Tag Archives: Pregnancy

My Birth Story

I’ve been debating whether or not to write this post (given I had a minute of free time when I wasn’t breastfeeding) because sadly my birth story wasn’t what I expected it to be. I know you can’t “plan” the perfect birth, but between the difficulties I had physically and the numerous issues I faced with the NHS, it was really hard to say the least.

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It all started on July 2nd when I went to have a cervical sweep with my midwife. Afterwards my husband and I went grocery shopping and I think the mix of opening my cervix with gravity working in my favor when walking around helped things get started because at 2pm just after we finished lunch at home my contractions started. After waiting around the house for four hours, using my TENS machine for some mild pain relief, my contractions were finally 3 minutes apart and lasting 45-60 seconds which is supposed to be the time frame for when you should go to the hospital, so that we did. We left around 6pm. When we got to the Royal London Hospital we had to wait around in the hallway for about 20-30 minutes before I was examined and when I was I was disappointed to hear I had only dilated 3 cm. They don’t like to keep women in the hospital unless they are at least 4 cm so they told me to go home, but the pain was increasing and we didn’t want to get home just to return an hour later so we asked to stay in the ‘Early Labor Lounge’.

The lounge was okay. We were luckily the only people in there. We stood by the window, I stared at the fantastic panoramic views of London you get from The Royal London Hospital trying to distract myself by admiring the buildings. When a contraction came I swayed my hips and moaned quietly as Rafael massaged my back. We stayed in there for four or five hours with no one attending to us. I laid down on a foam sofa and tried to close my eyes to zone out from the pain. I started to lose my sense of time then. Finally two ladies came in and checked my dilation which was around 5cm at that time and checking caused my waters to break. It was then that we saw they were slightly green which meant my baby had pooed inside of me. They put me in a room with an actual bed (hallelujah) at that point, but only with a student midwife who had no real power. We were in that room for another three hours or so and the pain was becoming unbearable – so much so that I began vomiting.

I started taking the “Gas & Air” drug because I literally couldn’t tolerate the pain any longer. As I mentioned before, my sense of time was a blur. I just knew there were waves of pain and brief moments of rest between. I began crying and Rafael also cried to see me in such pain. I begged the student midwife to let me have an epidural, but she said I couldn’t until I was allocated a real midwife who could monitor me, but the one I was supposed to get was busy with another woman. We asked her how long it would be and she said she had no idea. She began crying too, probably from feeling helpless. Soon after Rafael escalated the issue until another midwife came into the room and said I would finally be transferred to a labor room and get an epidural.

They transferred me to the other side of the hospital and we waited eagerly for the anaesthetist to arrive. It was about 5am at this point which means I labored for 13 hours without any real pain relief, without any midwife, without anyone monitoring me or my baby, without proper care. We texted my mom who was visiting from the States and asked her to come for support. She arrived before the anaesthetists came into the room around 6am. They were two lovely people who I praised to the high heavens for saving me, but I praised them too soon for it took them TEN attempts at stabbing my back to get the needle in the right spot. I still have marks on my spine 2 weeks later. But to be honest I was so out of it, I barely felt it or cared. It was mainly my mother and Rafael who were upset by their lack of skill. When the epidural was in though, it was the greatest relief ever. I finally came back to reality in that room. I managed to get a short nap and not be in pain. It was a miracle. I don’t know how women do this without pain relief. My hat is off to them, but perhaps I had a more intense labor than average.

We stayed in that room, with two exceptional midwives, chatting and laughing for 12 hours. I took a few short naps, although towards the end they warned me when I slept the baby slept which it was stalling labor so I was kept awake. At this stage, having had my last meal a day ago, I was starving but I wasn’t allowed to eat in the event that I would need an emergency cesarean. I laid there feeling weak and wondering how I would muster the energy to push out my baby when it came time. With a bit of coaxing they let me have two energy tablets, which while anything from substantial gave me a tiny burst of energy.

Close to when it was time to push my contractions started to be felt again – in a major way. Did I mention my baby was posterior which can cause quite a painful labor? He was. And one of his limbs was pressing so hard against my lower abdomen I was moaning in pain. And my back, my god. I also would later learn that his fist was at his face as he came out. The epidural barely masked any of the sensations at that point. I had been relieved too long. Now I had to endure what Mother Nature intended – the all-encompassing enorm of pain needed to bring a life into this world. When it was time to birth, they put my legs really high in stirrups and it was the most uncomfortable position imaginable.

