I’ve been wanting to write Archie’s birth story since the moment he was born. However, I have barely been able to string two words together let alone write in punctuated paragraphs. Eight weeks later, while Charlotte and Archie are asleep, I’m giving it a go. It is actually a breath of fresh air to be sitting in front of my laptop, with a fresh cup of coffee, peace and quiet and the chance to think.
Archie arrived six days late. Yes, you heard me, I was overdue. He probably would have arrived into this world even later but after a week of being teased with Braxton Hicks (false contractions) and ringing my parents, who were on standby to look after Charlotte, each evening to tell them that this could be the night, I got impatient and overwhelmed by anxiety.
On Saturday, 9th July, I was convinced the baby wasn’t moving as much as normal. By lunchtime, Connor and I decided it was best to go and get checked out.
I patted the dogs and kissed Charlotte goodbye, then eagerly waited for Connor to return from my parents’ house before we set off. It was a strange, surreal feeling, that brought tears to my eyes, seeing Charlotte drive away, knowing next time I saw her I would hopefully be with her baby brother. I busied myself with plumping cushions and last minute tidying, i.e. moving things from one end of the table to the other. Everything looked perfect and in its right place. There was no more nesting to do.
I had longed to go into natural labour, to have the exciting drive to the hospital when the baby was on its way, as opposed to the terrifying drive when my waters broke more than three months too early with the twins. This time round was the opposite to what I had envisaged. It was a very relaxed drive, traffic lights treated us to green nearly every time and we arrived at Leeds General Infirmary in no time at all. I was planned to be induced on the Monday so I had already made up my mind that if offered, I would be induced that day.
As we walked into the Maternity Assessment Unit I was greeted by the Healthcare Assistant with whom I had become good friends during my time on the antenatal ward when I was pregnant with the twins. I also recognised that the midwife who was looking after me helped to administer the horrendous magnesium sulphate drip I had in the hope of aiding the girls’ brain development before I was rushed into theatre. It’s amazing what my mind can remember of those traumatic times. I felt that these were all signs that it was the right time to have this baby.
The heartbeat monitors showed Archie was fast asleep. This reassured me that I was right in thinking I hadn’t felt him move as much as he was having a sleepy day and confirmed it was the right thing to get his heart rate monitored. The midwife successfully managed a cervical sweep and, as I was five days overdue, I agreed to being induced that day.
After delivering my twin girls three months early by an emergency caesarean, I felt robbed of giving birth naturally and was determined to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) with this baby. After a very long, emotional and anxious nine months I couldn’t believe it was actually happening.
Because of the risk of my caesarean scar opening, I was to go straight through to the delivery suite. I was greatly relieved by this, as the alternative option was to go to Ward C, L44, the antenatal unit where I had previously spent seventeen days before Charlotte and I caught an infection. I was anxious about experiencing frightening flashbacks of my pregnancy with the twins, or just longing for Esme.
With the biggest smile across my face, I practically skipped through to the delivery suite. This bambino was on his way!
While I busied myself with my hospital bag, Connor checked out the view from our window. He was quick to point out that the room overlooked the neonatal unit and soon spotted the family room, the room where we spent the last twelve hours of Esme’s life. This made me feel quite sick and at that point I’d rather not have been reminded that the neonatal unit was only a stone’s throw away.
It was late afternoon and the induction wasn’t planned until after handover, when the night team took over. Connor and I went to the local Tesco to get treats in for tea, including my beloved French Fancies.
At 9pm I was induced and had a pessary inserted. I had heard just one positive experience about being induced from one my girlfriends but this was enough to persuade me that everything would be ok. I was aware that induction could be a long process.
As there was nowhere for Connor to sleep and we were advised that nothing was likely to happen before morning, we decided the best thing was for him to go home and I’d ring if anything happened during the night. At 10pm we said goodbye to one another. I sat down on my bed, gave my bump a hug and whispered “just you and me now bumpy”.
I changed into my favourite nightie, the one which I had packed with so much hope, imagined giving birth in and having my first cuddles with my son. I felt quite emotional and was grateful for my wriggly bump for company. I looked out of the window at the neonatal unit and found the family room. I remembered the sunlight streaming through the window and cradling Esme in my arms, seeing her little face go grey and then come back to life again. I silently cried. I was looking at the place where Esme had lived her life. I felt so close to her, had so many memories, yet I was so frightened of returning there in a matter of hours and experiencing my life filled with fear all over again. The midwife entered the room and I explained my tears. She was wonderful, gave me a much needed motherly hug and when I searched for an explanation for my feelings she replied it was probably very surreal for me. She was spot on.
For the past month I’d been practising hypnobirthing so got out my lavender spray to try to help me stay calm. Of course, I wasn’t thinking properly and sprayed it lavishly all over my pillow. Five minutes later I lay down and my eyes started streaming. I’d drowned my pillow in the spray and now couldn’t see a bloody thing. How embarrassing if the midwife was to walk in now?!
By 2am, I remembered what period cramps felt like. Over the next few hours my contractions began to get worse. I kept on waddling to the reception desk searching for my midwife to find out if this was all normal. I was in a lot of pain. The midwife examined me again and I was delighted to hear that the pessary had worked but was gutted that I was still only 2cm dilated. During the examination, she removed the pessary and tried to give me another cervical sweep. I warned her that I felt sick, quickly followed by “I’m going to be sick.” I was desperate to scream at her to kindly remove her fingers out of me asap!! Seconds later, I’d covered her, my favourite nightie and was devastated to find out my favourite hair bobble had fallen into the middle of it. It’s the little things, hey? Between contractions, I managed to text Connor to set off. Don’t ask me why I didn’t just ring him.
