A Positive in all the Negative

“I know it sounds strange mum, but I’m happy”

Shortly after I gave birth to Leo (well, 10 hours but time flies) our families came to visit and I remember telling my mum that I was happy. I know that sounds like a bizarre thing to say, the day I delivered my sleeping son, but in some ways I was. It may have been the left over epidural, codeine, gas & air plus the effects of being awake for hours – but there was an element of me that was. Still, three weeks later to the day – I am so thankful that our labour was a positive experience, with no regrets – other than the silent outcome.

Here is our labour story. I want to share it in the hope that others can know that it is possible for labour to not be traumatic when stillbirth is the known outcome. Even if just one person gets some sense of comfort, it’s worth sharing. We were so unbelievably scared the two days before that if I had known what I know now, that fear may not have been so intense.

Don’t get me wrong, the day we found out Leo had passed away will forever haunt me. The day after was a surreal blur of shock and despair. The morning before labour started was full of fear, apprehension and silence. Maybe I’ll go into that detail another day… But from the moment we got to delivery suite we were able to “own” this experience and made the decision, subconsciously, that if this was how this had to go down, we’d make it what we wanted it to be.

Our movements around the hospital were handled with care and consideration from the staff, so we were taken via the staff route from the bereavement ward to our delivery suite room. One that was carefully placed, so that we only once heard a baby cry or a woman scream. We didn’t leave that room for 24 hours. It became our cocoon. Our safety net.

An hour or so after getting settled we started the induction process that we’d discussed only a week before in our NCT session. I’d just like to declare now that this “process” is not pleasant and I’m surprised more midwives don’t end up with trips to A&E mid-shift. We chatted, joked, laughed, gossiped about the imagined life’s of the midwives, hugged, danced and snacked on kitkats, whilst I very mildly started the beginnings of contractions. We instantly adored our midwife. She put us at ease, understood our humour and asked all about us and Leo. We even decided to name a toy orangutan (Leo’s only teddy), who had become our safety blanket, after her – much to her delight.

At shift change, they introduced our next midwife. Sadly, we had no more toys to name after her. They offered us a choice of two midwives, one of whom came with a second year student. We consented to the student attending – they have to learn after all. She was equally as incredible as her mentor, and despite having never experienced a full term stillbirth before, she managed the situation with confidence and professionalism.

Shortly after our new pair took over, my contractions went from zero to one-hundred. There was no more dancing, that’s for sure. But there was plenty of gas & air! Contractions came quick and fast and with that, so did my “humour”. This is my favourite bit of our labour story – we even said at the time… “This is normal labour”. 

My favourite moments were:

  • Declaring that I’d be a rubbish bulimic (then stage whispering to N that I hoped the midwives weren’t bulimic… Because that would be awkward!)
  • Constantly telling N that she had horribly bad breath
  • Not wanting to go to the toilet, because I’d seen someone go on One Born and the baby fell out… Apparently that doesn’t normally happen!
  • When asking for an epidural, exclaiming quite loudly to N that “they are going to say it’s too late, they always say it’s too late!!” when I was still only 3cm
  • Telling the anaethetist that the phrase “Hurry the F- up springs to mind” when he was seemingly faffing with my epidural
  • When my epidural was failing & the anaesthetist was trying to work out why, stage whispering (again!) to the midwife that “between you and me, I don’t think it’s working – he must have gone to a different school to you and me..!”

After back to back contractions, I finally got an epidural. I have zero shame in having an epidural and would happily do it again if needs be. I feel I had enough time to fully understand the joy of contractions, and equally fully understand the joy of epidurals! I was on so much gas & air by this point I have little visual memory. I had no idea how I was meant to signal the start and end of contractions, because they just didn’t ever stop, but before I knew it, it was in.

Slowly, it had an effect. Loosing the feeling in my legs was as strange and as disconcerting as I imagined it to be. Having three people help move me around the bed was also just as flattering as it sounds. But the trade off was worth it. Unfortunately, as slowly as the epidural worked, it wore off again – and my Bane impression resumed with the help of more gas & air. Some time passed and eventually they discovered it was only blocking one side of me, and I needed to lie on one side for it to move across. Cue more man handling…

Once I was fully topped up with epidural, it was time for a cat nap, for us both. Just before we nodded off, I chatted to the midwives about what would be next if I didn’t dilate enough. I had two more pessaries due and then they would have left me for 12hours to rest, before starting a drip. The thought of dragging this out and delaying our families more so was not welcomed, but we just had to wait and see.

Half hour later, a bit of shut eye and I was due for some observations and my most favourite activity… Another pessary *shudder*. Except, I didn’t need one. The midwife explained that she was off to get her cart as Leo was nearly here! N had a peep at his head, full of dark hair, and we got rather excited to now finally be at a point of being able to meet our son! Another midwife joined us and watched and coached me through twenty minutes of pushing all whilst I was excitedly leaning forward to try and see over my soon to disappear pregnancy bump.

They asked again, if we wanted to see and hold him – making sure we had options, without judgement. I wanted him straight away and I’m glad that I did. Equally, I completely understand why others may not feel ready straight away, or at all.

After he was born, they offered to clean him up a bit and to dress him. Equally, they offered us the chance to do it. We were happy for them too, as we understood his skin would be fragile and we felt they were best suited. An experienced care assistant came and supported us, organised his cold cot, helped us hold him, cleaned and dressed him – making sure we could see everything. He only left me for a short period, when her and N went into another room (with our agreement) to take some photos. They wanted to get some for us as soon as possible and they were put onto a memory stick supplied by SANDS for us to take home.

The usual post labour activities ensued and eventually we were allowed back to the bereavement suite, again carefully escorted away from other families. The only delay in us leaving delivery suite was my misbehaving bladder courtesy of the epidural…

Nothing, with the exception of Leo not filling the room with his cries, was different to what I can only imagine his labour would have been like – if it was induced of course – had he been alive. We were due to give birth on the delivery suite anyway as a result of our IVF level care, but we were midwife led from our point of view. I am so pleased with this – our memories and stories are comparable to others. It was normal and not defined by stillbirth. Yes, he was born sleeping – but he is still our son, and finally having him in our arms took the past two days of worry away. That was a small relief from all the despair.

One of my favourite moments was a care assistant coming in the room, to help us go upstairs, and saying “congratulations!” Now, I’m not sure she understood the difference in our situation and had she, I’m not sure she’d have said it. But for me, 10 hours post birth, high and delirious – I loved her saying that to me. She is the only person to say congratulations and that just iced off our (near) normal labour story.

We were parents. I’d delivered. Used my yoga breathing. Swore. Was rude. Caved for an epidural. Tore. Succeeded at not wetting myself. Held my baby. Lost all manor of dignity. Threw up. All perfectly normal labour memories. 

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