Weeks prior to the birth, I knew my baby was semi-posterior and had researched that posterior babies can cause a lot of back pain during labor and birth so I asked them to let me get on my knees, leaning over the edge of the raised head of the bed to deliver him. Luckily my epidural had worn off by then so that I had enough mobility in my legs to support myself. Being in that position felt like such a relief. When the pushing began, I was surprised that it didn’t hurt more. I didn’t feel the burning “ring of fire” like some women describe – just an immense pressure bigger than anything I had felt before. I pushed and pushed and pushed. They coached me on telling me ‘harder, harder!’ I pushed with what I thought was all of my effort but it wasn’t enough as the baby was barely crowning. I thought I couldn’t do it. In desperation I asked for a cesarean. No, they said, of course – it wouldn’t have been sensible but I was out of my mind. Forceps, please! I begged. No, you can do this, they said.

I continued to push for what me felt like minutes, but turned out to be a good hour or two. The midwife kept saying, “Come on, Vanessa. This baby needs to be born with the next contraction because baby is in distress.” I don’t know if that was entirely true but it put pressure on me to get him out as fast as I could. They told me to hold my breath for 30 seconds and push, over and over again. I barely could. I was red in the face. I gripped the bed and lifted the weight of my body on my toes, using the bed as a counterforce. I pushed. It took all of my strength. He was born at 8:32pm on July 3rd. I turned around and there he was in a pool of amniotic fluid under a spotlight, squirming and crying. It was all very surreal.

They whisked him away from me to check his responses because he had pooed inside my belly. I didn’t get to hold him right away like I had always imagined. Luckily he was doing well and we got to have some cuddly time soon after they had assessed him, taken out my placenta and stitched up my few tears. He was a big baby weighing 4.04 kg, or 8 lbs 14 oz! It was a 30 hour labor but finally he was born.

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The next morning I woke up and noticed that when I pressed my chest, neck and jaw there were bubbly, crackly noises. It was bizarre. I told the midwives but they didn’t want to inspect it thinking I was crazy. We insisted upon seeing a doctor and finally one arrived a few hours later. He was perplexed by it and told me he’d have to do some research. Soon after a few more doctors came into the room to check it out. I had a chest xray and luckily nothing major was wrong, but they diagnosed it as “Hamman’s Syndrome” (also known as ‘surgical emphysema’). It turned out I had pushed SO HARD that my lungs leaked into my chest and air pockets had formed. The doctors said it was the third time they had seen this happen in 30 years at the hospital. The probability of it happening is 1 in 100,000. Just a testament to how hard I pushed! It disappeared in a few days with no treatment.

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The next week was spent in the hospital though because he did end up swallowing some of the meconium in the womb and needed a course of antibiotics for a lung infection It was a rough first week being observed constantly by the midwives and having more bumps in the road medically, but at the same time I’m grateful for some of the answers I got to my concerns while being there. And now we are home and well, trying to find our stride as a new family :)

If I learned one thing from this pregnancy, thinking he would be born early and he was born at 41 weeks, and this birth, thinking I would have an easy one and it was arduously long, is that you can’t control everything in life. You just need to ride out the waves as they come.

Countdown to Baby: 0 Weeks Left!

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Here we are at the due date at last… and still no baby! I always had this feeling that he would be early by at least a week because he grew so heartily, but maybe it was just a deep-seated hope. I certainly never thought he would be late. But he’s got until the end of the day to avoid that :)

It’s been a confusing past few weeks as well as I’ve had little pains most days that never led to anything. I’ve had a night of pretty persistent regular Braxton Hicks contractions every few minutes. I’ve had a day with excruciating right hip pain where I spent the whole day doing yoga and stretches to alleviate it (it disappeared completely the next day). I’ve had many nights where I’ve had back (and sometimes front) cramps, similar to menstrual cramps, where I had to get out a hot water bottle or heated pad to soothe it. And every day I’ve had the incredible weight of the baby in between my legs, leaving me to think I was about to pop but never did. I hope that this is all early labor and doing some good towards my delivery.

