Birth story

It took me as long to write as it did to make her but here it is in all its glory: Charlie's birth story.

I started my maternity leave about 2 weeks before my due date. I spent loads of time walking around the city which was especially pleasant as London was still transitioning from autumn to winter. While I not-so-secretly hoped that two weeks of walking would induce labor before my due date, that didn’t completely work for me! But it was nice to have one of my favorite pastimes to keep me occupied while we waited for Charlie to be ready.
I had oodles of time to explore with other friends who were on maternity leave (lots of babies in our circle of friends within 6 months of each other!) Walking for treats definitely kept my spirits up. Plus I needed the calories, ya know what I mean? ;)

Family came into town a few days before my due date so I had both extra company and pressure to deliver...literally. In the best way, of course!

I was beyond excited when I started feeling definite contractions early on Thursday morning (I was due on a Friday) small, short and easy to breathe through, I thought I could totally do this if that was what labor was going to feel like. Ha what a silly, naive thought...

I kept track of every twinge on a labor app and Taylor stayed with me in case things moved quickly. When it was clear nothing was happening, he went to work and I kept walking and timing until my tiny contractions were just a few minutes apart. I took Gayle and Natalie on a tour around town, still walking as much as possible to encourage Charlie to come out. By the late afternoon, we felt that it was time to do. I waited for Taylor to get home from work to go to the hospital together but everything stopped completely! No more contractions. Boo.


This story repeated itself for 3. More. Days. I would contract for several hours with these small pains getting closer and closer together only for them to stop suddenly and completely. To add insult to injury, I was only contracting regularly during the night. I was so excited for any sign of progress that timing and waiting for these contractions would keep me awake so I didn’t sleep for those three days.

Basically everything every expectant mom has ever said about the last few days/weeks feeling like an eternity is true. I was so excited to meet this little girl and indescribably anxious that something could still go wrong which made the minutes crawl by at a snail’s pace.

Checked out the Christmas Lights on Regent Street. Having no Thanksgiving means London is sprinkled with Christmas magic from early November.

40 weeks+2 days (photo taken about 16 hours before my water broke)

I kept my previously scheduled appointments with the midwives to check my blood pressure, protein level and ‘progress’ only to find that nothing was happening. No dilating or softening or anything! I was glad to hear both baby and I were perfectly healthy but COME ON.

On Sunday morning, I woke up on my own. I hadn’t done that in months since my alarm was baby girl’s kicks and wiggles perfectly timed to when I need to get up and get ready for work in the  morning. It was like clockwork for months so when she didn’t wake me up, I panicked. I waited for the longest 30 minutes to see if she was just sleeping late before telling Taylor I couldn’t feel her and then we phoned the hospital. They told me to come in immediately as that is a serious sign of trouble. My heart pounding in my ears was the only thing I could focus on as we rode in silence to the hospital 15 minutes away.

We breathed a huge sigh of relief when the monitors showed baby girl happy and healthy in there. Rather than waiting for my lame contractions, we left the hospital since they hadn’t actually admitted us to check for baby’s movement. I knew I would go stir-crazy confined to the hospital with no progress and I felt confident we could make it back to the hospital quickly if anything started happening. 

I played tour guide (a hard habit to break, even at 40+ weeks pregnant) but it really helped to keep my mind occupied.

On Monday the 20th of November, my water broke at 2am. There is danger of infection delivering more than 24 hours after water breaking so the hospital told me that no matter how fast/well I progressed, our baby would be born that day! We would go to be induced at 10pm to make sure baby arrived safely and healthy.

I tried to stay home as long as possible but once my water broke, the contractions got progressively worse and were concentrated in my lower back. I couldn’t sleep anymore from the pain and it was so intense so often that I was unbelievably nauseated. At 12pm I decided I couldn’t wait until 10pm for an epidural because I was so miserable. We got our bags together, ordered an Uber and were finally admitted to the hospital.

