. Chillax, she will come.

(But you never could take advice very well, could you…?)