Disclaimer: There are details in this post, like stitches and contractions and internal monitors and underwear and even maternity pads. If you don't want to hear about that, then this is not the post for you!
Before I get into the part 2 of the US vs UK, I feel like I need to mention something. The first part of this story was MY story. It is what happened at MY birth. Awesome if you had a different experience. Sorry if you did not. But just because you had a great experience does not mean that I did. I am entitled to share my feelings/emotions/fears/joys just the same as you are. After posting the first part, I received several negative comments and emails from people who had delivered in the UK and had a positive experience. I am really pleased for those that did. But again, it does not mean that I did. Several of my dear friends have given birth in the exact same birthing centre and had a great experience. They had different midwives and in some cases their husbands were allowed to stay. I am glad it worked out well for them. One friend had a great experience in Scotland and another in central London. But that was not my story. It is nothing against the UK or even birthing centres. The very next blog post I wrote talked about how I was missing the UK. It was just how it happened. So please, get off my back. I am entitled to write about whatever I want. It is my blog. Stop being mean!
With that being said....
5am proved to be a very early start. One that Rhys and I were not quite prepared for. To make it on time to the hospital we needed to leave by 4:45. Around 4:50 I was still making my breakfast smoothie and the car seat was not even in the car. It would be accurate to say that we procrastinate.
We made it, only 15 minutes late, and started the check in process. Talk about paperwork! Since everything is nationalised in the UK, aside from the maternity notes you carry around with you during pregnancy, there is no paperwork. You get there, you get a room, done. Finally at 6:10 I was checked in, in bed, with an IV and the pitocin had started. We were ready for a baby!
At my last check up I was dilated to almost 4cm and was 80% effaced. Everyone, including myself, was prepared for a really quick labour and delivery. I was thinking that probably by noon little Lowri would be here. By 11am, the pitocin was up as high as they could make it go and nothing was happening. Nothing at all. I was having contractions, but nothing to write home about. Looking at the monitor, they were really nothing more than tiny, little hills. Rhys and I were watching tv shows, laughing and joking around. I knew that I was 'in labour' but as far as comfort levels go, I was just fine.
I had mentioned when I was first admitted that I wanted an epidural. The nurse said to wait until I had started progressing and the contractions were stronger so that way it would work during the delivery. That made sense to me, so I didn't really push the matter again. I figured that I would know when the contractions were actually strong enough, so I would just wait until then.
The doctor came in just after 11 and broke my water. I said that I was hoping for a baby by noon. He said at the rate I was going, he was hoping for a baby by noon the next day!! Seriously? I was crushed. When the doctor and nurse left the room, I broke down. I was sobbing to Rhys that everyone kept saying it would be so quick and it wasn't. I had mentally prepared myself for a fast labour and that was not happening. As the day wore on, I quickly realised that while I was mentally prepared for the birthing part of Eleri, I had not done the same for Lowri. Partly because I was freaking out about other things, but partly because I just assumed it would be super quick. That assumption made the rest of the afternoon difficult. Because it was not going quickly, I was discouraged. Rhys did his very best to keep my spirits up, but it had already been over 6 hours and I was no further along than when I was admitted!
The nurse came back in several times and still nothing really. The contractions were getting slightly stronger, but nothing that I thought was unmanageable. About 4pm, the nurse removed the external monitor and said they were switching to an internal monitor to really check the contractions and the baby. On a scale of 1 to 100, the contractions needed to be consistently close together and measuring between 70 to 100. Right now they were close together, but around 40. Again, breakdown. Why wasn't this baby coming!!!???! With the internal monitor, the doctor said that whatever showed on the machine was extremely accurate. Aside from me, it would be the best indicator to know when the baby was ready and when to get the epidural. Ok, I thought, I will just wait.
But then, oh man! One minute I was laughing with Rhys and the next minute- pain. Serious pain. The monitor was only registering contractions around 40 or 50. But I was really struggling. I kept saying to Rhys that I must have become a pansy. How did I manged to birth a nine and half pound baby naturally only two years ago, but couldn't even manage the early stages of labour now?! I was only at 4cm for goodness sake! She just checked, I wasn't dilated any further at all!! I had always considered myself to have a pretty high pain tolerance, but clearly I did not. I couldn't even make it through a few, mild contractions. I remember very clearly sitting int he bed, looking at the monitor and telling myslef it was a good thing that I didn't want to go naturally this time or I would have been really disappointed! It was intense, but because I didn't want to get an epidural too early, I just closed my eyes, laid down and tried my best to calmly breath through each contraction.
After about 30 minutes of what I thought was pretty intense pain, I told Rhys I couldn't really take it anymore. Inside I felt a little broken. I wanted to be strong and hold out until everything was really progressing, but I just couldn't take it anymore. I wanted an epidural now regardless of what the nurses said. He went and got my nurse and when she came in she said that the doctor was on his way back up, but that he wanted to turn the pitocin off and give my body an hour to just rest. Then the plan would be to start it up again and see if we could trick my body into going into labour. Fine, I said, but please can I have an epidural now? We debated this for a few minutes and finally as a last resort she checked me once again. Her mood completely changed.
The internal monitor had shifted ever so slightly.
