He's here!!!!! I say he because we always knew he was going to be a boy. Or at least we were told it was 85% sure that he would be. We decided to find out the sex but keep it a secret for a couple of different reasons but mainly because there were a lot of mixed opinions about whether or not we should and some family members didn't want to know if we found out so it was easier to have a little secret. We found out at the 20 week anatomy scan and it made it all seem very real. We also picked his name around that time - it's Billy by the way, and it suits him SO much. He's named after his Grandad Byrne who is also Billy, and his Great Grandfather Byrne was Billy also (well, Bill more specifically). We loved knowing the sex and it meant we could buy some really cute baby boy clothes when we went to Las Vegas when I was 28 week's pregnant. It was definitely difficult to hide a suitcase full of gorgeous baby clothes for the rest of the pregnancy but now we can finally showcase them on our beautiful little Billy. Yep, Baby Byrne is now Billy Byrne, or Billy Bear as he has been most commonly referred too. He's been in our lives since 9th June at 13.34pm and I can say with absolute confidence that no moment in either of our lives will ever top the euphoric happiness we felt in the moment he was born and placed on to my chest. So... shall I tell you how it all went down? Grab a cuppa, this is a long one.
Disclaimer : this is a birth story, if you don't want to know then you should stop reading now.
I was totally sure that I was going to go early. I've since realized that it was probably wishful thinking. The sonographer in the hospital had told us that he would be about 9 pounds so maybe I was scared that he would be huge if I went over, but I really thought I would have him before his due date which was 31st May 2014. All along my mother kept telling me he would be a June baby, and he was. To anyone who has been pregnant and gone over their due date (which is a lot of people) you will probably relate to how endless every single day feels once you pass the 40 week mark. Days feel like weeks. Every single morning you wake up thinking 'this is it, it HAS to happen today' and then another day passes and you go to bed full sure that tomorrow will be the day. And then another day passes... It's such a strange feeling because you are so excited but at the same time you are incredibly anxious and nervous. You want to keep busy to try and be active and speed things up, and so days go that little bit quicker, and at the same time you want to be home where it's safe and familiar in case it's suddenly showtime (this soon became my boyfriend's word for when the pushing started, I'll get to that!). So I went to my last consultation in The Coombe when I was a few days over and he did a 'sweep'. Apologies to those who don't like the gory details but if I'm going to tell the story I'm going to tell it properly so maybe stop reading if you are a) squimish or b) my brother. For anyone who doesn't know a 'sweep' is basically a procedure that a doctor or midwife performs when you are overdue or full-term and it is literally where they 'sweep' the membranes of your cervix to try and speed labour up. Many women will go in to labour naturally the same day that a sweep is performed, or within a couple of days. In order to perform a sweep the doctor has to assess your cervix. It can only be performed if your cervix is 'soft' and 'low' which basically means it is already starting to prepare for labour. Thankfully mine was just that and a sweep was performed at my appointment. I'll be honest, it was not comfortable but I was also delighted to have it done as it meant that Baby Byrne would probably be here sooner than without it. I left the hospital that day feeling a combination of extreme excitement and extreme fear. I felt very emotional and even had a few tears. It all of a sudden felt very... real. At the appointment the consultant mentioned that we needed a plan B and that we should book me in for an induction for the following Monday when I would be 10 days overdue, but he felt very confident that I would go in to labour myself before then. I left his office feeling very confident that this was definitely the case and I just knew I wouldn't end up being induced.
But then it was Sunday night, nothing had happened all week, and I was due to be induced the next morning. As a side note, my boyfriend thought it would be funny for us to sit down together and watch a program about animals giving birth in the wild. Yep, because that's what every girl needs to see the night before she is due to have a baby, an elephant giving birth. I'll be honest, the program was actually fascinating and it gave us both a good laugh. So off I went to bed that night, alarm set for 6am as I was due to be induced at 8am the next morning. Bags at the hall door (they were packed weeks at this stage), outfit picked out, and knowing that this was the last time we would be going to bed as two. Come tomorrow (please God) we would be a trio, and a little family. I felt excited but 90% of me felt absolutely petrified. That day I had visited my family and ended up breaking down in my mam's house as I was so terrified. My mam, who has given birth 5 times, really reassured me and I felt that I could do it, but I still felt a lot of fear. Turns out this is very normal. Of course it is!
