The first and second trimesters were fairly straightforward. Some early nausea, an increase in headaches and allergies, but mostly not too bad.
At 38 weeks, I started to get severe lower back pain and pelvic girdle pain. This was really quite disabling. I had been quite active throughout pregnancy (swimming, walking and yoga) but I ended up on crutches. I had to stop swimming, driving, and going for walks as they all exacerbated the pain so much. It made me feel quite worried about labor, as it became very difficult to walk around or move position easily without getting sudden and extreme shooting pains and twinges. I was concerned this would make labor significantly more difficult.
CLEFT LIP AND PALATE DIAGNOSIS:
At the 20 week scan, we found out our baby had a cleft lip and palate. This was a big shock (no family history and no risk factors), and was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. Mostly I was concerned about the baby’s feeding, the surgeries and the possible longer-term complications like speech and language problems. I also felt tense about other people’s possible negative reactions to our baby, as we knew he would look very different from other babies (especially pre-surgery).
Over time, we adjusted to the news and prepared as best we could. I started expressing colostrum at 36 weeks so that we could syringe or cup feed him breast milk when he was born if he had trouble latching and sucking (which we knew was extremely likely!)
At 38 weeks, I woke up with dull aches that felt like period pains in my tummy and lower back. That day, I also had a huge increase in contractions.
At about 8pm, I started timing the contractions using the Freya app. They were happening every 2-3 minutes and this continued for about 4 hours. Initially, I had assumed the contractions were Braxton Hicks, but as they got more frequent and more intense, I started to think ‘this is it – I’m in labor!’ However, the contractions were not as powerful as I was expecting (I was still able to talk while they were happening).
I went back and forth about whether or not we should head to the birthing unit. Triage were a little vague on the phone, implying I should probably stay home for longer as the contractions were not too intense, but then also saying maybe I should come and get examined to see if I was starting to dilate, but warning me I may well be sent home again.
In the end, I decided to stay home and try to sleep. And in fact, I did sleep relatively well. I woke up every couple of hours with a few contractions here and there, but it became clear they were definitely fading away. By mid-morning the next day, the contractions had fully stopped.
I had an appointment scheduled with my community midwife that afternoon. She noted that the baby’s head was starting to engage, but was not fully engaged just yet. She seemed very disappointed that the contractions had stopped!
REAL LABOUR (FIRST VISIT TO MLU):
At 39 weeks + 4, real labor started. This was on a Thursday.
It was similar to the false labor, but the contractions were significantly more intense.
We went into the midwife led unit (MLU) at around 10.30pm. I had tried to stay home for as long as possible, and according to the Freya app, my surges suggested I had been in established labor for around 8 hours by the time we got to the MLU.
The midwife at the MLU said she was pretty sure from the frequency, length and strength of contractions this was the real thing this time round and she was also fairly sure I was in established labor.
She examined me and discovered I was only 2cm dilated, so I wasn’t in established labor yet. She said she was sure this would increase soon so I may as well stay, but I was also welcome to go home if I preferred. I opted to stay as I really felt like things were going to start moving along quickly and we were able to stay in the private room which (to my joy!) had a birth pool.
I had really wanted a water birth from the outset, but had tried to keep in mind that a pool might not be available – I didn’t want to have my heart set on something and end up disappointed.
I was trying to keep eating where possible but was extremely nauseous. At one point, I vomited a large amount, but didn’t really mind as then I actually felt quite a bit better!
They monitored the baby for about half an hour and all was well with him. They wanted to do extra monitoring because of his cleft lip and palate.
Several hours later, she examined me again and I was still 2cm dilated. This was hugely disappointing as I’d been having very strong and very regular contractions the whole time.
After a few more hours, the contractions then slowed down a bit (more like 1-2 every 10 minutes instead of 3-4) and I was still only 2cm dilated so we decided to head home and try to get some sleep if possible. This was around 6am the following day (the Saturday).
We went back, had a bath and tried to eat and sleep. Unfortunately, I was completely unable to sleep as the contractions were still too regular and intense. And I couldn’t really eat because of the extreme nausea and also dry mouth. I kept sipping as much water and Lucozade as I could manage, and tried to stay in a calm and positive frame of mind.
SECOND VISIT TO MLU:
The contractions ramped up again as Saturday continued and we went back to the MLU in the early afternoon.
On examination, I was now 3cm dilated. I was glad it had increased at all, but it was super disappointing that I STILL wasn’t in established labor.
They monitored the baby for about half an hour or so, then said I could go home again if I liked. By this point, I was really struggling. I was so tired and hungry and psychologically I was starting to find the contractions really difficult. I started to get really shaky and feel quite stressed. Even in between contractions when I was in no pain at all, I just couldn’t stop myself from shaking violently. I think I was having an adrenaline surge perhaps, and it was so overwhelming. I said to my partner I just wanted to have a day off where I could sleep a bunch and eat normally and then try again. I started to panic about how I would cope if things didn’t start to speed up.
My partner was incredibly helpful at this time, and said and did all of the right things to keep me as calm as possible.
We went home, and actually the contractions did calm down a lot so I got my wish for more food and more sleep.
I got a solid 2 hours of sleep, which made a really big difference to me psychologically. Then I managed to get into a cycle of dozing for 10 minutes or so, waking up for a contraction, eating 1-2 bites of cold pasta and dozing for 10 minutes again. That lasted the whole night. And although it sounds kind of rough, it was so much better than the previous night that honestly, it was enough to give me some energy back.
The next morning, I also managed to eat a piece of toast and peanut butter, and a tangerine. I also had some plain bread and hula hoops for lunch. I felt great having some more fuel on board.
And then I was back on track, thinking ‘let’s do this!’
THIRD VISIT TO MLU:
Day 3 of labor. We went back to the MLU in the early afternoon on Sunday.
On examination, I was now 5cm dilated and I was over the moon!