I have a birth story today full of excitement – you literally don’t know what’s going to happen next! This is also the first time I’ve published a story from someone who didn’t have a partner to support them through the scary time of giving birth. The story today is from Emily, from Extra Help, and she shares her journey of becoming a single parent.
Becoming a single parent – Henry’s birth story
It has taken me a while to write this down but my son’s birth is still something I think of quite a lot – I’m not sure if that is normal or not!
When I found out I was pregnant I knew I would be on my own with my child, and that coloured my entire pregnancy no matter how much I tried to be strong or pretend it didn’t. I think I focused so much on the practicalities of being pregnant with no partner (have you ever tried to build nursery furniture at 8months pregnant?!) that I sort of glossed over the giving birth part.
I had received some treatment shortly before becoming pregnant to remove pre-cancerous cervical cells, which meant that I had quite a few bleeds as my pregnancy progressed due to my weakened cervix. It sounds awful, but I had become quite blasé about this, and was used to popping in to the maternity ward for an anti D injection when needed (I am rhesus negative) and an hour or so’s monitoring to check baby was ok. I was warned it was likely I would go into labour early, so I’d been on high alert from about 36 weeks. As it was, the one day I didn’t expect to go into labour was my due day – and as such I think I was in denial for a large part of my labour!
I woke about 5.30am and went for a wee and noticed blood when I wiped. I called the maternity unit and very cheerily announced it was me again with yet another bleed, and I would wander in once I had had a shower. I was going to drive myself in to the hospital but something made me wait till 6am and call my mum to ask if she could come with me. I remember saying to her that she didn’t need to rush, but I just felt a bit weird… Famous last words!
I had a shower and noticed I was having to pause every now and again because I felt strange. It still hadn’t occurred to me that I was in labour! I went down stairs and leant over my birthing ball on all 4’s. The pain was now bad enough that I was scared I wouldn’t be able to get up to open the front door for my mum, and between “feeling weird” (because, remember, I hadn’t twigged I was in labour!) I made a lurch for the door to open it.
My mum arrived and I knew I wouldn’t be able to sit in the front seat, so I got in the back and spent the entire journey on my knees facing the rear window and clutching the head rest of the seat. I remember looking at cars beside me as we were stuck in traffic and thinking they must wonder what the hell I was doing. The pains were increasing at this point, and I really went into myself, which I think scared my mum as I went totally silent. We were at traffic lights by St James Park, and I said to my mum, “I think I will get out here, I need to push so I will go behind a pillar so no one sees”. It seemed totally logical to me that because I wasn’t going to make it to the hospital, there was the next best place to give birth.
Luckily my mum ignored me and we arrived at the hospital just after 7.30am. This was where things started kicking off a bit. When I called the labour ward just 2 hours earlier I was adamant I wasn’t in labour and was coming in because of a bleed. Therefore when I arrived, totally silent and trying not to push, they didn’t actually believe I was in labour. I remember them putting me into a cubicle to wait for a midwife and I went back to reception to beg for someone to help me. The midwife who followed me back actually laughed when I tried to take off all my clothes, and said I was going to struggle with labour if this is what I was doing after a bleed.
I was examined and here is where things get a bit blurry. I was told I was 10cm and I burst into tears because I wanted to be 6cm so that I still had time for an epidural. I felt totally disassociated from what was going on, it felt like it was all happening to someone else.
The midwives put me onto a wheelchair – I say put because I couldn’t sit, so was kneeling on it grabbing the back as they wheeled my down the corridor. We sailed past a load of workmen and the midwives were trying to cover me with a sheet as my mum told me to behave and keep my clothes on!
We got into the delivery suite, and I climbed up onto the bed, and this was where things started to immediately go wrong. My baby was monitored and his heart rate was dropping with each contraction. The nurse pressed a buzzer and the room filled with people as the crash team assembled. A doctor explained that they needed to get my baby out now, and she was going to put me in stirrups, give me an episiotomy and use keloid forceps. I still hadn’t had any pain relief, and she explained that it was now too late, I couldn’t even have gas and air as it would affect my pushing.
I never know how much to say about things at this point, I find it hard to think about, whilst at the same time I sometimes think about it obsessively!
I think up till now I had coped with the pain ok. Don’t get me wrong, it was incredibly painful, but I felt I was coping and it was managable. The doctor numbed me with local anaesthetic and then cut me, something I didn’t feel. Then she used the forceps, which was ironically the one thing I had put in my birth plan that I didn’t want. I remember screaming, but it felt like it was happening to someone else. Henry had become stuck, and needed turning, which was excruciating. A few things that struck me at this time, was the weird sensation of being able to feel my baby moving down inside me, and also of how wide apart my legs needed to be to accommodate getting a baby out. It just hadn’t occurred to me!
After 3 contractions, less than 4 hours after I woke up, Henry Jack was born. He was placed on my tummy for a second, while the doctor cut his cord and then the crash team whisked him away to another corner of the room. I remember apologising to my mum because I had wanted her to cut his cord, and asking her to go to him so he wasn’t alone. It seemed like an eternity before he cried out, and those minutes where they were working on him and the tension in the room grew will stay with me forever.
We transferred from the hospital to my local hospital up at Hexham where we stayed for 4 days. The early days were incredibly hard, because it all felt so surreal, and because the stitching I had was quite extensive my recovery took a good 6 weeks. I think on reflection I probably had a touch of PND, and I was later diagnosed with PTSD relating to his birth.
Henry is now a happy and healthy 2.5 year old, and we are an awesome team just the two of us. I look at him, and know it was worth it…. But he will definitely be an only child!
Thank you Emily
I would have loved it if you had given birth behind a pillar at St James’ Park (Newcastle’s Football Stadium) – that would definitely have made the news!! – but obviously from a safety point of view, I’m glad your mum didn’t let you get out the car! Thank you also for being honest about how you felt after the birth. I think a lot of people might have felt the same but tried to push it out of their minds. It’s so important to talk about PND so others can start to identify it in themselves and get the help they need.