THE SUFFOLK SECTION
Hello! Thank you for your patience it has taken me a magnificently long time to get on here and get it all written down.
So she is out. And she is a she. Dorothea Honor or Dottie for short, finally touched down on June 2nd. Again, I didn't manage the home birth we wanted (I am now 3 for 3 on having girls in hospital and 2 for 2 on the boys at home). But this was actually quite lucky as she not only surprised us by getting in there in the first place but also gave us quite a shock in how she came out.
I don't have an awful lot of time to fill you in, as you might imagine/know, having four children and a newborn is pretty exhausting. But here we go:
After being slightly scathing of local midwives, I went along to a 'VBAC' appointment (vaginal birth after c section for those not in the know and apologies for the use of the word 'vaginal' if, like K, you object to me using an official term and not 'down there') and met one who appeared to be very much on my side and who set forth a plan to help get the baby out 'on time'. She agreed I wasn't actually high risk and that I was more than likely to have a normal delivery so suggested they start twice weekly stretch and sweeps from 37 weeks to ensure that I didn't go overdue and would hopefully have the home birth I wanted and all would be dandy. This was all very positive and I was very excited by the possibility of missing out on the last heinous few weeks of pregnancy and having a smaller baby than usual.
Fast forward to 41 weeks and I was at the hospital meeting the VBAC Consultant for my EIGHTH stretch and sweep and a discussion on what should be done moving forward. At nearly every one of the preceding seven painful encounters with midwives (again, for those not in the know a stretch and sweep isn't the most pleasant thing ever - google it if you have no idea) they assured me that the baby would be out shortly, they made appointments for the next S+S saying how unlikely it would be that I would need it and I became well acquainted with a number of midwives and their living situations as we chatted about that night's arrangements and who was on call, in case our encounter that day elicited the desired results. After a number of the sweeps I got some contractions, sometimes there was even a run of them over a few hours, but other times there were none at all and eventually they all came to nothing. So, I ended up at the 'over due' appointment at the hospital with the consultant who explained my options.
The consultant sent me away with an appointment for the following morning to have my waters broken and yet again, reassurances that I was unlikely to need it as I would no doubt have the baby that evening as her sweeps were, according to her, 'legendary'. And it was indeed the most painful one I have ever had. And I did indeed have a number of painful contractions for the rest of the day. So much so, that K was quite insistent that I sit on a tarpaulin in his car just in case my waters broke. He was very concerned that the liquid could seep in to the stitches and leather and he would never get the smell out of his car. He tried to get the tarpaulin out of the boot and was desperately trying to 'sell' the idea to me but it actually just made me want to leak amniotic fluid all over his leather interior all the more.
We had left Cybs with mum and the big children were back at school after the half term so it was just K and I, awaiting the contractions to get serious. We went in to town to pick up my repaired iphone (the screen had been repaired for the second time in a month). I wanted to be distracted from the wait and the occasional contractions with a slap up meal and champagne but K had just paid for my phone so decided he would 'treat' me to a Burger King meal instead. He did say I was able to choose anything I wanted from the menu though.....
Anyhoo, my waters remained intact for the rest of the day so his car seats and Burger King were spared any fluid disasters. We collected the children from school and still nothing happened. Nothing happened that night either so the following morning I rang labour ward and confirmed I would be in for my waters to be broken. I made three packed lunches, got the children ready, finished writing Ted's book he really wanted finished in time for school, dropped them off at their respective schools, returned home, packed my bag and off we went. The consultant had persuaded me to go ahead with the induction because she said that unlike my previous experience at King's, I would be given 24 hours to go in to labour after the breaking of waters and if I wanted, I would be allowed to go home afterwards so that I could wait for labour to begin. She also insinuated that 'should' I not be able to get back in to the hospital in time for the birth, then there was nothing anyone could do and the midwives would have to come out to me so that I would wind up having my home birth as I planned. This had all seemed like a great idea the day before.
However. My determination to have a home birth was already waning on the way in to the hospital. I had worked myself in to a bit of a state worrying about the pain of contractions. The pain of Cybs' birth was over two and a half years before but it was remarkably fresh in my memory and I was terribly worried that I might have such a quick labour (the eight stretch and sweeps and the fact that it was my fifth meant that I was already 3cms dilated and fully effaced so that when labour did eventually start, it was likely to be quick) that I might not be near gas and air or the gas and air might never arrive and I would be stuck with K as my only form of pain relief and comfort. He was also very worried about me returning home in his car with freshly broken waters..... so by the time we got in to our room I was pretty sure we were going nowhere and the final baby, like the first, would be born in West Suffolk Hospital.
