Before I share my story, let me just start by saying that I had an incredibly positive birth experience and really weirdly (might totally be the hormones) I even get nostalgic about it. So my story should hopefully only be one encourages women and doesn’t put anyone off! During my pregnancy I was always asking as many women as possible to share their birth stories with me. I didn’t even mind hearing the bad ones. Because however painful it may be, most women end up having more than one child so I always thought how bad can it really be? With a first baby I think the thing that scared me the most was the not knowing part and the unpredictable nature of childbirth. I can be quite obsessive compulsive and organised as a person, so I spent a lot of time thinking about the “when will it happen?”, “how long will it take?” and “how painful will it be?” questions but eventually realised it was useless because what will be will be. We decided very early on that we wanted to do the birth privately at The Chelsea & Westminster hospital – they have a private wing called The Kensington Wing and because so much of the labour is unpredictable I thought well I at least want to choose my consultant and have continuity of care throughout my pregnancy. I found an amazing consultant who always made me feel safe both during my pregnancy and during the labour and once we have more children I will definitely be going back to her again!
So for the actual story now…On Tuesday 28th June (at this point I was 39 weeks and 3 days and it was one day after our 1 year wedding anniversary) I went for my regular weekly appointment with my consultant and when she examined me she said I was already 2cm dilated which was amazing. She said we may as well try to get the labour started as my due date was only 4 days away so she did something called a cervical sweep which can kick start the contractions (perhaps the most unpleasant part of the entire experience!) When I was leaving the appointment she told me that she might see me later in the day and if not then she will book me in for an induction on the Thursday morning (meaning she will break my waters.) I left the appointment and it was the strangest feeling knowing that by Thursday (or Friday if I had a really long labour) I would meet our baby girl. I didn’t really know what to do with myself so I just did what was normal to me and shot my outfit for the day!
I felt excited, nervous, in some ways relieved as by this point I was so big and uncomfortable that I couldn’t sleep more than 3 hours a night, but also a bit sad about the fact that my first pregnancy journey was coming to an end. Back in September, after enjoying a long holiday-filled summer together post-wedding, my husband and I decided to start trying for a baby. We got lucky in that it happened immediately but if I am really honest when it happened I wasn’t ready. Of course I felt excited the moment I took a pregnancy test and saw the positive sign but I was also filled with mixed emotions about it and focused a lot on how my life would change, not what having a child would add to my life. I also got very bad morning sickness and the tiredness was out of control so all-in-all the first 10 weeks weren’t great. But when we went for a scan at 10 weeks (we did something called a Harmony Test at the Fetal Medical Centre) and I saw photos of our baby, something inside me changed. I knew then that I wanted to protect our baby more than anything I had ever wanted and the love only grew from that day. Pregnancy changed me a lot as a person in the most positive ways; I became much more confident in myself, felt at ease and wasn’t afraid to speak my mind (not always a good thing haha!) and I felt an enormous amount of love for the baby that was growing inside me. My second trimester (which began just in time for our honeymoon) was amazing; I had so much energy, I was able to continue my workouts, I started to see my bump and eventually feel our baby girl squirming around, and in terms of my blog I could start dressing my bump which was a new and exciting development and challenge. It also created a bond between my husband and I which was even more special than anything we had ever had before. So on that Tuesday as I shot my outfit I felt a pang of sadness knowing that it would be the second to last or final look that I would shoot with our baby Mila inside of me. Isn’t it funny how life works? It took me 10 weeks to fully embrace pregnancy and then by the end I didn’t want it to be over!
That night I started feeling contractions. They weren’t particularly unpleasant; they just felt like bad period pains and my stomach would tighten which just felt strange. We thought that night that I was going into labour and both got really excited. All the bags were packed and we fully expected to go to hospital the next day so my husband stayed at home with me and waited. And waited. And waited. And nothing. We sat around and neither of us really knew what to do with ourselves, knowing it could start at any point… or that the contractions could go away again and I would have to wait until the next morning. In the end nothing happened, but it was a really special day because it was the last day we would spend just the two of us. We have been together for 7 years and are so used to each other and spend all the time we can together. Having a baby would of course change that in some ways so it was really lovely to have that day just for us. The next morning we woke up, took a taxi with our bags to the Chelsea & Westminster hospital and they got me set up in a room. At 9am my consultant came in and broke my waters. It was pretty much pain free and very quick. She then told me that I should go for a walk as its always good to have gravity work its magic so we walked along the Fulham Road, had some food and within about 20 minutes I started to feel my contractions much more. At this point I was getting contractions approximately every 4-5 minutes but I found them totally manageable.