At 4am the midwife announced it was time to go through to the delivery suite. I was now sporting a stylish hospital gown and had no idea it had no back in it until I pulled my wedgie out on the way back from the toilet. Ah my dignity, I’ll see you soon.
The contractions had upped their game and I was sucking on the gas and air like there was no tomorrow. I did my best to remember the breathing techniques I had learnt during hypnobirthing. I had also got quite cross with Connor that he hadn’t returned my text. “What the hell was he doing and where the hell is he?” I thought, frustrated. At 5am, I couldn’t wait any longer and between contractions I decided to phone him. I only managed “You need to come in.” before abandoning my phone as the next set of painful contractions began. I later found out that this was when Connor saw my message and set off in a frenzy with no idea what stage of labour I was in. Sorry Con!!
By the time Connor arrived at half 7, I was mooing like a cow and high on gas and air. I was however, extremely relieved to see my sweaty, very panicked husband.
We were introduced to our new midwife and it wasn’t long before I asked what other pain relief was available. I was examined again and after seven hours of contractions, there was no way I could deliver a baby if I was in this much pain and only 2cm dilated. I asked for an epidural. Connor did a great job keeping me calm and holding my glass of water in between contractions while I waited for the anaesthetist to arrive.
The consultant arrived on ward round and it was the same man who delivered Charlotte and Esme. I liked him and remembered how he made me laugh during a very terrifying time. He started talking to me just as another contraction started and I shouted in his face. I later apologised and he laughed and told me not to worry, he’d heard much worse. I was to be started on the drip.
It felt like an eternity waiting for the anaesthetist to finish in theatre before seeing me. I asked the midwife if she could go and see where she was as I was getting desperate for this pain to stop. It was 10am by the time the anaesthetist arrived and told me I was lucky as they just had enough time to squeeze me in before returning to theatre.
Oh my goodness me! The relief when that epidural kicked in. Halleluyah! Within minutes, I was back to my normal self, no longer sounding like a wild animal in pain and able to talk. I could still feel a bit of pain from the contractions on my right side and had lost all ability to move my left leg yet my right leg was still functioning.
Over the next few hours I had a great time, I was smiling, laughing and enjoying the conversations with Connor and the midwife. It was Connor’s job to get me water and move my left leg. We spent hours proudly talking about Charlotte and Esme and our time on the neonatal unit.
By 2pm, I began to experience different contractions. The midwife examined me again and was surprised to find out I had gone from 2cm to fully dilated in the space of four hours. I was in absolute awe of my body and my baby. While I had been happily and pain free, chit chatting away, my body and baby had been cleverly working together. Wow, amazing! I loved that I knew what was happening from my online hypnobirthing course by ‘The Positive Birth Company’. The midwife announced excitedly it was nearly time to push. I couldn’t wait to tell Connor when he returned from lunch.
I think he was quite shocked to find out I was ready to start pushing. Connor and the midwife held each leg and I had a go at doing my first push. It wasn’t very successful as I got the giggles. I couldn’t believe it. I was actually giving birth to my baby. This was it. In a matter of minutes, maybe hours, I was going to meet him.
By the time it came round to pushing again, my head was in the game. I imagined I was back in a rowing boat, in the biggest race I had ever entered. I closed my eyes, held my breath and pushed until I was blue in the face. The midwife, who I think was as competitive as me, congratulated me on how great I was doing and that it was me who was now moving my baby out. I felt very proud of my body and ready to give it my all in the next round of contractions. I couldn’t believe that my baby was so close that I could feel his head. That in itself was a strange experience and I wasn’t going to feel it at first but then I thought “oh sod it, I might not get to do this again.” I only felt the top of his head once but that was enough to make me push harder.
Prior to labour and at the start of pushing, Connor was absolutely adamant he was not going down the head end. “Absolutely no way,” he declared. However, after several pushes, his arms were beginning to tire and suffer (poor Connor!) from supporting my legs and needed to use his body for me to rest my feet on. This meant he was facing the head end. I found this amusing as he was dead against it but had no choice. It did in fact really help me to push harder, especially when he and the midwife started cheering me on that they could see baby and I was so close. He might have another story about what he was actually thinking!
When it came to the last few pushes, I started to get really emotional. I had done it, I had grown and given birth to a baby. The epidural only took the pain away but I felt every magical movement. As I gave my last push, I watched as my baby boy was born. It was the most incredible moment of my life. Everything I had hoped and dreamt for became my reality.
I then started to panic as I watched the midwife pat him and move him around that he was not crying or making any sound. But sure enough he was breathing fine and was just perfect. I’ll never forget the wonderful feeling of my first cuddle. The cherished moment of Connor by my side and me holding my baby safely in my arms (not to mention the tremendous tea and toast).
Archibald James Campbell was born on the 10th June, at 2:47pm, weighing 8lb 7oz.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank both of my amazing midwives. Connor and I will forever be grateful for how incredible they were, the way they made us feel so happy, relaxed and above all safe. Thank you!