Ella's Birth Story

Ella is 6 weeks old now! She is also 7 lbs 15 oz and 21 inches long, if you're interested. It's completely crazy. I am so thankful that the UK has such great flexibility regarding maternity leave. I can't imagine having to go back to work now - if I weren't unemployed- like most of my friends in the US have done.

I wanted to tell people how she got here because I have friends who are childbirth educators and midwives and generally nice moms who really like to hear about that sort of thing. Also, I'm quite proud really, and I want to get it all down before I completely forget. I'm not going to go into detail about the gory stuff like some folks do, and I'm certainly not going to post pictures. I didn't even let Josh TAKE pictures.

First, I've posted about when I went into hospital at 32 weeks. I had an infection that caused pre-term labour and an "irritable uterus". In the time between 32 weeks and her birth at 38 weeks 4 days, I did lots of research on irritable uterus. Some midwives call it prodromal labour because it's painful, drawn out and often last for ages before the baby arrives. Most doctors that I saw just said "Oh, it's Braxton-Hicks." I personally don't know anyone else that had to have codeine-laced pain relievers on a regular basis for Braxton-Hicks.

Basically, every night, from about 33 weeks until I delivered, I had contractions from 5-10 minutes apart (and often 3-5 minutes apart). They were painful, often so much so that I was bent double, having to breathe through them. You can see how this would be confusing, considering the advice for going to the hospital is: Go in when your contractions are painful and less than 5 minutes apart.

This is why I went to hospital at least 3 times before actually giving birth. It was so depressing to go in and not be able to go home with a baby. At one point, I had to call the Perinatal Mental Health Service who were caring for me. I wasn't getting any sleep because of the contractions, and the situation was getting a bit dire for me, really. A few people said, "Well, the lack of sleep is good practice for when the baby is here!" However, for someone with bipolar disorder, it can be an easy trigger for depressive episodes. I couldn't afford to be ill when the baby came along, so they got me an appointment with the higher-up obstetric consultant at our maternity hospital.

For the folks in the US, in England, pregnancy and births are midwife-led rather than doctor-led, so seeing the obstetrician is a pretty big deal. I also had high blood pressure, which they were even more concerned about than the contractions.

I went in to the obstetric clinic on Wednesday, the 18th of January, and after the consultant looks at my chart and talked to my psychiatrist, they decided to induce me as soon as possible. The midwife did a sweep, and I was already 3 cm! She was the first one to admit that maybe, MAYBE I was actually having real contractions that whole time. I stayed in the hospital overnight (AGAIN), and the next afternoon they had a space for me to be induced.

We went from the antenatal ward (where I was very familiar to everyone-they were glad to finally see me going to have this baby!) down to the delivery suite, where I met my midwife, Hanna, and a student doctor named Mo. They asked if it was okay for him to observe and do most of the work, and in the spirit of teaching, I was all for it. My brother-in-law, Sam, is a medical student only two years behind this guy, and I figured I was enriching the education of someone, so why not?

Mo tried to break my waters, but it was difficult, so the midwife did it (she was a lot rougher). Then, they started a Pitocin/Syntocinon drip just after at around 5 pm. I really, really wanted to walk around a bit after the waters were broken, just to see if I would go into labour naturally, but the doctor-in-charge said that she'd rather I had the drip, just because I'd gone so long without sleep at this point, and she thought it would still be 10-12 hours.

I started to have stronger contractions almost immediately after they started the drip. I bounced on the birthing ball and Josh rubbed my back a lot, which helped hugely with the pain. Also, gas and air helped. I went to the bathroom a few times, and almost didn't make it at one point, it was hurting so much. Ella was back-to-back, and between that and the Pitocin, it was ROUGH.

When I came back from the bathroom, they wanted to monitor the baby and my blood pressure, and I was HATING lying on the bed. It was way more painful. At this point, I said, "I want an epidural." The midwife was sweet, but she wanted to see if pethidine (Demerol) would help. Bring it on! After 15 minutes, it had taken the edge off, but it was driving me crazy that I couldn't get up while they were monitoring me. It's super hard to be still when someone is trying to get out of your body, as it turns out.

In case you're keeping track (I was not), this was about 7 pm, only two hours since they'd started the oxytocin drip. I was BEGGING Josh for the epidural, so he sweetly offered to read me the sheet on epidurals between contractions. He basically said, "I don't think that you need it, you can do it." It was sometime around this point that the midwife put a clip on baby's head and checked me. I was 9 cm!

I realised then that there was not going to be an epidural, and I got a bit frantic. The pethidine made me feel a bit dopey, and I was crying because I just knew I was going to have to have the baby, and there was not going to be any more pain relief. Josh and the midwife gave me a 30 second "get a grip" speech, and then I pushed. Well, I breathed.

The only thing that I could remember from my birth preparation and prenatal yoga class was the teacher saying "You don't have to push too much. Breathe deeply and slowly downwards and your uterus will push baby out on its own." She used the image of a coffee press, and that was all that was in my head at the moment. I didn't really feel like I was pushing, but she was definitely coming! Two "pushes" and she was out. The student doctor, Mo, caught her.

Before I went into labour, I told the midwife that I was not into all the gross stuff and to please clean the baby with a towel before they put her on me, and she laughed. Turns out, I didn't care in the least. She was lovely! I was so confused and high!

Seriously, I was really thinking, "Is that her? Did I just have a baby?" It was the sweetest and strangest moment ever. A whole new person was inside me, then moments later, she was in the room.

Then, I delivered the placenta, and Josh cooked it for me to eat.

JUST KIDDING! I wanted to see if you were paying attention.

All in all, the labour was 2 1/2 hours, which is remarkable, considering she was a first baby, and she was back-to-back as well. She latched on the boob almost immediately, and they gave us some time alone with her right after delivery, which was really nice.

I wasn't planning to give her any more than that first feed because of the bipolar and my medication, but for some reason, I did. I've kept on even through a lot of awfulness at about 10-14 days that I'd rather forget, and I'm really proud that I've been able to breastfeed her this long. The psychiatrist says it's okay with my medicine, and I haven't had to increase the dose because of PPD, which would definitely stop the breastfeeding. That's been a blessing.

The biggest blessing? My little Ella Mary. She is so sweet! In fact, she smiled at me yesterday, which does, weirdly, make it all worth it.


  1. That you guys came out to meet us in Salisbury was so great, and I'm so glad to have met her (and Josh, finally!) and to have been able to see you. You guys are lovely together, all three of you. :-)


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