I had spoken to the woman who owns the company we found our maternity nurse through earlier in the week and she recommended an essential oil called Clary Sage. She had three amazing births and used only Clary Sage as a form of pain relief. I always thought that I will most likely have an epidural but I wanted to see what it would feel like without for as long as possible so I went out and bought a massive bottle of Clary Sage. My husband massaged the oil into my hands and at first I thought that it was a miracle worker. The entire room smelled like a garden greenhouse haha but I was totally convinced that I would be able to go through the entire labour using only the essential oil for pain relief. I think even the midwife thought I was a bit loopy. Fast forward five hours and my contractions were happening every 1-2 mins, I was 5cm dilated and I was in absolute agony. The thing is if you relax your body when you have a contraction you are able to breathe through it but as soon as you tense up it feels like you cannot get through the pain it is so unbearable. Every other contraction I was fine but then I would feel so much and for me the most difficult part was the not knowing how long the labour would be. If I knew it was another hour I think mentally I could have handled it and not had the epidural, but I worried that it might take another 24 hours and I just wouldn’t be able to take pain for that amount of time. I tried using gas and air but I don’t like the feeling of inhaling something into my lungs and it also made me nauseous which is my worst nightmare! I was in so much agony that I asked for my husband to call my mother and I asked for the anaesthesiologist to come as soon as possible. Within 15 minutes I was pain free (he gave me a spinal injection first and then did the epidural) and by the time my mother arrived I was blissfully lying in my bed reading a magazine. I really have so much respect for women (including my own mother) who go through labour without an epidural, but I think if its available to you why not have it. For my next labour I plan on having it as soon as I feel the first contraction because I don’t think there is any need to put yourself and your body through unnecessary pain if you don’t need to. But I am glad that I experienced the actual pain of the contractions so I wasn’t left wondering what they were like – they just went very quickly from zero to 100 and I reached a limit where I couldn’t handle it any longer.
At around 5pm my doctor did another internal examination and by this point I was 9cm dilated; I was SO happy and expected to be pushing by 6pm. My mother left around this time because I felt the pushing and arrival of Mila would be a very special moment that I wanted to share with just my husband. Because of the epidural I wasn’t very mobile so I was lying on the bed strapped into a machine that monitored both Mila’s heart rate and my contractions. My husband popped out for the first time all day to get some food and just in that moment (typical!) when I was alone with my midwife (the consultant only pops in and out unless something happens) I heard the heart rate on the monitor drop. And it kept dropping. The midwife then very calmly told me that she was going to press a button and a lot of people were going to rush into the room but that I shouldn’t worry. All I wanted to do was call my husband to tell him to come back into the room but I didn’t have time as all of sudden they had strapped an oxygen mask to my face and the next 10 minutes were a bit of a blur. Her heart rate went back to normal within a few minutes (that seemed like hours) and my consultant reassured me that everything was ok but that clearly Mila didn’t like the position I was in and we should try to lay me on my side. She didn’t leave the room again until Mila was born and I spent the next 6 hours on my side. When my husband came back into the room I was so incredibly relieved (and he was so shocked seeing all these people in the room and not knowing why!)
The next four hours turned into the most agonising waiting game. My contractions slowed down (I have no idea why!) and I developed a fever (also no idea why but I can only think it was from the shock of her heart rate dropping.) My consultant knew that the only thing I REALLY didn’t want was a caesarian section (I wanted to experience a vaginal birth and I also didn’t want to have to go through the long recovery after a caesarian) but she told me that I had to be open to it being a possibility. She said they would closely monitor Mila’s heart rate and my temperature but that she would have to give me antibiotics for my fever. I was scared because my primary concern was for the baby but luckily I was in no pain and for the next few hours I drifted in and out of sleep. This allowed my body to get some rest so that if I did end up pushing her out I would have some energy left. A few hours later she did another internal examination but unfortunately I was still at 9cm – it was as if my body had completely shut down and my contractions had disappeared. My consultant said that she would give me a hormone drip to try to get the contractions started again but that if by 11pm I wasn’t fully dilated (10cm) then she would have to go ahead and deliver Mila by caesarian section as there was no point in waiting endlessly. I felt so disappointed and angry at myself that I had made it this far but that this stubborn 1cm just wasn’t happening! And that I had been very relaxed about my birth plan but that the ONLY thing I didn’t want now seemed like a legitimate possibility. The next two hours were just strange – the room definitely had a very tense atmosphere to it and everyone was unusually quiet. My husband kept reassuring me that whatever happened it would be ok (btw he was the most amazing birthing partner ever!) but deep down I just felt this huge disappointment with myself even though I knew it was nothing I had done. With the epidural even though you have no pain from the waist down you can still feel the pressure of the contractions and between 9pm and 11pm I just couldn’t feel a lot so I was almost ready to give up. 11pm rolled around and I think everyone in the room was thinking the same thing: that we would be heading down to theatre. But to my absolute joy & surprise, when she examined me I was fully dilated and the head was all the way down ready to come out. I was literally elated. Everything then happened really fast – they placed my legs into stirrups, within 4 pushes the head was out and at 11:25pm our baby girl Mila Agnes Wills was born.
That is the unpredictable nature of childbirth – it can all change in a matter of minutes and you never really know what will happen so I think the most important thing is to keep an open mind and trust that you are in safe hands. I am still settling into my role as a mother but Mila is the most incredible baby and has enriched my life (and our life) in so many ways. We spent a few days at the hospital and never really left the room; living in our own little cocoon enjoying our new family. I will always hold those days in my heart. Often in the mornings we bring her into our bed and just stare at her for half an hour- I can’t believe how lucky I am that we created this little miracle and that from now on we are responsible for this magical person. They always say you can’t understand a mothers love until you experience it but it really is true – its 100% unconditional and I am loving every single second of this new chapter of my life xx