The labour ward was mercifully quiet and our allocated midwife was very lovely. All seemed well. I was hopeful we could get the waters broken and the baby out quickly. I hadn't at that point arranged anyone to pick up the children from their schools. Labour had started with Cybs three hours after they broke my waters so I was sure I could pop this one out even sooner. Sure enough, when the midwife did break them at 11 am I started having contractions almost straight away. Each one pushed more water out of me. At one point a small flood ensued which then created a smelly waterfall over the edge of the hospital bed. We called the lovely midwife back in who very sweetly started cleaning it up for me as I apologised profusely (for something I had no control over - but I am British so therefore one must apologise for such things). Laughing at the situation also made me leak more fluid and at one point the midwife was unfortunately positioned as I laughed and a small gush splashed her. This made me laugh more. Other than that high point it was a very dull few hours - the 'view' from my room was a wall with some very noisy machinery behind it which made a loud bang when it kicked in every 15 minutes. K who had been finding various reasons to nip out for errands eventually settled in his comfy chair and became very sleepy as, like all hospitals, the room was very warm and there was also a loud humming noise coming from the building opposite in between the loud bangs which lulled him into a deep slumber.
I continued to contract infrequently and sporadically as he slept. Some were uncomfortable so I began to use the tens machine. However nothing much else happened and the midwife, when she popped in to check on progress, remained unimpressed with my 'progression'. So much so, that after four hours of non standard contractioning I was chucked out of the labour ward and relegated to the antenatal ward. This was not in my plan. I had waited a jolly long time for this baby, I had even been waiting patiently as I wasn't as fussed about it getting out as I had been with Cybil where I had driven myself half mad with it. This time around I was almost happy for her to stay in, if it hadn't been for the constant need to wee and the inability to plan anything I would have quite happily continued being pregnant for at least another week. With children who need to be taken to school and Cybil in need of childcare in the event of labour, it wasn't particularly helpful not to be able to plan when the baby would come out. I had thought that finally forcing the issue by having my waters broken would mean we would have the baby that day and that would put an end to the speculation, planning and back up planning that had preceded induction day for weeks. I felt particularly guilty about half term where we could only really work on things on a day to day basis as we had no idea what would happen over night. Mother had taken various days off work 'in case' and even stopped drinking in the evenings in case we needed her urgently. When you 'fail' to go in to labour you can feel like your body is letting you down and you are in turn letting everyone else down by not making things easy and just bloody well getting on with it. People always talk about keeping the sex of the baby a 'surprise' as it's the biggest surprise you get in life - I would argue that labour is a bit of a shock as that really has so many variables - there are only two possible options on the sex front so it isn't a massive surprise.
Back to antenatal ward. I was NOT happy. Not only do I hate wards but I hate other people in wards with me - even though they are no doubt delightful people out of the hospital, I hate having to share rooms with strangers. Particularly when I am leaking water, attached to a tens machine, having contractions and in a bad mood. The flimsy curtains that surround each bed are no protection against the sound of people burping, eating and my all time least favourite, talking. I realise I am not the most interesting of people, but when I am in a bad mood and in occasional pain, I really don't want to listen to other people talking about crap. The view was at least better, I could see a road and some trees and a small building that was no longer in use. I spent a long time looking out of that window so that there was no chance the other two residents of my 'bay' would engage me in conversation. It was unlikely anyway. It was clear I thought myself to be too good for the 'waiting' ward. Or maybe that was just my paranoia because I really did think I was too good for the waiting ward. This was my fifth sodding baby for christ's sake - I had been told it would come tumbling out as I was so 'favourable' and yet here I was, hours and hours after induction and I was no better than the woman on her first over the aisle to me bouncing on her sodding ball and heavy breathing. I became slightly belligerent at this stage in the process. Particularly because the communal loo (which was, like the rest of the loos I encountered, brand new back in the 70s, so gave the air of an old boarding school which badly needed funds to renovate) was a good walk away from my bed. When you are constantly leaking, the need to be near a nice comfortable loo really cannot be over rated. Especially when you have to carry a Tena Lady pant with you for changing purposes. (OMG if you are ever in a similar situation and have had your waters broken, you MUST invest in some tena lady pants - they are amazing. I mean truly. No more waterfalls over the bed or water down the leg. These things are the bees knees when it comes to saturation.)
