OK - so look away now if you're squeamish. But frankly if you're reading a blog about childbirth, I don't know what else you expect!
As previously mentioned, my labour started just a matter of hours after a sweep at my 41 week ante-natal check-up. Pretty painful and unpleasant, but it obviously did the trick. In fact the midwife told me I was already about 2cm dilated and my cervix was very soft, so it really was just a matter of time.
Started getting cramps after we went for a walk and out for some lunch, and by late afternoon they'd turned into definite contractions lasting around 40 seconds every 5 minutes. We attached the TENS machine, and it certainly seemed to help a little - though I'm not 100% convinced that it wasn't more of a placebo effect. Having said that, it got me through to well into the established phase of my labour.
We headed to the hospital at around 8pm, and I'm frankly glad I've never got to go back to that maternity unit ever again. When we arrived at least three midwives told us they thought we should be in the birthing centre as it looked like I wanted a more natural delivery - despite clearly saying on my birth plan that I wanted to be in the delivery ward. They said "but you want to use a birthing pool and there isn't one here" - there bloody well is: we were shown it on our tour a few weeks ago, and then proceeded to walk straight past the room labelled 'Birthing Pool Room' on the way to my labour room.
That pretty much set the tone for the rest of our experience there. We were left on our own for up to 2 hours, while my contractions were getting stronger and stronger, but no one was checking me. I was throwing up a lot - so we saw more of the cleaner than any midwife at that stage as I didn't have a bucket big enough to throw up into. And when we did see any midwives they seemed more concerned with when their next break was or how long left of their shifts.
When a midwife did eventually come to stay with us - Orla - she was next to useless. She couldn't even operate the bed properly and didn't seem to be checking me much at all. Much of the next bit is now a bit of a blur - in fact I'm having to ask OH a lot of what actually happened, as clearly my brain has already blocked the worst bits out!
I was put on permanent monitoring, and also opted for gas and air at this point as the TENS wasn't doing enough for the pain. But as Orla wasn't checking the monitoring devices correctly, which a couple of times had slipped out, she kept insisting I wasn't contracting - when I very much was. As a result it appears she didn't ever realise quite how far dilated I was, and it was getting harder and harder for me to resist the urge to push - probably because I was supposed to be pushing.
Eventually, I was allowed to push - and for an hour and half I kept being told they could see the top of the head, with hair, but our Little Monkey just wasn't coming. A doctor was called in, and decided I need a ventouse delivery, which would require a cut. All things I was really trying to avoid - but knew I had to have if she was to come out safely.
As the decision was made all a bit late, I don't think the anesthetic injection had kicked in enough and for some reason the gas and air was taken away at the later stages of pushing, so I could feel them cutting, OH says I made more noise for that than anything. And then the ventouse failed - twice. Turns out a piece of the equipment was broken, and while a midwife went out to get another piece I managed to push our baby out by myself (albeit with a bit more of a cut).
And out came a beautiful baby girl.
Well, acutally she wasn't so beautiful at first - she pooed EVERYWHERE, lots. So it took quite a while for the midwives to clean her up, and there was a little concern over her heartbeat, but that stabilised. While they were sorting her out, I was being stitched up which took ages, and I had more gas and air for that stage than any other. She screamed for ages and ages - and it was GREAT to hear!
My OH - who throughout the 8 hour labour was an incredible support (giving me water [which I constantly threw up] and dampening me down with a cool flannel [of all the stuff we'd packed to help me through, that proved to be the most useful] eventually got the first cuddles after helping dress her.
While she was being sorted out I made a decision on her name, and when OH brought her over to me I asked him if he had any thoughts. We both agreed that our original, top of the list name for a girl would suit perfectly - so Charlotte Jane it is.
Several hours - and more incompetence and bitching among the midwives later - I was sent down to the shared post-natal ward. I stayed in for about 36 hours in the end - with virtually no sleep. The woman next to me was either howling in pain or snoring ridiculously loudly. Plus Charlotte needed constant feeding to help her off to sleep, but I got there eventually. In fact I surprised myself how well the breastfeeding went right from the start.
I seemed to have the bare minimum of checks from the midwives and doctors - so I was pushing to be discharged as soon as possible. And so on Saturday lunchtime, we took our baby daughter home...