Please introduce yourself and family
I’m Clarissa, mum of Charlie, born in Spain and owner of Charlie’s Footsteps also born here in Spain!
Did you write or discuss a birth preference in preparation?
Yes, the hospital where I chose to have my antenatal appointments and ultimately give birth in (HM Monteprincipe) had a policy of discussing birth plans at around 35 weeks. My doctor saved all my wishes in the system and even asked me some further questions I wasn’t expecting (for example would I like to be shaved before going into active labour? My answer: no! This isn’t an option in the UK and I really didn’t feel the need!). My doctor was happy to spend time discussing all my concerns at this appointment particularly around induction births because my blood pressure was starting to creep up so at this point I knew this was a possibility.
What type of birth did you have?
In the end, by week 39 my blood pressure was indeed quite high. I woke up on my birthday (39 weeks 4 days) and was sure my waters were starting to leek. I spoke to Belen, the midwife I had taken my antenatal course with, and she recommended continuing on with my birthday plans to keep the happy hormones flowing (a meal out with my husband) and monitor the colour of the waters. We went to Hard Rock Cafe that night, and as we were leaving at about midnight, I felt like I wanted to pop into the hospital to check everything was ok. I was monitored for a while and had a quick scan, there was still plenty of fluid around Charlie so they sent me home to get a good sleep. I had my regular weekly appointment with my Doctor the next day anyway.
So at 39 weeks and 5 days at my appointment my blood pressure was high enough to be a concern and the waters surrounding Charlie were at quite a reduced level so my doctor, my husband and I discussed induction. It was very much a dialogue and not a demand on her part, but I felt like it was the right thing to do (and I had actually brought my packed hospital bag to the appointment just in case!) so we were checked in that morning. I was given a tampon style pessary to soften my cervix and start labour. I had brought my own pilates ball and because I had health insurance, I had chosen a private hospital so I had my own room with a sofa bed for my husband. We set up our room and tried to make ourselves as comfortable as possible and waited. We played board games whilst I bounced on my ball. I started getting quite uncomfortable cramps, but with the ball and good breathing techniques I’d learnt on my course with Belen I was able to handle it. At 7pm that evening the midwife came to let us know these contractions weren’t as advanced as they’d hoped at this time, so they removed the pessary and we were advised to get a good night’s sleep, as in the morning I would be starting on the drip to get things going.
On the morning of 39 weeks and 6 days at 8am, I was put on the pitocin drip and things ramped up pretty quickly! I had wanted to go through labour without an epidural, or at least wait until I was about 6cm dilated as I knew it could slow labour down. However, after a few hours I was finding it really hard to handle to contractions and the midwives assured me a pitocin labour was much harder on the body than a natural one, so midmorning I went ahead with the epidural and it was wonderful! I got some good rest for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. The only frustrating thing was not being able to eat due to the medication, so I sent my husband out of the room when he wanted lunch! I was left to labour in peace for most of the day, they asked to examine me at some point in the afternoon and I was 6cm dilated and felt quite good about this. By the later afternoon, my doctor came to speak to me. Charlie was doing fine, he was very happy and I was almost 9cm dilated but he wasn’t coming down the birth canal as she would expect and he was facing the wrong way. This is quite common with an epidural because you’re lying on your back as opposed to actively walking or using the pilates ball as I had hoped. My doctor asked if I could manoeuvre myself to be on all fours for about 20 minutes as this might help Charlie. Cue a hilarious scene of my anaesthetist, a nurse, my doctor and my husband trying to flip me over and get my knees under me to support my weight. I’d been too trigger happy with the epidural drug and had absolutely no control over my own legs!! I was trying to help but just remember dissolving into giggles at their struggle.
The downward dog position didn’t really help with Charlie’s journey down the birth canal but it did manage to knock out the left side of my epidural so I really started to struggle with the pain. I was now officially 9cm and although Charlie was still absolutely fine, my doctor said we needed to get into the pushing now. We wanted to work together to go for a vaginal birth, but she spent time making sure I understood that this may end up in a c-section. At this point I wanted Charlie out quickly and safely so was happy for anything! But I felt informed and in control despite all the interventions at this stage. My husband had to dress in scrubs and I was wheeled to theatre in case more intervention was needed. The room was full of doctors. My doctor and her colleague, some paediatric doctors and nurses and my anaesthetist. But it was also a room full of hope and support. I could fully relax once my husband was scrubbed up and back in the room and then it was all out effort to push as hard as I could. Everyone was so encouraging and I have never worked so hard before or since! Finally Charlie was down enough for my doctor to perform a forceps delivery and he was safely out. He had the cord around his neck a few times so after a super quick check over by the paediatrics, he was on my chest for skin to skin whilst my doctor repaired my episiotomy.
After trying the downward dog position, I had to go back to lying on my back and try out some practice pushes. This is when I realised the epidural had stopped working on my left side and the pain was indescribable. I couldn’t catch my breath let alone try to push (later I also realised this was my transition moment, when your body prepares to change from contractions to open the cervix to contractions for pushing) and I spiralled into a panic. The doctor and anaesthetist were amazing and supportive but it was only the quiet words and touch from my husband that could help. He knew exactly how to bring my calm breathing back with just a few simple words. I still get emotional thinking about this moment over a year later. Without him by my side at that point I wouldn’t have got through it.
Best thing you packed in your hospital bag (or used if you were at home)?
Spritz for Bitz. As mentioned I had a small episiotomy which needed an awful lot of stitches and also a natural graze that was able to heal without stitches. I used this amazing spritz (there are also some amazing recipes for you to make at home) with natural ingredients including Lavender Oil which is a natural pain reliever, tea tree oil for its antibacterial properties and witch hazel which promotes healing. I used it after every time I peed and it was heavenly.
I regret not packing a nursing pillow as I feel this would have really helped on that first day of breastfeeding.
Anything else you want to share?
When I first found out I was pregnant I was adamant that I wanted an elective c-section. During the pregnancy my opinion changed for many reasons. But the main thing I have learnt is that I am passionate about CHOICE. I think every pregnant woman should have access to all the information she wants to make a decision about her body and her birth. I hear about doctors going ahead with procedures without discussing it with the labouring person and it makes me so angry. I want to support every pregnant woman to make an informed choice with every decision throughout her pregnancy and birth wherever they choose to give birth.