Fast forward some more boring hours, K left and collected children from a friend's house and deposited them with mum along with their swimming stuff for the morning and returned with 'food' - I asked him to get some because I was obviously not going to eat the 'slop' the hospital was offering. He returned with about 10 packets of crisps, 5 chocolate bars and a chicken wrap - I became paranoid people would look at this haul and think 'no wonder she's so fat'. He had a sleep. I read more of my book (Paradise City by Elizabeth Day - another recommendation - it kept me going through the whole thing). They ran a trace and noticed my 'tightenings' - also known as contractions if they are happening in your uterus. I got fed up. We went for a walk when K awoke. We returned and I informed the midwife that I intended to leave. I was going to self discharge and get in my own bath and my own bed and come back in the morning. Unsurprisingly they were not keen. Another midwife came back to try and dissuade me. K was on their side. He didn't say it but he was entirely unkeen to take a leaky wife back in his car (the leather) and then potentially have her give birth whilst he was the only other person around. Just as I was wavering and having just had another large contraction, he asked if I could be put in a private room. The midwife was thrilled with this compromise. I relented and ten minutes later we were shown to our new quarters. Still no flipping ensuite, although the communal loo was at least right next door. By this time it was gone 7 pm and K was getting quite itchy to leave for the evening now that he had procured me suitable accommodation for the night. He set off to find me a tv viewing card and came back with enough credit on the card to keep me goggle boxing for a month. I refused to let him leave immediately and so he sat down and read his book. I sat on the bed and began my evening's viewing, occasionally holding on to his hand if there was a contraction that hurt. By this stage they were still not at all regular, not that frequent and also varied wildly in strength. I set about furious texting complaining about the 'very un-Portland like facilities' and stupid baby that wouldn't come out. I watched Phil and Kirsty's 'Love it or List it' programme, waited to see the end, put the red hot phone down and visited the communal facilities next door.
From this point it all became very surreal. No sooner did my Tena lady's hit the floor and my bottom the seat, I felt a very odd sensation. One I had felt a number of times before but not in this situation. I put my fingers down to check and my suspicions were confirmed, the baby was coming out. I also felt that it was not the head that was leading the charge, it was in fact, a squishy bottom. I yelled incredibly loudly at this point. K came running as did a charge of midwives. I apologised profusely (obviously - I am British and I had stupidly not realised I was fully dilated and I had my tena lady pants around my ankles and I had yelled). They said I needed to get back on the bed for them to see what was happening, I said I needed to wash my hands first (MRSA and all that). I got on the bed, spread my legs and then the sides of the bed were up, a sheet was put over me to cover my dignity and the bed was being moved at a brisk speed over to labour ward. I will admit that I was highly scared at this point. Not only because the risk to the baby was huge but because I had had no drugs, was as alert as it is possible to be and I didn't think that pushing a folded up baby out of a small space would be that comfortable. In seconds we were in a labour room filled with midwives and doctors. I apologised to all of them, obviously. They used 'calm' voices to tell me not to panic but that time was very much of the essence and I had to do exactly as I was told. I apologised. Obviously. I did exactly as I was told. I moved myself on to the bed, put my feet in stirrups and pushed so hard I thought I might split in two. The second push was quite honesty the worst pain I have ever experienced. I swore badly. I said I couldn't do it. I asked for gas and air. I apologised. No gas and air was allowed. I delivered the body. More calm voice instructions from the amazing old school midwife sitting front and centre of all the action. She told me that it was vital to deliver the head as quickly as we could. I pushed for the third time and out came the head. As I had been warned, the baby was quiet and lifeless when she was put on to me. Being told something doesn't necessarily make it any less scary though and I was convinced she wasn't in a good way. 'They' took her over in to the corner to check on her and get her life like. It seems like quite a long time when you are waiting for that all important first cry, the confirmation that you have done your job and delivered your offspring 'safely'. It did finally come though and suddenly it all seemed wonderful. K and I were a bit high from the drama of it all. I KEPT saying 'I was just watching kirsty and phil'. I was in such shock. I have never been fully dilated and in minimal pain or able to walk and talk and focus on a tv programme and texting before. I have never had an undiagnosed breach baby and I have never been the one to diagnose it. It was a lot of firsts. And she was perfect, as they always seem to the euphoric and relieved parents. I did want to then find the three midwives I had been involved with over the course of the day and yell "I TOLD YOU THEY WERE CONTRACTIONS AND NOT FLIPPING TIGHTENINGS. WHY DIDN'T YOU EXAMINE ME YOU IDIOTS". But I did not. I just kept on apologising to anyone who would listen for 'all the fuss'.