I went to sleep very easily aside from my mind racing about what lay ahead the next day. Because my cervix was soft and low I would be skipping the induction stage where they apply a 'gel' to the area (it encourages the cervix to soften and prepare for birth) and I would instead be going straight in to have my waters broken, and then I would be put on a drip with a chemical to bring on contractions. I tried to turn my brain off and be as calm as possible, and off I went to sleep. I didn't wake until 4am... What woke me was my waters breaking. It's funny because the midwives and doctors several times mentioned to me that it's very rare that a girl's waters break and then she goes in to labour. It happens for some people but generally most women's waters will break during labour, or will be broken during induction. It's not like 'in the movies where you stand up and proclaim MY WATER JUST BROKE'. Well, that is EXACTLY what happened for me. I woke up, stood up, and my waters broke. I was so completely in denial though. I refused to believe that it had actually happened and didn't want to get my hopes up that I would go in to labour naturally instead of being induced. I started saying things like 'I'm not really sure if that's actually my waters though?' to which my boyfriend replied 'eh babe, your waters have clearly broke. Either that or you've wet yourself'. Deep down I knew that he was right, but I just couldn't believe it. I felt no pain or anything so I told him to go back to sleep and that I would wake him up if I felt anything. I tried to sleep myself but that lasted about twenty seconds. I decided to get up and go make some tea and toast because I was absolutely starving (and on some level maybe I knew I wouldn't be eating again for a good amount of time). Some time passed and I spent a good hour pacing around trying to do mundane things around the house and then bouncing on my exercise ball. All this time I still didn't really believe that it was happening. I mean, I was due to be induced two hours later? What were the chances of me going in to labour naturally two hours before? Turns out there was every chance, because next came the contractions...
Still in denial, I refused to call these 'pains' contractions. Instead I text my mam telling her that I thought my water had broken and that I had a 'weird pain that felt like I needed to go to the toilet'. Mam assured me that that was 'the start of it' but I still didn't really believe it. Mam said she was on her way down to the house and in the meantime these 'pains' became a lot more intense and started to almost come on top of each other. Then my mam and sister arrived at the house and...nothing. Baby Byrne was making a complete liar out of me. False alarm I thought, and then I got the most intense pain yet. It was very intense. I got another couple of these and they were timing at about 3-5 minutes apart, but some were nearly on top of each other. My sister was timing them on an app on my phone (I naively thought I could do this myself) in between rubbing my back to help me through the contractions. I felt a bit out of it at this stage with the pain and I remember snapping at my mam during a contraction and then apologising as soon as the contraction ended. Someone described a contraction to me as "an intense wave of pain that builds and builds to the point where you feel you can't take anymore and then it just suddenly 'falls off' and literally you feel no pain immediately until the next one". That was a really good description and I definitely took comfort in knowing that during a contraction I would have a little break afterwards before the next one came along. Eventually it got to the point where I wasn't really getting much of a break between contractions. They were coming on top of each other and this is the point where my mam and boyfriend decided that we needed to go to the hospital. They had called The Coombe earlier on and the midwife said to come in when they were a minute apart. We made our way out to the car at about 8am which was the time I was booked in for induction. My little pink suitcase was wheeled out. I felt like I was dreaming walking out to the car mid-contraction. There were neighbours in their gardens and I just couldn't believe this was happening. I will NEVER forget that car journey. Oh My God. Picture this, I'm in the back of the car on all fours as my boyfriend drives like a crazy man in the bus lanes. My mam is in the front and my sister is in the back beside me and I'm squeezing her through every contraction (sorry sis). My mam tells me that at one point I started trying to open the door of the car while we were driving (can I also add that this was a rental car that my boyfriend had been given while his car was being prepared. It was a 2014 fancy car... and even in the midst of my contractions I just kept praying my water wouldn't break more (it can do that). We eventually arrived at The Coombe, parked up and walked in. I stopped twice when I had contractions. I remember walking in thinking about how it was 8.30am and people were queueing up for 'normal' appointments and I would have to walk past them and if I had a contraction I knew I couldn't hide it and would have to stop and double up and crouch down until the pain ended. Seriously, what is wrong with me? I was in labour for God sake! And yet I still cared what people would think.