Throughout all of this I have been excited, scared, exhausted and also energized. I’ve tried to bounce him out; walk him out; eat him out (maybe he just needs one more hearty meal?). I’ve drank cups of raspberry leaf tea to strengthen my uterus and swallowed evening primrose oil pills multiple times a day in hopes it would soften my cervix. I’ve taken hot baths and cold baths. I’ve eaten whole pineapples in a day and doused my burritos in hot sauce. My moods have fluctuated from frustration to anger to sadness to indifference. I’ve tried to remain active by taking walks every day with my partner, but also tried to retain my energy with daily naps and by not pushing myself too hard just in case today was the day. It’s exhausting stuff this ninth month of pregnancy! I’m glad I’m almost done with it. But what I’ve learned is that truly a baby will only come when a baby is ready to come. You can not control nature. I guess in a sense this is practice for becoming a parent and not having total control over my life anymore.

9months

Although this photo montage I made is very grainy, as it was taken on my iPhone4 camera, I wanted to show just how much I’ve grown throughout this pregnancy! The first photo behind is from 10 weeks pregnant and the one on top is 39 weeks. Look at all of that space that my baby now takes up!! It’s incredible the changes your body goes through in the long nine months of pregnancy. Needless to say, I can’t wait to have a weight lifted from me. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

In Waves

I’m not going to lie: I’m somewhat afraid of giving birth. I thought I wasn’t. I have read so many books and sources explaining the process. I’ve taken classes. I’ve watched videos. I’ve listened to stories, both good and bad. But nothing can really prepare you for the experience; I think it’s just something you have to deal with as it comes.

I suppose some of the fear is that I won’t be in control. Throughout my life I’ve very much tried to maintain control over things and when I’ve lost it, I’ve gone into panic. Pregnancy changed that about me- I’ve been much more calm, except for now. Suddenly the old me is catching up again. I’ve had a few early labor symptoms throughout the past week that have tested my coping abilities and I was shocked at how quickly I landed in a place of panic. I didn’t like it. I don’t want it to be that way. I might not be able to be in control of the circumstances or the process, but I want to control my reaction to it by trying to remain calm.

That’s why lately I’ve been thinking of water, or more specifically the ocean. The idea of the ocean really captures my feelings about birth. It’ll be larger than me. Powerful. Expansive. It might feel like it goes on forever. I won’t be able to see the end to it. And I’ll have to journey it alone. But I can take it in as it comes in waves. Coincidentally they often liken contractions to waves, their power overcoming you, reaching a peak, and then dissipating as if it were never there. In ebbs and flows.

I’ve never been the strongest person. I haven’t had great will power in my life. And it’s certainly scary – the unknown. But I think I can handle one wave at a time, as it rushes through me, becomes me and then vanishes. At least I’m going to try. And I’m almost certain this experience will change me for the better.

How did you handle birth?

Countdown to Baby: 3 Weeks Left!

countdown3Today I am officially “full term” and am so happy to be nearing the end of this pregnancy! It’s great to know that if baby boy was born any day now he’d be in perfect health. I certainly hope he chooses to come sooner rather than later.

Reflecting back on my pregnancy is nostalgic. There was so much excitement, fear, joy and curiosity. I wanted to learn everything. I wanted to marvel at the process. I wanted my baby to be safe and to not make “mistakes”. I wanted to absorb myself in the experience of being pregnant. For that reason, this week I wanted to share some of the most important books and apps that helped me educate myself throughout the many months and gave me comfort. 

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So let’s get started with…

The Books

What to Expect When You’re Expecting

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Practically the textbook of pregnancy, I went out and bought this book as soon as I was pregnant hoping it would shower me with key information about pregnancy, and that it did. I felt happy knowing I was partaking in an institution that nearly every pregnant woman partakes in too by reading this book. There are chapters about finding out you are pregnant, healthy eating during pregnancy, common complications, and general month-by-month symptoms and developments. Overall it is a good foundation for learning about pregnancy, but for some reason I wasn’t wowed by it. Check out the book

What To Eat When You’re Pregnant 

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This was a book that was lent to me by a friend. It is great in early pregnancy when you are learning the ropes of what constitutes a healthy diet for pregnancy. Basically it comes down to eating a generally balanced diet, however there are several foods that you must avoid altogether or eat with caution, and this book highlighted those. In that regard, it was invaluable to not accidentally eat something that might hurt my pregnancy. Check out the book

DK’s The Pregnant Body Book

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I love this book! When my husband and I first spotted it in a bookstore we were drooling: all of those infographics, charts and large 3D visualizations of what goes on in the body during pregnancy. For anyone interested in the scientific side to reproduction and pregnancy, it is a joy to look at. There are month-by-month breakdowns of developments for both baby and mother right up to birth, and a chapter on the early days as well. I loved learning about how amazing the human body is. I can’t recommend it enough. Check out the book

The NHS Pregnancy Book  

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Another book lent to me by a friend, this is the “official” pregnancy book created by the UK’s health care system, the NHS. It’s very basic in terms of the information it provides, but in a somewhat comforting, textbook, “back at school” kind of way. It just gives you the most fundamental details of what is happening during pregnancy, what to eat, what check-ups you’ll get, what will happen at midwife appointments, key screenings and tests, and other similar information. This was really great for me as I find most pregnancy books are written from an American health care system’s perspective. I found the book free online in PDF format for anyone interested in reading it.

The Day-by-Day Pregnancy Book

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Probably the best all-around book because it allows you to indulge in bodily changes that are occurring on a daily basis. Sometimes waiting a whole week to find out about new advancements is just too long when you are in your early pregnancy and over-excited! It has great illustrations, a lot of photographs and loads of information about absolutely anything you can think of related to pregnancy. Particularly in the beginning of pregnancy, it was invaluable to understand how the tiny embryo was developing inside me even though I couldn’t see a belly yet. It helped me feel connected to the pregnancy. In the back of the book is a small section on the first few days with baby too. A fantastic book. Check out the book

The Apps

Babycenter

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I like this app, but I don’t love this app. It’s basically a slimmed-down version of their website, which is much more useful for pregnancy information. One neat thing is the app has a little progress bar to show you how far along you are in your pregnancy, and then it has mini daily updates on changes in pregnancy. It’s not an overly visual app, but it has some good basic information and it is free. Check out the app

BabyBump

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I used this app quite a bit in early pregnancy, but ended up getting rid of it 2/3rds of the way through as, similar to Babycenter, it is not overly visual. Just as the other apps have, it has both weekly updates and smaller daily bites of information. One major plus to it is that you can take weekly iphone photos of your belly and store them in the app so you can look at a slideshow of your growth. Also a free app. Check out the app

 What To Expect Pregnancy

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Let me just say, if you download this app then you really don’t need to buy the book. This app has more-or-less ALL of the same information… and it’s free! Comparing the app to the book, it is practically verbatim a replica. A great app for looking at both weekly and daily advancements with in depth information. Each week you get an update on major changes for both mother and baby. Each day you get a tiny tidbit of useful information such as exercises you can do, how dad might be feeling, or how to pack your hospital bag. I recommend this one for sure. Check out the app

Sprout

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Probably the best app of the bunch because it is so stimulating to look at with its large 3D weekly visualizations of the baby’s growth. You can tap on the 3D image to get more in depth info about key developments that week. Just like the rest, it has both weekly and daily updates. Although I never used them, there are also organizer tools for storing to do’s, appointments, essentials you should buy for the baby, a weight tracker, a kick counter and a contraction timer – so a pretty great package! And it’s free if you get the “Lite” version. Check out the app

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So that’s it, my list of the most useful resources I turned to during my pregnancy. Reading the information in these books and apps really helped me feel connected to what my body was going through and the tiny baby growing inside. Hope you all found this useful. Have a happy pregnancy!

 

The Belly


This belly is getting outrageous in the best possible way. Huge and round and full of life. Looking back on my early, early pregnancy days it’s crazy how much it has stretched and expanded to make way for my baby. And even though it’s getting harder to move around or get out of bed these days, I wouldn’t change it for the world because I know behind that rotund shape posing as my belly is someone I love very much and can’t wait to meet. 

All of the photos above were taken at 34 weeks.