In April, Liv turned two. It feels as though I blinked and this tiny, beautiful little newborn is now a cheeky, intelligent toddler. This birthday coupled with our friends being pregnant and cuddling these squishy, fresh little babies has started to make me broody for another. Yet, if you would have told me even a year ago that I would be contemplating seriously having another child, I would have thought that you were mad, or that I was.
You see, I didn’t have an pleasant pregnancy. It was’t nice, and it certainly wasn’t easy. I wasn’t one of those women who glow, and rub their burgeoning stomachs with an air of Mother Earth about them. Rather I thundered around like a rapidly expanding Godzilla, cursing and scowling at most things that passed me by.
For a start my pregnancy was… how to phrase this? Unexpected. Let’s go with unexpected. It came two weeks before I started my first job as a newly qualified teacher and I only found out I was pregnant because of the horrific pain I was in. After a positive pregnancy test, the pain coupled with the fact that I was on the pill prompted the doctor to suspect an ectopic pregnancy. I was scheduled an early internal scan, which thankfully showed that the pregnancy was not ectopic but that the pain was stemming from cysts on my ovaries. Wonderful.
My pregnancy seemed to carry on in a similar way to how it started, small problem after small problem but luckily, the baby was consistently healthy. I was sick for 23 weeks (throwing up while teaching a year ten lesson was a particular highlight), I ended up with SPD and the brace that they gave me to wear ended up making the baby turn so she was breech. Double wonderful.
Despite these little annoyances, I managed to work up to 38 weeks, although my family had noticed some swelling I was looking forward to some downtime before our little surprise arrived. However, during my midwife appointment on my first day of maternity leave she noticed something wasn’t right. She asked if I had packed a bag. I hadn’t. She told me I needed to go to hospital straight away, that she would phone and let them know that I was coming and that she suspected I had pre eclampsia.
They kept me in overnight and sent me home, arranging a community midwife to visit me everyday to check my blood pressure and test my protein levels. It was during one of these midwife visits a couple of days later that things got really scary, my feet were so swollen they were purple and my blood pressure was through the roof, so dangerous in fact that they called an ambulance and whisked me in straight away. The doctor I saw told me there was no way I was leaving the hospital until I had the baby.
Grab your bag. Go. Terrifying.
I will admit that even to this day I have not really looked in to what pre eclampsia actually is. How ridiculous is that? I’m a natural worrier and Joe made me promise when they took me in that I wouldn’t sit and google and terrify myself while I was hormonal, emotional and alone in the hospital. Although I’ve googled whether it is common in further pregnancies I still have very little idea about what it actually is. Blissfully ignorant, if you will.
Over the next few days the nurses and doctors tried sweep after sweep to attempt to get the show on the road. Joe and I walked laps of the hospital (I say walked, he walked, I waddled) in the blazing heat as, just my luck, we experienced a wonderful April heatwave as I was cooped up on the stifling ward.
I was booked in to start the induction process on Wednesday morning, but on Tuesday night I started to get contractions on what may have been my 800th lap of the hospital. I told the midwife on the ward who was lovely but explained that they would probably be “tightenings” rather than contractions. Unfortunately, Joe wasn’t allowed to stay and was sent home at 8pm and I spent the rest of the night having regular contractions all alone with just a curtain for privacy on a small bay on the labour ward.
By the time the morning came I was exhausted but beyond relieved to be being finally whisked down to the labour ward. Joe met me there, and when the midwife came in to talk us through the process I told her that I was in labour. “It will probably be tightenings.” she said, and even though I told her they had been regular and consistent throughout the night she wasn’t keen to believe I was in labour. She talked me through the process, she would insert the pessary and twenty four hours later it would be removed, hopefully having kick started labour. I asked her when I could expect to see my baby. “Friday,” she said, “If everything goes well then probably Friday.” I was 11.30am on Wednesday, and by 4.32pm I had my baby in my arms. I didn’t have a birth plan, but if I had written one down, this certainly wouldn’t have been it.
As soon as the pessary went in, the pain was excruciating. That is the only word I can think to describe it, but even that doesn’t begin to explain. Joe tried to explain when the midwife came back in. “The baby is back to back,” she said, “so contractions are going to be more painful.” I asked for some pain relief but was told that until I was in established labour it wasn’t really an option. I was brought some paracetamol and some essential oil for a back rub. It wasn’t going to cut it.
Before long my contractions were coming thick and fast, every thirty seconds. With no pain relief I began to hallucinate with pain, telling Joe that I could see “venomous giraffes” in the hospital room. The pain was so intense and so frequent that I couldn’t lay down, and so the bed was raised to head hight and I stood with my head on the bed, falling in and out of sleep, utterly exhausted and in agony.
The second time the midwife came in she knew that we weren’t exaggerating. She immediately removed the pessary and offered me gas and air. To say I loved the gas and air would be an understatement. When I tried to describe it afterwards all I could say was, it was like being drunk and hurting yourself, you knew it was painful, but it was only going to really hurt the next day. I felt drunk, and I thought I was hilarious- I think Joe is still embarrassed about it to this day, I was even asking him to take pictures of me, even though I could barely open my eyes.
Checking the monitor the midwife could see how frequent the contractions were and that the baby was now in distress. She offered me an epidural as she considered injecting me with something that would hopefully slow the contractions down and give me a chance to rest before the next stage. Although I had been dreading an epidural I barely felt anything, yet just my luck, it only half worked. One leg was mobile and one leg was entirely dead, and I felt everything. As Joe nipped out to let people know how things were going, I was laid on my side to see if this would help the epidural take on the other side of my body. That was when my waters broke.
When the midwife then checked I was ten centimetres and my baby was still in distress. It was all go from then, the room filled with people and I was told to push. The only thing that I had said from the go was that Joe was to tell me whether we had a boy or a girl, and just as I was about to have her the midwife stopped everybody and told them all not to announce the sex. Throughout my pushing, people were getting ready to assist the delivery, and I was told if I didn’t get her out myself soon that they would have to intervene.
At 16.32 Joe finally said the words, “It’s a girl!” and I have never, before or after, seen him cry like he did. There she was, my black haired, purple faced 8lb 9oz baby, with a dimple at the top of her right cheek that has never gone away.
“Olivia.” I said, and Joe looked at her in his arms, wrapped up in a blue and white hospital towel.
“Olivia Rose,” he said, “I think she’s an Olivia Rose.”
I didn’t want her to have a middle name but when you’re off your face on pain and relief, legs in stirrups with someone peering at places they shouldn’t, what can you do?
When I read this back, I wonder if I really do want to do this all again. I think of the pain (mainly after birth to be honest) and how difficult pregnancy was without a toddler. But then I think of my own brother, who I love so much. He’s the only person in the world with an inkling of just what it was like to grow up as me, we get on so well I would have to deny Liv the chance to have her own sibling relationship. That… and the thought of buying baby clothes for a squishy, chubby faced newborn again, I must admit!