From 5 to 5:30 I had gone from 4cm to 10cm. She left the room to call the doctor and I told Rhys I need to push. He was actually on the phone with my mom telling her that nothing was happening. He quickly changed his wording and got off the phone. They called a surgeon in who was on her way to preform a C-section and she quickly gave me an epidural shot at 5:40. Rhys says that they gave me a 'token epidural'. The shot was a tiny syringe and they only put half of the contents into one side of my back. That is not what was described to us as an epidural. But we were cutting it a bit close on time. I kept telling them I wanted to push. They kept saying no.
I asked how long until the epidural kicked in. The nurses hemmed and hawed for a bit, saying it should kick in a few minutes but I would have the full effect in 15 minutes.
The doctor came in, put his gloves and suit on, told me I could push and 9 minutes later Lowri was here. Too bad 9 minutes wasn't enough time for the epidural to kick in. The epidural that I had asked for ALL day. The epidural that everyone kept telling me to wait on. The epidural that meant I would not have to go through natural childbirth again. That epidural that didn't have enough time to work. Yeah, that one.
Lowri came out perfectly. Breathing, screaming, normal colour and so tiny compared to her sister. A light 7 lbs and 2 oz, and 18.5 inches long** But that is actually a pretty good sized baby for being a month early. Could you imagine how much she would have weighed if she had been allowed to stay in for another month!?!
While they were cleaning the baby, the doctor was giving me stitches and I could feel every single thing. Stitches without anaesthetic is not awesome. Even though I had had an epidural, they had to give me local anaesthetic for the stitches because the epidural had not kicked in yet. Awesome, it really was a pointless shot. (a pointless shot that cost me $208, but that is another story all together) During all of this, nurse came over and said that in all her years of being a labour and delivery nurse, she had never seen someone react to birth the way that I did. She said she had seen people scream, cuss, cry and not speak at all. But never, in her 14 years, had she heard someone calming turn to their husband and say over and over again "this is really uncomfortable" Apparently that made sense to me. I remember looking at Rhys the whole time. I remember telling him, over and over again, that it was really uncomfortable. But hey, it was! It hurt and I wanted my epidural!! However by this point, some 20 minutes after Lowri was born, my epidural had kicked in so we all had a good laugh about it.
One nurse took Lowri and cleaned her up and another couple came and quickly went to work cleaning me and the bed and changing everything. Because my epidural was in full effect, I really couldn't move. But they did everything and it was amazing! Rhys said that in the 30 minutes after giving birth, I received more help and attention than I did the entire time I was in the hospital in the UK. I was in a fresh gown, with clean sheets and all bandaged and wash up in no time at all. The nurses then wheeled me from the labour and delivery room to post room.
oh my, it was like a hotel. The hospital maternity ward had recently been renovated and everything was brand new. Big, spacious rooms with a bed for Rhys. Nice, comfy bed for me with electronically adjusting foot and head rests. As many pillows and blankets as I wanted. Plus a nurse on call for me at any moment and a separate nurse from the children's hospital on call for Lowri whenever. I could just phone over to the nursery and they would come and get her, bringing her back to me whenever she needed to eat. That was a wonderful service for the night time.
One of the most wonderful things was the 'products' I remember being unsure about what to bring with me underwear and maternity pad wise in the UK. What I brought was uncomfortable and not really the best. This time around they provided everything. These giant underwear things, pads, cream, mini bath tubs for you to sit in. It was so nice and easy. Everything was right there at your finger tips. Plus, I was 100 times more comfortable as a result.
I had my own bathroom, Rhys could stay, we had access to food (that was pretty decent) whenever we wanted and I had visitors come, whenever I wanted. (and they brought me yummy food like Panera.) The nurses were so sweet and took time to answer all of my questions. And did I mention that Rhys got to stay. yeah, that was the best part. Plus instead of leaving after just 12 hours, we stayed in the hospital for 2 days which was really nice. A little break from the normal routine before jumping right back in, but with an extra person this time.
The two experiences are really incomparable. They are so night and day different that it is laughable. Yes, I had a better experience in the UK, but that really had nothing to do with the birth and everything to do with the aftermath. Ok, maybe not nothing. My labour was shorter this time and I only pushed for 9 minutes instead of 4 hours. That makes a big difference. But overall, the care and conditions post-birth made baby #2 MUCH easier than baby #1. While I am really pleased that I had a baby in London, I am so thankful that I had this one here. In mere days I was up and feeling fantastic. Now, 3 weeks on it is like nothing ever happened.
Nothing can take away from the experience of my first child. It is such a unique thing. I was so proud of myself for doing it naturally. Now, after number two, I am even more proud of myself of labouring again without anything and pretty much birthing a second child without pain relief. At least this one was only seven pounds instead of nine and half!!
Looking back, even though the two experiences were so different and even though the first time really was traumatic, I am so incredibly blessed. I have two wonderfully healthy children. What more could I ask for? I feel like I have experienced both ends of the spectrum, from one extreme to the other. But it makes for a good story. I am just glad they are both over and I can hang out with my little ones!
**As a side note, I think they measured her incorrectly. We went to the doctor 3 days after she was born and they measured her at 19.5 inches. Did she really grow an inch in 3 days? hmmm, probably not. So I think she was actually 19.5 born.