Four days before my due date I started to experience severe period like pains. I didn’t think much of it as everyone was telling me that first babies never came on time; let alone early, so I carried on with my day as usual.

By the evening the pains had worsened dramatically. I passed the “show” (which was pretty grim) and called my midwife, expecting to be told to get my bags ready and head on up. Instead, I was told to stay put as the midwife believed that because I wasn’t screaming in agony, my contractions must still be pretty mild. I was told that the contractions must be at the point where the pain was unbearable before I could be examined. Added to this my contractions were inconsistent with frequency and length, so the midwife believed that labour had not been established.

That night I couldn’t sleep. The contractions varied from coming 1 in every 10 minutes to 1 in every 4 and lasting for a minute but sometimes only lasting 20 seconds. I was confused and getting scared. At this point, I had been in labour for over 12 hours. I felt as though things were progressing quickly, but I kept telling myself that I must be wrong and that I needed to follow the advice of the midwives.

By the morning my contractions were still all over the place. The only way I coped with the pain was with my tens machine and by being distracted, my chosen distraction…my other half driving me around the North Norfolk coast (very random, I know!) And yes, we did get some very strange looks when I was in mid contraction stuck in traffic!

We drove around for 4-5 hours. At one point we stopped off at Holt for fish and chips. Little did we know I was pretty much ready to give birth. We got home about 40 minutes later. My contractions were still all over the place. I wasn’t even screaming in complete agony all the time, don’t get me wrong it hurt, I mean really hurt but I was still okay with the pain.

As I sat on my bed after another nasty contraction, I suddenly felt it. The urge to push. My other half rang the midwife immediately. The midwife explained that it couldn’t possibly be time to start pushing as my contractions were infrequent and I was still managing the pain without pain relief. I was told to wait for my contraction to be closer together and then to come in.  I didn’t know what to do. On the one hand, I had the experts telling me that it was best to stay at home until I was in established labour and that being a first-time mum these things take time. On the other hand, everything inside me was telling me that something wasn’t right and that I needed to be at the hospital. I’m not one to break the rules easily but something told me to get myself to the hospital as quickly as I could, and we did.

On arrival at the delivery ward, I didn’t get the welcoming committee that I had expected but instead  I was told that I had made a big mistake by turning up unannounced.  I stood firm and asked for someone to examine me. After about 5 minutes a midwife appeared eating a sandwich and told me that she would examine me and then go back to her lunch break. As I was getting ready to be examined my waters broke. Yes! Proof at last that this wasn’t all in my head. I suddenly felt justified for being there, but the midwife wasn’t convinced and said that my waters breaking wouldn’t necessarily mean I would be staying and that she still needed to examine me.

And then it happened. Panic. Buzzers. Doctors. Questions. Everything happened in a blur.  The last thing I distinctly remember was the worried look on the midwife’s face as she looked up from examing me and shot up to press the buzzer. It tuned out I was fully dilated and had been for some time. My baby had been patiently waiting to be pushed out and was now in distress. After some discussion, I was told that I could attempt pushing with the baby being closely monitored but theatre would be prepped as it would be likely that I would need some help to get the baby out quickly. I was petrified. I was so angry with myself for not getting to the hospital sooner.  After a lot of tears, I managed to pull my self together. Turns out that “pushing” isn’t as easy as it sounds and I struggled with it.  After an hour or so I had made some progression, and with the help of an episiotomy, I finally delivered my little boy safely into the world.

I still find it very difficult to talk about my birth story and even writing it now brings back a lot of emotions. It has taken me a couple of years to forgive myself for not following my gut instinct in the first place. Thankfully I did go to the hospital when I did; I hate to think what would have happened if I had stayed at home for any longer than I did. I do feel as though I missed out on the build-up to the birth with being told how many centimetres I was dilated and the excitement that must come with that. After the birth, I barely so my baby as he had to be whisked away to a neonatal unit to be monitored. Fortunately, he was okay, and I feel incredibly fortunate that I can say that.

For any mums-to-be out there that happen to read this and who are looking for advice on labour, I would tell them to trust their gut instinct when it comes to their body.

Not everyone has the typical birth experience. Some people handle pain differently to others, and not all expectant mothers will be screaming in agony, some like me will be able to bear the pain okay without pain relief (which I never thought would be me as I need paracetamol at the first sign of a headache!) Also, not every mum will experience the same pattern in contractions, some, like me will experience contractions that are very inconsistent.

I have every respect for the NHS and the fantastic midwives, nurses and doctors that work there and have to deal with the relentless working pressures that they have to endure. At the same time, there does seem to be a big emphasis that women, especially first-time mums, need to be at the stage of screaming for an epidural or experience close together contractions to be taken seriously, which is not always the case.

~ Harriet