Our anestheologist was a rockstar. He walked us through everything he would do for us without making us feel dumb for asking all of our questions. He got my epidural going quickly and even taught me about the shape of my back and was surprised I could still bend like a cat (as instructed for the puncture) because of it. (Bonus fact: I was also extremely tongue-tied without a speech impediment or other issues for 25 years so I guess I’m just really capable despite my deformities?)

Ok, can I just say an epidural was the sweetest relief?!?! I could finally breathe and slept for a blissful 5 hours.

When I woke it was because the epidural was wearing off. I asked for a top-up and an update on my progress. The midwife said I was about a 5 but baby’s heart was showing signs of decelerations on her heart monitor which wasn’t concerning yet but they would keep an eye on it. There were several people who were brought in to review and monitor which was simultaneously worrisome and calming.

I felt strangely cold and asked for another blanket. Oops. The midwife checked my temperature and found a significant fever! That sent a flurry of people around to check with the OB on-call (already familiar with my case) on how to proceed. They determined there was an infection and started me on IV antibiotics right away.

At that point there were a few concerns: 1) baby’s heart decelerating, 2) I was not progressing quickly enough, 3) baby’s head had not engaged/dropped into the birth canal, 4) my fever caused by either an infection of my own (undiagnosed UTI) or if meconium (baby poop) was present in amniotic fluid.

Once the on-call OB was informed, more people came to triple-check baby’s heart read-out, a midwife checked the fluid still leaking from me and tried to determine baby’s position. The OB was on her way to the hospital to confirm our situation since it was spiraling quickly towards an emergency c-section.

Ms Malik (OB) arrived to assess my progress and baby’s status. Within a few minutes she assessed that I was only a generous 3cm dilated, there was a trace of meconium in the amniotic fluid, and baby was back-to-back (not ideal for vaginal delivery) as well as baby’s head being stuck on an angle which is why she wasn’t engaging. I got a top-up for my epidural and I waited to hear what their plan was to get Charlie out safely.

I’ll just note here that during the various appointments in which the midwives asked me about my ‘birth plan'. I don't like that phrase. It makes it sound like I actually got to choose how this is going down. Even in a perfect world, there is very little I could control but having a few things sorted out like wanting to hold her right away was fine. I had no idea how this was going to go. I didn’t dedicate time to conjuring up an outline of best case scenario list of desires because I knew I would marry that imagined experience and feel unsure if anything strayed from it.
My only hope was to take a healthy baby home from the hospital and I knew there were many ways to get there, regardless of who cut the cord. Maybe I will feel differently about future deliveries but this time, I just needed to keep calm and watch it unfold.

Once the decision was made to do a c-section they prepped me, threw surgical clothes at Taylor for him to change into and wheeled me down the corridor to the operating theatre. From go-time to holding my sweet baby took less than 10 minutes.

6 pounds, 11 ounces. 21 inches long.
A full head of hair on my little bundle of joy!

I was a hot shaking mess because of the drugs numbing me from my ribs all the way down to my toes so I asked Taylor to make sure I didn't drop Charlie once they laid her on my chest.
I cried a lot. I cried from relief. The pent up anxiety, stress and fear opened flood gates and I let the tears flow as I watched my little miracle test out this bright, new world.

After 1 1/2 days in the hospital, we took Charlie home.

Our dear friends came over the second we got home to meet Charlie. 10 weeks apart and best friends because we decided it for them. :) We have such good people around us who loved her before they even laid eyes on her.

The first night at home was amazing. We barely slept. Taylor couldn't stop looking at her, constantly touching her and checking on her and I couldn't stop looking at them. Even thinking about it now makes my heart swell.

While the experience recovering in hospital was actually pretty lovely, if not a little boring, post-hospital care was a little rough for me. 
The NHS (social healthcare) midwives were supposed to come see Charlie and me and tend to my c-section wound and stitches within a couple of days..... It took 10 days for me to figure out who to ask about a visit and by then my stitches had caused a little blood vessel to burst and we rushed back to the hospital to make sure the bleeding would stop and it wasn't infected.

All was well and turned out just fine! It was a little scary, not so pretty but the best days of my life. I can't believe she's mine. Our little family is my whole world and it's better than I ever dreamed.


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