In The Coombe we were directed to a room where we had to 'check-in' and the lady behind the desk approached me mid-contraction chirpily saying 'what's your hospital number?. I just looked at her and I'm sure she knew by me that we were not about to have a conversation. My mam and boyfriend spoke to her and gave the necessary details and we were sent up to floor two which was the assessment unit. When we arrived there we were sent to a small room and I had to give a urine sample. I hobbled out to the toilet and did so accompanied by my mam. I was crying my eyes out and I just kept saying to mam 'I can't do this, I'm telling you I can't, please mam' and she kept telling me that I could but I didn't believe her. I also kept saying 'I really hate this' as I cried. It's funny to think about now. There was another girl in the room with me who was also in labour and she seemed so much calmer than me which made me panic. Eventually after what seemed like an hour but was probably ten minutes I was taken in to the assessment room and put on a 'trace' which is basically a monitor they stick to you in two different places on your tummy to measure both your's and your baby's heart rates. It gives the midwife a reading and an idea of how baby is coping. She mentioned that the baby's heart rate was a bit low and that they would need to keep me on the trace for longer. I still maintain that this was one of the hardest moments of my labour. I was having back-breaking pains and it was all in my lower back and yet I had to 'lye still' for periods of 30 minutes. I physically could not lye there. I kept moving during contractions and telling the midwife I couldn't lye down any more and she repeatedly told me I had to. Several times I moved so much that the monitor completely went blank. The midwife was lovely but she said it was important for the baby's health that they monitor the heart rate as it seemed low. It was horrifically uncomfortable. She asked me about the pain I was experiencing and when i explained that it was all in my lower back and not in my stomach at all she told me that I was having a 'back labour' and that it meant the baby was 'back to back' with me and that she knew the pain was awful. Turns out only a small portion of people have 'back labours'. It was so so intensely painful and this was only worsened by having to lye on my back. It literally seemed impossible and yet it was totally necessary. I felt totally helpless and I just felt like I couldn't do it.
This is probably about the point that my dreams of a "natural drug-free labour" went out the window. I wanted pain relief and I wanted it NOW. I wanted every single thing they could offer me. ANYTHING to ease the pain. I felt I couldn't handle much more of this and yet I knew it would get worse. At this point the nurse explained that I could have pethidine at this stage but that unfortunately it wasn't suitable for me as the baby's heart rate was not good. I started to feel really frightened at this point. The pain was awful but the mixture of pain and the fear that my baby would not be OK sent me in to a serious panic. We were moved to the delivery suite and I honestly don't even remember this part. I remember arriving at the room (room 3, lovely big room) and meeting a lovely Midwife who would be with me all day. She explained that I could have gas and air and explained to me how it worked. I took a few puffs and felt nothing and then she told me to breathe deeper and then I felt it. Oh My God, this stuff is DEADLY. I felt like I was drunk. I was giddy, light-headed and I had a ringing in my ear but all in a very GOOD away. As someone explained to me, it didn't take away the pain but it made me feel like I was floating above it. It was amazing. I would later be told off for over-using it when I wasn't even having a contraction... great stuff so it was!
Some time passed and I was 'checked' again and found to be 3cm and suitable for the epidural if I wanted it. Eh YES PLEASE, I wanted it like yesterday! A lovely foreign man arrived introducing himself as the anesthetist and explained what he would be doing. I vaguely remember something about him giving me a 'bee sting' injection first to numb the area, that he would then insert the epidural tube, blah blah blah, and something about 'if you move you could be left paralysed'. Oh right! It had taken me such a massive effort to actually sit up in the bed and on the very edge in the position he needed me in, but when I was sitting there and felt a contraction it was absolute agony. To anyone who has been in labour you will appreciate that 'stay still now please' is impossible during a contraction. At one point I must have jumped, a reflex to the pain from the injection coupled with the pain from a very strong contraction and the lovely anaesthetist told me off for moving. I squirmed through the pain for a few minutes and he explained that it was all done and I should start to feel the effects in about twenty minutes.TWENTY MINUTES, WHAT? I was like a woman possessed. I lay back down, some time passed, and another lovely midwife came in and started rubbing cubes of ice on different parts of my body asking me could I feel it etc and I could. More than twenty minutes had passed and yet I could still feel really strong contractions. Eventually they eased off a bit but they never went away. Some more time passed and I was 'checked' again (basically they do an internal exam to see how dilated you are) and the midwife said those wonderful words... "Wow, you've done great work. I would say that you are 9.5cm now, maybe even 10cm..." at which point my boyfriend nearly leaped off his chair and said "what? so is this it?" and next of all we were "having a little push" as the midwife referred to it. She wanted to see if the baby's head was coming down. I did one big push and she said things looked great but that it was up to the baby now and it could still be 3 hours before he was born. I felt calm and was starting to feel the effects of the epidural (and use the boost button which gives you an extra dose during particularly bad contractions) combined with my trusty gas and air. I was still in pain but I was much more comfortable than before and I could work through the contractions, which seemed to literally be constant and continued to always be in my back and never in my stomach.
All throughout this process the midwives were checking and discussing the baby's heart rate which was becoming worryingly low. I kept asking if everything was OK and the midwives would tell me not to worry and I could hear them telling my boyfriend to make sure I wasn't staring at the monitor which of course I was. I remember the midwife telling me that the baby's heart rate was hovering around 110 and that they wanted to see it get higher and not drop lower then that. It was at this point that the baby's heart rate dropped to 40. All of a sudden it went from being very calm to an emergency situation and this was my worst nightmare. The room filled with doctors, a paediatrician stood in the corner and the midwife told me that the baby was not happy and that they needed to delivery the baby NOW. I instantly went in to panic mode but thankfully I didn't show it as much as I felt it. The doctor (who I had seen earlier on and she basically told me that she hoped she didn't see me later, because that would mean there was a problem) told me that I was going to have to do one really big push and that she was going to 'help' me. This is the point where I realised I definitely watched too much One Born Every Minute because my response to her was 'does that mean you will be using a forceps and I'll have to have an episiotomy' and she was honest with me and said 'yes, but we need to think about the baby so you just need to do what I tell you'. I instantly submitted to the whole situation and placed my trust in the doctor. One big push later and Billy was pulled in to the world and placed on my chest. He was 7 pounds and 12oz of perfection. I was completely in shock and my first words to him were 'Oh Hello'. He was battered and bruised from the forceps, but he was my baby and he was absolutely beautiful. He was checked over and found to have low oxygen levels in his blood which further proved that they did the right thing by delivering him by emergency forceps. He was checked again and an hour later and the oxygen levels had risen thankfully. Other things happened during this time such as me being stitched up (great fun). I didn't feel a thing because the epidural was working it's magic. During this time my boyfriend was over in the corner with the paediatrician who was doing some checks on Billy. At one point during this time I fainted which was a very strange experience because I've never fainted before in my life. I just remember the baby lying on my chest and the midwives asking me if I was OK and then I just sort of passed out for a few seconds. Two other times later that day I felt the same feeling as though I were going to faint but I didn't thankfully. I think this happened because I lost a lot of blood during delivery. The midwives were amazing though, I can't emphasise that enough. They are all so great at their jobs. I think if I could go back in time and pick a different degree in college I'd have done midwifery. It's so fascinating.
Once everything was fine we were wheeled down to my ward where I would be spending the night. This was my absolute proudest moment. The midwife wheeled me in a wheelchair as I held the baby and everyone we passed gave us a little smile and congratulated me. I have never felt more proud and happy. It was like I was dreaming. I felt like the luckiest person in the world and I just kept looking down at this beautiful perfect baby thinking 'this is my son'. It was beautiful and surreal and everything that I had imagined.
Back on the ward the midwives were amazing. I got to know a few of them quite well because we ended up staying in the hospital for five days. They couldn't do enough for us - whether it was when you were crying during the baby blues (which are VERY real, oh my God), in pain from the stitches, cleaning up when your gorgeous little son piddled all over the bed when you were changing his nappy, helping with breast-feeding, answering any questions you might have, helping you dress or bath the baby, and basically doing anything to help you through those first few hours and days where you feel like you haven't got a clue how to care for this little beautiful baby. I will never be able to thank them enough for all that they did and I would 100% go back to The Coombe if I'm lucky enough to have another baby later in the future.
Without dwelling on it too much, we did end up in The Coombe longer than expected. I live in the area and would have been eligible for early release the next day but that didn't exactly go to plan. They felt that Billy was a bit pale and lethargic and he wasn't feeding very well so he ended up going on a drip and having a 48 hour dose of antibiotics in case it was signs of an infection. They also found a heart murmur which will hopefully close over by the time he is three months old. A few scary tests, too many needles for a little baba, a night away from me in the special care unit and one absolutely hysterical mother later, and he was fine to come home with me on day 5. Turns out he was just in a bit of shock from the quick delivery. As was I. We had arrived at the assessment unit at about 9am and he was born at 13.34pm which made for an extremely quick first labour. The whole ordeal was absolutely terrifying but the staff were amazing and explained everything to me really well. The care we both received was second to none and deep down I always felt that everything would be OK.
In a nut-shell my post-labour thoughts are that the word 'birth' and 'plan' do not go together. Absolutely anything can happen during labour and birth and it is not something you can really 'plan' which for a planner like myself is totally unfamiliar territory. In the end every single thing I feared actually ended up happening on some level and the 'interventions' that I knew would be my worst nightmare ended up being the sole reason why my little baby was delivered to me safely. In the end I wanted to kiss the face off the doctor who performed the forceps delivery and I was so grateful that such a thing existed as it brought me my little bundle of joy.
Life is changed forever and in an instant was made 100% better. Billy Byrne is just the most adorable wonderful baby and I feel so grateful beyond words. Let the adventure begin.