Twelve hours after they broke my waters and two hours after she was born, I was wheeled back to our private room without ensuite facilities and K was told to go home. West Suffolk hospital has an odd policy which decrees that partners are not allowed on the ward between the hours of 9pm and 11am. That is an exceedingly long time in the life of a newborn baby. It also would have meant that if we had adhered to the rules, K would have missed the birth. (They had actually been yelling for all partners to leave whilst I was busy watching Kirsty and Phil but we had assumed that it couldn't possibly be applicable to us as a) I was having contractions and b) we were in a room and not on the ward - it turns out we were entirely wrong and he should have left just as I was discovering my undiagnosed breach baby was trying to enter the world). However I didn't mind him leaving as the baby, by this point, was very sleepy and so was I. I was also 'buzzing' a bit from the shock and drama of it all and the tea they had given me with about four sugars in it after the birth so needed time to calm down. Although in the morning 11am felt like a very long time coming. I really can't think that such a draconian policy is entirely necessary.....
So, there you have it. By and large. The safe arrival of our little Dot. Dotster or Dottie. Or, as she is most commonly referred to - the New Baby. The children were all so thrilled to meet her when I got home - even Cybil. Her reaction was my main concern, obviously, but then and even now, her main concern seems to be the baby and her well being. She even sings when Dottie cries. 'Don't cry ickle baby, don't cry ickle baby, mummy's coming' that kind of thing. And my boobs which have belonged to cybs for the last two and half years have been permitted to nurse The New Baby and if Cybs still wants to cop a hold she very kindly holds the one not in use at the time. More of a shock was G's reaction to her. I have never really seen him go all soft over babies but he holds her and even kisses her when he thinks no one is looking. Ted has his usual exuberance for all things in life and can't contain his love and affection for the New Baby. If I pick him up from school he runs out and yells 'the New Baby' as if it is the first time he's seen her. Bea was extremely keen for about a week. Now she is quite variable, sometimes keen and sometimes exceedingly not so. Unless there is someone from outside the family around when she becomes overcome with love and affection for the baby and demands to hold her - purely for acclaim on her mothering skills. I suppose this is precisely why nature didn't intend for 10 year olds to have babies. To be fair, a crying baby is an annoying noise and both her and G have realised that if you get 'stuck' holding a baby you are unable to do anything else, so their desperation to have a 'go' holding her has waned. So, other than not really having any time to do anything other than essential housework and child maintenance because of her, Dot has fitted in well to family life. There have been times when I have questioned how on earth this is all going to work, particularly as K has very selfishly found paid employment and is leaving us to start it in just over a week. I have also spent some time in tears at the enormity of how I am now in charge of an awful lot of shit. Literal and metaphorical. But I have also had an amazing few weeks. Ten days after Dot was born (and one of the main reasons I decided to have an induction) I went down to London to enjoy a fabulous lunch with my SE23 mum chums, who showered me with gifts, cards and cake, and then I had the pleasure of going back to the old school playground to deposit Bea and G with their respective friends so they could go off on their sleepovers. It was indescribably lovely to be able to see lots of old friends and show Dot off to all and sundry. Then I carried on to Kent with Dot and we spent a fabulous weekend in Herne Bay with ten old school friends in a gorgeous house right opposite the sea. It was quite honestly the best thing I have ever done with a newborn. Like Tena Lady pants and a good book in labour, a weekend by the sea with excellent friends and food when you need a rest, is hard to beat. Dottie was held almost all weekend and before we left, two very clever people were left in charge of her whilst I retrieved the car and when I returned she was fast asleep after a bit of a scream and she continued to sleep the entire way home - via London for two pick ups and then on to Suffolk. Four hours in total. Bea and G were shattered and happy from all the fun they had had with their friends and slept too. I had a blissful few hours alone with my thoughts and my music. It was the perfect end to the perfect weekend.
More apologies. This has become rather long. I have more to say but shall save it for next time.
Enjoy the sun whilst you can, our pool is nearing completion and from then on it will no doubt be constant cold and wet weather. I apologise for that too.
A toute a l'heure. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx