The day my world changed – my labour story

by Jemma Andrew-Adiamah on October 22, 2014

in Baby and Beyond

Life is a bit different in this neck of the woods now.  The past two weeks have just been incredible since little Aiden’s arrival, the best two weeks of my life.  I’ve written my labour story in parts, basically when I had the time.  It’s been so lovely reliving the experience again and I’ve finally finished it.  So here it goes!
 
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 Welcome home flowers from Alfie – now I’ll always associate sunflowers with my gorgeous baby boy!
 
Very late on Wednesday evening I started to experience mild period-like pains and tightening around my bump.  I’d been here before and just thought that they were practice contractions and thought nothing of them – I didn’t even mention to them to Alfie.  I went to bed and managed to get a couple of hours of sleep, until I woke in the early hours (around 2 am) with the same period pains.  This time they had grown in their intensity, nothing like I had experienced before and they were coming at regular intervals.  I immediately knew that this was it, our baby boy was on his way!  Unable to get back to sleep I woke Alfie up and he listened for the babies heartbeat as I hadn’t felt him move for a while, everything was fine.  We rang the hospital at 2.30 am and a midwife asked me questions about my contractions.  So far there had been no blood and my contractions were too far apart to be admitted to the maternity ward.  She told me the criteria of early labour and asked me to ring back with any progress.  
 
I did managed to get some more sleep, but not much.  With the prospect that this could be early labour Alfie went to work as normal as this stage can take forever to get started and I didn’t want both of us sitting around waiting.  I kept him updated throughout the day with regular updates.  Not sure what to do with myself, I just got on with my plans for the day.  I managed to drive to the shops to run some errands, got home and did some housework and some writing. 
 
By 2 pm my contractions had progressed and were more intense, luckily my midwife was doing her clinic at the GP surgery on Thursday.  Alfie suggested that I rang her for advice so we had some idea of what was happening, it had been 12 hours with no significant developments. Since we literally live around the corner from the surgery she kindly offered to come to my house to do a check up and examination.  She identified that I was 2-3 cm dilated, my contractions were 10-15 mins apart and I was possibly in early labour. During the examination she did another stretch and sweep so things would progress more quickly.  Afterwards the contractions became more intense, but they were still manageable with my breathing techniques and lots of movement.  I updated Alfie and he came home from work straight away, he was totally amazing and made us dinner and got me to relax.  By early evening the contractions were getting more uncomfortable, but still only 10 minutes apart.
 
After dinner Alfie ran me a hot bath with candle light and music to help me relax some more.  The water really helped soothe away the pain and pressure that I was now experiencing in my lower back, bump and legs.  I tried to get some sleep afterwards, but this was now impossible. We rang hospital again and were told that the contractions still needed to be closer together before we drove to the hospital.  As the night progressed, even though the intervals of the contractions were unchanged and the intensity of them had gone up a few gears. Although manageable they were becoming more and more sore and it was just impossible to sleep.  I was at my wit’s end and  unsure what to do for the best.  No position was comfortable, I even tried sleeping on the bedroom floor.  After ringing the hospital for the third time, it was still a no-go despite the pain progression and was told to sit it out longer at home.  They also told me to get some rest, which is easier said than done when your uterus is contracting so violently!
 
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By this point I was totally exhausted, the contractions were unrelenting and by the time I felt myself drifting off another one would start.  The option of sleep had slipped away a long time ago so Alfie ran me another bubble bath to see if that would help.  As soothing and relaxing as the bath was I now just wanted to get to the hospital and give birth to our baby.  We got on the phone again to the  maternity ward, Alfie took to the phone this time.  He basically told them that we had tried everything that they had suggested, the bath, paracetamol, rest, but nothing was working anymore.  The midwife asked us to come to the hospital to the Maternity Assessment Ward.  We arrived around about 3 am and after being examined by a midwife, she had established that I was now 5 cm dilated and my waters had broken – I was in labour! 
 
We went down to the delivery suite and made ourselves comfortable, well as one can during labour.  I’d never considered using a gym ball during the birth, but there was one in the room and I decided to use it.  Bouncing on it during my contractions took the edge of them as did the gas and air that became my best-friend throughout.  Now it was just a waiting game and with the growing contractions I found different ways to deal with the pain; walking, bouncing on the ball, lying on my side, warm hot water bottle, rotating my hips, on all fours, music. I visualised each contraction as waves to help with my breathing and relaxation.  Using my finger to draw the waves in the air like an orchestra conductor really helped with this. 
 
It was just Alfie and our incredible midwife in the room and both were brilliant birthing partners. Alfie was amazingly supportive, popping out to get us both some snacks, massaging my back and with his words of encouragement.  I was also so thankful for our midwife, she was bloody brilliant and made a massage oil for me using lavender and camomile essential oils and massaged my back.  I felt the urge to push and at around 12.30 pm the midwife conducted an examination and realised that I was now 7 cm dilated.  She also drained my bladder using a catheter to make more room for the baby and broke my back waters, which still hadn’t been released by that point.  Things started to speed a long by this point and I burst into tears with the reality that the arrival of our baby was more imminent and again when they wheeled in the baby crib.  
 
Towards the end it got a bit hairy as little AJ was tired and myself were completely exhausted and my contractions had slowed down. Suddenly the room was full of doctors as the baby’s heart rate was dropping.  My active labour had come to a standstill and I was on the bed with my legs in stirrups.  They attached a clip to his head to check his heart rate and I needed an episiotomy to help get him out fast as they were setting up for a ventouse delivery if he wasn’t born by 13.45 pm.  Determined to have a natural labour I don’t know where I got the strength from, but I managed to push him out myself as my contractions had started up again.  Aiden Joshua Sebastian arrived at 2 pm on the dot and not a second later with a full head of curly hair and big brown eyes.  The umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck once and he was completely blue when he came out.  Alfie cut the cord and he was whisked away by the doctors for some oxygen. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for him to come round and he was crying loudly in no time and handed back to me for skin-to-skin and our first breastfeeding session. After my shower were taken upstairs to the postnatal ward where we spent our first night together as a family. 
 
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Although I didn’t get the delayed cord clamping as I had hoped or an unassisted delivery of the placenta, I thought that my labour experience was wonderful.  It was as close to natural as medically allowed at the time and we got to meet our gorgeous healthy baby.  He’s such a lovely little boy and we love him so much.  We couldn’t imagine our lives without him now.  
 
Mamahood is hard, I’m like a zombie half of the time. I think I’m running on adrenaline if I’m honest.  My emotions are also all over the place and initially I was second guessing my decisions when caring for Aiden, but now I just trust my own judgements.  After a shaky start, we’ve now established breastfeeding and Aiden is gaining weight like a superstar.  He initially lost weight which is normal in newborns, but he has now surpassed his birth weight and the health visitor is very happy with him.  My postpartum recovery is going well and the soreness from the stitches subsided within the first week.  I do have a post planned about my postpartum body image, but surprisingly I’m actually comfortable with my new body.
 
We’re slowly getting to grips with our new kind of ‘normal.’ Alfie returned to work this week, so Aiden and I have been having lots of mummy and baby quality time.  I’m really looking forward to our adventures together.   Thanks again for all of your messages, comments and emails of congratulations on Aiden’s birth, we really appreciate them all. 
 
How were your emotions throughout the birth of your baby (s)?  How did you find the initial first few days at home?

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Now that I’m a new mum, one of my primary concerns apart from caring for my little man is ensuring that my body is nourished as much as possible to help my body heal and give my baby the healthiest start in life whilst breastfeeding.  I’m not rushing to lose the weight that I gained during pregnancy as I want this to be done in a sensible and balanced way.  To be fair, this is the last thing on my mind now with a newborn baby to care for.  I know that with some well-balanced nutrition and a wholesome approach things should hopefully fall into place slowly but surely.

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I do think that there is far too much pressure on new mamas to drop the pounds after birth, but I’m going to do my best to ignore the BS and concentrate on doing things my way.  This will involve my usual balanced approach of wholesome and nutrient dense food, but you can be sure as hell that I will still be eating cake and pizza too. 

Recently, I was offered the chance of an interview conducted on my behalf with AXA PPP healthcare physiologist David Williams, who specialises in dieting and sport and exercise science.  For this particular post the questions are centred around postnatal nutrition and care. 

Are there any restrictions on what can I eat now I’ve had the baby?

There’s no real reason to cut out any specific foods once you’ve given birth, and it’s important to get back to a healthy, balanced diet as soon as possible. The healthier your diet, the more prepared your body will be for the healing process, whether from a natural or caesarean birth. Foods that were out of bounds during pregnancy, such as shellfish, should be fine to consume again after the birth, and they contain essential Omega 3. It’s vital to remember that you will transfer whatever you eat to your baby if you are breastfeeding, so try to have things like caffeine and alcohol in moderation, and stick to a maximum of two cups of tea or coffee per day. Make sure you keep a close eye on your baby all the time to see if they are reacting differently to your milk. Some babies can react badly to the protein in cow’s milk for example, so if you are consuming cow’s milk and then breastfeeding, keep your eyes peeled for any rashes and get in touch with your health worker as soon as possible if you notice anything unusual.

What advice can you give on losing weight and regaining my shape post-birth?

Although losing the ‘baby-weight’ is a concern for most new mothers, it’s important to do this sensibly and carefully. You need a lot of energy early after giving birth, and trying to lose weight too quickly can delay your recovery. Always wait until your first post-natal check has passed before you consider any weight loss plan, and make sure you approach it in the right way. The female body prepares incredibly efficiently for all stages of pregnancy, including the weeks and months after the baby is born. Be guided by your appetite, eat well when you’re hungry, and remember to eat enough if you are exercising. Include fresh fruit and vegetables, good fats (such as those found in avocado, nuts, oily fish and olive oil) and slow-release carbohydrates (such as wholegrain produce, oats and sweet potatoes) in your diet. Avoid refined sugars, found in sweets, chocolate and biscuits, wherever possible. As a guide, losing 1lb per week through a combination of a healthy diet and exercise is both healthy and achievable. This gradual rate of weight loss won’t affect the quality of your milk, but losing anymore may that mean that you and your baby become malnourished.

Ultimately, caring for a newborn baby is physically demanding and it’s crucial to keep your energy levels up. Avoid calorie restricted diets at all costs and focus on a balanced diet coupled with a gentle exercise routine. This will allow your body to steadily return to its pre-pregnancy weight, and ensure you and your baby remain healthy and happy.

Do I need any essential vitamins after giving birth? 

Many women suffer from anaemia after pregnancy. You can increase your iron levels through supplementation, but always check with your health worker first. Incorporating lean meats, leafy vegetables, dried fruits, and fresh nuts into your diet should naturally boost your iron levels. It’s also important to keep your Vitamin D and C levels up. Vitamin C can be readily found in citrus fruits, broccoli, tomatoes and peppers. The best source of vitamin D is summer sunlight on your skin.  The amount of time you need in the sun to make enough vitamin D is different for every person.  However, you don’t need to sunbathe: the amount of sun you need to make enough vitamin D is less than the amount that causes tanning or burning. Vitamin D can be found naturally in oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel and sardines), eggs and meat. However the levels found in foods are often insufficient, so it may be worth consulting your health worker about Vitamin D supplements post pregnancy.

Expert advice about nutrition following pregnancy is available from AXA PPP healthcare’s ‘Ask the Experts’ service, where you’ll receive a response to any medical question from an expert within a couple of days.

How did you deal with your own postnatal nutrition?  

Do you think women are pressurised to snap back into shape right after birth?  How do you think that you will approach your own weight loss after having a baby? 

*In collaboration with AXA PPP healthcare

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